Is AI Content Plagiarism? Legal Insights for Creators

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Julia McCoy

Creator and Co-founder

is ai content plagiarism

The rise of sophisticated AI writing tools has brought the question “Is AI content plagiarism” front and center in classrooms and content marketing meetings around the world.

These advanced programs can generate human-quality text in seconds, forcing everyone to reconsider just how original “original content” really needs to be.

Table Of Contents:

The Blurred Lines of AI-Generated Content

The very nature of AI makes the question of plagiarism tough to answer. It all comes down to intent and execution, which can be a fuzzy area.

Plagiarism is when someone passes off someone else’s ideas or words as their own to deceive their audience. Since the very definition of plagiarism focuses on the intent of the person creating content, this automatically raises serious questions about whether content can be plagiarized if a robot writes it.

How AI Writing Tools Work

These tools are built on Large Language Models (LLM), a type of AI that utilizes deep learning algorithms.

These algorithms allow programs to analyze enormous text and code data sets, learning how to mimic various writing styles.

The more data it’s fed, the better it becomes at generating grammatically correct and seemingly original content.

That being said, these impressive language models are still just very sophisticated imitators.

You could ask a tool like ChatGPT to “write an essay about Shakespeare” and it will quickly produce something semi-coherent and factually accurate.

What it won’t do, however, is understand the true nuances of Shakespeare’s writing and produce something totally unique from its training data.

This begs the question – is AI content plagiarism if the program itself isn’t intentionally deceiving anyone?

Why Intent Matters

Imagine a student using an AI tool to write a research paper. They feed the program a few prompts, and it produces an essay full of facts.

The problem is that those facts aren’t cited. Even if they were, it still isn’t the student’s original thoughts or insights.

While this seems like a no-brainer plagiarism case, things become much murkier in content marketing.

Publications like The Washington Post and the Associated Press have been using AI programs for years. They might use artificial intelligence to create data-driven content about the Olympics and finance – content that wouldn’t be considered plagiarism because there was no ill intent to pass the AI’s work off as a human’s work.

The Legal Landscape of AI and Copyright Infringement

Since most cases of plagiarism happen in the education system, they are subject to a school’s code of conduct.

Plagiarism isn’t illegal in the United States, although you’d be hard-pressed to find a lawyer willing to defend someone for claiming a piece of AI content as their own.

As far as corporate law goes, the judicial system is playing catch-up. Some court cases are paving the way, giving us all some insights into how AI content might be viewed from a legal standpoint.

Read here for the US Copyright Office’s statement of policy on AI-generated content.

In early 2024, OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT, along with tech giant, Microsoft, got embroiled in several copyright infringement cases alleging that ChatGPT pulled entire sections directly from publications like The New York Times.

They included 100 examples of ChatGPT “generating” responses nearly identical to New York Times articles.

These high-profile legal battles, combined with other legal cases about generative AI art programs allegedly using images without permission, may completely shape how companies think about copyright, authorship, and fair use.

Is AI Content Plagiarism in Academia?

Whether or not AI content is considered plagiarism depends on the policy set by the learning institution.

Even though it is a gray area, most institutions side with the use of AI in essay writing as a form of plagiarism.

A great example is that of the USF Academic Integrity Policy. It states that using AI in the absence of consent by an instructor for assignments or an entire thesis committee is strictly forbidden.

They believe in emphasizing the student’s originality and discouraging any lack of effort and regard to the academic standards.

Artificial intelligence is evolving faster than we can update our ethics manuals. That being said, plagiarism in AI content has become a key discussion point among AI leaders in education and research.

Chris Caren, who runs the popular plagiarism checker Turnitin, believes there’s room for AI in the classroom. However, he is hesitant to create hard-and-fast rules until there’s been enough data and time to adequately assess the risks and potential benefits.

Because of AI’s ability to pull data from a wide range of online sources, this could include incorrect information or flat-out lies from untrustworthy sites.

Content Marketers and AI

In content marketing, “Is AI content plagiarism” is now a phrase uttered more than anyone wants to admit.

Writers, publishers, editors, and content marketers are all left trying to balance how they can incorporate AI to increase their productivity without crossing any lines or ending up on the receiving end of a lawsuit or cease-and-desist order.

Think about how easy it is to use AI.  With only a few prompts or even just keywords, the AI program of your choice can write content at a pace no human could.

You could theoretically create dozens of articles in a few hours – something many brands and publications worried might tank Google rankings because the text lacked genuine, human expertise.

That’s where Google’s helpful content algorithm update comes in – a topic causing quite the buzz lately in the world of AI and SEO.

Is AI-Generated Content Considered Helpful by Google?

Although no one but Google knows exactly how their mysterious algorithm works, experts and academic researchers agree on a few things.

The consensus is that Google strives to provide valuable content from authoritative voices and credible experts.  Google will likely be focusing heavily on E-E-A-T – experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

Google has invested heavily in tools to help ensure the information it’s serving is top-notch. Just like how schools are adopting a wide range of AI plagiarism checkers and detection programs to keep content original, so is the marketing world.

Tools such as Content at Scale’s Plagiarism Checker along with Content at Scale’s AI Detector are helping keep things as honest as possible.

This is important especially as concerns about accuracy, fair use, and authorship remain uncertain.

Ethical Implications of AI in Content Creation

Beyond the legal gray areas, using AI for content creation presents significant ethical dilemmas.

At its core, content marketing thrives on authenticity, creativity, and the unique perspective of the human mind. The influx of AI content challenges these very principles, threatening to dilute the value of genuine human expression.

Consider this: if numerous companies utilize similar AI algorithms, this will flood the Internet with repetitive, unoriginal material that lacks the unique perspective users crave.

How can businesses differentiate their brand voice and provide valuable content when machines can churn out generic content at an unprecedented scale?

Furthermore, the rise of AI-generated content calls into question the very essence of authorship.

A writer’s voice, their distinct style, is integral to their identity. If AI can effectively mimic these individualistic traits, it undermines the uniqueness and personal touch that draw readers to specific content creators.

How to Use AI Responsibly in Content Creation

The rise of AI presents exciting opportunities for content marketers. AI tools can help generate ideas, refine content, and even write full drafts.

Just look at this publish-ready blog post I generated from Content at Scale’s RankWell long-form writer in under 3 minutes:

However, it’s crucial to approach AI content creation ethically and responsibly.

Here’s how to leverage AI’s power while maintaining ethical content creation practices:

Prioritize Transparency

Transparency is paramount when using AI in content creation.

Clearly disclose to your audience any AI involvement. This fosters trust and allows readers to understand how you create content.

Consider including a section in your content style guide that outlines your approach to AI and transparency. You can even link to articles about AI content detection tools to further demonstrate your commitment to ethical practices.

Embrace AI as a Collaborative Partner

View AI as a valuable assistant in your content creation process, not as a replacement for human writers. Leverage AI to streamline tasks like:

By focusing on AI’s strengths as a collaborative tool, you can enhance your content creation workflow without sacrificing originality or authenticity.

Remember, the human touch remains essential for crafting compelling narratives, injecting creativity, and connecting with your audience on an emotional level.

The Future of AI Content Creation

With lawsuits being filed every few months, it’s a tense time to be a writer or a brand.

Although the dust hasn’t settled yet about the legalities of content produced through artificial intelligence, one thing’s certain: this new technology will change the face of how everyone, from bloggers to students to book publishers, thinks about their craft.


So, is AI content plagiarism?

AI-generated content definitely has its perks, making things faster and even sparking new ideas. But it’s also a bit tricky when it comes to issues like plagiarism.

Since AI pulls from a vast pool of existing data, there’s a risk of unintentionally copying ideas or phrases. So, it’s super important to double-check and tweak AI content to make sure it’s original and ethical.

Ultimately it’s up to humans to inject that content with experience and authority – two qualities robots haven’t mastered yet.

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