Quotations and Plagiarism

Quotations

1. Quotations in general

When preparing scientific publications, it is necessary to use material from other sources in the author’s text. This material may consist of text and graphical illustrations. The German Act on Copyright (Urheberrechtsgesetz) protects the rights of the “intellectual owner” against illegal use. Under specific circumstances, it allows for the use of such sources but the author must check if the “intellectual owner” of the material has agreed with the citation. When the material is “published”, it is obvious that the “intellectual owner” has given his consent to this publication but this does not mean that he has given the permission of quotation. The author is solely responsible and liable for the correct citation of sources and for obtaining the permission to use material of an “intellectual owner”.

2. The right to quote material from a source in scientific publications

For scientific publications, a specific right of citation or quotation has been created. The German Act on Copyricht (§ 51 UrhG) creates the right to quote material from other sources in scientific publications without obtaining the permission (consent) of the “intellectual owner” if and only if the quotation of this material serves a specific purpose. Hence, the scientific author has a “free” right to quote for his given purpose. In scientific publications, this purpose usually consists in a clarification of the work of the author. The right to quote in scientific publications is exceptional since the author does not need the permission of the “intellectual owner”. His “free” right to quote is, however, limited and it remains determined by the purpose of the quotation. This means that the quotation should be as short as possible in order to serve this purpose.

3. Correct quotation from print publications

Quotations in scientific publications are only „free“ if they serve the purpose as explained in (2) above. The quotation must be in the interest of science and the correct source must be mentioned. The quotation must be identical to the source and it must not be changed. The length of the quotation must be appropriate for the purpose, i.e. the scientific work of the author. Quotations for illustrative purposes are not „free“.

4. Correct quotations from internet sources

Quotations from internet sources in scientific publications are only „free“ if they serve the purpose as explained in (2) above. The quotation must be in the interest of science and the correct source must be mentioned. The quotation must be in the interest of science and the correct source must be mentioned. The date and time of the visit of the website by the author should be mentioned. The length of the quotation must be appropriate for the purpose, i.e. the scientific work of the author. Quotations for illustrative purposes are not „free“. It is recommended that the author checks any website to find out if the „intellectual owner“ of the website has not specifically forbidden to copy material.

5. Correct quotations or “copying” of graphical illustrations

Quoting or “copying” graphical illustrations in scientific publications is only legally correct if this copying serves the purpose as explained in (2) above. The copying must be in the interest of science and the correct source must be mentioned. It should be noted that graphical illustrations are normally “quoted” or copied in full – in contrast to quotations of text from publications which are usually a small part of these publications. In that context, copying a graphical illustration without a specific scientific purpose cannot be justified by the right of quotation! Without such a purpose, the author must find out if the „intellectual owner“ has claimed his right against “illegal” copying without his consent or permission. This is especially the case for graphical illustrations copied from internet sources. There are many cases in which not only the “intellectual owner” but others, such as photographers or museums (relating to art works in their collections), have claimed such rights. Special care is required when the author copies a graphical illustration into his own website.

 

Plagiarism

The law on copyright does not „know“ the notion of plagiarism. The German Association of University Rectors has defined plagiarism as the unauthorized use of material of other “intellectual owners” with a claim of ownership by the user. This unauthorized use is not only commercial. It is also given when a scientific writer uses material of other “intellectual owners” for his scientific work without authorization or without mentioning the sources. Plagiarism is not exactly the same as a violation of the right to quote. If an author quotes a text without mentioning the source, he violates the right to quote. If, in addition, he makes unauthorized use of this source in order to his pretend his own intellectual capabilities, he commits plagiarism.

Plagiarism is a very serious misbehaviour and the University Rectors recommend that measures are taken, such as exmatriculation,  derecognition of academic titles and honours and dismissal.  ”Intellectual owners” may take committers of plagiarism to court for compensation of (punitive) damages and even for crime.