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Category: Law

Is Plagiarism Illegal?

Whether you’re writing something professionally and have a tight deadline or you’re a student trying to churn out a massive paper that takes up most of your grade, it can be tempting to copy someone else’s work. However, directly copying someone’s work is an act of plagiarism, and can land you in hot water.

Plagiarism doesn’t have to be a direct copy, either. Simply stealing someone’s idea or converting their spoken word into your own print can also be considered plagiarism. There have been a countless number of people to commit plagiarism and not even know it. You can hear or see something once, and write it down as your own, completely unaware that you’re plagiarising at that moment.

But is plagiarism a crime? The answer is both yes and no. Let’s take a look at the specifics of plagiarism and see the scenarios in which legal action can be taken against someone that commits it.

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Not Criminal

If you think that because you copy and paste something out of a textbook onto your semester-end research paper you’re going to go to jail, don’t worry. Doing so is not considered a criminal act, but you could face serious repercussions with your school. Committing plagiarism on accident or in a very small dose will likely just lead to the paper having to be edited or a knock against your grade. The most egregious forms of academic plagiarism, though, can lead to a full expulsion.

However, we’re talking about the United States, where plagiarism itself is not a crime at the federal or state levels. That doesn’t mean that you can’t go to jail in other countries. In certain parts of the world, plagiarism is a jailable offense. In fact, Montenegro made plagiarism a crime in 2017, but that’s a rare case. For the most part, the worst that can happen legally when someone commits plagiarism is a civil infraction.

Paying the Price

In more severe cases of plagiarism, someone that commits this act may be looking at infractions linked to plagiarism. This includes copyright infringement, which frequently leads to civil suits when monetary gain was made with copyrighted work. If you’re posting a quote from Bill Gates in your essay or using Mickey Mouse’s likeness in an office memo, the chances of facing any punishment are basically zero.

There are a lot of cases in which plagiarism can be avoided simply by giving credit to the person that created the original work. Instead of simply copying and pasting what someone wrote word for word, you can make a reference to it. The standard is to cite the work, give it its own paragraph in your writing, and italicize it (if digital). This makes it clear that you’re simply using this work as a source instead of your own creation. For example:

“To engage in downright plagiarism is disappointing. It’s cynical, opportunistic and hypocritical.” -Saul Bass

Checking For Plagiarism

These days, it can be more tempting to plagiarise since there are so many thoughts that have already been put out into the internet thanks to the countless blogs and websites available. However, it’s also easier to detect. Instead of waiting until someone else checks your work for plagiarism and facing serious consequences, check for any potential plagiarism yourself through one of the online trackers.

A plagiarism tracker will scour the internet to see how much of your work matches with someone else’s. If there is a small overlap, it’s not a big cause for concern. You may be writing about the exact same topic, and therefore will be using a lot of the same words. The higher the score on a plagiarism checker, though, the more you’ll want to proofread your work and edit what you need so that you don’t get into trouble.

How to Know When You Need a Lawyer

Are you facing an unprecedented situation? Are you concerned that it may involve some legal complications? If you are concerned about a legal problem, then you may wonder if it’s time to work with a lawyer. While the specifics of your situation may vary, some common factors may help you determine if you should reach out to an attorney.

Accidents and Injuries

Car accidents, injuries in another person’s home or property, accidents at work, or similar situations may require an attorney. When you are involved in an accident and it causes a severe injury, you may need a lawyer to determine your options. Although state laws may vary in relation to the party-at-fault in accident cases, many states allow individuals to seek compensation if they are injured in a car accident, a workplace accident, or similar situations.

Family Court and Family Law Situations

When you are going through a major change in your family, such as a divorce, then you may need a lawyer. A lawyer may help in three primary situations: custody of children, divorce settlements in relation to assets, and prenuptial agreements. Depending on the situation, you may need a lawyer to represent your interests in court or to assist with court-related documents.

Estate Planning

In the case of individuals who are planning for the possibility of passing away, you may need to work with an estate lawyer. Even young individuals may consider estate planning services that focus on writing a will in some situations. For example, you may write a will with a lawyer if you have young children and need to put assets in a trust until they reach adulthood. Most individuals will work with an estate planning professional at some point in their lives, though the exact timing may vary.

Facing Arrest

If you were arrested for any reason, then you want to hire a lawyer. In the case of an arrest, you do not want to speak to police or other authorities until you have a lawyer present. A lawyer helps you determine the appropriate way to approach your case.

Handling Legal Paperwork

Legal paperwork falls into a variety of categories, such as business contracts, real estate contacts, or filing for bankruptcy. If you need assistance with legal paperwork, then you should consider working with a lawyer to help with your concerns. In some cases, a lawyer reads through your documents to ensure that contacts are fair to all parties involved in the document. In other situations, a lawyer crafts a contract or document on your behalf.

Whether you are facing a court case or you are looking for assistance with legal documents, working with a lawyer may assist with your concerns. Keep in mind that law firms may offer a consultation to help you clarify when to work with their firm or when to seek different services for your needs.

Posted in Law