Plagiarism Warning, Copyright Infringement is a Crime

Here are some important considerations when doing online work, term papers, published reports, copywriting, advertising, sales and marketing brochures, and article publications.

Become proactive in stopping this Internet virus plague. The following is a true story of an egregious website example of someone doing an online copy and paste of text from one site to another.

Important Business and Ebusiness Legal Issues

Not only is this unethical but it can have major eBusiness legal ramifications. With Internet access open to anyone, the Web is providing a very quick way of doing research online. People are taking advantage of the quick copy and paste commands and trying to pass off written works as their own. This type of activity is on the rise for students, professionals, and even some university professors are “Guilty of Plagiarism”. This is considered a form of theft.¹

This particular site had copied over 90% of the text verbatim from our Internet ethics page. In addition to this page that was copied, they also produced a second page with the exact same wording. Additional investigation displayed content from their other pages and links which have a pattern similar to what this example shows, covering a broad professional spectrum of articles. Note that on 2/20/05, articles were reportedly removed and replaced.

It seems as though webmasters and even writers think they can copy and paste text off other websites to their hearts content. It is rather easy to prove who has the original copy of the web page in question. Search engines keep a cache of the pages that are cataloged on their web site. In fact search engines can be subpoenaed to share that information with the courts.

EBusiness websites are not the only areas where copyright protected information is being scraped and pillaged. This can be seen in various business types of B2B and B2C websites, multimedia news articles, newsletters, PDF and Word documents, and even blogs.

Defining Plagiarism:

“Plagiarism is the deliberate or negligent, copying of words, ideas and/or thoughts in whole, or in part, of another and then passing them off as original thought.”²

It is not hard to tell if something is plagiarized. Taking works that are not your own and then publishing the article online as though it were your own is copyright infringement. Even attorneys have been involved in copyright infringement offenses. The legal and monetary consequences can be quite severe. Consequences involving monetary retribution and “there is also a provision in the law for criminal penalties and imprisonment if the infringement is serious enough.”³ An additional note to be aware of is, once an offence is committed and subsequently published online or in print, can come back to haunt a person forever.

It is important that companies police the Internet themselves and use popular search engines to check their own published articles online. Check also into the trade journals of what ever particular field that your company is involved in. Suggest using the online search engines and search for a key sentence or two from your copyrighted article, and place that in the search bar. Any sites that have the whole body text could be guilty of plagiarism, though there is some latitude for fair use.

If you do include information in websites that use substantially the same words, thoughts, or ideas of another, then it would be prudent to give credit to the person or organization in the form of footnotes and hyperlinks, including quotes when citing passages from the original source. Not giving credit where credit is due could hurt you and your business.

For more information related to these legal issues or eBusiness websites and the importance of following all the ethical, legal, and regulatory issues on B2B, B2C, and eCommerce sites visit us on the Internet including more information on sales, marketing, advertising ethics. Additional e-business info for B2C, emarketing strategies, eCommerce websites, and supply chains can be found at our Internet marketing and advertising resources page. Also take a look at the marketing differences between B2B and B2C and a bit more information on the ABC’s of B2B and B2C can be found at our sales and marketing website article: Understanding B2B marketing for businesses and consumer B2C marketing.

Organizations, footnotes, and suggested reference reading material regarding copyrights and plagiarism:

  1. Avoid Plagiarizing, [cite:], Waukesha County Technical College
  2. Consider The High Cost of Plagiarizing, [cite from original(may be out of print):],
    by: R. R. Michaud & T. A. Johnson, of: McCormick, Paulding & Huber LLP,
  3. Using Someone Else’s Ideas Can Cost You Big, [cite:], New Jersey State Bar Foundation
  4. Guidelines for Avoiding Plagiarism, [cite:], The University of Akron Office of General Counsel
  5. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, [cite:], United States Copyright Office

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