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Understanding Copyright: Copyright for students

Plagiarism vs. copyright infringement: what's the difference?

Basic copyright information

When doing basic research, students need to be aware of copyright rules as they pertain to copying journal articles and parts of books. 

Section 108 of the Copyright Act provides an exemption for copying when it relates to research and it is done in small amounts.  This means that you can legally copy an article from a journal issue when doing research but not the entire issue.  You can copy a small section of a book but not the entire book; guidelines suggest a small portion would be considered 10% or less.

Copyright notices, citing the law specifically, are posted by all copiers and printers in the WVU Libraries:

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material; the person using this equipment is liable for any infringement.


The Oxford English Dictionary defines plagiarism as: The action or practice of taking someone else's work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one's own; literary theft.

When doing any kind of research where other sources are consulted, students must be careful to insure that anything that is gleaned from another source is properly attributed to that source.  This holds true when excerpting from any source, including the web.

Tutorials on plagiarism avoidance at West Virginia University:

The library also has links to guides on citing sources properly.  These guides to style manuals can be found on the Guides & Tutorials section under Instruction on the WVU Libraries homepage.