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Copyright and Plagiarism

How is copyright related to plagiarism?

Plagiarism is best defined as the unacknowledged use of another person’s work. It is an ethical issue involving a claim of credit for work that the claimant did not create. One can plagiarize someone else’s work regardless of the copyright status of that work. For example, it is nonetheless plagiarism to copy from a book or article that is too old to still be under copyright. It is also plagiarism to use data taken from an unacknowledged source, even though factual material like data may not be protected by copyright. Plagiarism, however, is easily cured – proper citation to the original source of the material.

Copyright infringement, on the other hand, is the unauthorized use of another’s work. This is a legal issue that depends on whether or not the work is protected by copyright in the first place, as well as on specifics like how much is used and the purpose of the use. If one copies too much of a protected work, or copies for an unauthorized purpose, simply acknowledging the original source will not solve the problem. Only by seeking prior permission from the copyright holder does one avoid the risk of an infringement charge.


Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations. “Copyright” literally means the right to copy. The term has come to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to authors for protection of their work. The owner of copyright has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, and, in the case of certain works, publicly perform or display the work; to prepare derivative works; in the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission; or to license others to engage in the same acts under specific terms and conditions. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, slogan, principle, or discovery.

What can be copyrighted:

Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. 

See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section "What Works Are Protected." 

What cannot be copyrighted:

Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.

See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section "What Works Are Protected." 

As well as: 

  • Works in the public domain 
  • Government publications, including judicial opinions; public ordinances; administrative rulings; data and statistics
  • Works created by federal government employees as part of their official responsibilities
  • Works for which copyright wasn't obtained or for which copyright has expired

Copyright at Lindenwood

"It is the intent of Lindenwood University that all members of the University community comply with the provisions of the United States Copyright Law. This Copyright policy serves to uphold the University’s commitment to protecting the principles of intellectual property, as well as, protect the rights of its faculty to make appropriate use of copyrighted works for acceptable educational purposes.  This policy applies to all University faculty, staff, and students who wish to make use of copyrighted works, whether in print, electronic, or other form.  Implicit in this policy is the “Fair Use Act” which applies across the board to uses in the traditional classroom environment and the TEACH Act which is an exception to the “Fair Use Act” for distance learning.

For this policy to be in effect, by law, all faculty members must be knowledgeable of this policy and they, in turn, must inform the students in their classes of this policy."

Full Lindenwood Copyright Policy

Rights of Copyright Holders

  1. Reproduction - the right to make copies of the work
  2. Distribution - the right to sell or otherwise distribute copies of the work
  3. Adaptation - the right to prepare new, derivative, works based on the protected work
  4. Performance and display - the right to perform or display the work (such as a stage play, movie, or painting) in public

Who owns the copyright to a work?

In most cases, the author or creator of the work is the copyright holder unless they have transferred the rights to someone else through a written agreement, such as a publishing agreement.

If the work is created as part of a person's employment, it may be a "work for hire," meaning that the employer is the copyright holder. In the university setting, faculty writings and other "traditional works of scholarship," such as syllabi and lecture materials are typically not considered to be works for hire.

If two or more people together create a work, they are joint holders of the copyright. Joint owners each have an equal right to exercise and enforce the copyright.