Do Canadian courts distinguish copyright infringement from scientific plagiarism?

Since 1997, the Canadian Copyright Act allows plaintiffs suing for copyright infringement to elect to recover statutory damages instead of going through the exercise of quantifying actual damages that were suffered or incurred by the copyright owner or actual profits earned by the rogue.

Where the infringement is for commercial purposes, the range of statutory damages starts with a minimum of $500 per work infringed and goes up to a maximum of $20,000 per work infringed. If the infringement is for non-commercial purposes, then there is a cap of $5,000 for all works involved. That cap is an attempt to discourage film and music plaintiffs from suing individuals for their home file sharing activities. For example, a content user (file sharer) who copies 1,000 songs for monetary profit would be liable for up to $2 million in statutory damages, while a content user who copies the same 1,000 songs for personal use only would be liable for up to $5,000 because of the cap.


It seems under Canadian law copyright infringement from scientific plagiarism can result in a $5,000 fine, but because you can sell your scientific articles it's possible it's actually $20,000, but is this correct and are damages from scientific plagiarism covered by a different Canadian law?

1 Answer 1


Plagiarism only marginally intersects copyright infringement. If I take an article published by Jones in an obscure journal and publish it to another journal under my name, with some light paraphrasing, that is both plagiarism and copyright infringement. If I publish that article under Jones' name, that is copyright infringement and not plagiarism. If I completely rewrite the ideas of the article and publish under my name (not crediting the original author, that is plagiarism and not copyright infringement). The essence of plagiarism is taking the ideas of another without giving credit. The essence of copyright infringement is copying without permission. So there is no legal penalty to taking credit for someone else's ideas.

As for your economic question, an infringer may be liable for compensatory damages. Therefore, an author whose work would garner $50,000 in royalties would not seek the minimal statutory damages, he would go for the $50,000 in lost revenue.

  • Plagiarism is also taking previously presented ideas and presenting them again as new - e.g. self plagiarism. In that sense republishing the article under Jones's name would be plagiarism unless the publication tells its readers that it is repeating work already published elsewhere.
    – bdsl
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 12:31

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