Plagiarism vs Copyright Infringement

Intellectual Property
Home / South Africa / Plagiarism vs Copyright Infringement

What is the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement? Many people mistakenly believe that plagiarism and copyright infringement are the same. Plagiarism means kidnapping and thus refers to the use of someone else’s words or work as one’s one.

  • Copyright infringement is selling another’s work or commercially exploiting it without the proper rights to do so. Copyright infringement for example, will occur when a university copies parts of the whole book and then selling it to students. Theft thus takes place.
  • Plagiarism is when the original work is manipulated and credit is not given where due or it can be done with the specific purpose of deceiving the reader to think that the ideas are your own.

There are not that many original ideas and writers normally build upon the works of others, but if a work is for instance, translated from one language to another and then sold as original it is pure plagiarism. The penalties in both cases are extreme.

What is eligible for Copyright protection:
Through the years, certain classes of copyright have been developed, rather artificially, to describe works eligible for copyright protection. In general, any original work made by a qualified person is eligible for copyright protection. Originality refers to the fact that the author must have created the work through the application of the author’s own creativity and labour. The author must have written down or recorded the creation in a material form for copyright to come into existence:

Literary Works (eg. novels, poems, textbooks, letters, reports, lectures, speeches)
Musical Works
Programme-carrying Signals
(a programme signal which passes through a satellite)
Published Editions of Books
(usually the first print of a literary or musical work)
Computer Programs
(instructions directing the operation of a computer)
Artistic Works (eg. paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs)
Cinematograph Films / Videos
Sound Recordings
Broadcasts (electromagnetic transmissions intended for reception by the public)

Copyright in South Africa, like in most other countries, differs from other forms of intellectual property in that it is not a right that needs to be registered (except in the USA). Unlike patents, trade marks or registered designs, copyright vests in the author of a work once the work is created in a material form.