How To Avoid Plagiarism And Copyright Issues While Writing A Research Paper?

Your creativity is your identity. Ideas can probably be taken and developed but using a substantial part or heart of Research is neither legally right nor ethically allowed. – R.G Anand deluxe case.

How often have you referred to excerpts from different sources to write your research papers?

Talking about which, research papers can be doctrinal or non-doctrinal, based on factual information or data collected.

Ever wondered that you are stepping into the dangerous zone of Copyright Plagiarism?

Every Research is different and unique in its

  • Content
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Research Questions, and
  • Conclusion.

One can agree that a research paper is not novel writing- not every time, new facts can be brought into the paper when the concept tends to be the same. What differs from one to another is the style, structure, and language that makes one paper different from another.

Research is otherwise spelled out as re-search: re can be interpreted as reviving, rewind, revise, re-do anything and everything under the sun; when a search is conducted again to improvise or modify the existing facts. The subsistence of Copyright is questioned during the explicit reuse of the work already published in the domain.

No work is made out of the vacuum. Every Research involves the same or more degree of

  • Hard work,
  • Data collection,
  • Structuring them down,
  • Combining them, and
  • Framing the content

to research and submit the paper.

A copyright researcher must understand these two key theories while writing the research paper to avoid plagiarism.

  1. Fairness theory: As per this theory, it is unfair and unjust to the original authors of the work to let someone else copy their work for which they had put a lot of effort and creativity. This theory aims to retain the credits of the work to the original owner, thereby restricting the work’s use or modification in whole or part. The fairness theory of copyright is based on the premise that the authors must get the credit they deserve for their creative ingenuity.
  2. Welfare theory: This theory focuses on providing benefits to the public at large. It states that if a work can be used to reproduce it in some other format, say an audio clip or speech can be merged with video providing subtitles, it will have a better reach and prove a good educational tool.

Use of copyrighted images and pictures in the research paper

There are times in the Research that to make the point clear and brisk, the researchers have to use graphs, bar diagrams, factual data, pictures, etc., which can be derived from any existing work, and the researchers have no other option apart from using the work. If the copyright laws are applied in a strict sense, then the purpose of the Research might fail.

To overcome these two theories’ dilemma, a lifesaver theory was developed for the Researchers and it is called

The doctrine of Fair Dealing or Fair use 

It was proposed by the legislatures in the Copyright Act, 1957. The Act beautifully lays down the application of the doctrine and is backed by the various judicial precedents.

Article 13 of the TRIPS Agreements

It permits the use of copyright work to an extent the use of work does not prejudice the authors’ legitimate rights. It states that for

  • Disseminating knowledge, 
  • Research or private study,
  • Fair use stands to be a strong exception.

Section 52 of the Copyright Act

It states the situations or the circumstances under which the doctrine may be applicable. To give a gist, work can be bought under the exception of fair dealing if,

  • Research paper
  • Academic purposes,
  • Criticism or Review of a work

Fair use of copyrighted material can be allowed with a literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic work to report ongoing events in a

  • Newsletter,
  • Magazine or
  • similar Periodical or
  • By Broadcast or
  • in a Cinematograph Film or
  • by using Photographs.

The Act has, however, not described the meaning of fair use or what are the ingredients of fair use. Therefore Indian Courts have time and again applied the doctrine based on facts of each case.

In Hubbard vs. Vosper,

The Court made a clear stand that it is difficult to define what is fair dealing; the definition may vary depending upon the degree of work used.

Blackwood v. Pashruman,

To understand the ingredients of fair use, references have been taken from U.S and U.K laws. In the famous case of a very restricted meaning was given to the term “Fair Dealing.” The Court laid down:

  • Intention to copy and obtain profit from such copy
  • If the intention were true and bonafide, all the dealings would be considered fair.

Civic Chandran vs. Ammini Amma- 

In this case, the Court stated that a parody should not constitute copyright infringement unless misused or misappropriated. In the same pretext, the Court established a three-step test to be considered to analyze the infringement of copyright:

  1. “The quantum and value of the matter used to  the comments or Criticism;
  2. The purpose for which it is taken; and
  3. Likelihood of competition between the two works.”

The Academy of General Education, Manipal v B. Manini Mallya,

The Court held that when fair dealing is used in the cases where work is used for private study including but not limited to Research,………..(.), infringement cannot be claimed.

As much as fair dealings are allowed in research papers, substantial copying is still restricted.

Section 52 disallows the reproduction or reuse of the whole material. No substantial copying would justify fair dealing. Substantial copying and material reproduction amount to copyright infringement. The test of substantiality depends on two factors:

  1. Distinguish elements present in work.
  2. Importance of the part in the work.

Every researcher has to keep in mind that every time it uses any data, translated works, literature, lectures, abridgments, or any other articles from journals published, it has to mention the source of the content was extracted from. This will help avoid any infringement or plagiarism conflicts.

Lastly, no copyright persists in works in the public domain, so researchers are free to use them. While using any material from known or unknown sources, the researchers have to maintain and protect the authors’ moral rights, give them due to credits, and most importantly, avoid using the entire work.


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