As a teacher, one of the topics I taught in all of my classes was plagiarism.
In academics, plagiarism is a serious offense and can have severe consequences, from course failure to expulsion.
Students in my classes learn how to properly credit other people’s works and ideas in their own work.
Plagiarism vs. Copyright Infringement
Many people think that plagiarism and copyright infringement are the same thing.
Though they are similar concepts, they are not the same.
Plagiarism is using someone else’s work without giving them credit and is a policy enforced by schools.
Copyright infringement is using someone else’s work without permission and/or compensation (if appropriate) and is a law enforced by the courts.
Plagiarism doesn’t have to include copyright infringement, though it can.
Some works are so old they are not subject to copyright laws – like The Odyssey or works by Shakespeare, for example.
Legally, a student could copy parts of Shakespeare, because the works are not copyrighted.
However, it would be plagiarism if the student did not credit Shakespeare.
First, let me preface this by saying that I am *not* an attorney.
If you have legal questions or concerns regarding copyright, consult an attorney in your area/country.
I was curious about copyright laws and Second Life and where users of SL draw the line.
After a bit of basic research, copyright law (which covers written works, music, videos, movies, and electronic/digital works) and is generally in effect for a term consisting of the life of the author/creator plus 70 years.
So if I write a book one day and drop dead the next, the book can be covered under copyright for another 70 years.
However, if the book was written jointly with someone else, written anonymously or pseudonymously, or written while I was working for someone, the rules are different (see Section 302 of the Copyright Law of the United States for additional information).
Contrary to many people’s belief, you do not have to register your work through the Copyright Office in order for it to be covered under the copyright law.
You can, but you do not have to.
Copyright Can Be Messy
When you are talking about copyrights for things like music, it can get even more complicated.
Say you write a song and Taylor Swift sings it.
(It could happen, right?!)
Then you have a copyright on the composition, but Taylor Swift (and her record/production company) have copyright on their recording/arrangement as well.
Figuring out who owns what can get messy.
Most music you hear in SL is copyrighted.
As a dancer, I used popular music all the time in my routines.
I justified my use because I always purchased the music I used, I didn’t just rip it from somewhere.
However, my purchase only legally entitles me to ‘personal use’ of the music.
It doesn’t legally allow me to share my music file with someone else, nor to use that music in a performance (digital or other).
It’s something you see on YouTube all the time as well.
Someone will make a video using a copyrighted song.
Some will even post a disclaimer about the song belonging to the original artist.
However, the disclaimer is irrelevant.
They could still be prosecuted for infringement.
Not usually, because it’s not cost effective.
Have you ever noticed that some videos on YouTube have links to purchase the artist’s music?
YouTube may have an agreement with that particular artist to leave videos that use the song, as long as they add the purchase link.
Even using on-hold music can fall under copyright, according to ASCAP.
Told you it could get complicated. 🙂
If you use Second Life, you’ve probably heard of DMCA – the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.