By Teachers, For Teachers
Man is a thinking creature. We like evaluating ideas and sharing thoughts. That's a good thing. The more we collaborate, the smarter we all become. Implicit in this is that we don't claim someone else's ideas as our own. In fact, it's illegal to do this. Read through this rephrasing of American copyright law: "The law states that works of art created in the US after January 1, 1978, are automatically protected by copyright once they are fixed in a tangible medium (like the Internet). BUT a single copy may be used for scholarly research (even if that's a 2nd-grade life cycle report) or in teaching or preparation to teach a class." -- Jacqui Murray, Ask a Tech Teacher. When we claim someone else's work as our own, be it text, artwork, movies, music, or any other form of media, it's called plagiarism: "[Plagiarism is the] wrongful appropriation of another author's language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions." The rules and laws surrounding plagiarism aren't nearly as well-known as those that deal with, say, driving a car or illegally crossing a street. The Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics surveyed 43,000 high school students and found that:
One note: Laws addressing plagiarizing differ throughout the world. This article deals with commonly accepted international guidelines and specific rules aligned with the laws of the United States.
Lots of adults -- including teachers -- think they understand the legalities of using only images, videos, audio, and other media forms. Do these sound familiar?
I can copy-paste anything posted to the Internet. Creators know that will happen and are OK with it. Wrong. Can you grab products from a store shelf just because the clerk is busy? You need to find out what permissions the website allows you when visiting their site.
I can copy-paste anything as long as I give proper credit. Wrong again. Yes sometimes, but no other times, and you better know the difference. For example, you can't copy Nelson DeMille's latest thriller and post it to your blog and think that's OK because you gave him credit. If you do that, you're infringing on his rights. You can post a small amount of his book, but you better check with his publisher to see what they consider to be a "Small amount."
I searched the site and didn't find a copyright, so there isn't one. Wrong. If you can't find the website's media use policy, DON'T use it. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. The courts will not accept an argument that "You tried." Likely places to find media use guidelines are tabs or sections labeled "Privacy," "User terms," "Legal stuff," or links by the picture that say "Link credit," "Copyright," "Rights reserved," "Terms and privacy," or anything else that is even close to those terms.
In general terms, you must cite sources for:
... and you don't have to cite online material in these instances:
It seems like an easy question, doesn't it? All creations are automatically copyrighted when created. Novels, artwork, music -- all are owned by the creator, and you can't use them without permission. So, if you take someone else's work and call it your own, it's plagiarizing.
Specifically, you'll know you plagiarized if:
It's a lot easier to recognize plagiarism than most people think -- especially those engaging in it. Here are a few ways:
Lots of people don't want to plagiarize, but don't know how to give proper credit. Here are suggestions:
Even the best-intentioned writers slip up. We forget to give credit or lose the citation and then don't get around to following up. Here are steps you can follow to find plagiarism in your own work:
I know. This is a lot of information with quite a few norms and protocols but becoming proficient in these will make you a better writer and give you a reputation as the author with reliable sources and facts. Whether you're a student, an academic, a journalist, or a parent, that sort of reputation is welcome.
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 20 years. She is the editor/author of more than 100 ed-tech resources, including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in ed-tech, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on ed-tech topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning. Read Jacqui’s tech thriller series, Rowe-Delamagente and her upcoming Born in a Treacherous Time.