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Copyrights and plagiarism

The fine line between research and copying

An old joke on the subject of copyrights goes like this – “Steal from one writer, they call it plagiarism; steal from many and they’ll call it research.” But, while it may be fun to crack the odd joke about the subject, the truth is copying and pasting (without giving due credit) is a form of stealing.  And even if the content creator is not looking to pursue legal action, wouldn’t we rather show our kids how to give credit where credit is due?

Four simple ways to stay out of copyright court

  • Check to see if it’s been done before: We all have these flashes of brilliance where we just know the idea must be original simply because we thought of it. But chances are if someone has created and more importantly published the idea in any form, then they have a copyright to it. So before your kids rush to publish their idea, ensure they take some time to review if a similar idea has already been published.
  • Credit the original author: As well as paying to enjoy or own something that’s been published, there’s another approach to reproducing other people’s work to make a point. It’s called “Fair Dealing”, and it covers copying for the purpose of criticism, review, news reporting, research or private study. And it’s really good manners to credit the owner of the image, music or photo you’re using.
  • You can’t sell what you don’t own: This includes books, music, movies or images that your kids may have bought. If any of these have been transferred to a phone, tablet or laptop, they cannot sell those devices with the content still on them.
  • Claiming your own copyright: In New Zealand, everything that is published is automatically protected by copyright. You don’t have to add © to your work – that’s just a reminder. What you can do, though, is be specific about the kind of sharing you are happy with – through a system called Creative Commons.
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