What is Plagiarism? How to find out if someone is stealing your original work?

“Plagiarism is unacceptable in any grammar school, college, or law school, and even in politics.” DeWilde v. Gannett Publishing, 797 F.Supp. 55, 56 (D.Maine 1992).

In light of the recent controversy revolving around whether or not a political candidate’s spouse or speechwriter plagiarized another person’s original work, I thought it would be a good idea to share what plagiarism is. Here is a general overview with resources you can use to protect your original work.

What is Plagiarism?

When someone engages in plagiarism, he or she is stealing or passing off as their own the words and ideas of another. It’s using another person’s work (post, article, podcast, picture or video) as your own and without crediting the source.

With the increase of use of social media and inbound marketing, more and more people are creating and sharing content such as blog posts, articles, podcast and videos. Never before has the issue of plagiarism become more prolific and important to understand. With today’s technology, it’s also never been easier to prove that plagiarism has taken place. Just in case you missed it, click here to read today’s CNN article which shares issue, commentary and videos interviews.

Now here’s a key point that you should know. Under the law of plagiarism, it doesn’t matter that the stolen work is surrounded by other original work of the plagiarist. The legal focus is on what a plagiarist did wrong and not right.

Legal Issues

Copyright and Trademark Violations

A plagiarist can be sued in state or federal court for violation of intellectual property rights law. There is automatic protection for the owner of the original plagiarized work which is automatically protected by copyright and trademark. No copyright or trademark notices like “©” or “™” are required. 17 USC, Sub-Section 102, 401, and 405.


Plagiarism is fraud. The material misrepresentation of fact (that a plagiarist wrote, recorded, filmed or otherwise created an original work) with knowledge that that work belonged to someone else is a punishable crime under both state and federal criminal and civil statutes.

Several other legal theories not generally known to the consumer are The Protection IP Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). PIPA deals with the distribution of illegal copies and counterfeit goods. SOPA expands the ability of law enforcement based in the U.S. to deal with online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.


Create and use your own content. When you do reference someone else’s original work, give them full credit.


Tools you can use to check for plagiarism are as follows:

Grammarly (what we use at the law firm)

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