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Is plagiarism a criminal offense?
If illegally downloading music is illegal - and the music industry keeps telling us it is - then is it equally illegal to post someone else's work as your own? Is that also copyright theft?
asked in copyright, law, plagiarism

zac123 answers:

the short answer is YES! even copying an pasting from a web-site you are breaking copy write laws. hence the reason most web-sites hence the copy write symbol in the footer.

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seacommander answers:

The whole area of copying, plagiarism and copyright is very complex. The link below to some guidance for students helps but is not definitive. It implies that up to 5% of a piece of published work may be copied without permission.


The following course handouts from Cranfield are quite useful in explaining Copyright and Plagiarism


If the work is somebody's private work and there is no copright symbol then that work is not copyright protected and can be copied. It can also be plagiarised but this would not infringe copyright law.
If the work is generated within an organisation then it seems that the work is copyright protected.
As I said, all very confusing.

Supplement from 01/11/2009 03:48pm:

To answer your question as put vultan - no, plagiarism is not in itself a criminal offence, however, by committing plagiarism you may infringe copyright law which is a criminal offence.

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DragonsDen answers:

Not necessarily, simple breach of a copyright is a civil offence and would normally involve a claim for damages. the criminal offences related to the copyright, designs and patents act 1988 concerns the hire or sale of copyright works.

link: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1988/ukpga_19880048_en_5#pt1-ch6-pb5-l1g107

Section 107 defines the possible offences under the act. you will see that an offence is committed if, without the licence of the copy right owner -

(a) makes for sale or hire, or

(b) imports into the united kingdom otherwise that for his private and domestic use, or

(c) possesses in the course of a business with a view to committing any act infringing the copyright, or

(d) in the course of a business -

(i) sells or lets for hire, or
(ii) offers or exposes for sale or hire, or
(ill) exhibits in public, or
(iv) distributes, or

(e) distributes otherwise than in the course of a business to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright,

an article which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe is, an infringing copy of a copyright work.

There are also other possible criminal charges such as one of consipacy brought under the criminal law act or theft, where direct passing off is concerned, under the theft act.

It is also an offence under the copyright act (section 107) where copyright is infringed (otherwise than by reception of a broadcast or cable programme) by the public 'performance' of a literary, dramatic or musical work, or by the playing or showing in public of a sound recording or film.

So, a criminal offence is only committed where there is a gain for the offender and/or a loss by the copyright owner. the intention of the copyright act is not that people who make an illegal copy of a work are criminalised.

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Russel.West answers:

It is illegal to contravene the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988.

Trouble is firstly you have to prove that a breech has taken place - easy if it is published works in a distributed publication (the definition of publication is to show or allow someone else to view a piece of work be it art, photograph, video, multi media, computer generated or just plain old text)

Secondly you have to prove that there was a monetary gain (or gain of some kind not measured by money such as raising that person in the eyes of their peers) to the person committing the offence and or a loss to the copyright holder by way of monies owed or kudos lost.

So in short -

To copy or steal someone else's work and pass it off as your own could land you a very large fine and or a criminal record along with a custodial sentence and they can (with reasonable evidence that there has been significant gains) remove property and sell it off to award the rightful owner of the copyright their monies would have earned them.

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robinsamuels answers:

You could argue that obtaining certain types of employment by deception is a criminal offence, and that if you plaguerised someones work in order to obtain the qualifications necessary for this employment, then the plaugerism led directly to a criminal offence!

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