Plagiarism is the act of copying someone else's work and publishing it as your own. This includes text, media, and even ideas. Whenever another person's work is copied and republished without an appropriate reference or citation, it is considered plagiarism. Examples of plagiarism range from small infractions such as not putting quotes around a quotation to blatant violations such as copying an entire website. Even if the original content has been modified, such as an altered image or a reworded article, it is still considered plagiarism if no credit is given to the original source.
We live in a time when most information is available in a digital format. While this makes it easier to access information than ever before, it also makes it easier to plagiarize other people's work. All it takes is a simple copy operation to copy large amounts of text or images from another source. This content can be pasted into a document or another publication in a matter of seconds. Anyone with a website can potentially republish the content for the whole world to see, without citing the original author.
Because it is so easy to copy and paste digital information, plagiarism in the information age has become a serious problem. Fortunately, there are laws in place to protect against plagiarism. The most notable is international copyright law, which states that each individual's published work is automatically protected by copyright. This means others cannot copy the work without the author's approval and can be held liable for breaking the law if they do so. In 1996, the U.S. Senate passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which heightened penalties for copyright infringements on the Internet.
Avoiding plagiarism is easy. It comes down to doing what's right. If you use someone else's information, make sure you cite the source. When writing a paper, this means adding APA or MLA citations when you reference other publications. When publishing a website, it means adding a reference and a link to the website where the information is from. If you need to reference a large amount of content from another source, you should contact the author and ask for permission. That way, you can make sure you use and reference the information appropriately.
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Updated: September 5, 2011