Writing Contract

Is Using AI Tools the Same as Plagiarizing? A Legal Perspective

Discover the truth about AI tools vs plagiarism. Are AI-generated contents really original? Learn the legal and ethical insights in our latest article on Originality.ai. Stay informed and ethical.

Ever since ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence (AI) writing tools have exploded into the market, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding their use. So much so, in fact, that schools have been creating policies on navigating AI use in the classroom, content marketers are turning to AI detection tools to help ensure original, human content, and even authors are wondering if and how AI-generated content can have a place in their work

While the exact reasons for AI-related concerns can vary by industry, there is one topic that comes up time and time again: plagiarism. More specifically, is using AI tools the same as plagiarizing content? Or can you count it as original work?

Now, it’s important to note that since the widespread use of AI technology is still so new, the laws and ethics regarding AI plagiarism are a little murky. So, in this article, we’re going to explore what we know so far about the use of AI writing tools from a legal perspective to help you ensure you’re staying on the right side of the law.

What Is Plagiarism?

Simply put, plagiarism occurs when you try to pass off someone else’s work as your own. For example, a student copies another student’s essay (whether it’s just a section or the entire thing), puts their name on it, and then hands it in as their own original work. They don’t acknowledge the source material or author at all, as they want to keep the credit for themselves.

This is, of course, highly unethical, and the reason why schools and workplaces often have strict policies in place surrounding plagiarism. But here’s the thing: can you really apply this traditional definition of plagiarism to AI writing tools?

Is Using AI Tools Considered Plagiarism?

It’s a bit of a gray area for now, but generally speaking, no, the use of AI tools isn’t considered plagiarism. When you consider how AI tools work, the traditional definition of plagiarism doesn’t really apply.

See, AI doesn’t copy from other sources word-for-word when it’s generating content. Its goal isn’t even to paraphrase specific pieces of content. These machine learning programs do just what their name implies: learn. Large language models like GPT-3 are trained on massive datasets that allow them to recognize patterns, structures, and styles of text. They then try to replicate these elements - not necessarily copy the sentences and phrases it has been trained on - to generate what sounds like original, human-written content.

So, since the intention of AI isn’t specifically to pass off someone else’s work as its own (and it’s difficult to prove if AI is directly copying from other sources), it’s not considered plagiarism. At least, in the traditional sense. Some people argue that it should be because it depends almost entirely on the original work of others. And this is where some of the legal issues come into play.

The Legal Perspective on AI Plagiarism

Let’s start off by clarifying something: in most cases, plagiarism isn’t illegal in the United States. A plagiarizer may face serious repercussions due to a school or work policy, sure, but it’s more of an ethical issue than a legal one. Copyright infringement, on the other hand, is a different story.

Plagiarism vs Copyright Infringement

While plagiarism is about using someone else’s work and not giving credit where credit is due, copyright infringement is a little different. It involves not obtaining permission to use an original, copyrighted work in the first place. 

You can often fix a plagiarism issue by simply citing the original source, but it’s more complicated with copyright infringement. If you don’t get permission to use the work from the copyright holder themselves, you can get charged.

And in the world of artificial intelligence, no one knows this better than the AI companies themselves.

Examples of Legal Challenges to AI

While the US Copyright Office, Library of Congress has issued a statement of policy on AI-generated content, there are still some major legal battles going on regarding AI and copyrighted works. And they don’t just involve big companies - authors are getting in on the action too.

For example, OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, and Microsoft are being sued by nonfiction book authors and the New York Times for similar copyright infringement cases. They both allege that the two companies used their copyrighted work without permission to train their large language models. This comes after the Authors Guild of America, including author George R.R. Martin, had already sued OpenAI for copyright infringement themselves.

These are just a few examples of the current legal challenges to AI, so it will be interesting to see how they affect the definition of AI plagiarism and copyright infringement in the future. But in the meantime, if you’d like to use AI in your own content creation process, it’s important to do so responsibly.

Best Practices for Using AI Tools Responsibly

The conversation and laws surrounding AI plagiarism and copyright infringement may be murky, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid using this technology entirely. After all, there are some real benefits to using AI in the content creation process - you just need to do so responsibly.

Here are some best practices for responsible AI use in the content creation process.

  • Cite sources: AI doesn’t always cite its sources, so it’s up to you to make sure you’re giving credit to the appropriate parties. And if you can’t find high-quality, reputable sources for any AI-generated facts, then it may be best to leave them out of the final product. AI hallucinations can cause some serious problems, so be sure to go over any of its outputs to make sure it makes sense.
  • Use AI to enhance the content creation process, not replace it: AI can help you save time by taking care of some of your less creative tasks, like creating outlines, proofreading, and brainstorming content ideas. If you stick with using AI as more of a writing assistant then an author, then you’re less likely to run into plagiarism issues.
  • Use a plagiarism detector: It’s always a good idea to run any AI-generated articles through a plagiarism detector tool before publishing. This can help you catch any duplicate content (or, at least, what sounds like duplicate content) that AI may have accidentally included in its output.

Final Thoughts

So, is using AI tools the same as plagiarizing? Well, from a legal perspective, the answer is no - at least, not yet. While there are various cases regarding AI and plagiarism’s cousin, copyright infringement, currently going on in the courts, the laws surrounding this situation are still murky at best.

In the meantime, you can help avoid any plagiarism-related issues by following the best practices for using AI tools responsibly in the content creation process. By citing your sources, using AI as an assistant instead of a primary author, and taking advantage of plagiarism checkers, you can ensure that you’re reaping the benefits of AI tools in an ethical way.

Jess Sawyer

Jess Sawyer is a seasoned writer and content marketing expert with a passion for crafting engaging and SEO-optimized content. With several years of experience in the digital marketing, Jess has honed her skills in creating content that not only captivates audiences but also ranks high on search engine results.

More From The Blog

AI Content Detector & Plagiarism Checker for Serious Content Publishers

Improve your content quality by accurately detecting duplicate content and artificially generated text.