# What to do about plagiarism?

Unfortunately, I have noticed answers in this community are more susceptible to plagiarism than in other communities. (More specifically, plagiarizing without permission and/or attribution from various sources around the web.) Sometimes, most of the content of the answer consists of this plagiarized content. I suspect that this problem might get worse when we go public.

From what I can tell, the correct procedure seems to flag the post for moderator attention.

• please first ensure they are without permission. many Islamic sites permit copy of their content or part of it for non-commercial uses or even for any use. it depends on the source. but Islamic sites mostly permit. – Battle of Karbala Jul 20 '12 at 6:40
• a Hadith says: "the Zikat of knowledge is to spread it." plagiarism in Islam is different of in topics used in business. most of Islamic sites and writers love to their knowledge be spread based on this Hadith. most of Islamic sites and writers not only permit but are happy to some one copy them. please do not tell "without permission" before you ensure. maybt it be false accuse. maybe a user himself is owner of the site he copy from it. anyway first ensure and check copyright terms of sourse Islamic site. – Battle of Karbala Jul 20 '12 at 6:53
• @Ahmadi. If the license is not compatible with the license used here, that's still a problem. And if the license is some vague and generic "feel free to copy this", then that's probably still a problem. We need an actual license. – TRiG Jul 22 '12 at 22:25
• @TRiG what you mean by actual license? and how the check its compatibility? please explain more to we can distinguish licenses of source sites the not have plagiarism problem easily. – Battle of Karbala Apr 5 '14 at 5:29

First off, thanks to all of you who've been flagging plagiarized answers. It is very important to the future of this site that answers which draw on the writings of others attribute them properly.

I've just warned a third user about this, and frankly seeing so much copying on a site this young is worrying. Please note:

• If you lack the expertise to answer a question on your own, leave the job to someone else. Plagiarized answers will be deleted without warning, potentially leaving a question unanswered.

• It is never ok to pass off significant amounts of someone else's writing as your own, not even temporarily. You wouldn't claim the words of your prophet as your own, would you? So why take credit for the words of your brothers?

• If you find an excellent explanation for something elsewhere, using it while giving proper credit is trivial:

2. Select the pasted quotation and press Ctrl+Q - this will cause the text to appear distinct from your own words.
3. Paste the URL of the page, or type the name of the book or article where you found the text. Follow it with the title and name of the author, if available.

That's it. You can get fancy with the formatting if you like, but at minimum a proper quote should indicate which text was copied, where it was copied from, and who originally wrote it.

Marc Gravell brings up another good point, that while not strictly plagiarism it can be problematic if your answer consists chiefly of content copied from a single source, even when it is properly attributed: if the license under which the original was published doesn't allow free distribution, you stand a good chance of running afoul of copyright "fair use" laws. If the owner objects, we're obligated to remove such copies entirely, with no chance for you to recover it.

There are a number of other related issues here, mostly concerning the reputation of your site, and potentially things like your ranking on Google and other search engines - but suffice to say, you don't want to become known as "that Islam content farm".

• As an addition on the third bullet; that should be very limited, to small excerpts from another site. A sentence or two, maybe. Fair use does not extend to copying huge swathes of text. – Marc Gravell Jul 19 '12 at 8:43
• @MarcGravell: This thread is specifically about plagiarism (i.e., passing off significant chunks of third-party work as your own), not other copyright issues such as fair-use provisions. Your suggestion would much better fit in an answer to this question instead. – goldPseudo Jul 19 '12 at 14:55
• @goldPseudo the crossover is when a "big chunk passed off as your own work", becomes a "big chunk correctly cited to the author, but still a copyright violation". The overlap is big enough that a question about plagiarism must attempt to address both topics, IMO. – Marc Gravell Jul 19 '12 at 15:55
• Whether or not it's a copyright violation depends on the source, @Marc. But it's impossible to even begin to judge when there's no indication of what was copied, or where it was copied from, which is what motivated this - long, highly-upvoted answers that were completely copied with no indication of this. – Shog9 Jul 19 '12 at 16:01

The following things can be done

• Comment on the answer - Please cite the source of your answer. This seems to be picked up from somewhere.
Also if you have editing privileges and you know the source you can edit it yourself.
• Downvote (and announce on chat for others to down vote. No forcing though.)

Flagging is an option but keep it only as the last resort.

Well then you would ask me -
I’ve heard that Islamic knowledge cannot be copyrighted. So how can it be considered piracy to use Islamic texts?

Allah says in the Quran

Allah says: "Indeed, Allah commands you to render trusts to whom they are due and when you judge between people to judge with justice. Excellent is that which Allah instructs you. Indeed, Allah is ever Hearing and Seeing.." [Sûrah al-Nisâ': 58] (The Qur’anic quotations contained herein are from the Saheeh International translation.)

Here even Allah says to respect those people whom you have some due. I mean to say that the translations / articles are the hard work of the authors, you cannot just pick them up without giving them credit. You cannot be called a righteous Muslim in that case.

The general trend of Muslims (or any other sect) is to freely distribute religious texts, but they don't realize that every publication has production costs like office cost, storage cost, printing costs, etc to bear.

Copyrighted material is a trust that must be respected. When you freely distribute stuff you harm those involved in its production. Thus,it would be great if you protect these rights by adhering to them.

### I would like to suggest a thing -

Whenever you quote something from some site in your answer please post the authors name as well as the link to that page .
And in the case of Quran translation please write which translations are being used. like if you use Saheeh International translation you are requested to write - The Qur’anic quotations contained herein are from the Saheeh International translation. (as stated by this website here). This should apply to other translations as well.

As said by Marc Gravell in the comments -

However, the key point is "observing the rules / policy of the source / author", rather than including a particular phrase. A different source could have a very different policy, anywhere from "copy, have fun" to "do not copy it at all"

So please make it a point to check the FAQ to see for "content usage" or "copyright restrictions".
Thank you. May Allah guide you onto the right path.

• +1, All content belongs to Allah, but that doesn't mean you need to ignore the "messenger". :) – Irfan Jun 26 '12 at 10:28
• Plagiarism of books, articles, blog posts, commentaries, etc, about the Quran and Hadith are certainly issues to consider, though. – Flimzy Jun 27 '12 at 3:15
• Flagging is not an option as that will just burden a moderator. Nope. Flagging is a good option, don't worry about moderator load. Your mods will get about 1 flag every 5 days, so there is no load (speaking from experience as a chem.SE beta mod). Never worry about mod load when flagging--if a hundred low quality posts come in in one day, flag them all :P – Manishearth Jul 2 '12 at 8:15
• Copyright infringement is a separate issue. Copyright laws vary; as a United States company, Stack Exchange is bound to honor certain protocols. But plagiarism is a social etiquette violation, a matter of respect for your peers. – Shog9 Jul 7 '12 at 2:51
• Another thing that can be done, if you can identify the original material (usually easily done by doing a "quoted search" on google for a line): edit the post, replacing the copied material with a link to the source. It is very misleading to suggest that "copyright infringement in an Islamic case is not possible"; that statement may apply to some material, but it certainly is not all-encompassing. – Marc Gravell Jul 19 '12 at 8:50
• Additionally, your "is not possible" is further complicated by the issue of translation; translations are separate works, and may actually have copyright. For example, see the "NOTICE" here, which details the complicated state of copyright (US, which is important as SE is a US-registered/hosted site) relating to the Yusuf Ali 1934 translation, which is technically protected by copyright until 2033. So now the question becomes: from where are you copying? – Marc Gravell Jul 19 '12 at 8:55
• Here's a bit more info on the copyright holder (but not the expiration) of various translations: quranbrowser.org/copyrights.html – Marc Gravell Jul 19 '12 at 9:00
• @MarcGravell i never knew about that. i always thougt islamic knowledge i the word of god so could not be copyrighted. Well il edit my answer. – Ashu Jul 19 '12 at 12:30
• @MarcGravell edited it. Check if its worthy of your upvote :) – Ashu Jul 19 '12 at 13:00
• Indeed. In the case of Saheeh International that is clearly the stated citation requirements. However, the key point is "observing the rules / policy of the source / author", rather than including a particular phrase. A different source could have a very different policy, anywhere from "copy, have fun" to "do not copy it at all". But a definite improvement, thanks, +1 – Marc Gravell Jul 19 '12 at 13:05
• Unrelated to Islam, and mentioned only as a curiosity of copyright: the KJV translation (an important, but old, historical translation into English) of the Christian Bible has an even weirder copyright status; normally copyright of a work ends a particular time after publication or the death of the author, but in the UK (only) the KJV translation is under perpetual crown copyright restrictions. Copyright is a crazy area ;p – Marc Gravell Jul 19 '12 at 13:12