1. Red Rain
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    Red Rain Member

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    Five Famous Authors who Plagiarized

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Red Rain, Mar 16, 2013.

    pla•gia•rism
    1.
    an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author's work as one's own, as by not crediting the original author: Synonyms: appropriation, infringement, piracy, counterfeiting; theft, borrowing, cribbing, passing off.
    2.
    A piece of writing or other work reflecting such unauthorized use or imitation: “These two manuscripts are clearly plagiarisms,” the editor said, tossing them angrily on the floor.
    plagiarism


    Cryptomnesia occurs when a forgotten memory returns without it being recognised as such by the subject, who believes it is something new and original. It is a memory bias whereby a person may falsely recall generating a thought, an idea, a song, or a joke,[1] not deliberately engaging in plagiarism but rather experiencing a memory as if it were a new inspiration.
    Cryptomnesia


    Not a recent development, the act of plagiarizing has occurred time and time again, throughout history. Let’s take a look at five writers of the past and see how they fared in the days before computers and technology. They should’ve had original work back then, right? Not really.

    Take for instance Helen Keller, the well known writer, who was deaf and blind, she couldn’t possibly have used any outside influence in her writing could she?

    Helen Keller had written a short story titled “the Frost King’, when she was eleven years old. It turns out that this story was from another book called "Frost Fairies", from Margaret Canby's book "Birdie and His Fairy Friends", which her mentor had read to her when she was eight years old while they were on vacation. Although there was a lot of controversy as to whether or not she intentionally plagiarized the other author’s work, it upset Helen so much, she never wrote another story again.

    Helen Keller

    Next up is the famous Robert Lewis Stevenson, the Scottish poet and novelist. Treasure Island being one of his most famous works and one he admits has several cases of plagiarism in it. He stated that the parrot was taken from Robinson Crusoe, the skeleton from Poe, and the stockade from Masterman Ready, and with a more lackadaisical attitude then Helens, he credited most of the detail in his first chapter to the author William Irving.

    Stevenson

    Alex Haley who authored the book “Roots” was charged with plagiarizing eighty one pages of the book “The African” written by Harold Courlander. After a five week trail, they settled the case with financial reimbursement and a public statement from Haley in which he acknowledged the plagiarism and stated that he regretted the materials from The African found their way into his book.

    Haley

    And let’s not forget about T.S. Elliot, a publisher, playwright, literary, poet and social critic. He wrote to one of his Harvard professors "My reputation in London is built upon one small volume of verse, and is kept up by printing two or three more poems in a year. The only thing that matters is that these should be perfect in their kind, so that each should be an event."

    He is also the most cited source for the quote “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal”. He plagiarized most of his work in the Waste Land, which according to a cracked article, was just cobbled together out of quotes from other writers.

    Elliot
    cracked.com


    H.G. Wells was referred to as “the father of fiction”. He would never get accused of such a thing, would he? Well, why not.
    The 1920’s book “Outline of History’ was largely taken from the book “The Web of the World’s Romance” written by an unknown Canadian author named Florence Deeks. Wells was accused of using the outline and phrasing from Deeks book and unfortunately she lost the court battle. The Privy committee stated that because her book was never printed, there could be no legal grounds.

    Deeks VS Wells
    Famous Plagiarism
    Wells



    So, is there any way to not plagiarize someone else’s work, either knowingly or unknowingly? How serious in today’s world, with so much information at your fingertips, should we take plagiarism? I know just doing my research on this subject I stumbled onto several websites that just copied and pasted information from another source. They did credit the other site, but most of the information was regurgitated so badly, it is almost impossible to find the original source.

    Should we redefine what Plagiarism is so it fits today’s world? Or should we stay with the current definition of the word and more stringently enforce it?

    Whatever your thoughts, I hope you found this information as interesting as I did. And I would like to give credit to Cazann34 whose thread located Here got me interested in this.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It's actually pretty hard to unknowingly plagiarize, especially in fiction. I've only seen people unknowingly plagiarize when writing essays. It was basically because they paraphrased and didn't think it necessary to cite the source.

    Very seriously. Plagiarism is wrong, plain and simple. It doesn't matter how much information we have or don't have.

    There's no need to redefine it IMO. A lot of authors don't plagiarize and are never accused to plagiarism. The rules/laws are fine as they are.

    It's funny because so many writers have been accused of plagiarism in the past, including Shakespeare. In fact, a lot of the Renaissance poets basically lifted entire stanzas from the ancient Roman and Greek poets. Thomas Jefferson was also accused of plagiarizing from John Locke's Concerning Civil Government, and from what I remember, there actually are quite a few very similar phrases in that book and the Declaration of Independence.

    I believe there's also evidence that Beowulf's author (or authors) copied lines word for word from other sources.
     
  3. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    Well its hard today to come up with something so original that no one else thought of but in general thats not such a bad thing as people who liked one idea might like a similar one, all ideas are copies of another idea that has been done before, and if you keep digging you will see the very first idea was probably taken somewhere from some cave painting.

    But there is a thing called too original idea and those most often tend to not be accepted as it most often something too strange and new people dont have anything to relate to it so they cant fully understand it, lets say for example i'm talking about a person who got burned by fire, now if you never were burned by it you cant understand the pain but you probably know someone who was and seen flesh burned and can on some level relate to the pain even though you never felt it, but if i talk to you about some made up type of burn which is'nt like anything we know today and tell you its not like a fire burn or acid or anything else, than you have no idea how to relate to this and understand it.

    Thats a problem some writers have as they want their idea to be original in every way they come up with silly things to replace things we already know and that work well, like say for example a horse, if your story needs a horse just for characters to ride it and that has no big role to play in the story other than that then use a horse not invent something up thats a horse but actually not a horse, like in one story i saw an ostrich/big chicken lizard thing that people were riding and the writer just mentioned they were riding those in one chapter never used them again and never bothered to explain how humans got such a creature, might as well have said horses and no one would argue with it. It does'nt mean you cant pull it off you just need to place it well in the story like for example the horses in Avatar they are horses but not quite like horses but they fit that world so well.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This is not plagiarism. You would do well to not rely on Wikipedia for your information.

    I find this quite offensive, but perhaps you sincerely believe what you posted.

    Ideas, themes, and the lie are not copyrightable. Although plagiarism is not identical to copyright violation, the terms are still closely related. It's true that there are situations in which theft of ideas constitutes plagiarism, but not in fiction (mostly it applies to academia).

    Your last cited case was taken to court, and was rightly dismissed because it was groundless. The rest were nothing more than gossip.
     
  5. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    In the Stevenson example, that is not plagiarism - plagiarism and taking an idea are not the same thing. I don't think any of those examples could be classed as actual plagiarism. After all, anyone heard of that guy who is trying to take Stephen King to court for shooting John Lennon? Do you think this means Stephen King is actually guilty of murdering John Lennon just because someone says he is?

    (I wish I had just made that up)
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto cog's and lemex's comments... you're calling apples alligators... and oranges orangutans...
     
  7. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    H.G. Wells was referred to as “the father of SCIENCE fiction

    Robert Heinlein wrote: " If you steal from one author that is plagiarism, if you steal from three author's that's called research."
     
  8. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    Well if you want technically correct than he is ONE of the three fathers ... makes me think who the mother was :O
     
  9. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Mary Shelly. :p
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Very busy?
     
  11. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    Interesting point, and I think this is where defining plagiarism a little more sharply helps. Granted, this thread and this site falls in the general area of fiction, so I'm probably splitting hairs here, but if I were to do what Stevenson did in my academic work, I'd accused, properly, of plagiarism, since in that setting even using "ideas of methods from a source but failed to cite it" is considered plagiarism (Tur. 7.9).

    So at what point in fiction does that no longer become plagiarism? Sure, the idea of a bunch of kids who end up on an island and fight to maintain civility isn't necessary plagiarizing Lord of the Flies. But what if you included one of the groups of kids painting their faces and turning more animalistic? What if there were meetings where the conch (if I remember correctly) shell represented order and authority to speak? What if...

    At some point, it does become plagiarism. I'm wondering, where?
     
  12. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    no...but this way it was funny, well at least for me

    anyone can google if they really want to know...
     
  13. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    I find this a very interesting statement since no one knows the identity of the author (or indeed authors) of 'Beowulf' so how can you say it was copied from someone else. Are these other authors named in the source that you quote here?

    *The tale of Beowulf was saved from a fired which many are forever grateful I am sure. all 3182 lines of the epic poem.
     
  14. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The essay I read on this matter mentioned that there were striking similarities between Beowulf and dozens of other poems, suggesting that the author(s) drew from a wide variety of sources. The author of the essay argued that this amounted to plagiarism because entire lines were copied from these various sources and put together to form Beowulf. Interestingly enough, I haven't seen anyone other than the author of this essay argue that. In fact, a lot of people say the exact opposite. They praise the alliterative verse used in Beowulf and the break from the conventions of traditional epic poetry.

    This essay was included at the beginning of an old edition of Beowulf. I don't remember the exact one since I read it a few years ago, but it's definitely not the edition with the Heaney translation.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Beowulf was an early epic poem. These were oral traditions written down so they would be preserved. Plagiarism didn't even exist as a concept in those times.

    Not every essay is well thought out, assuming that you haven't inadvertently misinterpreted the essayist's points.
     
  16. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Sure, the concept of plagiarism didn't exist back then, but that doesn't mean that the author(s) didn't lift verses from other sources. The author of the essay did include verses as evidence (from Greek and Roman epics, which had been written down before Beowulf was written). Also, there were two different scribes for the original Beowulf manuscript. It's possible that one (or both) of them stole verses because they didn't have a copy to work with.

    I've actually carefully studied this before, and I've come to the conclusion that Beowulf wasn't written as a result of copying from other works. The structure of the poem doesn't allow verses to be copied, and entire phrases and their meanings would have to be drastically changed to adhere to this structure. There's only one line where this structure isn't preserved, and it could just be the result of a transcribing error or something like that.

    (In case you're wondering, I did spend some time learning Old English. Probably was a waste of time, but oh well.)
     
  17. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    No, it's not (see below).

    Actually, it was. Shakespeare was accused of plagiarism (as we know it now) during his lifetime (some of these claims were wrong because his accusers were claiming he copied ideas and not actual passages). You can find instances of people accusing each other of plagiarism dating back to Ancient Greece. Plato accused at least one of his contemporaries of plagiarism, and Plato himself was accused of plagiarism (though it was several hundred years after his death).

    There have been many papers written about Shakespeare's plagiarism by people in academia, and there are many people on both sides of the issue. So yes, there are people who would say he's guilty of plagiarism, and I certainly don't think they have "half a brain."
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'm inclined to agree that they don't have half a brain, especially given that it is not entirely clear who he really was, or if indeed he is a single writer.

    Okay, that's perhaps a bit harsh. But I do think it's a pretty pointless argument. Just the kind of topic to serve as a dissertation for a Lit degree, and little more.
     
  19. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The general consensus is that it's a single person. There is evidence to suggest that he collaborated on a few plays but that he worked alone for the most part.
     
  20. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    And of course, let's not forget that the bible was compiled from the oral traditions of the people living long before the early Hebrews gathered them into that book. All these ancient stories were/are considered history and therefore the property of us all.
     
  21. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    And in some fields, particularly science fiction, people rip each other off quite a bit. There's items of 'Dr Who' in the original 'Star Trek.' And then there's times that Dr Who ripped off Star Trek in return. In realty, Rick Berman when he created the Borg took two ideas from Dr Who and made it into one. The superiority complex and extreme aggressiveness (think of the 'resistance is futile' comment) came straight from the Dalek's. While they never said 'resistance is futile' there were phrases that were close. And then the combination of machine and person was from the Cybermen. It's not readily apparent to someone unless they sit down and watch a fair amount of the original Who and you'll start to see how he did it.

    Was it plagiarism? No. A rip off? Yes.

    But ripping off an idea isn't the same as plagiarizing in the fiction world. Hell, 'The Hunger Games' really is just an Americanized version of 'Battle Royale.'
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'd be careful even about accusations of "ripping off" ideas. Often, different writers will be inspired by the same current events or scientific discussions, so very similar story premises can arise simultaneously. An example of this was the unfounded claim that Babylon 5 was a rip off of Deep Space Nine.

    Yes, in some cases, a writer was inspired by someone else's story. Calling that a rip off is also unfair, because no two writers will treat the same idea the same way.

    Accusing someone of plagiarism is a very serious charge, and anything that resembles such an accusation should never be done without strong evidence.
     
  23. Nee
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    ‘Seem many of us have forgotten about the existence of archetypal imagery and form within the arts…or in anything actually.

    At the basic level everything can be broken down into a few simple shapes. Square, triangle, circle…you will find them in everything—they are archetypal shapes—the basic building block of anything that has a shape. Ideas and stories—just like shapes—have basic archetypal building blocks as well.

    There are only so many variations stories can manifest.

    And they all have been used-up long before writing was ever inverted—and long before you were around to point out that this idea, or that idea, was already written by someone other than you at some other point in time.

    “There is nothing new under the sun.”

    And that was old a thousand years before it was written into the bible.

    If you think that you are going to be the one who, after thousands of year of writing, will at last write something new…then you are delusional.

    The only thing we (as writers) can hope for is to write something in a way, or a style, or that has some particular slant that will resonate with the readers of today.

    That’s it…that is all we can ever do.

    Now stop pointing figures and show the world what you got.


    .
     
  24. Red Rain
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    Red Rain Member

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    Are these better sources?

    Sorry I’ve been gone for a bit, I had some personal things to take care of and then when I read some of the posts in this thread, I started to dig a little more. I went back and researched these authors to get more reliable sources. Here is what I found. Hopefully these are the type of sources you would find legitimate enough to be included in a piece of writing.


    Helen Keller writes about her plagiarism in her own book, titled ”Story of my Life”
    ”Story of my Life 2”
    An excerpt:

    “I have read "The Frost Fairies" since, also the letters I wrote in which I used other ideas of Miss Canby's. I find in one of them, a letter to Mr. Anagnos, dated September 29, 1891, words and sentiments exactly like those of the book. At the time I was writing "The Frost King," and this letter, like many others, contains phrases which show that my mind was saturated with the story. I represent my teacher as saying to me of the golden autumn leaves, "Yes, they are beautiful enough to comfort us for the flight of summer"–an idea direct from Miss Canby's story.”

    For T.S. Elliot, I found two websites, one that does a side by side comparisonof his poems. His work “The Fire Sermon” from the book “the Wastelands” has the line “Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song” in it. That is the exact same line that it is the Prothalamion. There are a few more in his book, if you care to look further.
    source

    Stevenson’s writes about his plagiarism in his novel ”My First Book” (1894). He writes in it “It is my debt to Washington Irving that exercises my conscience, and justly so, for I believe plagiarism was rarely carried farther”, along with the other quotes in my opening post.

    Alex Haley’s case was documented; although I couldn’t find the court documents, here are two snippets of the New York Times articles from that era.Article1,Article2. If you want to read more, you can subscribe or buy the articles.

    H.G. Wells is a documented court case.Although I did write “accused of” in the original post, I assume some people missed that part. But there is still some controversy around this case. If interested, you can read more here,here,and here.


    Thank you all for posting your thoughts, I do appreciate the input. As with most writers on here, I am still learning. Lesson for the day is Wiki is bad…got it.
     
  25. Red Rain
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    Red Rain Member

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    I understand what you’re saying and it makes sense, as I really couldn’t understand why he used so many lines from other writers’ works. It was because his intention was to incorporate their works into that piece. So, all these websites that are saying it is plagiarism are in fact uneducated in his work. (I went to at least twenty of them)

    Lesson number 2: when dealing with something out of your knowledge base, always seek answers from a professional in the field, got it.
     

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