In the world of the web, dealing with information and media ethically can be a tangled mess. The issue of copyright and what you are and aren’t allowed to do with other people’s stuff can be especially confusing.
Many people believe that, as long as they give credit to the person or people who created something, it’s okay for them to reproduce it. This is a widely-held belief, especially on college campuses, where we think that “academic fair use” gives us the right to copy stuff if we make it clear that we didn’t create it ourselves.
The thing is that giving credit to the creator of something puts you in the clear as far as plagiarism is concerned, but does nothing at all to protect you from committing copyright infringement.
Dictionary.com defines “plagiarism” as “the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work…” So by giving the author credit for creating the material, you’re in the clear as far as plagiarism goes. You’re not trying to pass it off as something that you did yourself.
But copyright is concerned about something else—according to dictionary.com again, “the exclusive right to make copies.” Whether or not the author’s name is included with the text or media. If you made a copy of something that wasn’t yours, you are potentially committing copyright infringement.
As educators and students, we do have some special permissions to use stuff for educational purposes, but it’s not a blank check. For instance, you can usually copy a small portion of a book, but you can’t copy nearly half of the chapters. For more information, check out this fun YouTube video from the Copyright Clearance Center.