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Students face academic - and legal - consequences when plagiarizing

By Johns, Flaherty & Collins, SC, Attorneys in La Crosse WI on Wednesday, January 29th 2014

The electronic age has brought easy access to a wealth of information on topics as diverse as history, science, art, homemaking, crafts, medicine, parenting and, yes, the law. Not only does that make it easier to become better informed, it also makes it easier to appear better informed. Plagiarism now is more rampant than ever, plaguing college professors as well as the content creators who own copyrights.

A study from the Josephson Institute, The Ethics of American Youth: 2012," indicates that nearly a third of all students copied Internet material for a classroom assignment. When caught, students may face failing grades, suspension or even expulsion. That leaves many worrying only about facing academic consequences when they should be equally worried about the legal implications.

Copyright laws protect writers' work from being copied by essentially granting the original creator exclusive rights to the content, at least for a time. Practically speaking, that means students may not

  • copy paragraphs from other sources without citation;

  • paraphrase someone else=s ideas or imply such ideas are their own.

Violating copyright law opens offenders to civil lawsuits from content owners. That means the author of an article or text or the creator of an idea or concept may sue plagiarists in federal court. The cost of defending such a lawsuit C not to mention the distraction C could be enough to break many students. If found guilty, offenders could face fines up to $50,000 and a one-year jail sentence. Penalties may be stiffer if a students earns money from the plagiarized material.

To avoid the academic and legal ramifications, students are best off citing sources and attributing all ideas that are not their own.

Article by the team at Johns, Flaherty & Collins, SC. For a La Crosse lawyer, call them at 608-784-5678. 

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