The Difference Between Plagiarism and Appropriation in Art

People confuse the difference between plagiarism and appropriation. What they don’t understand is that these two terms differ from one another.

We’re taught back in our school days that plagiarism is the worst mortal sin a writer could commit. It’s true, that’s why a lot of people are keeping watch of this mistake whether they do it intentionally or unintentionally. Having such attitude helps us become better aspiring writers.

On the other hand, most people might find themselves confused about what appropriation means. Like plagiarism, it has something to do with stealing someone else’s unique idea. Legally and technically speaking, they aren’t the same.

You might wonder what’s the big deal between plagiarism and appropriation. Just to let you know, consequences of both are dire. So, you’d have to watch out committing any of them.

By reading this article, you will discover the difference between plagiarism and appropriation.

three silver paint brushes on white textile with other art materials
Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of stealing or violating the author’s and publisher’s rights by presenting their work as one’s own. It results in unoriginal content, which is often not well-received by the industry.

Also known as intellectual theft, it’s the act of taking or appearing to use a source without crediting those who created it.

Plagiarism is the act of using and/or closely paraphrasing someone else’s writings or ideas without proper citation.

Plagiarism is bad because it’s an unethical action. It harms the integrity of the entire industry.

What is Appropriation?

To appropriate something means to take possession of someone else’s graphics or art. Appropriation artists copy images to depict them for themselves in their artwork. No amount of theft or plagiarization occurs, nor do they pass these images off as their own. It’s controversial to use this artistic approach because some people view appropriation as unoriginal or theft.

Art is an incredibly personal thing. It’s necessary for artists and galleries to be able to present themselves in front of the public with relative authenticity. It includes the use of artists’ own work. However, people need to be cautious in the sense that by copying another artist or group of artists excessively can mean appropriation.

Plagiarism vs. Appropriation: Knowing the Difference

It’s a difficult concept for people to grasp. As a rule of thumb, a found resource image must be at least 65% changed to be considered an appropriation. That’s different from plagiarism.

As an artist, appropriation means taking in an image that is not your own and changing it significantly to suit your own personal vision. Plagiarism is the act of copying a document from another person.

Let’s use an analogy: if you borrow a sweater from a sibling without their permission – that would be plagiarism. You don’t change anything to it, it is still the same sweater.

The sweater may look different on you, people might even think it’s yours, but it’ll still remain the same, unchanged. Now think about it. You can take that sweater and remove the arms.

A sweater seems yours now – you have changed it from what was their sweater to something new you created. That’s appropriation.

To Wrap Up

The difference between plagiarism and appropriation is a hot topic among creatives and students in general. Art is seen as a way to create own ideas and express what you think.

But it can also be tricky to know where to draw the line when it comes to creativity and being a good artist. This article aims to teach you both the similarities and differences between plagiarism and appropriation. We wish we helped you understand both concepts.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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