Plagiarism is Not an Option

It was the fall of 2002, I was in 6th grade, briskly walking to the library to inquire about a tri-fold presentation I had turned in a few days earlier. I was sure I would win 1st place. When I asked the librarian about my project, she summoned the dean.

This was the first time I had ever met a dean. Up until that point, I didn’t even know the school had one. She was very friendly. She told me that my presentation had been disqualified.

“Disqualified,” I repeated in disbelief. She then asked me if I knew why. I honestly couldn’t think of any reason for my presentation to be disqualified, so I told her no. “Plagiarism,” she said. “Do you know what plagiarism is?” she asked; slowly realizing I had never been introduced to the concept. I again responded with a simple no.

After a lengthy explanation that somehow wandered from paraphrasing whole paragraphs of a digital encyclopedia into the copyright restrictions on typography, I had been thoroughly converted to pledging the rest of my life to being original. I would never again plagiarize or so much use anything remotely close to something I didn’t make 100% myself.

Through the rest of my academic career, I worked extra hard. I was never tempted to plagiarize because it simply wasn’t an option. Every paper I wrote and every presentation I gave had to be original. As original as possible. I began to scrutinize how original, a person like me, could realistically be.

Has this phrase been used before? Is a PowerPoint template bad? How about this example résumé? Before I knew it I was questioning everything, down to the fonts used on my business cards. If someone else made it, I wasn’t using it, because it wasn’t mine. I’d have to change it quite a bit before putting my name to it. And to my credit, there are instances where I brought up a valid point. “No, you can’t use that photo randomly pulled off Google!”

But still, it’s hard. Someone once said, “No man is an island.” A quick Google search will reveal who said that and at least 100 others plagiarizing it. There is no way you could be completely self-made. There’s no such thing as a self-made billionaire. Everyone had a mother. English is not my invention. And prose was around long before I could write.

Even so, plagiarism is not an option. Credit must be given where credit is due. And with that, no work is completely original. By the way, this website was developed by Squarespace, I just dropped in photos taken on God’s earth and decided how to arrange the English language on this page. My business cards were also printed by Moo.

No, You Can't Just Use Photos from Google

Not all of us know this, but you can’t just take photos from Google and use them in a website or marketing campaign – it’s illegal. For those who already knew that you’d be surprised by how many don’t.
Photos, like other creative works, are copyrighted by their creator the moment they are created. The intellectual property rights belong to the creator unless willfully surrendered. Some photographers have taken steps to ensure their rights are respected legally. With impressive tools like TinyEye copyright holders can easily find you and when found, they may sue you.
Make no mistake, when there is money to be made, copyright holders don’t miss an opportunity to strike. It’s important to understand copyright law and avoid finding yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit.
Images that are marked as Public DomainCreative Commons or royalty free are safe to use as long as you follow the licensing guidelines. Never use photos that were not explicitly licensed for your use. For websites offering stock photos that you CAN use, check out my resources page at agarciatv.com/resources.


DISCLAIMER: The content in this post is offered only as a public service to the web community and does not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice. This post is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction.