About avoiding plagiarism & respecting copyright

TU Graz has recently published an update to its “rules of good scientific practise”. The German title of this document is “Richtlinie zur Sicherung guter wissenschaftlicher Praxis” (https://bigfiles.iaik.tugraz.at/get/325b819e8e51d9fc33f0a411ba507979).

Among these rules is also a call to all university teachers to adequately address the problem of scientific misconduct (“Problematik wissenschaftlichen Fehlverhaltens”) within their courses and also within any other mentoring of trainees. Responding to this request, I post the following comments.

A typical case of scientific misconduct is using someone else’s work without stating so. This we call “plagiarism”. In paragraph 6 of the “rules of good scientific practice” we can read the following definition:

“Ein Plagiat liegt jedenfalls dann vor, wenn Texte, Inhalte oder Ideen übernommen und als eigene ausgegeben werden. Dies umfasst insbesondere die Aneignung und Verwendung von Textpassagen, Gedanken, Hypothesen, Erkenntnissen oder Daten durch direkte, paraphrasierte oder übersetzte Übernahme ohne entsprechende Kenntlichmachung und Zitierung der Quelle und der Urheberin bzw. des Urhebers.”

Quite often, students get scared when it comes to “good practice”. After all, there are so many possibilities to fail in life.

My advice is to spend some effort on how to avoid plagiarism. Read, for instance, the text found on http://www.plagiarism.org/.

Start with “PLAGIARISM 101”. Click on “What is Plagiarism” and start reading carefully. You find strong words like “steal”, “theft”, “fraud”, or “lie” — certainly not something you want to be connected with.

If you read carefully, you find also text about using images, videos, or music in a work you have produced without receiving proper permission. Here, we enter the world of the “right to copy”, also known as “copyright”.

Let me use an example to clarify:

I refer to the original picture https://kcposch.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/img_9676.jpg?w=624
as found on https://kcposch.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/25-tips-for-all-newbies-at-tu-graz/.

A copy of this picture is used without permission, for instance, on http://donqubin.blogspot.co.at/. Here is a screenshot from this webpage from Nov 19th, 2014:


I would like to add that the author of the blog has mentioned the source of the text he refers to. Perfectly done with respect to citing a source. No plagiarism.

I would, however, remind that using other media like photos, films, music is even more critical when it comes to using these without permission. Read here, in case you are interested in detail: http://www.bloggingbasics101.com/2011/09/legally-use-company-logos-on-couponing-blog/.

Let me add one remark: “The Internet does not forget!” If you are dishonest within your scientific work today, someone can—and will—make you responsible for doing so at some point later in your life, when it really hurts. Then, you might be some country’s minister, for instance. Read details here: http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/chronologie-die-plagiatsaffaere-von-annette-schavan-a-882397.html.

My advice: Learn to stay clean, and then stay clean.

So much for today, in serving my duty to adequately address the problem of scientific misconduct.


6 thoughts on “About avoiding plagiarism & respecting copyright

    1. kcposch Post author

      Apparently, you have not yet done enough research on the concept of plagiarism. I would suggest that you read here: http://www.plagiarism.org/citing-sources/overview.

      Moreover, in order to research your quote, I suggest that you check out this source: http://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/09/20/plagiarism/

      Finally, the strength of one’s opinion comes not only from being able to cite. It also depends on having an own opinion or producing new facts through experiments. Cut&Paste is not research.

    1. kcposch Post author

      You are posing indeed an interesting question here.

      I am referring to the legal situation in Germany, since I could not find any relevant easy-reading material from Austria. Moreover, I am not even sure which country we should take as a basis. But, for this discussion here, I guess Germany is quite appropriate.

      Let’s look at the use of screenshots. In this connection, I found the following explanation rather useful: http://www.rechtambild.de/2011/03/der-schutz-von-screenshots-und-benutzeroberflachen/

      If it comes to citing a photo, the text found here is rather explicit: http://www.rechtambild.de/2011/03/bildzitat-und-zitierfreiheit/

      From what I can see, my use of the screenshot in my posting is thus perfectly OK.

      1. timhell

        So Florian uses a reproduction of a combination of pixels that were published by you and are (c) KC Posch and overlays them with the letters WTF to illustrate his article. This is wrong as he did not have your permission. I understand that and think he should have asked. (and you should probably have declined having your art associated with his words, as he completely misses the point of your article)

        You use a reproduction of a combination of pixels that were published by Florian that include parts that belong to you, parts that belong to Florian and parts that belong to blogger.com (google) to illustrate your article. This is “perfectly OK”.

        However I don’t really see how those two things are different – both are a reproduction and adaption of the work of other’s without their explicit agreement. A screenshot scales and crops images and text, which is less invasive than overlaying ‘WTF’, but fundamentally the same.

        Anyway, I have failed for years to find clear answers to this sort of questions.

  1. kcposch Post author

    Since this discussion still contains “fruitful” argumentation about copyright, I reply in order to clarify my point:

    Florian Kubin’s comments on my tips for new students have nothing to do with my photo which I used as a “beautifier” of my posting. Apparently, the photo’ content is not connected to the text itself. This, everyone can see. So his use of my photo without permission is not OK.

    In contrast, I used the screenshot of Florian Kubin’s blog in order to discuss the violation of copyrights. My text is clearly about violation of copyright, and the screenshot shows an example of such a violation.

    This seems to be perfectly in line with the argumentation found in http://www.rechtambild.de/2011/03/bildzitat-und-zitierfreiheit/ in the section “Das Bildzitat im Speziellen”. I used the screenshot as an “Übernahme eines Lichtbildwerkes in ein neues Werk zum Beleg einer Aussage”. In the text linked above we find the following example for legitimate citing of what can be found on a screen: “[…] beispielsweise die Besprechung eines Gemäldes z.B. in Form einer Rezension.”

    My discussion of copyright is quite similar to the notion of “Rezension” found in the previous sentence. The text continues like this:

    “So umfasst § 51 S. 1 UrhG zwar die Übernahme der Abbildung eines Kunstwerks in ein anderes zum Zwecke des Zitats, befreit ihn jedoch nicht davon, entsprechende Nutzungsrechte beim Fotografen zu erfragen. Hat er das Lichtbild (siehe dazu: Bin ich Urheber meines Bildes?) also nicht selbst hergestellt, muss er ebenso die Rechte des Fotografen an dem Foto berücksichtigen.”

    Since I am the photographer of the photo found in the screenshot, I do not have to ask for permission. The rest of the screenshot does not constitute an artwork in its own right. According to the source cited above, it constitutes a “Kleinzitat” which got acknowledged accordingly in my text.


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