That was a Copyright Violation?

That was a Copyright Violation?


When looking at Plagiarism, Copyright infringement, Attribution, and Transformation. The first thing to look at is the difference between copyright infringement and plagiarism. According to (Bailey, 2013) copyright is a law that gives the holder specific legal rights, where plagiarism is a matter of ethics. The two ideas are very similar and in many cases, plagiarism is also a violation of copyright. It is possible to plagiarize something that is public domain by not citing it properly, where copyright infringement can occur even if you do cite something if you do not have permission to distribute the information. Attribution is the act of citing the information, you are giving credit to the original author or creator of the work. This should be done in all works, and especially when using information from the internet. It’s important to realize that just because you find something online does not mean it is from the original source, and you may need to research to find that source. Transformation is the consideration in fair use, and allows you to transform the work for purposes of education, although sometimes in limited use. (ARL, 2012) This is something that is done quite a bit in education, however you must still ensure that you have the authority to distribute the work from the original creator based on your intent. Without this information you can still be in violation of copyright infringement. This is something that is a major concern in school Music and Theatre departments, and why royalties are paid.

The above paragraph leaves me wondering what I am doing in my classroom, and how can I better prepare my students for their future in Graphic Design and Audio Video Production. I will be the first to admit the love hate relationship I have with the internet. On one hand you have an unlimited wealth of knowledge at your fingertips. On the other hand you have the ever present danger of violating someone’s copyright and not even realizing it. You may ask yourself, how can you possibly violate copyright and not know it? You know when you take someone else’s work. Well here’s how it happens, almost every day in graphic design. A student will go online and search for an image. They will use a public domain search in some form. This could mean they went to a specific site, or they used a search engine and changed it to look for royalty free images. They then download and credit that source. Everything is good right?

Not necessarily. I encourage students and educators alike to use reverse image search (see additional resources) on any image they find. You will be amazed how many times that exact same image is used. This will help you determine if you are in fact using the correct reference, or if the image is even truly public domain.




Bailey, J. (2013, October 07). The Difference Between Copyright Infringement and Plagiarism. Retrieved March 06, 2018, from

ARL. (2012, January). Code of best practices in fair use for academic and research libraries.



Additional resources:

Using Google Apps to control cheating

Reverse image search