1. NateDoggy
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    NateDoggy Member

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    A Plagirism Question

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by NateDoggy, Sep 19, 2008.

    I realize now that not a single story is unique anymore, because everybody borrows ideas from a writer, or a friend. They get their ideas from an outside source, so the whole story is not entirely their own in that respect.


    However, I have a question about the plagirism law and what not. I am currently in the midst of writing a novel that I started almost two years ago, I took a short break and began rewriting it a couple months ago. The storyline has been used by an author John Ringo, in a diffrent respect. There are many major diffrences in my novel, and that of John Ringo, however, sadly there are also noticeable similarities. While I don't consider my story a rip-off of John Ringo's my friends who have read the Mike Harmon series, find it eerily similar and have even suggested I not write it. In the end my story will turn out completely diffrent, I know because I have already writtne the ending, I'm working solely on the middle chapters.

    My question is, if my story is similar to another's, but starts, and ends drastically diffrently, is it still plagirised because the middle chapters are similar?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ideas cannot be copyrighted or plagiarized. Only the instantiation of an idea, the actiual written work, lyrics, musical score, painting, photograph, etc. can be plagiarized.

    A storyline is an idea. It cannot be plagiarized.

    EDIT: Maia makes a good point. If you take a storyline in sufficient detail that it is clearly derived from a specific work, then it IS more than an idea and falls under copyright protection. However, the similarity would need to be fairly profound for you to be at serious risk. The risk is greatest if you actually DID read the other work and were, consciously or not, imitating it.
     
  3. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    There might not be any legal implications in what you are doing as you are not copying the idea directly, and you very well may have started the idea on your own.

    You are not plagiarizing someone else in this case, unless they (the middle chapters) seem very "word for word" then I would highly recommend that you change what you have written to be more unique to your own style and poise.
     
  4. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Frank Herbert was going to sue George Lucas, but decided it was not worth his time and money. The reason was because George orignally used a lot of stuff from Dune. He even called a mind alter substance the spice. I am not sure he would have been successful if he had sued him.

    If you steal unique ideas, such as monsters, you could be sued. If you wrote a sci-fi about a people that value water more than anything else, sell spice, have all blue eyes, and ride giant worms through the desert, no matter how different you write it, if Frank was still alive he might sue you for it.

    Just be careful you don't rip of unique creatures and such, and if you do change them, and give them different names. Generic creatures like werewolves, and vampires, are no big deal. But if you have a robot named c3p0, or a vampire named lestat, that could get you in trouble.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A clearly identifiable character is more than an idea. Such a character is an artisitic creation that can be protrcted under copyright, and furthermore may be registered as a trademark.
     
  6. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I once heard someone say, "There are only 37 stories. All the rest is interpretation." Whether that number is accurate, I have no idea. But the fact is, every story will have something in common with another story. I was once accused of copying the story line of a video game I'd never even heard of. So the best thing to do is read as many books as possible, and see as many movies as you can, so that you have so many ideas in your head that when you put them together, it's difficult to see where they came from. Make them your own.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's not that black and white, cog... a storyline is much more than just a concept/premise/idea... it's a definite series events that constitutes a whole... the plot... and as such is protected by copyright more often than not...

    if you utilised jkr's story line from any of her hp books, you can bet your bottom dollar, your home and your first-born that she'd sue the pants off you and own you and yours for the rest of your time on earth...

    advice given/pronouncements made here [even mine!] should never be taken as gospel, when legality is concerned... to get the real skinny on anything like this go to the source [ in the us: www.copyright.gov ] and consult a literary attorney...
     
  8. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think he was talking in very general terms, Mamma.

    I can give you a perfect example. One of the books I'm writing was originally my own interpretation of the movie Labyrinth. Generally speaking: girl obsessed with evil Goblin King and fantasy and is not dealing with the changes in her home life. She makes a wish and has to travel to the kings castle in that fantasy world. She meets some friends along the way and faces the king and learns how to let go.

    When you describe the story that generally, my story is pretty much the same. Heck, my main character is even the same age and her name is Tara (in the movie it's Sarah) But were Jim Henson alive, or if Terry Jones ever read it, I doubt they would see any reason to sue me.
     
  9. NateDoggy
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    NateDoggy Member

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    Well thank you very much.

    I was not imitating the book to my knowledge, I just read it three months ago I've been working on my novel for nearly two years. The middle is by no means word for word, and in the next couple installments (as it is a series) it takes a completely diffrent turn from the Mike Harmon series, I was just worried about similarities but as has been stated by both the members here, and Google, I am at no risk, and that's good because I didn't want to re-write the story, it's been one of my best ever. Thank you very much!
     
  10. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    To me what it sounds like your trying to do is cover your ass as much as possible and benefit from this story as much as possible. Are you flirting with the idea of hoping to fool people? To me it sounds like a rip off.
     
  11. alvin123
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    alvin123 Senior Member

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    As long as you don't copy someone's hard work, you're good to go.
     

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