Using information ethically

Using information ethically

A good researcher should use information ethically. To do this, it is important to understand the issues surrounding intellectual property, copyright and plagiarism.

Intellectual property

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), intellectual property means 'the legal rights which result from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary and artistic fields.' (1)

It applies to all 'creations of the mind' including 'paintings, songs, scientific formulae, inventions, poems, plans, drawings'. Anything you have created, any picture or plans you have drawn, or poems that you have written are your intellectual property and are protected by copyright. (2)


Copyright is 'the exclusive legal right, given to the originator or their assignee for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic or musical material, and to authorise others to do the same.' (3)

Copyright protects the intellectual property of a creator's work and ensures it is not reproduced without their permission. Further details about the Copyright Act are available from the Copyright Licensing Agency. You can find more information about intellectual property and copyright in our copyright section.


Plagiarism is 'the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.' (4) The issues surrounding information ethics and particularly plagiarism will be discussed in more detail later.


1. WIPO. WIPO intellectual property handbook: policy, law and use, 2nd edition. Geneva, WIPO, 2004, p. 3. 
2. WIPO intellectual property website. What is intellectual property?, [Online] Available from: [Accessed 9th August 2007]. 
3. Pearsall, J. (ed.). The New Oxford Dictionary of English, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002. 
4. Pearsall, J. (ed.). The New Oxford Dictionary of English, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1998.