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Copyright: For Students

Copyright Infringement vs. Plagiarism

In a higher education setting, it is not uncommon to be confused about the difference between “copyright infringement” and “plagiarism”.These are very different concepts with different types of penalties so it is important to understand the meaning and implication of these terms.

Copyright infringement is a violation of federal copyright law and could subject the infringing party to civil and/or criminal damages or penalties. It usually involves the copying, distributing, performing or making of a derivation of another work you do not own, without permission or without an applicable exception to copyright law. Proper citation of a work will not protect you against an infringement action.

Plagiarism is not a violation of the law. It is a violation of a practice or policy accepted within a literary or scholarly setting. Clemson University has established Academic Integrity policies that students are expected to follow. Most commonly it refers to properly citing or acknowledging sources. The Clemson University Undergraduate Academic Integrity Policy defines plagiarism as “the intentional or unintentional copying of language, structure, or ideas of another and attributing the work to one’s own efforts.” An act of plagiarism can result in academic disciplinary consequences such as a failing grade or even suspension.

Peer to Peer (P2P) File Sharing

File sharing is the sharing of computer data in a network. It allows a number of people to use the same data and may allow them to read it, view it, copy it, download it, modify it or print it. In and of itself file sharing is not illegal. However, using it for the sharing of copyright protected music, movies, video games, photographs or other works without permission could be a violation of copyright law. Music, video game, and film producers as well as producers of other creative works take this issue very seriously and have pursued college students in court for significant damages related to illegal file sharing and downloading. In addition to legal damages and penalties that can be imposed, illegal file sharing and downloading violates the Clemson University Computer Use Policy and could subject a student to disciplinary action as well.

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