The Internet revolution has greatly increased the gathering and sharing of information worldwide. Its continuous revolution paves the way to make the world much smaller and information far more accessible. This is a breakthrough in the dissemination of messages, data measuring in the billions, and even technologies from one part of the world to another in the blink of an eye.
However, since the Internet is constantly facilitating communication at an ever accelerating rate, the laws are not able to keep up. Since anything you publish online may be accessed from any point in the world where there is an open Internet connection, along with the increasing benefits are serious problems of theft. Plagiarism, therefore, becomes inevitable, and protection of copyright seems to be very hard to control when you consider the ever growing wealth of information available online. Catching plagiarists and those who infringe on copyright law seems to be a challenging issue, but what exactly are plagiarism and copyright protection?
lagiarism is defined by Webster’s as the stealing and passing off of the words or ideas of another as one’s own or using another person’s production without due credit to its source. By definition, any idea, word, or production, such as a literary composition or idea, is therefore considered an intellectual property and, as such, has value. Just like any tangible property, any intellectual property is of value and therefore needs protection.
On the basic premise that not everybody has the same capability of producing the same brilliant idea or creative work -though not normally tied directly to a persons own personal intellect- one person may be more creative than another. Thus, the act of creating something new has a relative value that needs protection. The copyright law serves the purpose of protecting intellectual properties, but due to the international nature of the Internet, it is unfortunately not complied with in many parts of the world.
Protection can be relative
Protection of different kinds of properties varies. For example, one form of protection for a physical property, like a lot or house, would be an enclosure such as a fence. To protect a car, enclosed car garages would serve the purpose of protecting your vehicle from being stolen or damaged. These are merely a few examples of protecting property that is tangible or that which physically exists. But how can one protect an intangible property such as an idea?
To protect these intangible properties, there exists such a law of protection. This protection is called copyright, which is the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work). It is defined by the US Copyright Office of the Library of Congress as “a form of protection by the laws of the U.S. to the authors of ‘original works of authorship’ for intellectual works such as musical, literary, artistic, architectural, dramatic, and other such non-material concepts.
What constitutes material protected by copyright on the Internet?
Any Web site is considered an original intellectual work as well. Its design and content, such as text, visual layout including links, graphics, web pages, and other unique content like video clips, audio samples, source code and all the rest of the unique markup and elements which altogether makes it a website as a whole are protected by the copyright law. Anyone who would use the elements of the website without crediting the source would be considered a plagiarist, or one who commits plagiarism.
However, some who are beginners in creating Web sites or who are not very familiar with the ethics on using and sharing Internet information might ‘innocently’ commit this crime. Sadly, as the popular quote implies ‘Ignorantia Legis Non Excusat’ (which means: ‘ignorance of the law excuses no one’), it is therefore important to know that such a law exists for Web sites as well, and that it will pay off to know how to avoid committing such a crime unconsciously. Proper paraphrasing, documentation and careful citation of references will greatly help save you from committing this crime punishable by law. In writing an article, for example, it would be better to analyze the ideas carefully rather than merely copying the Web site contents.
Learn more about the many free tools available to stop copyright infringement and plagiarism in my next article “Copyright Protection and Plagiarism on the Internet II”…