What distinguishes the original from a plagiarised copy?

Author: Inga Lukauskiene, Associated Partner, Attorney-at-law, Patent Attorney at METIDA, Court 

Img88948_kkeditPlagiarism most likely emerged at the time the man started to create things: when someone saw something pretty, they wanted to have a thing just like that, and if they could be capitalised upon, good ideas would simply be ‘borrowed’.

As a result, the discussion of what constitutes plagiarism and what is simply using an idea goes on and on, sometimes within the confines of social media or the press, sometimes, in the courtroom.

Whether using an idea can be considered plagiarism depends on the object. Illegal quotes in scientific papers are probably the most frequently occurring case of plagiarism, however, some colleges and universities have already found a way to curb this practice. For instance, on 20/11/2012, Mykolas Romeris University established that an academic paper written by a student will be considered plagiarism when ‘the paper or its parts contain texts by other authors rewritten word-for-word without acknowledging the source or acknowledging the source but not enclosing the borrowed text in the quotation marks. The word-for-word rewriting of the text by other author without acknowledging the source or acknowledging the source but not enclosing the text in the quotation marks is considered plagiarism if it amounts to more than one half of a page of the whole academic paper, that is, 900 characters with spaces.’ An academic paper written by a student will also be considered plagiarism when it, or any part of it, ‘are paraphrased without acknowledging the source. The paraphrasing of a work by another author is considered plagiarism if it amounts to more than one page of the whole academic paper, that is, 1800 characters with spaces.’

Therefore, students who use different sources to write their papers, find it rather simple to follow such rules. The court, too, has established a set of rules for legitimate quotations: the case law of the Supreme Court of Lithuania has clarified that if a particular publication (article) is recognised as a piece of work (the subject of copyright) in the media, the evaluation of its quotation in another medium, and the legitimacy of such quotation, shall require, inter alia, evaluation of whether the quotation does or does not contain ordinary informative messages on events that are not considered objects of copyright under Article 5.5 of the Law on Copyright and Related Rights, and that none of the media can have monopoly of. Even when using a part of a particular publication (article) is found to be in deviation from the quotation requirements set forth in Article 21 of the Law on Copyright and Related Rights (inter alia, the scope required for the purposes of quotation), the decision on the extent of the (possible) infringement must take account of whether any information that cannot be monopolised exists, and the scope of that information compared to the text so quoted (the ruling of the Supreme Court of Lithuania in civil case No 3K-3-388-313/2015).

As a result, a statement of copyright infringement cannot be reasonably made for quotations in line with the legal requirements, or for instances involving use of information contained in a piece of work, which does not enjoy copyright protection.

Another thing is when someone else’s piece of work is used as an idea for a new creation, because the line between an idea and plagiarism sometimes can be very thin indeed.

Many of you most probably still recall the publication that appeared at the news portal Delfi.lt on 27/04/2017 (http://www.delfi.lt/stilius/stiliaus-naujienos/ikea-maisas-virto-prabangia-rankine-kuria-ipirkti-gales-vienetai.d?id=74474400) about how the fashion house Balenciaga launched a new model of bag, called Arena, which looks surprisingly like Frakta, the famous shopping bag from IKEA:

ikea maisas

Of course, these two objects differ in material they are made from, but just like the right to design, copyright, too, applies to the shape of the product, which in this case is almost identical. Still, instead of taking the matter to the court, IKEA has turned it into an amusing advertising campaign (https://giphy.com/gifs/ikea-balenciaga-frakta-3o7buic09XWaWLRftS)

There are also situations when a good idea becomes the source for a new piece of work, however the author of the original ideal has to come to terms with the fact that his idea also appeals to others, yet can be legally brought to fruition. As a case in point, launched a year ago, the project Lietuvon.lt gained solid momentum this year, what with Lietuvon.lt, for the Discovery, a map for children, being presented on June the 15th this year; this idea caught the eye of linen manufacturers who transferred it on a linen towel:


The pictures indeed share a certain degree of similarity: they both represent a map of Lithuania on which the cities and towns are shown as landmarks; however, the two images are not identical. Therefore, the authors of the Lietuvon.lt project can but rejoice over the popularity of their project, and the way in which the idea was used might spark a wider interest among those concerned.

So how many steps does it take to cross the border between an idea and plagiarism? That is probably a question with more than just one answer. Nonetheless, students and haut-couturiers alike always know how much of their work is original, and the amount of time it took to merely copy someone else’s ideas.

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