If an artist makes a composition and later turns out to be a plagiarism from another, who bought the rights, or perhaps used it because it was released under creative commons, will it have repercussions? Will who bought the usage rights have to repay to the artist who suffered the plagiarism? Or maybe just stop using it in the future?

  • Did the artist know about the other work? What jurisdiction are you in?
    – Andrew
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 18:38

2 Answers 2


This is how I understand the situation:

  1. Alice creates a work protected by copyright (artistic or literary doesn't matter).
  2. Bob makes an infringing derivative work.
  3. Craig uses that work under a licence (paid or free) issued by Bob.
  4. Alice becomes aware of Craig's use - what happens?

First, we will deal with plagerism -it is not a legal concept. Plagiarism is the representation of another author's work without attribution in academic work. It may be academic misconduct but it is not unlawful - it is a matter for the academic community to deal with, not the courts.

The situation with Craig vis-a-vis Alice is that Craig has infringed Alice's copyright and Alice is entitled to:

  1. Stop Craig from doing so in the future - either by requiring him to stop using the work or by negotiating a mutually acceptable licence agreement for the continued use.
  2. Damages for the use that has already occurred. How much this is is jurisdiction dependent. For example, in Australia, the damages can be:
    1. The amount Craig would have paid Alice if the use had been authorised,
    2. An accounting of profits - Craig pays Alice for the profit made through the illegal use,
    3. Forfeiture of infringing goods - Craig gives Alice all the stuff that has the infringing work on it (e.g. T-shirts, coffee cups etc.).

Depending on the scope and scale of Craig's infringement, he may also have committed a criminal offence.

The law requires that Craig makes sure that Bob has the right to the copyright he is providing.

Craig may have a cause of action against Bob since Bob purported to sell (or give away) something that wasn't his.


Copyright infringement has legal consequences: plagiarism isn't the same thing. Whoever created the work, that person has the sole right to permit copying. Plagiarism in the sense of copying someone else's composition is infringement, and the author can sue the copier for damages. However, the author can transfer the rights to someone else (for example a publisher), in which case that person is the one who will have standing for a lawsuit. If the work was publicly licensed under some version of CC, the copier can't be sued unless it is, for example, a modified work under an ND license, or a commercial work under an NC license. Attribution is required for all CC licenses (but not all GPLs are CC).

The author may also have moral rights, whose fate is more country specific. This document sums up the situation with US law, with reference to other systtems, but mainlty, there is no right to attribution in US copyright law except for visual art.

  • The question is: if before the lawsuit the copier sold the usage rights to another entity, what will the latter have to do? Will it still have usage rights? Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 0:06
  • @ChinonsaltaPavarottiè that is not clear, you refer to “he” but there are at least 3 people involved and it’s not clear who “he” is - please edit the question so that it is.
    – Dale M
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 0:27
  • @DaleM Thanks, edited. Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 1:06

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .