What Is Plagiarism? Why Is It A Crime?

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of taking a person’s work without their permission and passing it off as your own.

Plagiarism is an unethical act and is not endorsed or tolerated by most people, institutes, and organizations.

It has been around for a long time and it was a major problem in older times when there wasn’t as much technology around. Nowadays, due to the internet, it has become even easier to plagiarize but simultaneously it has also become easier to detect plagiarism.

There are many online tools and resources that can check entire documents and see if they have any content that is taken from other sources without citing it. Hence, plagiarizing has become riskier.

Types of Plagiarism

Plagiarism has many different types but they can all be categorized under four broad ones. The four types are as follows.

1.   Direct Plagiarism

When you copy a passage/part of some content word for word (also called “verbatim”) from another person’s work, then that is called direct plagiarism. Most people know about this kind of plagiarism as it is very common and students, in particular, are prone to committing it.

Students do not realize that they have to cite their sources and if they use something verbatim, they have to put it in quotes.

Direct plagiarism is also more easily detected than most other kinds of plagiarism. It is a very straightforward kind of plagiarism.

2.   Self-Plagiarism

This is the type of plagiarism in which a person uses their own work (older work) in their new work without citing it. It may seem harmless at first glance but in the academic world, honesty is greatly valued. And getting credit again for something you have already done is not in line with that.

Self-plagiarism typically affects prolific writers who have to:

  1. Write a lot on a daily basis
  2. Write on the same topics

When you have to write many articles on the same topics, there is bound to be some level of self-plagiarism. As it stands, there are only so many ways in which you can present the same ideas in a different manner. Sooner or later, the author starts recycling their older content hoping that no one will notice.

Content writers and bloggers are the most prone to indulging in self-plagiarism as they have to write a lot daily. Some amount of self-plagiarism inevitably seeps into their work.

3.   Mosaic Plagiarism

Mosaic plagiarism is when only some parts of a source are copied and used in one’s work. These parts can be slightly paraphrased as well. They are also not quoted.

However, incorrect quoting (or not quoting) as well as inadequate paraphrasing count as plagiarism

This is a more malicious type of plagiarism as it is clearly an attempt at hiding the fact that one has committed plagiarism.  This type of plagiarism is more difficult to detect.

However, technology has advanced a lot, particularly in artificial intelligence. Computers can now understand not just the syntax of a language but also the context in which words are used. By using a viable plagiarism checker that utilizes such technology, all types of plagiarism can be reliably detected.



4.   Accidental Plagiarism

This is an innocent sort of plagiarism that nevertheless has severe consequences. It can occur when a writer accidentally quotes wrongly, doesn’t cite correctly, or paraphrases insufficiently.

Wrong quotations include not putting the quotation marks, putting the marks in the incorrect places, or not writing the quote word for word.

Incorrect citations refer to citing the wrong source, getting the information wrong, and following the wrong citation format.

Insufficient paraphrasing refers to not changing the words of others to a suitable degree. If the paraphrased version still has the same keywords and sentence structure, then it is regarded as insufficient.

Accidental plagiarism can be avoided by careful management and tracking of sources during the writing process.

Creating a list of all sources and the ideas that were used from each one is a great way to prevent incorrect quotations and citations.

Why Is Plagiarism A Crime?

Plagiarism itself is unethical and dishonest but it is not serious enough to be a crime. However, under the right circumstances, it can be treated as a crime.

At its core, plagiarism is basically theft and fraud. It is theft because you are using someone’s ideas and work without their permission. It is fraud because you are passing it off as your work.

Plagiarism can be tried for these two crimes in the United States if copyright infringement is involved.

Copyright infringement is the use or production of a copyright-protected material without the permission of the copyright holder – investopedia.com

All research papers, articles, books, and journals are considered copyright protected. Using any material from them without citing them or without permission is a punishable offense. In this case, the plagiarist can be taken to trial by the copyright holder and the plagiarist may have to pay monetary compensation.

This is why plagiarism in professional settings is a crime. Plagiarism is not considered a crime in schools and colleges but it is still heavily discouraged and various institutes have their own methods of punishing plagiarism.

There are many consequences of committing plagiarism. Some of them are discussed here.

Consequences of Plagiarism

Plagiarism has different consequences depending on the environment and scale on which it was committed. The consequences can be broadly differentiated for students, professional academics, bloggers and content creators, and journalists.

Let’s see what the consequences for all of them are.

1. Consequences for Students

Students resort to plagiarism when they are working on assignments. This can happen due to lack of time, laziness, or a lack of understanding of the assignment.

Some institutes have a policy of giving no marks for assignments that have plagiarism. Others can go further and can actually even freeze the entire semester for the plagiarizing student. This is, basically, an extended suspension.

Repeat offenders can be expelled and this can leave a permanent stain on their records. Colleges are reluctant to admit plagiarists so, plagiarizing and getting caught can destroy the academic career of a student.

2. Consequences for Professionals (Researchers, Professors, Journalists)

If a researcher or professor commits plagiarism, they have to face much more serious repercussions than students.

At the very least, their reputation is reduced to nothing. A professional who resorts to plagiarism is not well received by their peers and their extended circles.

Journals refuse to publish their work and even if they somehow do publish some research, it is not well received.

All in all, it can be said that professors and researchers who commit plagiarism essentially destroy the entire career and reputation they have built up.

Journalists face many of the same consequences i.e., destroyed reputation, destroyed career, and loss of any chances to work in the same field again.

Professionals also have to pay legal remuneration to the copyright holder whose work they plagiarized. This can result in a large monetary loss as such cases usually carry a heavy fine.

3. Consequences for Bloggers and Content Creators

The internet has a lot of fluff and useless material mixed in with all the good material. Search engines strive to project only the good materials to their users. They use spiders/crawlers that can visit an indexed website and search it.

This allows search engines to see what kind of content they are offering, and if it is relevant and high quality enough. Once they can determine the quality of the site, they assign it a rank on their results page.

A higher rank means more traffic. Bloggers and content creators go to great lengths to ensure that their site has great SEO (Search Engine Optimization) so that it can rank higher. Plagiarism can singlehandedly reduce all of that effort to zero.

Search engines can find out if the content on a site is plagiarized or not. If it is, they can reduce the rank of the site or just remove it from the index of the engine. Removal from the index means that the site will never show up in the results of that search engine.


In this article, we learned what is plagiarism, some of its common types, and when and how plagiarism can be considered a crime. We also looked at the consequences of committing plagiarism for various people. These ranged from the loss of reputation, the axing of a career to financial loss.

It is very easy to commit plagiarism nowadays but it is also just as easy to detect it. Hence, plagiarism should be avoided to safeguard yourself from such consequences.

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