Is this plagarism?


I work for a real estate agent, and he wants to me reword marketing letters that he will be sending out to potential clients. He had someone that works at a law office send him samples of the flyers they send out, and he wants me to change it up a bit. I found a sample letter online that I think would be good… It is a letter to pre and foreclosure homeowners.

Is it plagarism if I copy and paste that letter??


Yes, but who cares? No one is grading you on this, and I doubt whether whoever you lifted the text from cares or they wouldn’t have posted the letter online.

If it were for a grade, it would be different, but in this case, it doesn’t matter.


I believe the OP was asking about the legality of it, and copyright protected items cannot legally be copied wholesale.


No this is not plagiarism.


The reason it is not plagarism is that plagarism is taking someone else’s language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions and representing them as your own original work. In the case of a real estate flyer, there is no expectation that the wording or ideas are original. So using them is not misrepresentation of originality.


Look, a business letter may be a mundane “literary work,” but it does represent an original formulation of words and should not be copied without permission and acknowledgment of the source. Just passing off this letter as your own is not only plagiarism, but probably a copyright violation.


It does matter. Plagiarism is intellectual theft.

Can’t you take the ideas you like from the flyer and reword it yourself? Just using someone else’s letter for inspiration is perfectly legitimate, as long as you truly are not cutting-and-pasting (or just substituting a word here and there).


:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:


:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:


What are you basing these two comments on? :confused:


Possibly the principle that lists of information are not protected. Here’s something from

[Works not protected by copyright include] “works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship (for example: standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources)”

However, the OP is talking about “rewording” in a way that makes clear this isn’t a standard compilation of common-property lists, so this exception doesn’t apply.


hi Cupcake,

Personally, when it comes to business letters, I usually try to create my own, because it tends to help keep my mind sharp for me. :slight_smile:

However, sometimes I do need help with a letter and in that case, I will either look one up on-line, or will go to the library and look at a reference book.

Sometimes in a reference book you will also find a template that you can use, and if there isn’t a copyright issue, it will tell you on the page.

It is the same way with something on-line.

If someone puts something up on-line and they are kind and generous enough to allow us to use it without a copyright issue, they will indicate it somewhere on the webpage. It will usually indicate it somewhere on the page that the work is “free” to use, or something like that.

If they have a copyright on their work, it will be indicated on their webpage, too.


If the letter is copy righted material there will usually be a notice on the page.

Many times sample letters/resumes/ etc are posted on line and it is perfectly fine to use them as they are, that is why they are there. Change the details, but use the wording.

Was the letter you found posted as a “sample”?


The comments were:

In the case of a real estate flyer, there is no expectation that the wording or ideas are original. So using them is not misrepresentation of originality.

I guess we would have to see the actual copy downloaded by the OP. But in general, except for certain trademarked phrases, advertizing copy is not distributed as original intellectual property. At least that’s the way I think a reader of the ad is likely to treat the material. Let’s take an example. One grocery store advertizes “We have the reddest tomatoes”. Another grocery sees that ad and decides to modify it in their ads to “We have the very reddest tomatoes”. Does the second grocery store owe the first grocery store an apology?

However, if some sandwich delivery company decided to promote their “freaky fast delivery” and that company was not Jimmy John’s, that company would be guilty of trademark infringement.


What’s the difference between plagiarism and violating copyright?


Plagiarism is the wrongful appropriation of someone’s ideas and passing them off as your own. For example, referencing another writer’s work without citing it, or copying on a test, or having someone write a paper or article for you and not giving them credit (ghost writing). It is ethically wrong, as it is considered in academic forums and journalistic forums a violation of academic integrity.

Copyright infringement is a legal issue, where a content creator has filed for the right to protect his/her creative works, including writing.

If an advertiser or business has not copyrighted their material, then no infringement is possible. For example, if I state “Our produce is so fresh, we get weeds in our stores,” (sorry, I’m not very creative) that’s not a copyrighted phrase. I could make it one - think of Coca-Cola’s slogans over the years, like “Add a Coke and a smile” - those are copyrighted. Even the design of Coke’s bottles is copyrighted. If you copy those, you can be sued, but that is not plagiarism unless it is in the academic and journalism fields. In publishing, most material is copyrighted.

That said, back to the OP, copying marketing materials or designs is neither copyright infringement or plagiarism, unless it is part of a class assignment. Many companies find out about what a competitor is doing and they market their product using similar key phrases, or even what sounds like a copy of the material. The content creator could always copyright the phrase or idea, which would then protect them legally.

FWIW, I’m a university professor who has had countless students cheat and plagiarize. I’ve also advised clients as a consultant to look at “best practices,” - i.e. what other companies do - and take the elements that work for their own business.

It is a grey line, but like most things in ethics, you usually know if what you’re doing would pass the sniff test.


The kind of thing he’s describing is not a crime, its a tort. He can’t be prosecuted for it, but he, theoretically, could be sued for damages. The actual probability of such a suit is vanishingly small. Its not a problem.


Copyright law is not simple. However, according to copyright law, in the U.S. at least, it is not necessary to use a copyright notice, but any original work has an automatic copyright.
This is not to pass on the question of this thread, but just to make a comment on this single matter…


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