What is plagiarism?

The dictionary defines plagiarism as “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.”

As a resource, it is recommended to read the following page from www.plagiarism.org as it does a good job of explaining what can be considered plagiarism.

From the page above, here is an excerpt:

Using an image, video or piece of music in a work you have produced without receiving proper permission or providing appropriate citation is plagiarism. The following activities are very common in today’s society. Despite their popularity, they still count as plagiarism.

  • Copying media (especially images) from other websites to paste them into your own papers or websites.
  • Making a video using footage from others’ videos or using copyrighted music as part of the soundtrack.
  • Performing another person’s copyrighted music (i.e., playing a cover).
  • Composing a piece of music that borrows heavily from another composition.

Certainly, these media pose situations in which it can be challenging to determine whether or not the copyrights of a work are being violated. For example:

  • A photograph or scan of a copyrighted image (for example: using a photograph of a book cover to represent that book on one’s website)
  • Recording audio or video in which copyrighted music or video is playing in the background.
  • Re-creating a visual work in the same medium. (for example: shooting a photograph that uses the same composition and subject matter as someone else’s photograph)
  • Re-creating a visual work in a different medium (for example: making a painting that closely resembles another person’s photograph).
  • Re-mixing or altering copyrighted images, video or audio, even if done so in an original way.

The legality of these situations, and others, would be dependent upon the intent and context within which they are produced. The two safest approaches to take in regards to these situations is: 1) Avoid them altogether or 2) Confirm the works’ usage permissions and cite them properly.