Do Coders Copy and Paste?

Software developers write a lot of code. Some coders are so good at their job that amongst all the research they do during a day, they also write up to 1000 lines of code. While it does not seem like a lot, remember, a lot of brainpower goes into the code they write. So, it can take a toll on the developer. This may leave you to think that coders copy and paste their work but is this true?

Experienced coders will copy and paste code that they are allowed to copy and paste. The developer will then make a lot of adjustments to the code to make it suit their application. A developer should never copy and paste code that is copyright. It is best if you use inspiration from pieces of code and write the code yourself.

This article covers a sensitive topic, and that is the legality of copy and pasting code. We also discuss whether or not the practice of copying code from someone else is bad. For everything you need to know about whether developers copy and paste code and much more, I highly recommend that you keep reading this article, especially if you are a beginner.

Is it legal to copy code?

This is a grey area. It would be best to use this section of the article as a guideline but seek legal counsel if you are worried.  

It is illegal to copy copyrighted code. You will find this in a lot of software that is being sold. You cannot simply open up the code and use it as your own. In some cases, even writing code the code as your own without copy and pasting is illegal. This is because you are infringing upon a patent. See, if code is written in a certain way to perform actions that have been patented, using that code is an infringement of that patent.

With all of that being said, your code should be different if you are not writing a program that you are stealing from someone else. If somebody takes you to court for a piece of code that they think you took, it will be up to the judge’s discretion to determine whether or not you took that code. Proving this can become extremely hard for a judge to prove.

Remember, even if a piece of your code resembles a piece of code in a big piece of software, everything above and below that code will not be the same as it is in the code that you took inspiration from. All of this adds to the difficulty that a judge will face in finding you guilty of intellectual property theft.

Then, it would help if you considered how someone would know that you took the code from them. We can use writing as an example. You could write a sentence like this: “The sun was shining, and it was a hot day.” Somewhere on the internet, that sentence is bound to be repeated on thousands of websites. Does that mean that everyone stole that sentence? No.

You can think of code in the same way. However, if you had that sentence followed by two paragraphs from the same site, then it is clear that you were copying from that site. Again, it is the same concept as coding. If you have a piece of code followed by blocks of code that resemble somebody else’s work, then it becomes easier to say that you took that work from someone else.

There are many open-source places, such as GitHub, where people write pieces of code and offer them to people for free. 

copy pasting as a coder
You can copy-paste the code that you find for example on Stackoverflow. If you are taking the code from someone’s Github repository, make sure that you are allowed to and also attribute the author in your project.

Is Copying and Pasting Code Bad?

Wow, this is a massive question, and I must warn you that many people will not like the answer to it. See, copying code can be ok in some cases; however, copying code is terrible in many instances. There are few reasons why copying code can be wrong, but it mostly comes down to you and your experience.

An experienced software developer can look at a code block and almost instantly see any flaws in the code itself. Also, a professional developer can look at a piece of code and know exactly how it would fit into the application that they are writing. This means that they understand how that could fit into the structure of their code and what changes would be necessary to make it work in the application that they are building.

The question is, can you do that? If you can not look at a piece of code and quickly identify any mistakes in the code, then copying it will make your life hell. At the same time, if you look at a piece of code and don’t know exactly how it would fit into the structure of your application, then again, you are making your life harder than it should be.

Video: Copying other’s code – is this something you should do?

Coders indeed copy and paste code sometimes, but it’s because they know what they are doing. If you are a beginner at programming, it would be best if you wrote your code yourself. That does not mean you cannot grab inspiration from non-copyrighted sources. One of the best practices is capturing inspiration and learning how to write the code in your way for your projects.

I know that this section is getting long, but it is a tricky question to answer. You will find a lot of the time that the most experienced developers will only copy and paste the most mundane pieces of code to write. For anything that is technical or requires extra attention, they will write the code themselves, even if there is open-source code available. This makes the code easier to debug. It also makes everything more authentic.

Should You Copy and Paste Code?

You should never copy and paste code to try and pass it off as your own. Doing this can get you into some serious trouble with the law. It can also cost you your job or your clients. In some cases, you can use open-Source code; however, it is best if you just took inspiration from open-source code but write it out yourself.

Writing the code out yourself will help you learn for the future, and it will also help you spot where you can tweak the code to suit your program or web application.

Some companies also have a database that contains all the code that the company owns; this is called a “codebase.” Some companies encourage you to use the codebase when you need it, and that is perfectly fine. Remember, you do not have to reinvent the wheel.

Before you go out and copy and paste code, whether it be from your companies codebase or an open-source repository, it is essential to remember one thing. Code can become outdated, and if you are not experienced enough, you might not be able to spot this. It can cause you hours of your time trying to figure out what is wrong with the code.

Do web developers copy and paste?

Yes, web developers do copy and paste code. However, it’s not like they will see a website and copy the entire source code for that site and use it as their own. Instead, they will copy and paste code that is tedious to write.

Also, they will make a lot of adjustments to the code to make it suit the web application that they are developing. By the time the developer is finished making their adjustments, the code may be unrecognizable to the code that they initially copied.


As we have said, this is a grey area. You never want to be accused of intellectual property theft, and you also never want to be accused of plagiarism. Not only can it get you in trouble with the law, but it can ruin your reputation and your chances in the future of getting a good job. Twenty minutes of laziness can destroy your life.

In my personal experience, only copy and paste code when you know that you are allowed to but still do not try and pass that code off as your own, especially if you did not make any adjustments. For beginners, it is best if you try and write as much code as possible. You never know; you might get a quiz in an interview. You want to be as knowledgeable as possible and writing your code is the best way to get this knowledge.