Key Takeaways:

  • Plagiarism is more than just copying; it’s taking someone else’s ideas or creative work and presenting them as your own, essentially stealing intellectual property.
  • Original ideas and content come from hard work and creativity. Passing them off as your own disrespects the effort invested by the rightful creator.
  • It involves deception. You’re trying to trick others into thinking you came up with someone else’s work, which is a form of academic dishonesty.
  • It isn’t just about outright copying. It includes things like improper paraphrasing or not giving proper credit when using someone else’s ideas.
  • It is about more than just individual actions. It erodes trust in academic work, discourages originality, and creates an unfair playing field.

Plagiarism has been a subject of intense debate and scrutiny across educational, professional, and creative domains.

With the advent of digital technology and the internet, the ease of copying and pasting text has further complicated the issue. But a fundamental question persists: is plagiarism stealing?

To answer this question comprehensively, we must delve into various aspects, including the definitions, ethical considerations, legal perspectives, and the impact on both the plagiariser and the original creator.

Definition of Plagiarism and Stealing

Plagiarism is commonly defined as the act of using someone else’s work, original ideas, or expressions without proper acknowledgment, thereby presenting them as one’s own.

It encompasses a range of activities, from verbatim copying to paraphrasing without citation, and even the unauthorised use of another’s artistic or scientific contributions.

Stealing, on the other hand, is the act of taking another person’s property without permission with the intent to permanently deprive them of it. This definition is clear-cut when it comes to physical property, but the notion becomes more abstract when applied to intellectual property.

While both plagiarism and stealing involve taking something that doesn’t belong to the perpetrator, the nature of what is taken and the implications differ significantly.

Former concerns intangible assets—ideas, expressions, and intellectual creations—whereas later traditionally involves tangible property.

Ethical Considerations

From an ethical standpoint, plagiarism and stealing are both acts of dishonesty.

Plagiarism deceives the audience into believing that the plagiariser is the original creator, thereby unfairly gaining credit, accolades, or even financial benefits that rightfully belong to someone else. This deception undermines the trust essential to academic, professional, and creative communities.

In academia, plagiarism violates the fundamental principles of scholarship, where the advancement of knowledge relies on honesty and proper attribution.

Students and researchers who plagiarise compromise the integrity of their education and the credibility of their institutions.

In professional settings, plagiarism can damage reputations, lead to legal repercussions, and erode trust within industries.

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Stealing, ethically, is condemned because it deprives the rightful owner of their property and benefits.

It is a breach of moral and social codes that emphasise respect for others’ possessions and rights. The intent to deprive the owner of their property is central to the moral condemnation of stealing.

Legal Perspectives

legal perspective of plagiarism

Legally, plagiarism and stealing are treated differently, though they can overlap in intellectual property law.

Plagiarism is not a criminal offense but rather an ethical breach often addressed by academic institutions and professional organisations through policies and disciplinary measures.

However, any form of plagiarism can lead to legal consequences if it infringes on copyright laws.

Copyright law protects the original expression of ideas fixed in a tangible medium, such as books, articles, music, and art.

When plagiarism involves the unauthorised use of copyrighted material, it becomes a matter of copyright infringement, which is a legal offense. The original creator can seek legal remedies, including monetary damages and injunctions to prevent further unauthorised use.

Stealing, in the legal sense, is typically addressed through criminal law. Theft of physical property is punishable by fines, imprisonment, or both, depending on the severity of the crime.

Intellectual property theft, which includes the unauthorised use or distribution of copyrighted works, can also be pursued legally under various statutes protecting intellectual property rights.

Impact on the Plagiarizer and the Original Creator

On the Plagiariser: The consequences of plagiarism can be severe. In academic settings, students may face failing grades, suspension, or expulsion.

Researchers can suffer irreparable damage to their reputations, loss of professional standing, and revocation of degrees or honors. In the professional realm, plagiarism can lead to job termination, legal action, and long-term career damage.

On the Original Creator: The impact on the original creator varies but is often significant. Creators who find their work plagiarised may experience frustration, anger, and a sense of violation.

The unauthorised use of their work can diminish the value of their original contributions, affect their reputation, and potentially result in financial losses if the plagiariser profits from their work.

For artists, writers, and researchers, the sense of ownership and pride in their work is intrinsic.

Plagiarism undermines this sense of ownership and devalues their efforts. In some cases, it can also lead to lost opportunities, such as book deals, speaking engagements, or funding, which would have come their way had they been properly credited.

Is Plagiarism Stealing?

To determine whether plagiarism is stealing, we need to consider the nature of the “theft” and the consequences.

While traditional stealing involves taking physical property with the intent to deprive the owner, plagiarism involves taking intellectual property without permission or proper attribution.

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The intent in copying or borrowing of idea is often to gain undeserved credit or benefit, rather than to deprive the original creator of their work.

However, the consequences of plagiarism can be akin to those of stealing.

The original creator may suffer harm, both reputational and financial, and the plagiariser unjustly benefits from another’s work. In this sense, plagiarism can be viewed as a form of intellectual theft, though it does not fit neatly into the traditional definition of stealing.

The ethical and legal frameworks address plagiarism and stealing differently, reflecting their distinct characteristics.

Ethically, both are condemned for their dishonesty and harm caused to others. Legally, plagiarism is typically handled within the realm of copyright law and institutional policies, whereas stealing involves criminal law.

The Role of Intent

intent in plagiarism and stealing

Intent is a critical factor in distinguishing between plagiarism and stealing.

In plagiarism, the intent is often to deceive others into believing the plagiariser is the original creator, thereby gaining undeserved recognition or benefit. In stealing, the intent is to deprive the owner of their property permanently.

In some cases, copying may occur without malicious intent, such as through carelessness or lack of understanding of proper citation practices.

Educational institutions often emphasise the importance of understanding and adhering to citation standards to prevent unintentional plagiarism in their paper. However, the absence of malicious intent does not mitigate the ethical breach or its consequences.

Preventing and Addressing Plagiarism

Preventing plagiarism requires a multifaceted approach involving education, awareness, and strict enforcement of policies. Educational institutions play a crucial role in teaching students about the importance of academic integrity, proper citation practices, and the consequences of copying.

Technological tools, such as plagiarism checker, are widely used to identify instances of plagiarism. These tools compare submitted work against a vast database of sources to detect similarities and potential plagiarism.

While effective, these essential tools are not foolproof and must be used in conjunction with other methods of ensuring academic integrity.

Addressing plagiarism when it occurs involves a combination of disciplinary measures and education. Institutions often have clear policies outlining the consequences of plagiarism, which can range from warnings to expulsion. Additionally, providing support and resources to help individuals understand and avoid plagiarism is essential.


Plagiarism, often termed a literary crime, undeniably overlaps with stealing, especially when source material is used without proper citation methods.

By disregarding the original source and failing to acknowledge original inventions, plagiarisers undermine the value of writing for originality.

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Editorial notes and a robust list of references are crucial in maintaining the integrity of any piece of writing. Proper sentence structure and varied forms of expression fall under the purview of copyright protection.

To ensure your work remains authentic and respected, consider employing a Bytescare plagiarism checker. Book a demo today to safeguard your originality.


Is copying the same as stealing?

Copying can be considered stealing when it involves taking someone else’s work without permission and passing it off as your own. This form of intellectual theft disregards the original creator’s rights and contributions.

Is duplicating a form of lying?

Yes, duplicating someone else’s work and presenting it as your own is a form of deception. It misleads others into believing that the duplicated work is an original creation of the person presenting it.

What is it called when you steal someone’s idea?

Stealing someone’s idea is often referred to as idea plagiarism. This act involves taking credit for someone else’s conceptual work without proper acknowledgment.

Would using an anatomical pose from a photograph or another art be considered theft or intellectual dishonesty?

Using an anatomical pose from a photograph or another piece of art without permission or acknowledgment can be considered intellectual dishonesty. It may not always be classified as theft, but it certainly raises ethical concerns regarding originality and credit.

Is it considered intellectual dishonesty if you write a fictional story based on somebody else’s life experiences?

Writing a fictional story based on someone else’s life experiences can be considered intellectual dishonesty if the source is not acknowledged or if the story is presented as purely original. Properly crediting the person whose experiences inspired the story is essential.

Is it stealing if you copy poses that people drew in their art?

Copying poses that others have drawn can be considered a form of idea theft or creative copying. While it may not always be outright theft, it is crucial to acknowledge the original artist to avoid ethical issues.

What is considered intellectual dishonesty for a poem?

Intellectual dishonesty for a poem involves using someone else’s words, phrases, or stylistic elements without proper attribution. This can include copying entire lines, mimicking sentence structure, or borrowing unique forms of expression without giving credit to the original poet.