In which cases is there plagiarism?

Whenever you use information (text, graphics, drawing, images, analysis, reasoning, development of an idea, etc) from the work of someone else (paper or electronic - e.g. from a book, an article, a web page or other support) there is plagiarism if:

  • you do not properly quote its original author (and put the references in the text and/or source where you took this information) ;
  • and if you do not use quotation marks or any other explicit form of identification that can distinguish your own ideas from those you have taken from elsewhere.

In addition, plagiarism can also be taking your own ideas, results or text communicated in another work (for another course, project or contract and/or already published) without explicitly mentioning it (in footnotes, bibliography or any other means of identification).

In this case, it is more a problem of scientific integrity and intellectual honesty vis-à-vis your readers (and could also be the non respect of the rights of your eventual publisher who expected that your publication be « original » and/or of your funding organisation - that doesn’t pay you to rewrite same text as elsewhere without clearly saying so!).

Belgian Law on Copyright and Neighboring Rights (of June 30, 1994) may also apply: indeed, copyright protects any original creation (intellectual work) that reflects the personality of its creator throughout his/her lifetime and 70 years after his/her death (or the death of the last of the co-authors in case of a collaborative work).

In principle, a work cannot be used without the permission of its creator/author, but the « quotation exception » allows you to quote short excerpts of copyrighted works by putting explicit references to your sources, especially if your work is made public (e.g. revue article/PhD thesis/other works freely available on the internet, scientific publications, etc).