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Citing-Sources: Intellectual Property and Copyright

Provides examples of various citation styles and various formats.

Intellectual Property Rights and Information Sources

Information is social; it gains its significance through creativity and exchange. People share information with each other constantly, so much so that it’s not always possible to know where that information comes from. Within the academic and professional worlds it is imperative, however, to acknowledge our sources of information.

Intellectual property is owned by its creator or a person or entity that has acquired the rights to it.

Here are some forms of legal protection for intellectual property:

  • Copyright safeguards textual, pictorial, and other creative works
  • Patents protect processes and products that offer new technical solutions
  • Trademarks ensure the connection of goods and services with a specific creator
  • Geographical indications confirm a product’s origin in a specific location
  • Industrial designs may be registered for protection

Copyright is the most significant form of legal protection for work done in colleges and universities. Copyright gives creative and literary authors the right to benefit from their works. Copyright gives its holder the exclusive right to copy--or reproduce--literary or artistic works.

Copyright protects the forms in which ideas are expressed. Here are some ways that creators express their ideas:

  • a journalist writes an essay about political corruption
  • an artist represents an urban landscape in a photograph
  • a musician performs a song about love
  • a sociologist arranges statistics in a pie chart
  • an engineer compiles data about alloys as a technical report

In the form of statistics and data, intellectual property gets the same copyright protection as more popularly known creative forms, like writing, music, and art. All of these forms of expression need to be documented. Correct documentation respects the creator’s property rights and constitutes intellectual honesty. Neglecting to document information sources is called plagiarism and has legal consequences.

Keeping track of your sources of information will help you to document how your knowledge builds on the ideas of others. While you are obligated to cite the sources of your knowledge, your own creative and scholarly work is also protected by copyright.

For more information about copyright and your own rights as a creator, try the following Web sites: