What Are Common Plagiarism Penalties?

Elizabeth West

Plagiarism occurs when a person copies material from another source and presents it as his or her own work. It happens in academic settings, in workplaces and in music and literature. School authorities and publishers have enacted heavy plagiarism penalties up to and including failing grades, denial of graduation and expulsion. Those who plagiarize in the workplace or in literary works can lose their jobs or their contracts. Violators might find themselves on the receiving end of serious civil penalties, including litigation and big fines.

Students who plagiarize from other students may face harsh penalties.
Students who plagiarize from other students may face harsh penalties.

School plagiarism in papers and reports is so common that every accredited university has polices to deal with it. Mistakes students make include paraphrasing or reorganizing content without citing the source, using direct quotes without citation and blatant copying using paper mills and cheating websites. Plagiarism penalties in academia start with a failing grade for the course. The student might be referred to administrators, depending on the severity of the offense, or the instructor might handle it privately. Suspension or expulsion can follow if the plagiarism is especially egregious or is part of an overall pattern.

Plagiarism may result in academic expulsion.
Plagiarism may result in academic expulsion.

Music plagiarism penalties have been especially harsh with the advent of digital content, which can be copied endlessly and distributed over the Internet. Artists accused of plagiarism have produced pieces that are close in idea or melody to another work. Sampling is lifting a portion of an existing work and using it in a new one without permission. If the original artist wants to share, a Creative Commons license allows use of the work without plagiarism penalties.

Literary copying carries the same risks as with music. If authors take passages from another work and use them in their own, they can face plagiarism penalties. There have been several high-profile cases where someone has done this and lost a book contract, an agent and ruined any chance of a writing career. In some cases, the book containing plagiarized material might be pulled from store shelves and even destroyed by the publisher.

In the workplace, plagiarism occurs when copyrighted materials, whether pictures, articles or drawings, are used without permission or attribution. They find their way into marketing documents, projects or proposals. Works created under employment with a certain company are usually copyrighted to that company. Employers have exacted harsh plagiarism penalties against violators, including termination. Although plagiarism is rarely prosecuted in criminal court, civil lawsuits for infringement can cost companies large fines, which the errant employees might end up being sued for themselves.

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