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The Difference Between Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement

Short Intro: -

There are many differences between plagiarism and copyright infringement, yet it can be easy to confuse these concepts. While both plagiarism and copyright infringement can be characterized as the improper use of someone else’s work, they are distinctly different improper uses of someone else’s work. The biggest difference is that copyright infringement is illegal, while plagiarism is not. This blog post discusses additional differences between the two and provides examples of each type of improper use.

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is using someone else’s work or ideas without giving proper credit.  In other words, because you are not giving attribution to the owner of the original work or idea — you are presenting the idea or thought as your own.

  1. Plagiarism is a violation of academic norms but not illegal; copyright violation is illegal but quite common in academia. 
  2. Plagiarism is an offense against the author; copyright violation is an offense against the copyright holder. In traditional academic publishing, they are usually not the same person, because copyright transfer agreements (CTAs) are so common.
  3. Plagiarism applies when ideas are copied; copyright violation occurs only when a specific fixed expression (e.g., sequence of words, use of an image) is copied.
  4. Avoiding plagiarism is about properly apportioning intellectual credit; copyright is about maintaining revenue streams.

Examples of Plagiarism

  • Quoting someone’s words from the Internet, a printed article, or an interview, without acknowledging the author.
  • Copying part of the content of a work into one’s own paper without citing the source.
  • Copying or buying a paper and handing it in as one’s own.
  • Falsely creating a citation that doesn’t exist.
  • Failing to credit and cite someone else’s thoughts or ideas when paraphrasing.
  • Paraphrasing in a way that relies too heavily on another’s language or syntax.

Definition of Copyright Infringement

Copyright Infringement refers to the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, display, performance, modification or use of works which are under the protection of copyright law, where permission is a must. It means to sell someone’s work or commercially exploit it without legal permission to do the same.

In finer terms, it implies the infringement of the rights conferred to the copyright owner relating to the exclusive use of the work for a stipulated period, by a third party. Licensing arrangements are available to the third parties to get permission for using the copyrighted work.

The copyright act gives the holder of the copyright, i.e. the creator of the work, a number of rights which can be used by him/her only. It covers the following subjects – literature, musical composition, artwork, audio-visual, paintings, architectural work, sound recordings, choreography, intellectual works, etc.

Difference Between Copyright and Trademark?

Comparison Chart


Copyright infringement is the unlawful duplication of work that violates the exclusive rights of the copyright owner.
An Unauthorized use of creative work which belongs to someone else.
A Copyright protected works.
Fixed expression of ideas.
Arises when material is used without permission.


Plagiarism implies the presentation of someone else’s thoughts ideas or expression as your own, without providing attribution to the actual creator of the work.
A Claiming or attempting to claim ownership on creative work of someone else.
All type of creative works.
All Ideas
Arises when material is used without providing credit.

Copyright vs. Plagiarism

Copyright infringement and plagiarism are related, but distinctly different situations.

Copyright does not protect ideas.  It only protects the fixed expression of those ideas.  A person infringes on copyright when he or she copies, distributes, displays, etc. the work in a manner that is in violation of copyright law.  Copyright infringement is a legal matter.  

Plagiarism on the other hand is when someone passed off the work of someone else as one’s own or without acknowledgement of the original source.  Plagiarism is avoidable by making sure you always give credit to the original source when using the ideas or works of someone else in your own work.  This is an ethical situation that is addressed by university policy and may have negative repercussions if violated, but it is not a legal matter.

It is possible to be guilty of either one of these situations and not the other, or both of these situations at the same time. 

Scenario 1 (plagiarism without copyright violation): If you copy the words to one of Shakespeare’s sonnets and put your own name to it,  and then post this to a Web site, you would be guilty of plagiarism but not copyright infringement.  Since Shakespeare’s works are in the public domain, you have no reason not to copy and use them at your discretion.  However, by passing the work off as your own, you have plagiarized Shakespeare.  To avoid a charge of plagiarism, be sure to correctly cite and credit the source of any information you borrow from others.


Scenario 2 (copyright violation but not plagiarism): If you copy the lyrics to a recent top 40 song and post it to a Web site with credit given to the singer or artist who recorded the song, you would be guilty of copyright infringement, but not plagiarism.  Since you have credited the original source you are not claiming the ideas as your own.  However, since you are distributing copyrighted material without the copyright owner’s permission, you are infringing on their copyright.


Scenario 3 (both copyright violation and plagiarism): If you copy the lyrics to a recent top 40 song and post it to a Web site, claiming it as your own work, you have violated the copyright on the work and you have also plagiarized the songwriter.

Key Differences Between Copyright Infringement and Plagiarism

The difference between copyright infringement and plagiarism can be drawn clearly on the following grounds:

  1. Copyright Infringement is when copyrighted material is used without permission of the copyright holder, such that the exclusive rights of the holder is violated, then the wrongdoer is held liable for monetary compensation to the copyright holder. On the other hand, when any person steals and passes off another person’s ideas or words, and using them as their own without giving reference or credit to the source, it is called Plagiarism.
  2. Copyright infringement involves the unauthorized use of creative work which belongs to someone else. As against, plagiarism encompasses claiming or attempting to claim ownership of creative work of someone else.
  3. The subject matter of copyright infringement is Copyright protected works. Conversely, all type of creative works is covered under plagiarism.
  4. Copyright infringement has nothing to do with attribution it is more about permission, i.e. violation of copyright is said to have occurred even when the source, author or copyright holder is given reference. On the contrary, if proper citation is given, the work is not said to be plagiarised.
  5. While plagiarism is concerned with ideas, copyright infringement is concerned with the fixed expression of ideas.
  6. Copyright infringement is a legal wrong as someone can take or threaten to take legal action against the person copying the work. On the other hand, plagiarism is a moral or ethical offence, as the accusation of plagiarism need not result in litigation.

How Auriga Accounting Helps In Copyright Registration ?

However, Auriga Accounting Private Limited can assist individuals and businesses in various ways when it comes to copyright registration:

  1. Financial Records Preparation: Auriga Accounting can help gather and organise financial records related to the creation and ownership of the copyrighted work. This information might be needed during the registration process.

  2. Cost Analysis: Auriga Accounting can assist in determining the costs associated with creating the copyrighted work. This information might be relevant for copyright registration and related tax purposes.

  3. Tax Implications: Auriga Accounting can advise on the tax implications of owning copyrights, especially if the copyrighted work generates income. They can help in understanding tax deductions and obligations related to copyright revenue.

  4. Business Structure: For businesses involved in creative work, accountants can advise on the appropriate business structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation) concerning copyright ownership.

  5. Royalty Management: If the copyrighted work generates royalties, Auriga Accounting Private Limited have best accountants, that can help manage and track these payments. They can ensure that the creators receive the appropriate compensation and that the income is reported correctly for tax purposes.

  6. Compliance and Reporting: Auriga Accounting can assist in ensuring that the business or individual complies with all financial reporting requirements related to the copyrighted work, including tax filings and royalty reporting.

It’s important to note that while Auriga Accounting private limited can provide valuable financial guidance, the legal aspects of copyright registration should be handled by intellectual property attorneys or experts in copyright law. These legal professionals can guide individuals and businesses through the complexities of copyright registration, rights protection, and infringement issues