Avoiding Copyright Infringement and Plagiarism

Copyright infringement – Publishing a plagiarized work. This is a crime.  Ideas are not copyrightable. Titles are not either. However, if you are using someone else’s idea, you should cite them as a source of the idea.

Fair Use – Borrowing a small part of someone’s work to use in teaching, criticism, parody, or as an example. You must cite the original author. The use of the material must not in any way deprive the original author/artist of profit in the marketplace.

Plagiarism –  Taking someone else’s words or work and copying them without giving credit to the original author/artist, while claiming such work or ideas to be your own. Although ideas cannot be “copyrighted” the idea needs to be properly cited  – lest you be considered to have stolen it.

Public Domain – Works that have been around for over 100 years and are no longer under copyright protection. You may quote them or use them as you please, in entirety, but give credit to the original author, or you will still be plagiarizing.

Parody – An imitation of style for use in humor or political satire, that does not directly quote the author/artist. Parody has been protected by the courts as “fair use.”

Sometimes you will see a movie or read a book that is “based on a true story.”  You will note there is a reference to the actual story the work is derived from. Sometimes this is found in the Introduction, sometimes in the Epilogue or on the jacket of the book.

When using someone else’s life (and name) to tell a story, if you change or embellish anything, you must state what is history and what is fiction in some manner. To represent something as true about a person’s life when it is not is slander or libel. It could result in a court battle, economic loss and a ruined reputation for the author. If you also harm the reputation of the person you are writing about, it is an additional crime of defamation of character, as well as breaking the 9th commandment which states: “Do not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20 – The Bible.)

Any idea that is not considered general knowledge, such as a quote, or copy of an artistic work (whether musical or other performance or creation), must have credit given in a paper or a speech. By citing our source we avoid shaming ourselves and breaking the 8th commandment which states, “You must not steal.” (Exodus 20 – The Bible.)

Citing Works/Bibliography

Good resources for knowing how to cite works properly may be found at:


Or, you can use an application to make one for you:  http://www.easybib.com/

Author: Jane E Clark

I am a wife, mom, grandmother, teacher, and a writer of children's stories, articles, and poetry.

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