App development involves a lot more writing than you might think. All of the text and content that goes into the app — including for navigation, instruction or ‘help’ sections, legal agreements and disclaimers, and more — is copyrighted material. That means that when you are ready to include your User Terms & Conditions or add articles to your app that you can’t just steal what someone else wrote and slap it in your app. Here are the things your developers need to know to stay out of plagiarism problems.
Plagiarism is Unethical and Can be Illegal
Even though plagiarism itself isn’t illegal, stealing the intellectual property of others is.
Although it is not directly against the law to plagiarize content, it is illegal to steal someone else’s intellectual property, and much of what is written within apps can easily be defined as intellectual property by the law. Any material that is copyrighted and/or trademarked is considered the legal intellectual property of the owner.
So, while the worst your college instructor could do about you scraping your neighbor’s essay on Hemmingway was to give you a big, fat goose egg on your paper, the law can levy serious damages and punitive damages for the theft of intellectual property. Even in situations when theft of intellectual property can’t be proven, plagiarism is highly unethical and can leave a black mark on your brand name for years to come.
Watch Your Wording
Even professional writers and law experts sometimes debate what actually is and isn’t plagiarism. What it boils down to is the wording. The thought is this: you can’t really legally protect ideas, because those are too vague and difficult to determine. In a court of law, there is no way to prove someone did or did not have a particular thought, or if so, when that thought occurred to them.
So the actual words are all that can be protected. This means that it is okay to read and research what others have written and completely rewrite that material in your own words. Just be very, very careful to use entirely different words. For example, copying 40 percent or 50 percent of the original writer’s words is just as bad as copying 100 percent.
You Can Plagiarize Yourself, Not Just Others
Plagiarism is not limited to what you steal from others. It also includes anything you have written yourself. Say you developed an app and wrote a particularly excellent page on the difference between white and brown rice. Then you develop another app, and want to reuse it. Though this won’t be against the law since you haven’t stolen the intellectual property of anyone else, it is unethical because it is plagiarism. If, for instance, you are an app developer and sell the same great article on white and brown rice to two different clients, you are definitely guilty of plagiarism and potentially legally liable for copyright violation, as well.
Use Citations, Direct Quotes, and References to Avoid Plagiarism
When you find material that you do really like and want to use in your own app, that’s okay so long as you cite the original source. Always cite information you got directly from someone else, and if you use it word for word, be sure to put it in quotation marks as well as citing the source. Including a list of the references you used during your research can also keep you out of plagiarism hot water.
Anti- Plagiarism Software Can Double-Check Your Work for You
Software is available that scans online text and searches for duplicates.
If in doubt when using written text, you can always use anti-plagiarism software to check for duplication. This software will scan the text against everything that is online and bring back any potential duplicates. There is usually a nominal fee for these services, which is always much less than what it would be to defend yourself against a lawsuit claiming intellectual property theft.
The best way to keep yourself out of trouble when developing apps is to turn to a professional app developer’s services. These pros assure that the content that goes into your app is not just plagiarism-free, but is fresh, relevant, and useful to the reader. Happy developing!