Plagiarism and copyright infringement
Plagiarism and copyright infringement are both offences liable to punishment.
They are closely related, yet not completely the same.
|Who enforces it
||Intellectual peers, e.g., Senate, professional society
|How to avoid it
||Cite the original author
||Get the authorization from the copyright owner
|Threshold of violation*
||Fair dealing allowed
||This is probably a source of confusion, and a reason why students sometimes commit plagiarism without realizing it.
- Plagiarism. To avoid plagiarism, there are very strict rules. Sometimes
using only a few words, or even adopting some concepts without using any of
the exact words, could amount to plagiarism. See the last section for details.
- Copyright infringement. There is the principle of fair
dealing: it is possible to use a reasonable amount of a published work
without violating copyright.
Several (extreme and perhaps silly) examples will illustrate the difference
between plagiarism and copyright infringement.
Student A copies a sonnet from Shakespeare and submits it as his own work. This
is plagiarism. However this is not an infringement of copyright, because the law only
protects copyright for a certain period of time. In the case of Shakespeare, copyright
has lapsed and anybody can re-publish the original texts of Shakespeare for free.
Professor A has published a book of 300 pages. Student B publishes another book,
the content of which is
|Professor A has written "(copy 300 pages)". This is a wonderful book.
This would not constitute plagiarism, because Student B has made it very clear,
by the use of quotation marks, that the material is not his own original work.
But this would be an infringement of copyright, and the publisher of Professor A's
book will sue Student B.
Professor A has written a book, and assigned the copyright to Publisher B (in
return for royalty payments). He subsequently uses one chapter of the book in another
publication. In this instance he would not be guilty of plagiarism, since it is his own work
intellectually; but he would have infringed copyright – the copyright is legally
owned by Publisher B.
In terms of copyright, extracts from the
Laws of Hong Kong may be useful to read.