Plagiarism Laws Explained: What You Need to Know

Plagiarism is, at its core, the act of taking someone else’s work, ideas or expressions and passing them off as your own. Most people will encounter instances of plagiarism (either intentionally or unintentionally) in their school years, but it’s not solely about upholding academic integrity.

Plagiarism is, at its core, the act of taking someone else’s work, ideas or expressions and passing them off as your own. Most people will encounter instances of plagiarism (either intentionally or unintentionally) in their school years, but it’s not solely about upholding academic integrity. Plagiarism can have far- reaching implications in the academic world as well as in professional and creative fields. It’s not just considered something done in poor taste – plagiarism can include legal repercussions as well. 

If that wasn’t enough to muddy the legal waters, different countries have different laws and regulations when it comes to plagiarism. Here’s what you need to know about plagiarism laws and regulations from a variety of countries, and how, exactly, they go about tackling the problem of plagiarism in the digital age

United States Copyright Law

In the United States, plagiarism is generally addressed through copyright law. This law gives the creators of works (works meaning literary, musical, artistic and many other types of work)the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display or license their creations. 

However, not every use or reproduction of someone else’s work is considered a violation of copyright. The “Fair Use Doctrine” allows for limited use of the user’s copyrighted material without permission, for purposes like criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research.

The penalties for copyright infringement (which plagiarism can fall under) can be severe and far reaching. They can include large fines as well as civil and criminal penalties depending on the use and severity of the infringement. 

United Kingdom: Copyright, Designs and Patents Act

The U.K. addresses plagiarism under the Copyright, designs and Patents Act of 1988. Like the U.S..  the creator has exclusive rights to their intellectual property, however, there are some exceptions. Like the U.S.’s Fair Use Doctrine, copyrighted material can be used in the U.K. for private study or research, criticism, review and news reporting. 

Penalties for infringement can be swift and severe and if breaking the law, a user can face both civil and criminal penalties including fines and, if severe, imprisonment. 

Australia: The Copyright Act

Australia has the Copyright Act of 1968, which offers similar protections to authors, artists and creators. Beyond the basic protections of copyright, Australian law recognizes the moral rights of creators. This includes the right of attribution, right against false attribution and the right of integrity. The right of attribution means that the creator must be given proper credit for their work and has the right to be identified wherever their work is used. 

False attribution is like “reverse plagiarism”, it prevents creators from being wrongly attributed to something they didn’t create. For example, if someone creates a work that’s distorted and mocks the author’s original, well-known version, they are protected from being associated with it by extension as the derivative work might harm their reputation. 

In addition, if someone made significant modifications to an original work and then credited the author without mentioning that the work had been altered, it would violate this moral right. 

Lastly, the rights of integrity protects creators from derogatory treatment of their works. This could be, for example, editing a documentary to misrepresent the facts that the original creator wanted to convey. It has to be shown to be harmful to the creator’s reputation, however, as not all works would be considered “derogatory treatment”. 

What’s interesting about Australia’s particular copyright law is that although most country’s copyright laws focus on economic rights (for example, the right to reproduce or distribute a work), Australia’s also focuses on the personal connection between the creator and their work and their reputation as a whole in society. 

India: Copyright Act of 1957

India’s copyright act covers literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works. Although the act allows for “fair dealing” for purposes like research, private study and criticism, this doesn’t mean that users get a free pass for plagiarism. In fact, schools and universities in India have become very strict recently regarding plagiarism, with many of them using plagiarism detection software to root out academically dishonest students.

At the professional level, plagiarism can lead to legal action and swift job termination. 

Canada Copyright Act

Plagiarism in Canada falls under Canada’s copyright law that protects the authors of literary works which includes anything written (scripts, books, articles, etc.). Copyright in Canada lasts for the life of the author plus 50 years and as in other countries, copyright infringement can result in civil and criminal penalties. 

European Union: Directive on Copyright

Although each individual country within the E.U. has its own copyright laws, the European Union as a whole has worked hard to harmonize copyright protections between countries. This includes taking great strides in recent years to adapt copyright laws to affect how content is shared online. As a result, there’s much greater emphasis on ensuring that creators are properly compensated and recognized for their work online. 

The effort to understand plagiarism and its consequences falls to the digital content  creator, with fines and other penalties being levied against infringers. 

Plagiarism in Schools and Universities Around the Globe

Just because your particular country isn’t mentioned, does that mean it has no copyright or anti-plagiarism law? Not at al! In fact, many schools, colleges and universities around the world have very strict rules and regulations against plagiarism. Students who are found guilty of plagiarizing may fail a course, be suspended or even expelled. 

For instructors, researchers or educators, the penalties can be even higher, including losing their positions, possibly losing their tenure and facing long-term damage to their reputations. 

Is Digital Content Protected Under Copyright Law?

If it’s on the internet, it must be free to use, right? 

Wrong. Although online, content is created, shared, remixed, and spread across the globe at a much faster pace than any copyright law ever envisioned, it nevertheless has brought about new challenges and tools in the fight to help reduce plagiarism and infringement. These include acts like the U.S’s DMCA or Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which allows copywriters to request removal of infringing content online, also known as a DMCA Takedown Notice.

Unfortunately, with the advent of artificial intelligence, it has become easier than ever to plagiarize from many different sources. However, the AI advances that brought about easier ways to try and fake writing that essay or report has also brought about easier methods to detect it and report it as well. 

For example, tools like Originality.AI can not only scan for and identify instances of plagiarism in a work but can also detect AI-written content with a high level of accuracy. Other tools, like Grammarly, are designed to specifically help students learn the proper way to cite works that they’ve drawn upon to prove their points, helping to craft citations and references for MLA, APA, Chicago style and many more. 

With so many resources at your disposal to not only accurately cite your references but also prevent being penalized for having AI write your content, there’s no better time than now to become familiar with the plagiarism laws in your country and take steps to give the authors and creators proper credit for their work, while protecting yourself in the process. 

Start using Originality.AI’s plagiarism checker and AI writing detection tool for as little as 1 cent per 100 words scanned and get the peace of mind you need to know that your content is authentic, original and plagiarism-free.

Sherice Jacob

Plagiarism Expert Sherice Jacob brings over 20 years of experience to digital marketing as a copywriter and content creator. With a finger on the pulse of AI and its developments, she works extensively with to help businesses and publishers get the best returns from their Content.

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