Is It Plagiarism? - Plagiarism vs. Copyrights
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Plagiarism is very tricky despite the seemingly clear-cut definition. If you use someoneís idea without saying itís someone elseís idea, itís plagiarism. Sounds simple enough, right? But the umbrella of plagiarism is actually fairly broad, which means you have to be very careful when inspired by someone elseís work.
When you copy someoneís words, whether they appear online or in the Library of Congress, you could be violating copyrights. This is called copyright infringement, and it is punishable by law. When you copy someoneís ideas, even if you use different words to express those thoughts, you might be guilty of plagiarism. For instance, Person A writes an article on the impact of killer bees on the caterpillar population from a highly scientific standpoint. You do the same, expressing the same conclusions and scenarios in your piece. This could be considered plagiarism if you do not credit those ideas to the original author.
Where Credit is Due
So, as long as you give credit to the original author or creator of the idea youíre using, you can do whatever you want? Unfortunately, it doesnít quite work that way. If you are using something like a reader poll, image or story idea, itís best to ask permission before you re-use the material. In many cases, the creator of the material will feel flattered and happy that youíd like to use their creation. Promise to give proper credit, do so, and youíre well within the boundaries of the law. If youíre going to write an article thatís similar to someone elseís work and uses their information, itís appropriate to provide a link or provide a source to the original article which inspired you.
Before you use it, credit it to the source. In some cases you may want to contact the source to get their approval before using the materials in question. Remember, itís only plagiarism if you fail to credit the creator or fail to obtain permission to credit them.
Itís fairly easy to avoid committing plagiarism. If itís not your idea, donít say that it is or fail to point out that it isnít. When possible and applicable, get permission from the one who originally created the work youíre re-using or re-vamping for your own use. Put the work into your own words, unless youíre using a direct quote, to avoid any copyright infringement issues (since the two are very separate issues).
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