1. thomas12345
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    thomas12345 New Member

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    Question on Plagiarism

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by thomas12345, Feb 26, 2012.

    I am currently writing a math textbook for a class. Considering my book is geared towards the class, I want it to match the course's curriculum. However, the curriculum for the class is centered around its required textbook. Although the words in my textbook are entirely mine, the organization and also the content I choose to teach is mostly similar (only a fraction of the topics are covered). Obviously, I don't want to get into any trouble like plagiarism, and I was wondering what your guys thoughts were.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as long as none of the worded text is used verbatim, you've no problem...

    formulas, equations, etc. are not covered by copyright and merely organizing your book like another would not be plagiarism...

    you should familiarize yourself with the basics of the copyright laws: www.copyright.gov
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Note that plagiarism and copyright infringement are not 100% indentical. Copyright infringement is a set of laws drafted by international agreement for intellectual rights violations that can be adjudicated in civil courts. Therefore, copyright law includes time limits and a body of precedences that modify the precise legal interpretation. The key to copyright infringement is that there is some identifiable legal entity who can suffer a loss, and therefore can receive an award if the case is won.

    Plagiarism applies to academia, and is considered part of a writer's ethics even when there is no identifiable living party to file a lawsuit. There is no time limit in plagiarism. You are required to acknowledge the source, even if copyright has expired. If you quote Leonardo da Vinci, you must cite that reference the same way you must acknowledge a quote from the current NY Times Bestselling Novel.

    Plagiarism can cause a piece of writing to be excluded from many venues. If it is submitted in any academic institution in which you are enrolled, you may be disciplined, up to and including expulsion.

    Academia is given a nod by copyright law, though. Most academic contexts are excused by Fair Use clauses in copyright law from having to get prior written permission to quote a source. In a commercial context, you must get written permission before you quote a source, not merely acknowledge the source.

    So the the important thing to keep in mind is that plagiarism and copyright violation overlap to a high degree, but they are not completely synonymous.
     
  4. thomas12345
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    thomas12345 New Member

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    I understand that this is not plagiarism since I am not using someone else's words, but would this be copyright infringement considering I am presenting similar content/organization?
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    You can write about the same subject without it being plagiarized. Lots of books, both fiction and nonfiction, deal with similar or the same subjects, but it's the way it is written that makes it different.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm confused - if the curriculum is centered around a required textbook, why are you writing a textbook instead of just using that?

    If you're writing the textbook in order to save the school from having to buy a textbook for each student, then I see some danger here - the loss to the copyright owner, and the motivation for infringing if you are infringing, is _extremely_ crystal clear in that case. I'm not saying that the textbook publishers have a God-given right to your school's money, but I think that it does make it particularly important to refrain from infringing.

    As one specific thought, I think that not only your words need to be original, but also all of the math problems. And I think that with a neat, clear subject like math, you could be in danger of reproducing charts and other things that _seem_ to be non-creative, without realizing that there might be many ways to express the same idea, and therefore they are creative and are copyrightable.

    ChickenFreak
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the arrangement of the content isn't covered by copyright law, only the wording is... so stop worrying and just write the thing, thomas...

    if you're still agonizing over this after you study the copyright laws on the site i linked for you, then spend a few bucks and consult a literary attorney, to set your mind at ease...
     

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