Is plagiarism illegal? Threats and consequences of unoriginal paper

Is plagiarism illegal? Top facts you need to know

Submitting a plagiarized paper is a nightmare for many students. However, can it really harm your student's reputation? What consequences can you face in this case? Is plagiarism a crime? It’s high time to find the answers to these questions and many more facts in this article. 

Is plagiarism illegal: legal implications

Most colleges and universities have strict rules regarding submitting unoriginal content. But what are the country's laws regarding this sphere? Can you go to jail for plagiarism? Let’s learn more about the legal side of this common issue. 

Regulations governing plagiarism 

First of all, you need to know that the plagiarism field falls under the copyright and intellectual property legislation. 

  • Copyright law protects original works of authorship. If you use someone’s work without permission, you will face penalties. Proper attribution is required if you want to do it legally. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) establishes legal guidelines on how to deal with copyright infringement. Most countries have advanced copyright laws that must be strictly followed by everyone. These laws also protect the rights of authors in the academic writing sector. 
  • Fair Use Doctrine. This document allows for the limited use of copyrighted material without obtaining permission from the copyright holder. However, fair use is subject to specific conditions. But still, is plagiarism a crime? This is a slippery road, so if you point out someone’s ideas without referencing them, you must be 100% sure you can do that in your particular case. Unfortunately, unoriginal academic content usually does not fall under fair use. It involves passing off someone else's work as one's own without proper attribution.
  • Academic Integrity Policies. Educational institutions have their academic integrity policies. These documents define unoriginal text and outline consequences for students and faculty who engage in it. The punishment for plagiarism in academic settings can be very different. For example, you may get low grades on your assignment or drop from the institution.
  • Contractual Agreements. These documents often include various clauses connected to plagiarism and proper attribution. Authors who plagiarize in academic papers may be in breach of their contractual agreements.

Each college and university usually has its own rules regarding unoriginal content. Many of them, like the University of Sydney, even share it online with all the students. So, is plagiarism illegal? Well, the answer is “Yes, in many cases.”

Legal cases involving plagiarism

Can you get arrested for plagiarism? Have there been any cases of students who got into jail for passing unoriginal papers? Below, you can find some examples of the most well-known lawsuit cases that shook the academic world recently.

  • Doris Kearns Goodwin. In 2002, this Pulitzer Prize-winning historian was accused of plagiarism in her new book. The writer just failed to attribute some passages to their sources. So, even the most reputable and well-known authors might face issues with unoriginal content. This leads to massive scandals and copyright issues. 
  • Kaavya Viswanathan. In 2006, this Harvard student faced accusations of plagiarism in her novel. Several passages were strikingly similar to those in Megan McCafferty's books. As a result, Viswanathan's book was withdrawn from publication. So, if you believe no one will notice unoriginal content in your paper, you are wrong. 
  • Senator John Walsh. In 2014, Senator of Montana was accused of plagiarizing his master's thesis at college. As a result, he dropped out of the race for re-election. Politicians are often students with minimal free time. However, this is not an excuse for composing an unoriginal paper. 

As you can see, the penalties for plagiarism may vary. First, you may face a lawsuit. Second, you can drop out of university/college. Third, your reputation will be seriously damaged. The number of problems this issue can lead to is just mind-blowing. This is the main reason why so many students stay away from plagiarized content. Most learners do their best to provide unique data and use proper referencing in their papers. This approach is safe and reliable but mostly very time-consuming. 

Maintaining academic integrity 

Is plagiarism illegal? Your mentors and professors think it is. However, it is essential to dive a bit deeper into this field to understand all the critical nuances. 

An institutional approach to plagiarism

Every college and university has its own policy regarding unoriginal content. But in what cases can you face academic issues? Plagiarism is considered to be a violation in the following cases:

  • Ideas, phrases, paragraphs, methods, formulas, programming code, evidence, images, diagrams, artworks, or musical scores without correctly referencing their origins.
  • Copy from another student’s work without indicating this is what you have done.
  • Mention the source in your bibliography, but do not properly reference the content in the main body of your work.
  • Change the order of words from other material but retain the original idea or concept without correct referencing.
  • Quote from a lecture or speech acknowledging the speaker.
  • Quote from a secondary source without acknowledging the primary source.

So, is plagiarism a crime? The answer to this question depends on many factors. To find out more, let’s explore the possible consequences of plagiarism a student may face when showing off unoriginal texts, graphics, or other types of content. 

Penalties in academic environments

Is plagiarism illegal? Students caught on unoriginal academic papers can face the following penalties: 

  • Failing an assignment;
  • Failing a course;
  • Removal from a major;
  • Expulsion from the school altogether.

This rule applies to freshmen and other learners of 2-4 courses. However, if you are a graduate student or someone charged with creating public-facing knowledge, you may face even more serious penalties. For example, you can lose your degree.

Self-plagiarism and copyright laws: is self plagiarism illegal?

So, we’ve already found an answer to the question, “Is plagiarism illegal?” But what about duplicated information from your own academic papers? What if you share big pieces of previously published papers in your new one without proper citation? Is plagiarism a felony in this case? 

Legalities of self-plagiarism

While self-plagiarism might not involve stealing someone else's work, it still violates academic and publishing ethics because it can be misleading to readers who might assume they are encountering new or original content. It can also distort the academic record by inflating an author's publication record with what appear to be distinct contributions.

Anyway, is self plagiarism illegal? In academic circles, this issue is considered at least unethical. The fact is that it violates the honesty and transparency principles. In other words, it is very undesirable for any reputable student. 

Copyright law and plagiarism: top facts

Is plagiarism illegal? Yes. However, sometimes, students confuse the basic concepts of original and unoriginal content. It is not considered plagiarism in the following cases:

  • The ideas or words are commonly used, and there is no other way to express them.
  • You have discovered some facts or concepts by yourself through experimentation or analysis.
  • You have combined the work and ideas of others to reach your own unique conclusion and have acknowledged these sources in the body of your work.

Ethical issues regarding plagiarism

Ethics is another aspect that arises when talking about plagiarism. Although your friends and classmates might often have an opposite view, being unoriginal is always unethical. It’s like stealing facts and examples from a huge supermarket of ideas. Will you feel anxious and guilty when you take someone’s things without permission? You will likely experience the same feelings when violating the plagiarism laws. 

Moral obligations 

Moral responsibility is another aspect you need to know about. This includes the following:

  • Dishonesty in the sphere of intellectual property. When submitting a plagiarized work, you mislead your readers. 
  • Breach of trust. Plagiarism is considered a lie. Your readers will not trust you when reading your next academic paper. 
  • Unfair benefits. If you fail to follow the rules of writing original content, you can gain an unfair advantage. These might be promotions, academic achievements, or new opportunities. 
  • Harm original authors. If you use someone else’s works without pointing out the author, you downplay their contributions and work. This approach negatively impacts the intellectual integrity of the whole community of scientists and researchers. 
  • The "boomerang" effect. If you use unoriginal content, you will likely face serious penalties for plagiarism. It can ruin your career perspectives, lead to lower grades, or reputation loss. 

Proven way to get an original paper without plagiarism

But is there any win-win way to get an original, fresh, and good-written academic paper? What if you have issues with complicated assignments like dissertation writing? What should you do if you need to compose a top-notch paper with urgent deadlines?

Fortunately, there is an excellent way to cope with this common challenge. You just need to find a reliable writing service. Your new academic writing assistant with brilliant skills will allow you to forget about plagiarism, use proper formatting, and stand out with perfectly written papers of any difficulty level. The fact is that these services have expert writers with proven high-level academic backgrounds and outstanding writing skills. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about the quality of your writing.


Is it illegal to plagiarize? Well, it is strictly prohibited in all academic institutions. The circumstances of using unoriginal content might significantly vary depending on your academic level, type of paper, and other factors. The best approach to succeed in writing is to avoid plagiarism, use only your ideas, and apply proper referencing.