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Rules to follow

When you do your homework, you will often want to copy text, diagrams or pictures. There are laws that prevent this kind of copying. Without such law, the argument goes, the writers could not earn a living, so these things would not be published in the first place.

Copyright and fair dealing

The good news is that you are allowed to copy things for school work - thanks to an exception to copyright law, called "fair dealing" in South Africa and the UK and "fair use" in the US. This lets you copy for private use, if you don't make multiple copies and if the copying has no significant economic effect on the owner of the copyright. So, do copy things for your history project, don't put them into magazines to sell to your friends.

Copyright in South Africa extends for 50 years after the death of an author.


Teachers want you to find things out. But you should do more than "copy and paste". Sometimes what you find is so well written that you can't see how to change it. One way is to make notes, delete the original text, and go back later to write your own version from the notes. An alternative is to show that you have copied someone else's work, by putting it in quotation marks. Most word-processing software has built-in tools to show you how to set out quotations.

Internet technology makes it possible to organise cheating online. American learners can buy essays ("term papers") from specialist websites, nicknamed "paper mills". This isn't clever. It's wrong - you would know you hadn't really done the work. And it's easy to get found out - teachers can take a complete sentence from your work and run it through a search engine. If the original text from which you copied is anywhere online, the search engine will find you out.

Internet safety

Sometimes you will use Internet technologies to help with homework - e-mail, chat or websites. Be sensible with anything that brings you into contact with strangers. If these are other learners, teachers or web educators, you should have no problems. It's not wise to give out personal information, like a name and address, or post your picture on the web.