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Are Custom Essay Writing Services Legal?

Essay companies say that they’re providing tutoring services, while some people compare academic dishonesty to a real crime. We decided to clarify this issue. In this article, we will consider essay writing in the legal context.

Writing services are extremely popular among students from various areas of study. Colleges and universities have quite strict requirements regarding the quality of papers, and the workload is often completely overwhelming. Therefore, there’s no surprise that students are looking for help, and the growing demand for custom papers leads to the growth in the supply. Students want better grades, and professional writers help them get what they need.

However, when students buy their essays and other papers, they want to do it confidentially. They know that they’re doing something bad. Professors call it cheating, and all students have heard that the consequences of academic dishonesty can be severe. Is using writing services really a sort of academic dishonesty? And what academic dishonesty means, in the first place? If you decide to answer all of these questions, you will find a lot of controversial information.

Defining Academic Dishonesty

Custom writing companies receive orders from customers and deliver materials written according to the customers’ requirements. Is it academic dishonesty? Well, if you purchase someone else’s work and present it as your own, it will certainly fall into the very definition of academic dishonesty. Why? Because you will simply lie. However, if you visit websites of custom essay writing services and read their terms of service, you will likely find out that you don’t own any rights to your materials.

Most of these companies underline that they only sell sample papers that can be used by students for research purposes. You may also notice that these companies discourage students from presenting these materials as their own and note that they are not responsible for the consequences of such actions. The details may vary for each particular company, but the vast majority of writing services note that they stand against academic dishonesty.

Most essay writing companies put disclaimers on their websites that say that they provide “model documents for research use” and that you should use papers you buy from them “in accordance with the appropriate policies and applicable laws”. In other words, it means that you are not allowed to put your name on the delivered essay and submit it as your own.

Still, everybody does that. There's no point of paying a hundred bucks for an essay that you won't be able to submit, right? Besides, it is very hard to prove that the essay you bought online wasn't written by you.

The reason why these companies are so careful is that there is no universal law that would determine what academic dishonesty is. Every university or college has its own definitions. Besides, such a business can be legally interpreted in different ways, depending on the laws of a specific state.

You can purchase a paper from a legit company and use it as an example or a source of references. If you write your own paper based on the sample, it will not be cheating legally nor technically. Besides, if your papers are unique and they weren’t stored anywhere online, it’s virtually impossible to prove that you didn’t write them. However, what would happen if you presented somebody else’s papers as your own or submitted a plagiarized paper?

Legal Consequences of Selling Custom Papers to Students

Let’s get straight to the legal aspect of custom writing. Companies that sell papers online say that they sell samples. Technically, papers that you purchase remain samples until you submit them as your own work. However, if you submit them, they will become academic papers purchased for money. Selling academic papers is considered illegal in Australia, and in many places around the world. For instance, in the U.S., many states have laws that address the selling and purchasing of academic writing. However, these laws differ significantly across states.

No person shall prepare, offer to prepare, cause to be prepared, sell, or otherwise distribute any term paper, thesis, dissertation, or other written material for another person, for a fee or other compensation, with the knowledge, or under circumstances in which he should reasonably have known, that such term paper, thesis, dissertation, or other written material is to be submitted by any other person for academic credit at any public or private college, university, or other institution.

No person shall, for financial consideration, or the promise of financial consideration, prepare, offer to prepare, cause to be prepared, sell or offer for sale to any person any written material which the seller knows, is informed or has reason to believe is intended for submission as a dissertation, thesis, term paper, essay, report or other written assignment by a student in a university, college, academy, school or other educational institution.

Violation of these provisions is classified as class “B” misdemeanor, which can lead to up to three months of imprisonment or one year of probation. At the same time, this law clarifies that nothing should stop educators and students from “authorizing students to use statistical, computer, or any other services which may be required or permitted by such educational institutions in the preparation, research or writing.”

As you can see, these laws, as well as many other similar laws in other states focus not on students but on companies and writers that sell papers while being aware of the students’ intention to cheat. Therefore, there’s no surprise that essay companies actively discourage students from presenting papers as their own and own copyright over materials produced by their writers.

Simply put, essay writing companies do nothing wrong by selling papers to you. What really matters is the way you use these papers. If you get caught cheating, the company will be completely innocent because it clearly indicated the purpose of these materials in its terms of service. Does it mean that you broke the law? No, but you still violated the rules of your university or college.

Is it Legal to Buy Essays Online?

Yes, purchasing custom papers online is perfectly legal. However, your educational institution might enforce various penalties if they find out that you've submitted someone else's work as your own. The penalties may vary depending on what college or university you study in. Besides, a lot depends on your professor. For instance, your professor might require you to redo your assignment and lower your grade. You may also get a failing grade for your assignment or class. If you’ve cheated while working on a research project, your participation may also be terminated.

However, your professor might decide not to stop on these penalties and file a formal complaint. In this case, the violation of academic integrity will be documented and recorded in your discipline file. Your previous violations will also be taken into account when the complaint is considered by the office of student citizenship. Your professor or supervisor may also file a formal complaint to the committee of discipline. In this case, it will be reviewed and considered for a hearing. The penalty may vary from various types of sanctions to probation, suspension, or dismissal.


Essay writing services are legal because they clearly indicate how students should use their papers. Although there are some fake writing services that operate illegally as scammers, reliable writing services don’t break any laws. However, if you decide to present somebody else’s work as your own or submit a plagiarized academic paper, a lot will depend on your professor and your educational institution. Academic dishonesty can have very serious consequences for your academic career so we recommend that you use custom papers properly and never submit plagiarized content.