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Can you plagiarize yourself?

Tucson, AZ |

This happened to me while I was in college and continues to haunt me! I was written up in a class for plagiarism. I used MY calculation explanations that I used in another report (which I submitted, but dropped the class before receiving a grade for it - this is why I was sure it was okay). The allowable was 10% and I was at 18% likeness - meaning, based on standardized reports i.e.title pages etc, my "word-for-word" copying was probably less than 6% of my paper. UNBELIEVABLE! There is ONLY one way to say A plus B equals C!!! I went all the way through the appeal process (which was a nightmare) and was able to present my case to an appeal board. The board concluded that work was mine HOWEVER "a person is capable of plagiarizing him/herself in an academic setting." WHAT!?! Is this true?

They told me I had to cite myself. REALLY? Thank you ahead, "Still Steamed"

Attorney Answers 4


  1. Best answer

    This is not a legal question, but self-plagiarism is often prohibited in academic settings. We dealt with this issue a lot in law school in the context of our student journals. We had policies specifically prohibiting self-plagiarism by students wishing to be published in the journal. Self-plagiarism can be anything from submitting an article for publication that was previously written for a class during college or failing to cite authority, even if that authority is yourself.

    This answer is for informational purposes only. This answer does not constitute legal advice, create an attorney-client relationship, or constitute attorney advertising. We are a debt relief agency. We help individuals and businesses file for bankruptcy protection under the Bankruptcy Code.


  2. "Laws" are enforced by government and apply to everyone in society. "Rules of conduct" are enforced by whatever private organization adopted them and apply only to those who chose to associate with that organization.

    Academic organizations have pretentious, silly rules of conduct about republishing one's own works. Break those rules and the organization can sanction you.

    But republishing your own work is NOT unlawful. To put a fine point on the matter, republishing your own work breaks no law and so the organization with which you did battle cannot file a lawsuit against you. It can only take away from you some or all of the privileges it affords to those who associate with it. You, of course, can simply chose not to associate with that organization.

    The above is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.


  3. Don't confuse copyright infringement with plagiarism.

    Copyright infringement is the unlawful taking of the copyrighted materials of another. If you are the rightsholder, you can do whatever you want with the materials to which you have rights; you can distribute, sell, make copies, make derivative works, and all the rest of it with impunity. You cannot self-infringe your copyright.

    Plagiarism is something else. Plagiarism is the passing off of work as original in an academic setting.Here, "original" means that the work is previously unused for any academic or publication pursuit. It is very possible to self-plagiarize work that you did for a previous course.

    THIS POST CONTAINS GENERAL INFORMATION AND IS INTENDED FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY. IT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE, NOR DOES IT CREATE ANY ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP. FOR LEGAL ADVICE ON YOUR PARTICULAR MATTER, CONSULT YOUR ATTORNEY.


  4. Yes, so as stated above, there is absolutely nothing "illegal" or even in violation of any law against plagiarizing yourself. What you have done might have upset someone's sense of propriety, but it can't get you in any legal trouble.