Plagiarism vs Copyright Infringement: Rules and Differences
Plagiarism vs copyright infringement

Plagiarism vs Copyright Infringement: Rules and Differences

Plagiarism vs copyright infringement can be characterized as different subjects and they should not be used interchangeably.

“One of my students has written an article, where he has copied every sentence from another article which is already published under the name of the original author. However, my student is also trying to publish the article and passing off someone’s work as his own. So, I want to know whether it’s an act of plagiarism or copyright infringement.”


In today’s world where technology has been much advanced and everything can be found on the internet, it’s easy for people to misuse other’s content or work and use it as their own without the permission of the original creator. Students also commit this by submitting college assignments as their own which are originally written by someone else. In this article, the author has discussed the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement and how to differentiate the copyright infringement and plagiarism as these two terms sound very similar but in reality there are a lot of differences which the common people should be aware of. 

The main difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement is that the plagiarism is an ethical issue whereas the copyright infringement is a legal issue. Plagiarism can be defined when someone commits passing off someone else’s work as their own whereas copyright infringement comes into effect when someone uses a copyrighted material without taking the permission of the copyright owner. However, both copyright infringement and plagiarism have one thing in common, that is, both the cases happen without the permission of the original owner.

Plagiarism vs Copyright Infringement
Plagiarism vs Copyright infringement

What is plagiarism ?

Everyone knows that stealing anyone’s item or material is regarded as a crime but stealing someone’s ideas, quotations, illustrations, words is known as plagiarism which isn’t a crime but an ethical issue. Plagiarism can occur in different forms and situations. It usually happens when a person uses someone else’s work and claims it as his own, along with that he doesn’t even give any credits to the deserving person.

Generally, the act of plagiarism occurs in academic, in both physical mode and electronic mode. When a student copies everything from an article written by someone else and doesn’t provide any footnotes or citations and submit it under his name. Plagiarism can also occur in case of unpublished articles such as lecture notes or any notes made by other students but if someone uses it without giving a proper credit to the author, then it would lead to plagiarism. Moreover, plagiarism can occur in various different forms, such as:

  1. Submission of someone else’s work or ideas as one’s own.
  2. Failing to add citations which should contain true or accurate information.
  3. If you’re adding quotations then it should be within quotation marks and you should provide the citations in order to give credits to the original author.
  4. Changing and duplicating the words of a sentence without providing the proper citation.

In the field of academics, the act of plagiarism is common and many students commit it without being aware of what plagiarism actually is. However, plagiarism has serious consequences and penalties which can vary from marks deduction to the suspension from the college, the range of punishment depends upon the seriousness of the case. However, plagiarism can be prevented if someone is giving full credits through citations to the original author. 


  1. Using sentences, graphs, photographs, and charts without providing citations or footnotes.
  2. Misrepresenting a sentence or representing a sentence in other ways but the ideas are not original. 
  3. Paraphrasing the words without giving the proper citation.
  4. Missing citations on quotes. 
  5. Copying different sentences from different writers. 

Copyright protection is provided to the ones with exclusive rights to reproduce their work, they are known as the creator or the original author of a work of authorship. In order to obtain copyright protection, the work needs to be original and fixed in a tangible medium. Some examples of original works that need copyright protection are computer software, music, literary work, photographs, novels, online content, etc. Usually, the owners obtain copyright protection to enjoy the exclusive rights and to gain profits from it. However, it’s their choice if they want to grant permission to someone else to use or reproduce their work through compulsory licensing agreements or else they can sell the work.

Violating the copyright law can lead to copyright infringement. Now, to be precise, we can say that copyright infringement comes into the action when one uses a copyrighted material without the permission of the original creator or author, the same is regarded as the violation of copyright law. For example, in India, the Section 51 of the copyright act, 1957 states that copyright can be said as infringed when a person obtains it without permission of the copyright holder who has the authorization to reproduce his work.


  1. A person has the freedom to record any TV program or movies in theaters, however, if he transfers or distributes to others then it will amount to copyright infringement.
  2. If a person uses someone else’s music in his own music video and uploads it on the internet. 
  3. If a person tries to or downloads any movie or song from any unauthorized website 
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  1. There aren’t any direct provisions or statutes regarding plagiarism in India, but Section 57 of the Copyright Act, 1957 provides the original authors rights to claim authorship of their work.
  2. Section 57 also includes the term “special rights” which is for the original authors. Here, the special rights is considered the moral rights and says no to the act of plagiarism.
  3. Section 63 of the Indian copyright act, 1957 recognizes copyright infringement as an act of crime and provides punishment for copyright infringement and violation of Section 57. The punishment will be in the form of both fine and imprisonment which can range from 6 months to 3 years. 
  4. Section 51 of the Indian Copyright Act specifies when an action is considered as copyright infringement.


  1. In US copyright law, Copyright infringement is stated in 17 USC 106, according to which copyright infringement occurs when someone creates or distributes the copies of the protected work.
  2. Copyright Act § 504 provides the owner the right to choose to recover in the form of statutory damages, and actual damages or profits.
  3. Under the US Copyright law, plagiarism is not considered as illegal or a crime but it’s something which is morally not acceptable. However, as mentioned before, a person can claim for damages which depends upon many factors. 
  4. However, it’s rare, but a person committing plagiarism can be charged for fraud. Under the US law, fraud is demonstrated through the following ways:

 I. Misrepresentation of a fact.

 II. Having the proper knowledge of his actions.

III. Who is being suffered because of misrepresentation and who relies on that misrepresentation.

We can understand the differences between plagiarism and copyright infringement with the help of some examples which are below illustrated:

It happens when a student copies every bit of sentence from a book or any website and submit it as if he has written the whole assignment, without providing the proper citations or footnotes or references which should contain the accurate information of the original author of the article. It can also happen when a student writes a dissertation by copying the whole dissertation from another student’s work. It would not be held as copyright infringement because the above-mentioned works are more likely considered as a fair-use because the use of the work is only for educational purposes which doesn’t harm the original author’s rights.

If a student copies a whole book and publishes in websites by mentioning the details about the author’s name, title of the article or book, and every other details but if he copies everything and publishes the article without the permission of the original author, then it would definitely infringes the rights of the author under the copyright law. In this case, it would not be regarded as plagiarism as the student doesn’t try to pass off someone else’s work as his own, and tries to provide truthful information about the author and given the full credits but it is regarded as copyright infringement because he used the owner’s work without his permission.

When a person tries to write a book by copying every bit of sentence from another author’s book and tries to publish the book under his name without his permission, then it would be said as both plagiarism and copyright infringement because here the person tried to pass the book off as his own and also tried to publish the book without any consent or permission which can have a negative effect on the original author’s work in the market. 

Differences between plagiarism and copyright infringement

So, after understanding the comparison between the plagiarism and copyright infringement, we can now differentiate plagiarism and copyright infringement through these five points:

  1. Plagiarism is considered as an act of stealing someone else’s work or ideas and passing it off as their own whereas Copyright infringement occurs when someone uses a copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright holder.
  2. Plagiarism is an ethical issue whereas copyright infringement is a legal issue.
  3. Plagiarism involves copying of any kind of work, it’s not necessary that work should be copyrighted, whereas copyright infringement involves only the copyrighted work.
  4. Plagiarism involves any work which can be in both physical and electronic mode whereas copyright infringement involves copyrighted works such as literary work, artistic work, cinematographic work etc.
  5. Plagiarism is not considered as a crime but an unethical issue which involves penalties whereas copyright infringement is considered as a civil crime which can have severe punishments, depending upon the seriousness of the case.

There are also other related articles on this topic:

 International Copyright Law, 2022: Top Shocking Court Cases

5 Tips For Copyright Infringement: Social Media Channels


As we came to know that although the concept of plagiarism and copyright infringement may sound similar, there are lots of differences between them. Most people find it difficult to differentiate these two terms and have some misconceptions about it which leads to more number of copyright infringement cases. 


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