Copyright, Plagiarism, and Fair Use

What is copyright, plagiarism, and fair use?

It is vitally important for students to understand the nature of written and visual information/resources that are readily available via the internet as well as how to use them. Three (3) big topics related to use of internet information and resources include copyright, plagiarism, and fair use.


Copyright - a legal right created by the law of a country that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to its use and distribution, usually for a limited time. The exclusive rights are not absolute; they are limited by limitations and exceptions to copyright law, including fair use.

Copyright is a form of intellectual property, applicable to any expressed representation of a creative work. Under US copyright law, however, legal protection attaches only to fixed representations in a tangible medium.  It is often shared among multiple authors, each of whom holds a set of rights to use or license the work, and who are commonly referred to as rightsholders. These rights frequently include reproduction, control over derivative works, distribution, public performance, and "moral rights" such as attribution.

Plagiarism - the "wrongful appropriation" and "stealing and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions" and the representation of them as one's own original work.[1][2] The idea remains problematic with unclear definitions and unclear rules.[3][4][5] The modern concept of plagiarism as immoral and originality as an ideal emerged in Europe only in the 18th century, particularly with the Romantic movement.

Plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics. It is subject to sanctions like penalties, suspension, and even expulsion. Recently, cases of 'extreme plagiarism' have been identified in academia.[6]

Plagiarism is not a crime per se but in academia and industry, it is a serious ethical offense,[7][8] and cases of plagiarism can constitute copyright infringement.

Fair Use - a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship. It provides for the legal, unlicensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor balancing test.

The term "fair use" originated in the United States.[1] A similar-sounding principle, fair dealing, exists in some other common law jurisdictions but in fact it is more similar in principle to the enumerated exceptions found under civil law systems. Civil law jurisdictions have other limitations and exceptions to copyright.

Fair use is one of the traditional safety valves intended to balance the public's interest in open access with the property interests of copyright holders.


Check out these informational videos:



Check out these links for more information on copyright, plagiarism, and fair use and how to avoid issues with them:

Additional information on copyright, plagiarism, and fair use: