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Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal


plagiarism, students, faculty, copyright, defamation


The purpose of this article is to explore the increasing complexity of plagiarism litigation in the United States. A determination as to when attribution is necessary in order to avoid a charge of plagiarism raises questions of intent and subject matter specific questions of general knowledge, as well as constitutional and contractual questions of fairness, tort questions of defamation, and questions of fair use under copyright law or misrepresentation under the Lanham Act. Most of the reported cases still involve students who contest discipline from their respective academic institutions--discipline that can range from a course penalty to expulsion from the institution. Student plagiarism issues tend to focus on the definition of plagiarism, the authority of the institution to act, and the extent to which students have been accorded sufficient procedural rights.Increasingly though, charges of plagiarism by faculty have found their way into court. Faculty responses to these charges reflect the heightened concern about the effect that plagiarism charges can have on their employability. Because faculty are expected to make written contributions to the body of knowledge in their respective disciplines, plagiarism charges can reflect both faculty members' inability to make an original contribution to their discipline as well as their lack of integrity in providing accurate acknowledgment of the contributions of others. The content of this article progresses from a discussion of the elements of plagiarism and related questions to constitutional and contractual fairness and defamation tort issues, and from there to interpretative issues concerning protection of one's work product under the copyright act.