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What Is Internet Plagiarism?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated May 23, 2024
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Internet plagiarism is a term used to describe the illegal use of written work, photographs, or graphics on a website. It is usually taken from another website without giving credit to the creator of the original content. The laws governing online content are the same as for printed materials, meaning they are protected by copyright infringement laws.

When something is written or a picture or graphic is created, it is automatically copyrighted and protected under the law from being stolen. Internet plagiarism is sometimes harder to detect than with printed materials because of the ease of which materials can be stolen. There are software programs which can alert content creators when their work is being used elsewhere, and legal action cane be taken when this occurs. Most search engines will block a site using plagiarized materials from showing up in search results. Their websites may also be taken down, although the exact action may depend on what the original content creator's desires.

Internet plagiarism can include things aside from content and pictures. Anything taken from another website, or print materials, and placed in another place can be considered plagiarism. This includes social networking sites, personal blogs, and private emails. The original creator of whatever content is being used should be given full credit for his or her work. To do this, it is generally acceptable to list the name of the author, photographer or artist. If this information is not available, listing a link to the website where the content was found is often acceptable.

To ensure proper credit is given, however, it is a good idea to request permission from the content creator directly. This is can usually be done by sending an email or calling. Sometimes rules for using content are displayed on the site itself with information about how it should be used, how to give credit, and the types of sites it can be used on. Most require the citation for credit to be clearly visible and easy to read. It should also be close to the content, usually just below it as a caption.

Those who feel they have been the victim of Internet plagiarism should contact the appropriate officials with a link to the offending website or person. Sometimes it is more effective to contact the person using the content first, since many people don't realize that they are breaking the law. Sometimes, simply requesting the content be taken down or that credit be given to the rightful content owners is enough to remedy the situation.

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Discussion Comments

By anon989859 — On Mar 25, 2015

Internet articles are not the only online content that can be plagiarized; people are worried about their website structure as well.

In the response to these threats, there have emerged many programs that check website content and structure for plagiarism.

By jcraig — On May 28, 2012

The article mentions using content from other websites and getting their permission first. I found out that this is extremely important if you are using pictures in a PowerPoint slideshow.

I was giving a presentation for a class a few years ago before I really knew all of the rules of how to cite pictures. I found the citations for a couple of pictures and put them in. The websites also specifically stated that you could use the pictures if you gave the citation, but some of them didn't have that information. As it turned out, one of the pictures was taken by the professor. Luckily she was understanding of the issue.

On that same note, even if you take a picture yourself, it is important to cite yourself since most people won't always know the picture was yours. Plagiarism in schools is very common, especially if you are too lazy to do the proper research.

By cardsfan27 — On May 27, 2012

@titans62 - I would agree with the last post. Unless you have some sort of official dated material showing when you posted your article, it's hard to say who was first.

If you are worried about this happening again in the future, what you may want to do is check out the Internet Archive. It is a website that will save copies of your website for free. That way, you have some proof of when your article first showed up. Besides that, if you are in the US, you can submit material to the US Copyright Office, although that may be a little overboard depending on what kind of content you offer.

If you offer some type of material like instructions for making things or whatever it may be that could be commonly copied to other websites, it may not be a bad idea to get an official copyright notice. Especially if someone could take your ideas and make money from it.

By JimmyT — On May 27, 2012

@titans62 - Proving that you are the original creator of something on the internet is very difficult even if you have a date with the article. For example, I could write an article today and put a date of 1999 on it, and it would be difficult to prove that it hadn't been written then.

One thing you may have going for you is your track record of articles. You didn't mention the source, but if the material was from a blog or a personal website which doesn't have any other plagiarized material, it would be easier to state your case. The other content on the offending website may also point to the rightful owner.

Plagiarism on the internet is a bad problem, but all you can really do without solid evidence is contact the webmaster of the site and ask them to take down the material.

By titans62 — On May 26, 2012

The article says that articles on the internet are protected by copyright laws, but what exactly are those? I have some material on my website that I think has been taken and put on another website. What they have done, though, is changed some of the minor words in the article so that the text is not exactly the same. I don't have one of the plagiarism programs mentioned, but I just put some of the lines into a Google search, and it came up with that website.

Who should I contact about getting the information removed from the site, and what legal actions can I take if they do not do it? I was also wondering how to prove that I was the original creator of something and not them.

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