Pellissippi HOME | Library Site A-Z

Programming Plagiarism - CISP 1010 & 1020: Home

A guide on computer science plagiarism, ethics and intellectual property.

What is Programming Plagiarism?

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of taking or copying ideas or words without clearly acknowledging the source of information. Using a direct quote, paraphrasing or editing a sentence, or even copying from your own assignment can be considered cheating under the Statement of Academic Honesty. 

Avoid plagiarism by giving credit to:

  • another person's idea or opinion
  • any fact, statistic or information graphic
  • a direct quote of written or spoken words
  • a paraphrase of written or spoken words
  • any piece of knowledge that is not commonly known

But what about programming?

Plagiarism in Computer Science can be a difficult concept to understand. Almost all computer programs contain ideas or short sections of code borrowed from elsewhere. But does that make it ethical to copy code without giving credit in your assignment? Or is there an alternative way to write your code correctly?

You should consider that writing a program is much like writing a paper. A significant amount of creativity is involved, and many of the same rules apply regarding copyright and intellectual property. In general, there are three forms of plagiarism:

  • Verbatim Copies
    • Code replicated character by character, even with minimal changes such as spacing, comments, reordering or renaming of program elements.
  • Derived Work
    • Code put together with a substantial amount of material from one or more authors; it can be verbatim or modified.
  • Unauthorized Teamwork
    • Code developed by two or more students and submitted for an individual assignment.

This does not mean you should avoid others' ideas, published works, or a classmate who might help you make sense of the assignment. To be on the safe side, use references at every opportunity, and make your own contributions clear. Continue reading this guide to learn when and how to cite your work appropriately. 


Ethics is a branch of knowledge that deals with moral principals, and helps us distinguish between right and wrong. Computer Ethics (CE) or Information Ethics (IE) is a branch of ethics that pertain to the relationship between the creation, organization, dissemination, and use of information, and the ethical standards and moral codes governing human conduct in society.

Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct:

Adopted by ACM Council 6/22/18

  1. General Ethical Principles

  2. Professional Responsibilities

  3. Professional Leadership Principles

  4. Compliance with the Code

The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics
  1. Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people.

  2. Thou shalt not interfere with other people's computer work.

  3. Thou shalt not snoop around in other people's computer files.

  4. Thou shalt not use a computer to steal.

  5. Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness.

  6. Thou shalt not copy or use proprietary software for which you have not paid.

  7. Thou shalt not use other people's computer resources without authorization or proper compensation.

  8. Thou shalt not appropriate other people's intellectual output.

  9. Thou shalt think about the social consequences of the program you are writing or the system you are designing.

  10. Thou shalt always use a computer in ways that ensure consideration and respect for your fellow humans.

Created by the Computer Ethics Institute and first presented in Dr. Ramon C. Barquin's paper, "In Pursuit of a 'Ten Commandments' for Computer Ethics."

Pellissippi State's Academic Policy

Pellissippi State Community College policies on the use of copyrighted materials are covered in detail in the Policies and Procedures Manual.

The college policies on copyright "apply to anyone at the College who wishes to reproduce, alter, or perform works that are protected by copyright" (Polices and Procedures Manual 03:16:01, Introduction).  The college intends "that all college members adhere to the provisions of United States Copyright Law" and the college's policies and guidelines on use of copyrighted materials.

For questions not covered here, please consult the manual for detailed policies. Librarians are also available for researching questions regarding copyright.

Works Covered by Copyright and Fair Use

In general, works do not have to be published or display a copyright symbol (©) to be covered by copyright.

Possessing a print, audiovisual, or digital work does not confer a right to reproduce, distribute, or display the work.  Neither does non-profit or educational use alone confer the right to copy, perform, or display a work. Any copies or reproductions must meet the criteria of Fair Use, which include consideration of:

  • The purpose of the use.
  • The character of the work.
  • The quantity of copies made.
  • The effect of the use on the potential market of the work. (Policies and Procedures Manual 03:16:01, Section I., B.)


Works That May Be Used Freely

Some scholarly works may include notices that give permission to copy for educational purposes. There are also some works that are not covered by copyright and may be used freely.  These are said to be in the public domain and include:

  • Works published before 1923.
  • Works that do not include a copyright notice and were first published before January 1, 1978.
  • Most U.S. government documents.

A work's copyright status should be researched thoroughly before assuming it is in the public domain. (Ibid., Section II.)



PSTCC policy includes guidelines for copying portions of multimedia works that may be copyright protected.

  • Motion media: Up to 10% or 3 minutes of a single source, whichever is less.
  • Text: Up to 10% or 1000 words from a source, whichever is less. An entire poem of less than 250 words, but no more than 3 poems or excerpts by one poet. No more than 5 poems or excerpts from one anthology.
  • Music, Lyrics, Music Video: Up to 10%, but not more than 30 seconds total from an individual work.
  • Illustrations, Photographs: No more than 5 images by one artist or photographer. No more than 10% or 15 images, whichever is less, from any single published work.
  • Numerical Data Sets: Up to 10% or 2500 field or cell entries, whichever is less. 
  • Internet sources: Although it can be difficult to determine what is copyright protected and what is in the public domain, the multimedia creator is responsible for adhering to copyright law. (Ibid., Section VII)
Loading ...