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Plagiarism is the act of taking a person’s original work and presenting it as if it was one’s own. Plagiarism is not illegal in the United States in most situations. Instead it is considered a violation of honor or ethics codes and can result in disciplinary action from a person’s school or workplace. However, plagiarism can warrant legal action if it infringes upon the original author’s copyright, patent, or trademark. Plagiarism can also result in a lawsuit if it breaches a contract with terms that only original work is acceptable.

To avoid plagiarism, a person should always properly attribute any information they use to the original author through quotes or citations. There are many free online plagiarism checkers to ensure that a person’s work is free of plagiarism.

[Last updated in August of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]