Copyright and Plagiarism

Facts You Should Know About The Copyright Ordinance


You are warned that notes taken in lectures, and course materials supplied to you by departments, are to be used by you only for the purposes of research or private study. Similarly, lectures may not be recorded without the permission of the lecturer. If the lecturer permits recording, it must be subject to any conditions which are stipulated at the time of granting permission. The copyright of each lecture delivered in the University is vested in the lecturer delivering it and/or the University. Failure to heed this warning may result in an infringement of the copyright laws.


Any copying of copyright materials by students on self-service copiers within the University must be kept within the scope of fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study under the copyright legislation currently in force in Hong Kong.

Although there is no statement in the legislation as to the maximum amount of copying allowed under the fair dealing provision, the following principles should be observed:

copying must be made for the purposes of the student's own research or private study;

(b) the extent of copying must be kept to the minimum necessary for the above purposes; AND

(c) copying must result in no more than one copy of the same work.

In the absence of any quantitative guideline, students are advised against doing, among other things, any of the following:

copying more than one article from a periodical or newspaper;

(b) copying more than one chapter from a book; OR

(c) multiple copying of any kind.

If these guidelines are not followed, users of the self-service copying machines may render themselves liable to legal action from copyright holders for breach of copyright.

The making of copies of copyright materials by Library staff for library users without the express permission of the copyright holder is strictly limited under the copyright law. Generally, subject to certain prescribed conditions, only one copy of one article from a single periodical issue, or one copy of a reasonable proportion of a published literary, dramatic or musical work (other than an article in a periodical) may be supplied by Library staff to a library user solely for the purposes of the user's research or private study.

On September 30, 2002, the Government issued a set of guidelines for photocopying of printed works by not-for-profit educational establishments with a view to clarifying the extent of permissible photocopying by teachers for classroom use. These guidelines have come into effect since October 2, 2002 and can be viewed at

Internet Materials

Materials on the Internet are protected by copyright. The mere fact that they are made available to the public via the Internet does not mean that they can be copied without permission. Without the copyright holder's licence or permission, any copying of such material by a student (e.g. including the material in the student's work or printing it out on paper) must not exceed the scope of the fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study.

Similarly, uploading of copyright material on to the Internet is an act of copyright infringement if it is done without the consent of the copyright holder.


The following aspects of the copyright law may affect candidates who will write dissertations:

Quotations from other copyright material may be freely made in dissertations, provided that there is no intention to publish them and provided that they are clearly marked as such and the source given. If, however, it is intended for publication, the following steps should be taken:
Any quotations should be clearly marked as such (by the appropriate use of quotation marks or indentation) and the source given.
(ii) For any quotation of more than a few lines, the permission of the copyright holder must be obtained before the dissertation is published (but not necessarily before it is submitted).
(iii) Acknowledgement of permission to reproduce the material quoted should be made in the form approved by the copyright holder.

(b) Copyright material varies according to the laws of the country of publication, but generally the following may be considered as not subject to the provisions of copyright laws:

Printed matter the author of which has been dead for more than fifty years (care must however be taken not to quote from a more recent edition which is still subject to copyright).
(ii) Publications from countries/regions which are not signatory to the Universal Copyright Convention, provided that the dissertation is not intended for publication in these countries/regions. The People's Republic of China and the Hong Kong SAR are signatories to the convention. Taiwan is not.

In case of doubt, it is safest to assume that copyright exists.  

The copyright holder may usually be identified from the publication concerned. It is usually either the author or the publisher, and the statement prefixed by the symbol © on the reverse of the title page (in recent publications) is the source of this information. If no such statement can be found, an inquiry should be sent to the publisher.

(d) By law, a dissertation has the status of an unpublished manuscript. The author is the copyright holder, and deposit of a copy of the dissertation in the University Library or another department of the University does not transfer copyright to the University or any part of it. The Library seeks the consent of the author at the time when a dissertation is submitted to the making of microfilm or other copies for limited use, i.e. for purposes of private study and research only. The author retains his/her general copyright, which prevents others from publishing materials from the dissertation without the author's written permission.

Warning against Plagiarism

The ordinary meaning of plagiarism as given by the Oxford English Dictionary as:

“…to take and use as one’s own, the thoughts, writing or inventions of another”.

In terms of how this affects you as a student, plagiarism is defined in the University’s Regulations Governing Conduct at Examinations as:

“…the unacknowledged use, as one’s own, of work of another person, whether or not such work has been published”.

The University has published a booklet entitled “What is Plagiarism?” which is enclosed in the Student Registration Folder distributed to you on admission to this University.  A booklet entitled “Plagiarism and How to Avoid It” by David Gardner is also available from the Main Library.  

In simple terms, the booklet explains that plagiarism is copying the work of another person without proper acknowledgement.  There are two parts in the definition: copying and the absence of proper acknowledgement.  As a result, it gives an impression to an ordinary reader that the work is the original work of the author when in fact it was copied from some others’ work.  Copying does not necessarily only mean copying word for word.  Closely paraphrasing or substantial copying with minor modifications (such as changing grammar, adding a few words or reversing active/passive voices) is still copying for this purpose.  It does not matter what the nature of the source is: it may be a book, an article, lecture notes or simply an assignment of another student, or in electronic form such as a website, an audio-visual production or other non-textual material, to name but a few.  It does not matter whether the source has been published or not.  Plagiarism covers any form of work submitted for assessment, including theses, dissertations, take-home examinations, assignments, projects and other forms of coursework.  

The University does not allow or tolerate plagiarism. 
This is a grave academic offence.  Any student who commits plagiarism is liable to disciplinary action which can result in serious consequences - including expulsion from the University.

You are strongly advised to read the booklets “What is Plagiarism” ( and “Plagiarism and How to Avoid It” ( and to consult your teachers if you have any questions about how to avoid plagiarism.
Academic Support and Examinations Section, The Registry,
The University of Hong Kong. All rights reserved.