1. blubttrfl
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    blubttrfl Member

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    plagiarism question

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by blubttrfl, Jul 2, 2007.

    i wonder if that's normal...
    i'm afraid to read too much because i know that i'll unconsciously plagiarize. like, when i write, i think i'll copy what i just read into what m writing...
    is this ridiculous or is this normal?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It is a risk. There have been cases in the news that have made me wonder if that was what happened.

    However, the more widely you read, the less likely that you will unconsciously imitate one writers style or wording. If you accidentally pick up a phrase that struck a chord, you are less likely to be accused of plagiarism than if you include a couple of paragraphs verbatim.

    If you openly acknowledge your influences as well, you are less likely to stumble into trouble.

    Listen to your instincts, too. If you write something down, and it seems familiar to you already, try searching on the phrase to see if it may have come from something you read, or heard (like a song).
     
  3. blubttrfl
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    blubttrfl Member

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    that's good then. cuz i mean, you're supposed to do research for your work yet at the same time, not copy/steal other people's ideas
    m talking about this cuz m trying to work on fantasy (something ive never done before) but m afraid to steal other people's ideas especially with fantasy cuz fantasy relies heavily on original ideas and stuff...
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ideas aren't the subject of plagiarism, though. Some ideas are patentable, and you should acknowledge sources of significant ideas you use in your work. Plagiarism deals more with the representation of ideas, although you can be plagiarizing if you take someone's description and too closely paraphrase it.
     
  5. blubttrfl
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    blubttrfl Member

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    alright then!!! thanx for the help!
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry to say, it's ridiculous, as no one can become a really good writer without being a good and constant reader...

    ...sorry, cog, but that's also ridiculous... first of all, writing related things are copyrighted, not patented... inventions/devices are patented, not words... and ideas cannot be copyrighted... you need to study up on the subject... go to:

    United States Patent and Trademark Office Home Page for the us
    THE BRITISH LIBRARY - The world's knowledge for the uk

    nonsensical... if that were true, our writing would be more acknowledgements than anything else, as every 'idea' has been written before... and many, many times over, to boot!...

    no, it doesn't... not 'more' anyway... in most cases, it means taking the actual words others have used and claiming them as your own...

    that said, in some cases, a whole concept can be considered plagiarized, as in if you should write a story about a boy with an odd facial scar, who goes to wizard school, but that would involve a court case and isn't automatically winnable for the writer who first told such a tale...

    it wouldn't be a legally constituted crime or actionable civil tort, other than in the case of what i mentioned above...
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ideas are patentable, but they are not covered under copyright laws. But an idea is not patented unless a patent is applied for, and the application is approved. I was not referring directly to ideas in writing when I wrote that, and perhaps I should have made that clear. And yes, copyrights and patents are two completely different things.

    Arthur C Clarke wrote about communications satellites. He also held a lucrative patent on the idea. That did not prevent anyone else from writing about it, but the royalties on the patent helped make him a wealthy man.

    I should have been clearer here as well. I've spent the last couple years writing many papers for college. In that context, it was absolutely required that any sources for ideas that were not "common knowledge" were required to be cited. You are correct that in fiction, this is not the standard.

    I stand by the statement that plagiarism deals with the representation of ideas. Copying the exact wording is the most obvious form of plagiarism, but the fact that more subtle lifting of an author's work would result in a more difficult civil case does not alter the fact that the decision can be that the defendant plagiarized the plaintiff.
     
  8. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    To give an idea of how one author can publish something very similar to another author's works, try reading the Iron Tower Trilogy by Dennis L. McKiernan and compare it to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.

    Terry
     
  9. blubttrfl
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    blubttrfl Member

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    thanx you guys for all the comments... but lemme clarify more on what i mean...
    m trying to write fantasy, which ive never done before and lessay that i want to invent ... a skyland (an island floating in the sky). m sure that the idea has already been invented, but i dunno about the wording/naming of it. i googled it and found out that yeah, the name 'skyland' is already being used... so i was concerned that i was plagiarizing.
    also, i was wondering if, for example, i used an idea from a fantasy book, like one of those skylands having a perpetual motion machine and it turns out that the idea has already been published... now would that be plagiarizing?
    and like you guys said: there's nothing new under the sun, so we have to give and take i guess... someone told me that there're actually only 5-6 stories to be told and that writers basically try to find twists to those 5-6 stories. i find that somewhat true...
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    "Skyland" is pretty generic and an obvious choice. Is the name in use by more than one author already?
     
  11. blubttrfl
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    blubttrfl Member

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    i dunno... i just googled it and apparently, some anime's been titled like that... once i saw that, m like: well, i guess it's been used already
    but m assuming that since it's pretty generic, maybe it's open for public use hehehe :p
     
  12. sashas
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    sashas Senior Member

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    I remember this comment by some writer - "There are only 15 original stories in the world".

    And when you think about it, there really are only 15-20 templates of stories that we all write. Its not the story that really matters, but how you interpret it as, how you express it.

    So the concept of ideas being copyrighted is pretty ridiculous. Basically, every writer is writing another writer's story, in his own words.
     
  13. blubttrfl
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    blubttrfl Member

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    lol... one can only have so much creativity ;)
     
  14. Sayso
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    I think that if you think of something that is possibly already out there (Skyland for example), just like you say, you thought of it and then checked to see if the idea was already out there and found out it was. In my opinion you had thought of the idea, but, others before you had the same idea. If it was the other way around I would say differently.
    Whether or not you have the same ideas within the story is what makes the difference.
    I had an idea for a childrens book once only to find out that someone had already done it. But I have never read the book that's already out there so mine could be the same or completely different, and until my story is written and the other read then I'll never know.
    I say that if you want to write something about a floating city then go for it. It could turn out to be better than the ones already published.:)
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ideas aren't copyrightable. Ideas are patentable, which is a different process. The expression of an idea is copyrightable, whether it be a musical piece, a story or poem, a photograph, or a painting. If you lift someone else's copyrighted material and alter it to disguise its origin, that is still copyright infringement. That's where matters begin to get fuzzy, though. Just how different must an expression be to not be considered infringement.

    Technically, if you begin with someone else's expression and alter it, it is infringement no matter how much you alter it. But practically, beyond a certain point its origin will be unrecognizable and unproveable.
     
  16. blubttrfl
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    blubttrfl Member

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    i think that's what it is hehehe... if the origins of an idea are sooo clear, that people recognize it, it's pure plagiarizing
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not the idea - the actual description of the idea.
    That's what I mean by the expression of an idea.
     
  18. blubttrfl
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    blubttrfl Member

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    so there's the original idea, and the original description. and it's ok to use the original idea, but not the original description... i'd have to describe it using my own terms???
    somehow, that sounds fishy... cuz no matter how you describe it, ya still can't write a story with four best friends who are musketeers who work for a king/queen...
    it's sooo hard to "draw a line" cuz there is no line... i hate gray areas LOL!!
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    not really... as with copyright needing to have an actual work [= 'expression of the idea] be in existence, so does a patent...

    just the 'idea' can't be patented... it has to be 'expressed' in a detailed description or a blueprint/model, in order to be 'patentable'...

    you could not acquire a patent on your 'idea' for a new energy source, or vehicle, for instance... you'd have to show [on paper] that it's something that can be developed/used before even applying for a patent...

    if you don't want to believe me, here's the actual letter of the law from the uspto [patent office]:

     
  20. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    As long as your whole story isn't about the exact things as Skyland, you can have a skyland of your own. I mean unless you're doing the exact things in the exact way you aren't plagiarizing.

    I mean, I could go right now and make a story (to use a previous metaphor) about a kid in a wizard school who fights evil wizards, cause really, that was done to death before Harry Potter. But if I write a story about a boy wizard who's parents where killed by an evil wizard and who's spell backfired and killed him and the kid's living with his aunt and all hat, that's a court case J.K. could win without a lawyer. Which I'm sure she has in spades.
     
  21. Edward
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    As long as your whole story isn't about the exact things as Skyland, you can have a skyland of your own. I mean unless you're doing the exact things in the exact way you aren't plagiarizing.

    I mean, I could go right now and make a story (to use a previous metaphor) about a kid in a wizard school who fights evil wizards, cause really, that was done to death before Harry Potter. But if I write a story about a boy wizard who's parents where killed by an evil wizard and who's spell backfired and killed him and the kid's living with his aunt and all hat, that's a court case J.K. could win without a lawyer. Which I'm sure she has in spades.
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, no. It wouldn't even be a slam dunk. The sourc of the inspiration would be pretty obvious, but it would still be the author's own work.

    If this same author duplicated the entire plot line of one of the Harry Potter books, that would be a pretty clear copyright enfringement. If only a single but substantial paragraph were word for word the same except for proper names, and the rest of the book completely different, that too would constitute plagiarism.

    The litmus test is, "Is it clear that the second author took the first author's work, in whole or in part, and represented it as his or her own?" It does not extend to the overall idea or gross plot elements, but to copying of the actual work of the author, and optionally attempting to disguise it.

    Within the last year or so, a promising young author (from Harvard?) was discredited because a couple of passages were nearly identical to those of an author she acknowledged as an influence. I'm not sure if the courts actually found her liable for copyright infringement, but bookstores stopped carrying her book, and public opinion turned against her.
     
  23. Ferret
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    That happens to me all the time at the school newspaper. I'm afraid that something I say in my reviews will be exactly like something somebody else said...
     

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