Experts Speak

Is it legal to copy text from a website?

It depends.

There are different ways in which you can copy content from other sources. Some of them are legal while some are not.

is it legal to copy text from a website

Let’s look at the different types in detail:

Three Ways of Copying Content

There are three different things that you can do when taking content from a different source to use on your website.

  • Plagiarize
  • Quote
  • Paraphrase


Plagiarism is the worst type of copying that you can do to get content for your website.

Plagiarism can be defined as the act of taking someone else’s content and using it as one’s own without giving any credit to the original author.

There are different types of plagiarism, such as:

  • Patchwork plagiarism
  • Mosaic plagiarism
  • Direct plagiarism

All these different types of plagiarism have one thing in common: they’re all wrong.

As far as plagiarizing content is concerned, it is absolutely illegal. There is no scope of legality in it.

In fact, even innocent writers who have not deliberately copied anything are advised to use a free plagiarism checker in order to make sure that there are no accidental matches in their content.

Read Also – Basic Concept Of Copyright Law In India

Above mentioned examples are from Prepostseo.com, it clearly shows that 90% of the content is plagiarized and 10% is unique.

Is Plagiarism Illegal?

Well, while you won’t go to jail because of it (except maybe in very specific circumstances), it can still have very harmful effects.

Professional writers can, as a result of plagiarism, get expelled from their institutes/jobs.

On the other hand, bloggers and webmasters can face severe consequences from search engines.

For example, Google penalizes websites that plagiarize content. The penalty can cause the page to appear at a lower ranking. It can even cause site de-indexing.

So, in a nutshell, plagiarism is not legal.

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Quoting is the cleanest and most ethical way to take content from an existing source.

If you want to take a piece of text from a source without altering the words, you can simply put it in (“”) quotation marks and mention the original source underneath.

As far as using quotes go, there is no issue with it. It’s perfectly legal, and it actually increases your reliability and integrity as a writer.

When you acknowledge the original author and don’t take the credit for yourself, it creates an impression of respect for your reputation.

Quoting text from a source word-for-word is perfectly legal as long as you add the original author correctly.

Remember, if you add an incorrect source, it can be taken as source-based plagiarism.

However, if you add the original author correctly, and if you don’t change the original words, there is nothing wrong with it.

As we said, this is the most ethical way to take content from a source.


Paraphrasing can be, for the purpose of this discussion, broken down into 2 types.

The first type is poor paraphrasing.

When a piece of text is rewritten in such a way that only a few words are replaced with synonyms, then that is known as poor paraphrasing.

As far as poor paraphrasing is concerned, it can still be considered duplication by most plagiarism-checking tools.

Moving on to the other type, we have thorough paraphrasing.

Thorough paraphrasing tool is that in which a piece of text is written in such a way that several words are replaced with synonyms, and the sentence structures are changed as well.

This type of paraphrasing will not be recognized as plagiarism. And while it is legal as well, it’s not the best thing to do. It is ‘frowned upon’, so to say.

Poor paraphrasing is not legal. Since the end product is still recognized as plagiarism, it is not legal nor ethical to use this method for copying content.

On the other hand, thorough paraphrasing is legal. However, it is a little…undesirable for writers. Writers should be creative, and not rely on others for ideas.

We can actually explain this better with an example.

Suppose an online platform gives a 7-day free trial to its users.

The ethical thing to do here would be to use the 7-day trial and then buy the full version so that the developers can be rewarded for their efforts.

However, if a person decides to keep creating new emails just so that they can register under new names in order to use the trial repeatedly, then it won’t exactly be illegal.

But it will be frowned upon.

The same is the case with thorough paraphrasing.

Read Also – 14 Principles for Effective Legal Writing

How to Properly Paraphrase Content?

There are two methods that you can use to properly paraphrase content. You can either do it manually or use a dedicated tool.

When doing it manually, you should take care not to just replace certain words with synonyms, but also to shuffle the sentence structures a bit.

It can be even better if you break up the content and rearrange its order.

That way, there will be little to zero chances of the content getting caught as plagiarism.

An alternative to doing this all manually is to use a dedicated tool instead.

There are different types of dedicated tools available online. Some work intelligently and have a human-like functionality. Some, on the other hand, simply change a few words in the given content.

As far as the former type is concerned, they are good for proper paraphrasing since they work smartly to replace multiple words and change the sentence structure.

You won’t have to make a lot of edits to the given results.

Ways to Legally Copy Content for Your Website

Here are a few ways in which you can legally take content from other sources for your website.

Use Citations and References

Adding quotes is suitable for when you are taking a couple of lines or sentences word-for-word from another source.

However, there can be cases where you want to use some material from a different source without keeping the original sentences intact.

In these types of situations, you can use citations and references.

Quote Properly

Another way in which you can legally copy content from another source is to simply put it in quotation marks.

Many plagiarism checkers give you the option to ‘Exclude Quotes’ so that you can stop them from including quoted words in the scan.

While it can be enough to add quotation marks in order to show that the written content is not yours, you should still add a citation (e.g., the name of the original author) for good measure.

Take Inspiration

And lastly, you could just simply not copy the content directly. You can just take inspiration and ideas, and then come up with your own unique content.

However, there is also a small chance here that you could accidentally start copying the style and words of the source from where you got your ideas.

An easy solution to this is to spread your research out and look at multiple websites, research papers, and e-books instead of a single one.


When it comes down to copying content for your website, there are different ways in which you can do it. Some of them are legal while some of them are not.

In this post, we looked at both types of ways in detail.

To wrap it up, we can simply say that you should not blatantly copy-paste someone else’s content nor should you use content that has been poorly paraphrased.

You can, however, use quotations and properly paraphrased content. Alternatively, you can simply take inspiration from a source and come up with your own material.

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by Sushree Swagatika

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