Skip to Main Content
We are working to upgrade the research experience by making ongoing improvements to our Research Guides.
You may encounter changes in the look and feel of the Research Guides website along with structural changes to our existing guides. If you have any questions or concerns about this process please let us know.

Copyright for Teaching and Instruction



Most students were born in a time where online technology made copying and distributing all kinds of information very easy and fast to do.  They are often unaware of or misunderstand intellectual property issues, and are surprised when they are accused of plagiarism or are given a takedown notice for something they posted online.  Some students may knowingly plagiarize or infringe on copyright due to various influences.  Educational experts agree students need to understand the considerations of working with intellectual property, whether they are creative (e.g., music, poetry, images) or scholarly works (books, text, data, or research). 

As creators of information and scholarly or creative works, students should also recognize most of their work has the same type of protection as those done by professionals.  Students have the right to develop, sell, distribute, and copy their work, and it deserves to be treated ethically by others!  It's never too early or late for students to learn about intellectual property and how to respect it. 

Whether you are a professor who wants to inform your students on plagiarism, or you are a student who wants to create, you should know some basics about intellectual property.  On this page, the differences between plagiarism and infringement are introduced to minimize your risk of doing either.  Plagiarism and copyright infringement are not the same thing although they share similarities and have to do with using someone else's work or creations:

  • Plagiarism occurs when someone does not give credit to the ideas or works they use to support new points or works, or passes it off as their own. 
  • Infringement is when someone reuses the work of others outside of the limits of copyright law, or takes the rights over the work held by a copyright owner without permission. 

While plagiarism is about ethics, infringement is about legal protection for work.  The chart below provides some comparisons between these concepts:  

  Plagiarism Infringement
Definition: A failure to attribute sources or ideas used as foundational inspiration or information for new works or insights An act of not following the terms of copyright or not adhering to the rights it gives creators.
  • Copying large portions, word-for-word, from another work done by someone else for one's own assignment.
  • Taking an assignment done for one class and turning it in as an assignment for another without discussing it with the instructor (this is known as self plagiarism).
  • Copying the MP4 file of a movie without the permission of its copyright holder and giving the file to others.
  • Remaking a song using the complete lyrics written by someone else without getting permission from its copyright holders. 
As a Concept:

An action that happens when using the work of others or when communicating ideas:  can be done in educational (school or college), professional (publishing, work done for a job), or creative settings.

  • Ethical considerations
  • Intellectual honesty
  • Academic / disciplinary norms

An action that takes place that involves the rights given to creators (or copyright holders) over certain types of work by copyright and intellectual property laws.

  • A legal consideration
  • Commercial considerations may be involved.
How to Get In Trouble:
  • Copying or using the work or ideas of others without (or incomplete) attribution.
  • Poor or inadequately paraphrasing the work of others.
  • More severe or intentional instances: determined by amount used, intention, and type of assignment or work.
  • Use of copyrighted work beyond the limits of an exception and without permission of the copyright holder.
  • Unauthorized copying, distributing, or making a derivative of a work with copyright protection.
  • Falsifying copyright or a Creative Commons license.
Possible Consequences:
  • Failing grade
  • Disciplinary action: meeting with instructor, department chair, or dean
  • Suspension or expulsion from a college or university
  • Getting fired from a job
  • Takedown notice
  • Civil action:  lawsuit
  • Criminal action:  for intentional instances and profit involved from action
How to Minimize Risk:
  • Use "just enough" of someone's work or ideas to support your point or create anew one.
  • Paraphrase or summarize someone's ideas or work.
  • Attribute ideas and sources by citing them.
  • Follow attribution rules as defined by a citation style (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago, or others).
  • Objectively evaluate if the use of a copyright work may qualify for an exception, or seek legal advice to assist with this if needed.
  • Get permission if not following a copyright exception (and keep track of it) AND
  • Provide copyright attribution if permission is granted.
Using Public Domain Works: Public domain works can still be plagiarized; attributing a work gives recognition to original creator and minimizes this risk. Public domain works do not have copyright or its protections, but attribution gives recognition to the original creator and respects intellectual property.

Source: Crews, K.C. (2020).  Copyright law for librarians and educators: Creative strategies and practical solutions.  American Libraries Association.

Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement (Video)

FAU Libraries (2022).  Plagiarism and copyright infringement. [YouTubeVideo].

Books in the Library

Last updated on Jan 29, 2024 2:13 PM