Intellectual property is the one thing a person cannot protect with conventional precautions because it is intangible. For that reason, there are elaborate rules of getting the copyright for one’s ideas and inventions for the original author to have the appropriate credit for it. However, it is not a perfect world, so people find ways to use copyrighted material without a necessary reference or permission from the right owner. A failure to use one’s intellectual property legitimately is copyright infringement, and plagiarism is one of its manifestations. Nonetheless, there is a significant difference between copyright infringement in general and plagiarism in particular.
The term copyright infringement means inappropriate use of one’s registered intellectual property without the permission of the right owner. The most widespread kinds of copyright infringement are piracy and plagiarism.
In the case of piracy, the person or organization credits the authorship, yet the right owner does not benefit from it. The important point is that intellectual property must be protected by copyrights. In this example, a pirate that distributes music, films, or books makes the original author lose his or her profit from the copyrighted items.
Moreover, if one pays for content, such as purchasing a movie or subscribing to content streaming, it is illegal to distribute it for profit. Thus, when one makes a party, such as the screening of a film, and charges guests for it, it is also a copyright infringement. That person makes a profit off of others’ intellectual property.
Plagiarism, in turn, is a type of copyright infringement, in which a person presents the original ideas of another person as one’s own or fails to reference the author. The most widespread and also detectable cases of plagiarism occur in writing. However, it is not limited to it, as it also concerns ideas, music, visual design, and even dance moves.
For example, a sequence from Satoshi Kon’s cult anime movie Perfect Blue inspired Darren Aronofsky so much that he bought the rights to the whole film to mimic it in his 2000 picture Requiem for a Dream. If Aronofsky shot the scene without the permission, he would have been sued for plagiarism, as the similarity was evident.
There are different ways in which an original work can be plagiarized. The most common are quoting the author without referencing him or her, paraphrasing original ideas and presenting them as one’s own, patchwriting, and referencing an author that does not exist.
Moreover, copyright infringement and plagiarism are different in terms of the victims of the violation. Copyright infringement usually has only one victim: namely, the right owner who does not receive credit or profit for their work. Plagiarism may have two victims or sets of victims: the original author of the intellectual property and the people deceived into thinking the plagiarized work is original.
Finally, if the work is in the public domain, using it in one’s own work is a copyright crime by itself but not a case of copyright infringement, as there is no owner of the rights. With no definite right shoulder, plagiarism is a matter of ethical debate, while copyright is a legal subject.