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Copyright and Fair Use

What is the Difference between Copyright Infringement and Plagiarism?

A copyright holder has the exclusive right to reproduce, transmit, perform, and modify his or her work. There are exceptions to these exclusive rights that allow certain uses of copyrighted works without permission from the rights holder, and many of these exceptions favor nonprofit educational uses.

If none of these exceptions applies, however, your use of a copyrighted work will likely constitute copyright infringement.  If you use portions of someone else's work, copyrighted or not, and fail to give appropriate attribution, you have likely plagiarized.  These concepts are related, but not identical.

Four Possible Scenarios

1. If you have used portions (in excess of fair use) of a copyrighted work without permission and without qualifying for an exception, but you have given appropriate attribution, you have infringed but not plagiarized. 

2. If you have used portions (in excess of fair use) of a copyrighted work without permission and without qualifying for an exceptions, and you have not given a citation or attribution, you have infringed and plagiarized.

3. If your use fits within a copyright exception such as fair use, but you have not given a citation or attribution, you have plagiarized but not infringed.

4. Finally, if your use fits within a copyright exception such as fair use, and you have given appropriate attribution or citation, you have neither infringed nor plagiarized.

Additional Resources