Plagiarism on the Internet

Buzzfeed delivered a stern message to writers everywhere when they fired their political editor, Benny Johnson, in 2014. While Johnson was at one point among Buzzfeed’s most celebrated political contributors, they were left with no choice but to terminate their contract with him after allegations of plagiarism were discovered. What began as accusations of Internet plagiarism against Johnson resulted in a full review from Buzzfeed. Eventually, Buzzfeed discovered more than 40 examples of plagiarism from Johnson. Most of the examples included Johnson taking text from another source without properly giving credit. Buzzfeed Editor Ben Smith said that this was “not a minor slip”. Thus, Benny Johnson was fired.

In this age, when people can easily copy and paste text from another website, without giving credit, Internet plagiarism is becoming more rampant than ever before. Essentially, the legal definition of plagiarism is taking someone else’s copyrighted ideas and using them as your own. For Internet plagiarism, this means copying text from another website. In the case of Benny Johnson from Buzzfeed, he used the same words from other websites without giving any reference or credit to the original work. This also includes not using quotation marks from someone else’s text.

For Benny Johnson and others who are guilty of committing Internet plagiarism, the legal ramifications can certainly add up quickly. In most cases of Internet plagiarism, civil lawsuits tend to be expected. For example, those found guilty of copyright infringement will have to pay royalties for any profit received from their plagiarism. The royalties can be more expensive for those people who are rich and famous. Even if someone is found innocent of Internet plagiarism, then the legal fees can still be expensive. And some egregious cases of Internet plagiarism can also result in criminal charges.

Whether someone is a reporter for Buzzfeed like Benny Johnson, or someone is trying to write a report for school, Internet plagiarism is serious crime with serious legal consequences. If someone like Benny Johnson from Buzzfeed can be fired for committing Internet plagiarism, then so can anyone. Therefore, it would be wise to avoid committing Internet plagiarism.

Conclusion

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Solutions to Infringement on the Web

A working group of legal scholars has recommended several means to protect copyright infringement on the Internet. The working groups recommendations are as follows: (1) Distribution by transmission- means that the section 106(2) right of an author to distribute should include “by transmission”. By including “by transmission” the copyright statute would be specifically including, beyond the […]

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The Effect of the Status Quo and the Internet

An argument for custom on the Internet can perhaps be successful if an advocate could prove that since the copyright statute does not have specific provisions for Internet related copyright activities then custom should prevail until Congress decides to legislate on the issue. In It’s in the Cards. Inc. v. Fushetto, Jeff Meneau filed an action […]

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Customs Historical Effect in Copyright

Copyright law sometimes will embrace custom as a valid excuse to an infringement claim. In United States Naval Institute v. Charter Communication  Inc., Naval, licensed Charter to publish and distribute the soft back version of the book Hunt for Red October. According to the licensing agreement, the soft-back edition could not be published until October of […]

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Custom and the Copyright Statute

In addition to antiquity and duration, uniformity and continuiousness, recognition and acquiescence, and reasonableness, the courts will consider whether the custom conflicts with law, codified common law, public policy, good morals, and fair practices. Since the copyright statute is a codification of common law, the first area of discussion is when the custom of persons […]

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Part II Custom

What is Custom? Custom has generally been defined as “a practice which by reason of a general long-established and uniform usage has acquired the forces and effect of law” For a custom to have the effect of law and be recognized by a court it must have certain characteristics. Courts may differ on exactly what they […]

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Defenses to Copyright Claims

Fair Use Fair use provides a statutory defense in a copyright action. What fair use proposes is that it is important to protect the authors of copyrighted material’s work; however, there are certain activities that one can perform that should be excused from infringement. These activities include literary and social criticism, educational activities, and First […]

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Copyright Infringement on the Interenet

Courts have moved swiftly to address copyright infringement when given the opportunity. Two important cases that involve direct copyright infringement in the on-line world are Playboy v. Frena and Sega v. MAPHIA. In Playboy v. Frena, Playboy, sued George Frena, a computer bulletin board service operator, for copyright infringement of pictures that were scanned into […]

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Another On-line Copyright Issue

Hypertext links, presents additional copyright issues. For instance, a developer writes a web page having an original picture with a hypertext link to a part of another’s web page. Another developer takes the picture and the link to the (others) computer and incorporates it in his or her web page. The issue then becomes can […]

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