1. Wavanova
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    Wavanova Member

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    Originality or Plagiarism?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Wavanova, Feb 16, 2010.

    I confess: I'm guilty of plagiarism. On occasion, I will take a line from other literary works or songs that I am fond of and apply them to my works. While I generally don't copy the line word for word (I slightly revise it), I always make it applicable to my work and insightful in a whole new context. I also keep track of whenever I do this for anything I may want to publish in the future, so that I can properly credit the original authors.

    Not surprisingly, I know of other authors who engage in acts very similar to this. While most will simply take a line or two and tweak it a bit to meet the needs of their own work (as I do), some will downright lift several lines letter for letter into their work.

    What is your opinion on doing this? When does a mere rewording to vaguely pay tribute to an author turn into a more serious form of intellectual theft? Should I be burned at the stake for my crimes? I'm curious to see what other writers think of this practice. Put me on trial!
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It is plagiarism, and it is actionable, even if you "tweak" it in an attempt to disquise its origins.

    We have a zero-tolerance policy with regards to plagiarism. If you are caught doing it on this site, you will be banned permanently. But that is nothing next to what you could face if you do it in a work you manage to publish.
     
  3. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is surely the crucial thing. But not just "in the future"; you should append the credits to the work, so that the authors are properly credited every time anybody sees the work. Quotations that are properly credited are not plagiarism (and so I hope nobody would be banned on those grounds -- although there may be copyright issues too). Make sure you always credit.
     
  4. Wavanova
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    Wavanova Member

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    By "in the future", I mean for works of mine that I don't share with the public and keep on my computer/in my notebook in hopes of getting published one day. Also, the works I'm mostly inspired by are hundreds of years old and in the public domain, so copyright is generally not much of a factor.

    Let me fully clarify what I mean by this:

    Original Work:
    Indeed we work from here
    We have for centuries
    Hearing every breath
    Watching every disease

    Revised Work:
    Let all who see this wall know
    You were here
    You worked from here for centuries
    And you are now a ghost

    The second passage is clearly inspired by the first, but they share very little resemblance other than the idea of working from a place for centuries, a small phrase which is needed to describe something crucial to the plot. It could also be regarded as a very common figure of speech to represent a civilization.

    The point I'm trying to get you to discuss is when inspiration becomes plagiarism, since I think it's an interesting topic. Every writer has been so inspired that they have ridden the line of downright plagiarism at times. I'm just trying to ask you when you think that line has been crossed, not to crucify those who may or may not have crossed it.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you begin with someonbe else's words, and rearrange, substitute, and paraphrase themn, it is still plagiarism. Whether or not the origins can be discerned is irrelevant. Theft is still theft even if you are not caught.

    If you begin with someone else's idea, and add ideas of your own, and write it out, you have created a new piece of writing.

    Stay away from other writers' words wen you are writing.

    And this site will not allow discussion of how you can get away with plagiarism. Theft of intellectual property is despicable.
     
  6. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmm. Interesting. I would consider the "revised" work to actually be a new work, merely "inspired" by the original. There's another interesting case: where the "revised" work depends on recognition of the original. When Margaret Thatcher said "The lady's not for turning" we were clearly meant to recognise the allusion to Christopher Fry's The Lady's Not for Burning. In one of my poems I have the line "In the midst of death, we are alive", and I want the reader to recognise the allusion to "In the midst of life we are in death" from the Anglican funeral service (and I don't want to have to point it out!)

    Would either of those be classed as plagiarism and warrant a ban?
     
  7. Wavanova
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    Wavanova Member

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    @ Cogito: Calm down, I'm not trying to get anyone to discuss how to get away with plagiarism, I'm just stimulating thought about what constitutes plagiarism. This could be a discussion akin to the issue of sampling in the music world and when mixing and sampling become theft. Also, I fully agree that the theft of intellectual property is despicable. I'm asking what constitutes that theft, and you did a very good job of demonstrating your thoughts on the matter. I realize that it's a touchy subject, but try not to let that get you so riled up. I'm simply trying to allow a free exchange of thoughts on the subject, not encourage people to hide plagiarism or steal other's ideas.

    @ digitig: Thank you for seeing my point. As Cogito said, ideas added onto someone else's idea constitutes a new work. But if you take someone's words and distort them, then add other words around it, isn't that doing the same thing? Ideas are based on words, as you said. Isn't adding several ideas onto a very loose and brief set of words similar to adding it onto a plot or a setting? You could even argue that adding ideas onto ideas can be even more of a despicable act depending on the nature and amount of the ideas that are added onto the initial one. Conversely, reshaping and adding more words onto a quote from another author can be despicable or not depending on the nature of said reformatting and addition.

    Also, you raise an interesting point with the revised work depending on recognition of the original. Would it be considered plagiarism to add a famous line from the likes of Homer, Milton, or Shakespeare into a work and apply it in a completely different context than it was originally intended for?

    Also also, this post is sloppy and disorganized :D
     
  8. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wava, he's not angry, just firm. He has to say it that way because of how serious the issue is.
     
  9. tarnished
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    tarnished Contributing Member Contributor

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    Using a line from another piece of work and expanding on it as a writing excersize is alright as long as its not published or claimed as your own. I find that taking one line and writitng a full poem down in a journal can get som e creative juices flowing, but in no way should you credit this to yourself, or show it to anyone.
     
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  10. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    A good example would be Paolini's Inheritance Cycle. He basically borrowed key points and plotlines from Lord of the Rings and Star Wars tweaked the details a bit and put it in his books and published them. Yet somehow, he's not in jail because of this. I wonder why? (Looks at his parents who are working in a publishing buisness.)

    I've read somewhere that if you were inspired by a particular author's book to write your book, then what you should do is write in the special thanks page the author's name. Like: "Special thanks to JK Rowling for the inspiration to make this book." That way, I think, you'll let readers know that you were inspired by her books.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ideas are not copyrightable. The expression of ideas in a particular medium (a story, a painting, a song, a photograph) is protected by copyright.

    As writers, we are influenced by every piece of writing we read. Clearly, if one source influenced a story in a very dierect way, it's common courtesy to acknowledge that source.

    Paolini is not a great writer. But I think it's a bit much to say he stole the story line from Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, even if that were possible. He tapped into popular tropes that have been around for ages. Star Wars itself borrows heavily from The Wizard of Oz, and The Lord of the Rings derives much of its content from mythology of Northern Europe.
     
  12. cboatsman
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    cboatsman Senior Member

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    I have to agree with Cogito verbatim on this issue. It is a fine line and should be treaded carefully.

    Caleb
     
  13. jeremiah22
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    jeremiah22 New Member

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    its such a scary issue. what if you had no intention of plagiarism but unknowingly or subconsciously had similarities to something else. i have always been paranoid about idea's and if they are original. Somewhere in the world the material could already exist.

    p.s. Paolini's books are unequivocally plagiarized
     
  14. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    No, they aren't. They are incredibly unoriginal, but that in itself doesn't make it plagiarism. They are just an assortment of genre tropes, so bare as to make them instantly comparable to others of the same genre (in particular, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern).


    (And the main problem with Eragon anyway was that it was utter ****e.)
     
  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This is where the editing team comes in when you get the magical yes for publication.

    You either get asked to rewrite the bit in question or your team goes on the trek for permission for your little nod to the previous artist.

    Have no doubt that other works get tapped within new writing. When this happens, there has been a whole host of meetings and phone calls and faxes and signatures and deals before the the presses roll to make sure everything is all good and copacetic.

    When it doesn't happen, then people go to court. The uber-famous Shakira was recently taken to court by not-so-uber-famous Jerry Rivera for taking a riff, not for note, instrument for instrument, from one of his early songs and plopping it into her megahit Hips Don't Lie (the opening bit of brass section) without having picked up the phone.

    "My lawyers will call your lawyers...."
     
  16. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think "ideas" are safer ground, despite what Baigent and Lee thought about The DaVinci Code. To quote one legal review of the case that I've just turned up, "The central problem the claimants faced was that ideas and historical facts are not protected by copyright. This is a universal principle of copyright law: copyright protects the original manner in which ideas are expressed, not the ideas themselves." (http://www.swanturton.com/ebulletins/archive/CTSDaVinciCode.aspx, my emphasis). After all, according to Christopher Booker there are only "Seven Basic Plots"! (I think that Cogito would call these "themes" rather than "plots"). Even at the finer level of how Cogito defines a "plot" -- actors, environment, conflict, and resolution -- how many romantic comedies have had as key actors two men and a woman, the environment some creative media office, the conflict being which man will end up paired with the woman and the resolution is that she ends up paired with the one who we all knew from the start was most suitable? Shakespeare's "King Lear" takes most of its theme, storyline and plot from an earlier poem in an anthology called "A Mirror for Magistrates", but the Shakespeare's actual writing was overwhelmingly better than the earlier poem, which is why we remember King Lear and have largely forgotten How Queene Cordila In Despaire Slew Her Selfe (or the earlier sources from which that came). What matters is not the idea, what matters is what you do with it.

    No, the realm of plagiarism is that of the actual words (and sounds and images, if you're working in multimedia). It's a courtesy to mention where you got your ideas, if you know, and you might get a few snarky reviews if you don't, but it's surely not a requirement. Everything we write is to some extent informed by everything we have read and heard. That's what makes us the writers that we are.
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This shows a lack of understanding of what constitutes plagiarism.

    Also, that statement could be construed as libel. It's the kind of comment that could get you dragged into court, whereupon you would be required to prove your assertion or pay substantial damages.
     
  18. 67Kangaroos
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    67Kangaroos Contributing Member

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    yeah... my musical friend is currently having an issue for plagiarizing himself. he wrote a song aaaaages ago for someone and it didn't take off at all, and now he has a song that IS a total hit. the music-part in question is just a tidbit of the chorus where it goes something like (i dont know the words, actually ) "i want you back, back, back" where "back" is accented. his previous version from many years ago was much slower, with different words, where it was three accented notes in the chorus... and now there's a bunch of hoopla going on :/ they have a musicologist studying it to see if it counts as plagiarism... would you say it was? the songs are about two different things altogether and only that one little part of the chorus is similar.
     
  19. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    Where does the line get drawn regarding a satire?

    In order to parody a work, one has to take elements and ideas so that the parody is recognizable.
     
  20. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I'm not sure about the specifics (I have to take a masters if I want to study intellectual property, damnit :() but I think that satire falls under an exception category.
     
  21. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know it does for audio works...


    I wonder, as I have recently written a satire of Star Wars. I'd hate to accidentally shop a hot piece around and burn my bridges. :O
     
  22. jeremiah22
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    jeremiah22 New Member

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    sorry about that its just an issue that extremely aggravates me. he is recognized mostly for his age rather than quality or creativity.
     
  23. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    He is recognised mostly for his age, and was published because his parents own a publishing house. As stupid and unfair as that is, it's not plagiarism, and it is defamation to say that it is.
     
  24. Norway87
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    Norway87 New Member

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    But what would you guys feel about encountering the next lines in a story:


    "Mark and Nina both looked around the cafe, they were alone. Mark leaned over the table and kissed her, and said: "Run away with me".

    She sighed and said "I'm not sure..."
    "I want us to be living free, not tied down to a mortgage.
    Free like Tyler Durden from Fight Club said!
    We work jobs that we hate, so that we can buy **** that we don't need! Remember?"

    Nina sighed, and was reluctant"


    What would you think about encountering the above paragraph in a short story? This is clearly paying homage to Fight Club. Would you call it plagiarism?

    Let's say the story is set in 2005, where most people have seen the Fight Club movie, would this be plagiarism? Using a line from another book/movie for emphasis?
     
  25. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    As long as it makes sure the book is mentioned, it shouldn't be. If the writers of Fight Club want some more money, though, there could still be a problem.
     

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