Is self-plagiarism illegal

Is a plagiarism check allowed and legal?

What do students and educational institutions have to consider?

Key facts at a glance

  • check_circle Basically one is Plagiarism check allowed - as opposed to ghostwriting
  • check_circle Students should be careful not to violate any Blocking notice violate
  • check_circle Universities should look Usage rights for the plagiarism check allow, ideally in the examination regulations

A plagiarism search service that checks texts for uniqueness and similarity to other sources offers clarity and security. However, many users of such a service are unsure whether a plagiarism check is legal or contradicts legal regulations such as examination regulations, copyright or data protection.

This applies to students who want to have a bachelor thesis, master thesis or dissertation checked for plagiarism before submitting it to the professor. It is also important to universities and colleges that everything runs correctly when they check the uniqueness of the scientific work of the students. You want to ensure that all data protection and data security requirements are met and that the plagiarism check is carried out legally. Furthermore, the plagiarism check must be permissible from the point of view of copyright law.

Plagiarism check before submitting an academic paper

According to the examination regulations, students undertake to write scientific papers independently and to do it without outside help. You have to confirm this by submitting a written declaration. Many students therefore wonder whether legal problems can arise if they do not check the sources and quotations on their own, but instead commission an external service provider to carry out a professional plagiarism check.

Taking into account the right of examination, the use and implementation of such a plagiarism check is permitted, especially since the aim here is to examine your own text for similarity with other work.

It would be legally problematic if third parties made changes to the content of the work. This is not the case with a plagiarism check because the student only receives feedback on whether he has cited the sources correctly or whether the text contains plagiarism. The focus is exclusively on the plagiarism check of a bachelor thesis, master thesis or dissertation in terms of sources and citation. From the perspective of the students, a pure examination is therefore legal, especially since it only gives feedback and reserves the right to make changes to the author.

Differentiation between plagiarism check and ghostwriting

A plagiarism check, as carried out by reputable plagiarism search services, requires a differentiation from problematic methods such as ghostwriting. While the use of a plagiarism check is permitted and harmless for the exam candidate, ghostwriting can cause legal problems if the recipient of this service misuses the rights of use granted. Accordingly, students who pass off an academic work by a ghostwriter as their own work and submit it for grading under their name violate the provisions of copyright law and the university's examination regulations. By submitting someone else's work, you are opposing the affidavit that you must sign.

Submitting an academic paper that the student has not written himself is a criminal offense. A student who takes a plagiarism check before submitting the bachelor thesis, master thesis or dissertation, on the other hand, does not violate copyright law or the examination regulations.

More problematic than the plagiarism check: ghostwriting

In contrast to ghostwriting, a plagiarism check is generally unpoblematic and permitted both legally and by the examination regulations.

Thesis with blocking notice: Use of plagiarism software allowed?

In individual cases, however, performing a plagiarism check can be problematic for other reasons. Students who write scientific papers in cooperation with companies are usually required to include a blocking notice. With this confidentiality agreement, you undertake not to pass on sensitive company data to third parties. In the case of a blocking notice, the students are prohibited from publishing the content of this work, including data, graphics and drawings, for a certain period of time (= blocking period).

With a blocking notice, companies protect themselves against confidential company data from reaching competitors and other unauthorized persons. A blocking notice usually contains a formulation according to which the making of digital copies and transcripts is also not permitted. Exceptions to this rule require the approval of the company. In the case of scientific work with a blocking notice, the authors should therefore contact the respective company to clarify whether the use of a plagiarism check is permitted. In this way, those affected can ensure that they do not breach the confidentiality agreement. You should obtain written approval to carry out a plagiarism check from the respective company and thus secure yourself legally.

After consultation and with the consent of the company, the use of a plagiarism check may therefore also be permitted in the case of scientific work with a blocking notice. In order to exclude the risk of inadmissible publication, care should be taken to select a reputable provider who treats the data as strictly confidential and does not save it in its database.

Plagiarism control in teaching: copyrights of the students

Scientific work by students is protected by copyright as personal intellectual creations. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the students grant usage rights. Otherwise, the transmission of a student's thesis to an external plagiarism search service and the storage of the associated data on the provider's servers would encroach on the copyrights (reproduction rights) of the respective student.

Universities and other colleges regulate in the examination regulations not only the submission of scientific papers in electronic form, but also the implementation of an electronic plagiarism check. They require a declaration of consent from the students in order to protect themselves for reasons of copyright. By signing this declaration of consent, the students agree that the university may compare the academic work with other texts and use plagiarism software to check for matching passages.

Granting of usage rights through a declaration of consent

With this declaration of consent, the use of plagiarism software for the university is permitted. The justification results from the granting of rights of use according to Section 31 of the Copyright Act (UrhG). Accordingly, the author, in this case a student, can grant the university the right to use the scientific work. With the declaration of consent, the student consents to his work being checked by plagiarism software, thereby granting the university a limited right of use.

The plagiarism check requires a declaration of consent

Students are legally the authors of their bachelor's or master's thesis. Universities and schools therefore need a declaration of consent if they want to carry out plagiarism checks on the submitted work. As a rule, this declaration of consent is given with the examination regulations.

However, this right of use is limited to the actions required for the purpose of the review:

  • check_circle Transmission of the text to the provider's search engine
  • check_circle Use of a web-based plagiarism finder, provided that the work is not permanently stored in the database

Archiving the data in the electronic database of a plagiarism search service, however, is not required for plagiarism checks and is therefore not permitted. Universities can rule out this problem by commissioning a reputable provider. With the students' declaration of consent including the granting of usage rights, the universities are allowed to carry out the plagiarism check because there is a justification for this procedure.

Take data protection and data security into account

Before commissioning a plagiarism search service, it makes sense to take a look at the provider's data protection provisions and general terms and conditions. This makes it possible to determine what happens to the texts after the order has been placed, how long this content is stored and whether the person concerned can delete it at any time.

With professional plagiarism search services, the protection of personal data and the data security of the work to be checked are guaranteed. Here the client always retains full control over the data and its deletion. A German provider like PlagAware only stores customer data on national servers and is therefore subject to the strict provisions of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

If students and universities choose a professional plagiarism search service based in Germany, they can ensure that the plagiarism check is legal, i.e. in compliance with data protection laws and data security.

No permanent data storage and no data transfer to third parties

Make sure that the uploaded work is deleted from the service provider's servers after the text has been checked. In the case of reputable providers, the client can completely delete all data and texts from the system after the test and evaluation of the result has been completed. Alternatively, there is an automated deletion after a certain period of time. In addition, the work should not be stored in any plagiarism database that is used to search for plagiarism in other texts. This prevents the plagiarism software from exposing a saved work as plagiarism if the university or school uses the same plagiarism search service for this text as the student himself or herself.

With professional plagiarism search services, students and pupils do not have to fear any problems in this regard, because data is deleted. A reputable provider never uses the texts for purposes other than plagiarism checks. He does not keep these works in his database in order to publish them or sell them to third parties. Otherwise he would violate the data protection regulations. With professional plagiarism software, the plagiarism check is legal because the data of the work is neither stored nor passed on to third parties.

Conclusion: plagiarism check legal for students and universities

Taking into account critical aspects such as Data protection, blocking notice and granting of usage rights is a Plagiarism check legal and therefore unproblematic. This applies regardless of whether exam candidates check their own texts for plagiarism before submitting them or whether professors want to have students analyze scientific work. Accordingly, both students and schoolchildren as well as examiners from universities and schools can subject texts to a plagiarism check without hesitation, provided that they take into account the pitfalls mentioned.