1. struggler
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    struggler Member

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    Is this plagiarism?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by struggler, Dec 12, 2012.

    So I wrote this line of dialogue in my novel

    "Time will go quicker. More than you can ever know."

    and for ages it was bugging me because I thought I had heard it somewhere else before. I finally found out where. One of the lines of a Devin Townsend song called 'Bastard' is

    "Time passed quicker than you will ever know."

    So... what should I do now?
     
  2. Krazyskooter
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    Krazyskooter New Member

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    I don't think it's a problem. I seem to recall a scene in Battlestar Galactica where one of the main character speaks a line from "All along the Watchtower". If it fits it fits.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Never, ever use lyrics in your writing without written permission from the copyright owner. It is a copyright violation, and the music indstruy tends to be particularly litigious.

    Expect to pay royalties for that permission.
     
  4. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Personally, I believe that the above example is not a direct quote, is a single line, and would easily be defended as a coincidence if it ever went anywhere near a court.

    Time will go fast. More than you'll know. That seems like an incredibly generic statement so you won't have anything to worry about.

    If the lyrics are obviously copied, or if they are referred to as lyrics, then you have a serious problem.
     
  5. Krazyskooter
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    Krazyskooter New Member

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    If you are having doubts you can always change the words, "Time will go faster. More than you can comprehend" If you're not having your character actually singing the song, I don't see how it could be considered a violation. We're talking about 8 words here, in different context. (I'm assuming.)
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You can't dodge a plagiarism lawsuit by making a few changes. If the source is identifiable, expect a process server to knock on your door, and kiss your financial assets goodbye.

    If in doubt, consult with a literary attorney. Don't bank on reassurances from an Internet forum.
     
  7. Krazyskooter
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    Krazyskooter New Member

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    Not over 8 words, otherwise every story that has a character finding themselves in a locked room and thinking "There must be some kind of way out of here." would be slapped with a lawsuit.
     
  8. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Absolutely, but for the above example it isn't and couldn't be. It's a turn of phrase that is probably written in a similar way already in 76.3 billion books.

    If the next line, and the next line after that were also similar... warning flags. OR if it was something that identifies the song, such as 'This is the end, my friend.' and even then I'd think a lawsuit would be a stretch without more lines in pursuit.

    Half of my work is probably the same as some line in some song I've never heard.
     
  9. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    No, it's not plagiarism. Individual words, common ideas or short phrases cannot be copyrighted. Just like, 'There's no place like home.' isn't copyrighted. I can put it in a book and sell it as much as I want.

    Don't worry about it. It's a common, generic phrase and you can use it all you want. ;)

    ~ J. J.
     
  10. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're not referencing the song in any way, no other parts of the song are quoted or referenced, and the line of dialogue is about something completely different, in the context of a conversation, I don't think you need to worry. It's not really that unique of a phrasing, and your phrase is different. You can't copyright or trademark something that is in general use and is generic -- for example, how many times are "He sat down" or "I couldn't believe that happened," or any other generic phrases, used in various stories? The phrase isn't something immediately recognizable, and isn't conveying anything really unique.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I've looked back at the original post more closely, and I'm inclined to agree that this would fall under coincidental similarity. Your use of the phrase is not in a lyrical context, nor is the phrasing sufficiently distinctive or of sufficient length to make a case for plagiarism.

    In that instance, you can be damned sure that permission was carefully secured in writing prior to inclusion in the script. That was not at all coincidental. The occurrences of that phrase, along with other excerpts from the lyrics, was a major plot element, and was additionally reinforced with the rhythms and sequences of notes from the song.
     
  12. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    As most of the others have already said, this isn't plagiarism (based on the context). If you're still worried, you could try rephrasing it.
     
  13. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    Cogito could very well be right (he is a whole lot more experienced in this type of writing than I am), but if you're asking the question, wouldn't that lead you to believe that others are asking it as well? Then again, if you wrote it, and it was ringing bells because it sounded familiar, then you did plagiarize the line because you took it from another source without attribution. Just because you didn't realize it at the time doesn't mean that's not where it originated. What that means though, is that no one else will know but you if/when you publish it.

    So in my opinion, the final question is what do YOU think about it?
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as worded, it's not a verbatim use of a copyrighted lyric... and it's not being used as a line from a song, which is another thing that would make it plagiarism... i'm a lyricist, so can speak from knowledge gained in studying and practicing the craft...

    the problem i see with it is that it makes no sense [lyricists often take liberties with grammar that prose writers can't get away with]...

    1.'quicker' must be 'quickly' to be grammatical...

    2.'more' makes no sense in either case...

    3.neither does 'than you can ever know'...
     
  15. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It sounds like such a generic phrase that I'm not sure you can conclusively prove it was copied in the first place. Like, if I write the line "But no one did" as a fragment sentence in my novel - can other writers come to me and say "HEY! I wrote that line in MY novel first, it's plagiarism!"

    I don't think so.

    Now if more than one line - like 2 or 3 are suspiciously similar to the same song, or there're repeated similarities over and over again in the content and/or wording, then yes, it's probably plagiarism. The way you have it is just well, normal writing...?

    But I know nothing of this so the above is just an opinion. Don't take my word for it :)
     
  16. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    If such short generic lines in different contexts could be considered plagiarism, I don't think we'd have a writing industry because nobody would be able to write anything.
     
  17. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    If it doesn't make sense then why do I understand what he means? Language is primarily about communication, not conformity.
     
  18. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're both right. Maia is right in the sense that the sentence isn't grammatically correct. But since this is a line of dialogue, and we don't know the context of the rest of the conversation, or anything about the character, it may nevertheless work, since, Selbbin, you are right in that we do know what is meant. Very often, we don't speak in a manner that's technically correct -- a good example would be ending sentences with prepositions. That's a big no-no in writing, but in spoken conversation, it happens frequently. And often a part of the character is that he or she doesn't use language correctly.
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, but the fact that it's (1) grammatically incorrect and (2) nearly matches a specific song lyric that is grammatically incorrect in the same way, would make me a bit more nervous about the copyright issue than I would be otherwise. The odds of innocently creating the same correct phrase seem higher than the odds of innocently creating the same fairly uncommon error.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i get your point, cf, but since it's not being written as the line of a song, i seriously doubt plagiarism would be an issue there...

    that said, if there is any doubt in the writer's mind, a literary attorney should be consulted, not members of a writing site, no matter how willing we may be to offer advice on the subject...

    another fact to consider is that if the work is accepted for publication, the editor assigned to it will most likely ask for a change to be made, if s/he feels it falls into a legal gray area...
     
  21. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't see how plagiarism is an issue for all the reasons above, but think about how the line fits with your style of writing. Sometimes "lifted" lines, even if done unconsciously, have kind of a different feel and that makes them stand out--not in a good way, either.
    I mean, if I wrote that it would look odd because I'd never express myself like that--I'd say:
    Time will pass even more quickly than you imagine.
    or something like that. I don't see how I'd be sued for expressing such a common thought, and I've said it many a time before reading your post today.
     

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