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Encouraging Academic Honesty: Copyright

Resources for faculty and students on academic honesty . Includes information on Plagiarism, citing sources, and the Heidelberg IRB office

Time for a Crash Course on Copyright!

Crash Course on Copyright Ep.1

Crash Course on Copyright Ep.2

Examples of Copyright vs Plagiarism

These examples, courtesy of Auburn University, will help you get a better understanding on the differences between copyright and plagiarism and what exactly each is.

Scenario 1 (plagiarism without copyright violation): If you copy the words to one of Shakespeare’s sonnets and put your own name to it,  and then post this to a Web site, you would be guilty of plagiarism but not copyright infringement.  Since Shakespeare’s works are in the public domain, you have no reason not to copy and use them at your discretion.  However, by passing the work off as your own, you have plagiarized Shakespeare.  To avoid a charge of plagiarism, be sure to correctly cite and credit the source of any information you borrow from others.


Scenario 2 (copyright violation but not plagiarism): If you copy the lyrics to a recent top 40 song and post it to a Web site with credit given to the singer or artist who recorded the song, you would be guilty of copyright infringement, but not plagiarism.  Since you have credited the original source you are not claiming the ideas as your own.  However, since you are distributing copyrighted material without the copyright owner’s permission, you are infringing on their copyright.


Scenario 3 (both copyright violation and plagiarism): If you copy the lyrics to a recent top 40 song and post it to a Web site, claiming it as your own work, you have violated the copyright on the work and you have also plagiarized the songwriter.

What is copyright and what does it mean for you

Copyright is a type of intellectual property that protects original works of authorship as soon as an author fixes the work in a tangible form of expression. In copyright law, there are a lot of different types of works, including paintings, photographs, illustrations, musical compositions, sound recordings, computer programs, books, poems, blog posts, movies, architectural works, plays, and so much more! (

While related to plagiarism, copyright does not protect ideas.  It only protects the fixed expression of those ideas, so a book or a song recording. If you try to pass off the song or book as your own, you're violating copyright and it becomes a legal matter!

While at Heidelberg, Plagiarism will be your main concern, but getting into practice to avoid plagiarism could help you out in the future to avoid copyright issues!