How To Know If You Are Plagiarizing or Violating Copyright

According to a 2020 report by the USSC, 75.7% of copyright and trademark offenders were sentenced to prison. Meanwhile, although cases of plagiarism are not likely to result in imprisonment, these lead to tarnished reputation and even expulsion from school. But even with these grave consequences, many still commit acts of plagiarism and copyright infringement. Most of these people are clueless that they are committing such violations.

Because it’s difficult to distinguish these acts, you yourself may be unknowingly committing them too. So just how would you know if you’re plagiarizing or violating copyright laws? Let’s go over what these acts are and how to know if you’re infringing on other people’s rights.

Plagiarism Vs. Copyright Infringement

Both plagiarism and copyright infringement involve the unauthorized use of another person’s original work. But there are distinct differences. The most obvious one is that committing copyright infringement has legal repercussions, while plagiarism is considered a minor misdemeanor.


Plagiarism is the act of claiming another person’s work or ideas as your own. This happens when you use an idea or part of any work, and you don’t give credit or citation to the rightful owner. Although not illegal, plagiarism can tarnish your image. In the academe, it can lead to failing marks, expulsion from the institution, or revocation of your degree. When done at work, it may result in termination and inability to progress in your career.

Copyright Infringement?

Like plagiarism, copyright infringement involves using the original work or idea of another person. What distinguishes it from plagiarism is that it violates the rights of the owner or creator of the original work. Literary works, songs, movies, graphic arts, and other such materials are often under copyright. Except for fair use and other exceptions, no person is allowed to use them without getting authorization from the original creator.

Copyright infringement is illegal and will incur legal consequences. You may be asked to pay steep fines, served injunctions, or even faced with imprisonment.

How to Know If You Are Plagiarizing or Violating Copyright?

Here are some scenarios to help you distinguish whether you‘re plagiarizing or violating copyright.


If you submit a written work with a few copied sentences from another source but did not include a citation, then you have committed plagiarism. In effect, you have made it seem that the idea is originally yours. If you copied a few sentences, but it doesn’t have any significant effect on the original author’s work, then in this situation, there is no copyright infringement—only plagiarism.

Copyright Infringement 

If you copy the majority of any work or its entirety but provide a citation, you have not committed plagiarism. With the citation, you acknowledge the source and do not attribute yourself as the original creator. However, since you copied a substantial portion of the original work, this can have a significant impact on the creator’s market. Thus, you have committed copyright infringement.

Copyright Infringement and Plagiarism

It’s possible to commit both plagiarism and copyright infringement. This happens when you copy a substantial portion of another person’s original work and try to pass it off as your own unique work. While this may seem absurd, it has happened numerous times in the past both in the academe and professional realm.

How to Avoid Plagiarizing or Violating Copyright

  1. Always provide citations when you use ideas or concepts from other people. Include these in your footnotes and in your list of references.
  2. Use sites like Copyscape or Grammarly to check for plagiarism.
  3. Use image detection tools like TinEye or Google Image Search to check if the image you’re using has duplicates on the web.
  4. Use royalty-free images from reputable sites. Check for license agreements before using any image.
  5. Assume that all published work is copyrighted. Free downloads don’t automatically mean free use.

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

It’s easy to overlook rules and inadvertently commit plagiarism or copyright infringement. But it’s also just as easy to check your work to make sure that you’re not violating any rules. Use sites to check for plagiarism, and always make proper citations. If you find yourself in hot water for inadvertently committing plagiarism or copyright infringement, get help from reliable lawyers who have expertise in such cases. Contact Chase Lawyers to know more about these cases and get expert advice.