1. annier13
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    annier13 New Member

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    Plagiarism or Not

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by annier13, Jan 7, 2012.

    Hello Everyone! I really need your help. I'm a new writer (not published) and I just finished my first children's ms. I rewrote an adapted folktale but I added dialog and two characters and an extra plot twist. But I kept the main concept, storyline, and the main characters' name. I had my boyfriend read over my ms and the folktale but he thought it was considered plagiarism. Is it? I just want to make sure before I send it out to an agent. Thanks in advance for your input!
    ~Annie
     
  2. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Unless I'm much mistaken, folk tales are usually public domain so you can do whatever you like with them. You may still be criticised for unoriginality, especially if it's a well known tale but no legal action can be taken AFAIK.
     
  3. annier13
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    annier13 New Member

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    Is it still considered public domain if it's been adapted?
     
  4. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Well I'm not really an expert but to my recollection the original story will remain public domain. And I guess that if the adaption of it was fairly similar to the original you could get away with it, especially as you've added your own stuff. But without knowing how much the adaption changed from the original, or how much you changed from the adaptation it's hard to say.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Rewriting the adapted folktale could be a problem if the adaptation is new enough to be under copyright.

    Unless of rewriting someone else's adaptation of the tale, why don't you just write an original adaptation of your own?
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you concerned about plagiarism or copyright violation?

    (DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer or an expert on plagiarism.)

    For copyright violation, you want to make sure that your source is not copyrighted, not just that _some_ variant of your source is sufficiently old to be out of copyright. For example, if you were to write a modified version of Cinderella, you would presumably be safe if you worked from a fairy tale book that was published in, say, the 1800s. On the other hand, you would not be the least bit safe if you worked from Disney's Cinderella, or Ella Enchanted, or any other adaptation new enough to hold its own copyright. The usual date for copyright to be "safe" is sometime early in the 1900's; I don't know the exact date.

    For _plagiarism_, the age of your source is really not relevant. What's relevant, I believe, is whether you pass off someone else's ideas as your own.

    So if you took a fairy tale from that book from the 1800's and failed to credit that book, that would be plagiarism but not copyright violation. If you based your story on Disney's Cinderella and credited Disney as the inspiration for the story, that would be copyright violation but not plagiarism. If you took a fairy tale from that 1800's book and credited the tale as your inspiration, then I believe that you would not be guilty of either copyright violation _or_ plagiarism.

    On the other hand, you may also want to avoid challenging anyone with much, much bigger lawyers than you have. For example, I would hesitate to work with Cinderella or any of the other stories that are Disney's bread and butter, even if my sources were impeccably out of copyright. But that's not legal advice, that's just cowardice on my part. :)

    Copyright violation is a legal issue. Plagiarism is more often an issue in an academic environment, and an issue relating to your credibility and reputation. You do want to avoid both. If your story is based on someone's relatively modern adaptation of the folk tale in question, you may be committing both copyright violation and plagiarism.

    ChickenFreak
     

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