Copyright & Plagiarism

Copyright, Plagiarism, and Fair Use in Education

As the use of technology has increased and information has become increasingly accessible, plagiarism and copyright infringement have become easier than ever.  When using information owned by others, people should be sure to use information correctly by providing attribution, not infringing on copyright but rather transforming works to their own, and to be sure the work they are using meets the four factors of fair use.  Teachers can and should copyrighted information to enhance student learning, but should be sure to use it correctly to model good digital citizenship for students and because it is the law.

Although similar, Plagiarism and copyright infringement are not always the same.  Plagiarism is using someone else’s work and not giving them proper credit for using their work.  An example of plagiarism would be if I went to Google, typed ‘example of plagiarism,’ found an example, and used that example as my own without citing the source of the information.  Copyright infringement is using someone else’s copyrighted work without permission.  An example of copyright infringement could be if I rented a movie on iTunes, then used my Mac to screen record the movie, made copies on DVDs and sold the DVDs for a profit.  As the sharing of information has become simplified, it is important to teach students the proper way to use resources to ensure they are not plagiarizing or infringing on copyrights.

When using another person’s work in your own, it is important to ensure to provide attribution.  Attribution means giving an author credit or recognition when using their work.  An example of attribution would be if I quoted a book and properly cited the author and book for the quote; Although I am using someone else’s information, I am not claiming it as my own.  Another way to use other’s information is through the process of transformation.  To make a work transformative, it must add new expression or meaning to the original work or “[Add] to the original by creating new information, new aesthetics, new insights, [or] understanding.” (Stim) An example of transformation is a parody.  It is important to be sure to give credit to work you are using or use the four factors of fair use to ensure you are properly using information.  The four factors of fair use to consider are:

  • the purpose and character of your use.
  • the nature of the copyrighted work.
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and.
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market.

Using copyrighted materials correctly and effectively can enhance the teaching and learning process.  Educators are provided limited materials for teaching but frequently want to enrich their lessons by locating and using other resources and materials; Teachers should be certain that when they are using copyrighted materials, they are using them correctly and with proper permission.  When correctly using copyrighted materials, teachers have access to a variety of resources to enhance student learning and are modeling proper digital citizenship for their students.

Correctly using copyrighted materials is the law and using them improperly without permission is breaking the law.  As access to resources becomes simplified as a result of the internet, it is more important than ever to correctly use copyrighted materials.  Using copyrighted materials incorrectly can result in legal action taken by the owner of the materials.  Using copyrighted materials can enhance learning for students but teachers should be sure they are using the materials correctly to model good digital citizenship for students.




Click here to view the Copyright Law of the United States



Copyright vs. Plagiarism

Adcoletx (2014, May 05). Copyright, fair use, plagiarism. Retrieved September 24, 2017, from

Brock Library (2014, September 02). What is plagiarism and how to avoid it. Retrieved September 24, 2017, from

Copyright Clearance Center (2010, September 24). Copyright basics. Retrieved September 23, 2017, from

Myths and facts about copyright infringement infographic. (2014, January 13). Retrieved September 24, 2017, from

EasyBib, Chegg. What is plagiarism? A guide to catching and fixing plagiarism. Retrieved September 24, 2017, from


Stim, R. (n.d.). Fair Use: What Is Transformative? Retrieved September 21, 2017, from