1. Morwen Edhelwen
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    Morwen Edhelwen Member

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    References in works which depend on other works for full understanding?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Morwen Edhelwen, Jan 18, 2013.

    This isn't about "How do I get away with plagiarism?"
    I don't want to get away with plagiarism. I want to know how far I can go with an allusion/reference before it crosses the thin line between "allusion" and "rip-off/plagiarism". I'm working on a science-fiction novel that needs some familiarity with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Evita to. You don't need to be familiar with the musical to know what is going on, but it does help to understand the references. In one scene, I have a reference to a song from the musical. Here's the scene in question.
    [Che, the young narrator, who's also a clone, is eavesdropping on a conversation between his owners while cleaning]
    Colonel Valverde pulled out a chair and sat down. Then he got up again and half-closed the door. “So you can do it? When, Eva?”
    She paused, got off the bed and pulled out her chair, then pushed it closer. “As soon as our Presidente Cabrera agrees to an interview, I think. Which should be on the 13th next month if Marina’s call this morning is any indication. She told me their secretary gave me a ten-o’clock slot. Place is wherever he decides, he told me so himself. But then you can never tell when something will turn up for them. There’s a charity benefit for Civil War veterans coming up on the 15th. She asked me if I was going to help her choose her dress for it. I said I would, of course.”
    “You realize that Cabrera might decide to suspend elections and just stay on for a third term? We need to take desperate measures.”
    ”I agree. So,” she said, “What do you think we should do, Juan? I think a coup might be a good idea. You have enough supporters, don’t you? I remember you said some of your friends want changes.”
    “They do. But the opposition in the army is strong. If I force Cabrera out ----“
    “Even a junta might be better than this government of idiots unable to give us what we deserve.” she whispered. “But you as president would be far better. That bitch Marina made it clear what’s going to happen if her candidate doesn’t win -in that unlikely event, she said- and what her goals are when they win. She wants deregulation and privatization. She thinks strengthened alliances will help. By that she means big business. She’d encourage more business and development. If that goes ahead, our country will be totally under American control. The Yanquis will make us a puppet, but call us an ally. Think of it- you, President of the new Cuba!”

    “We have very few options. I don’t want foreigners dominating our industries any more than you do. But dice are rolling. The knives are out. There’re would-be presidents all around, who’d love to see us both six feet under and safely out of the way. Especially you. They think you have too much influence. Espinosa said ---”
    “Really?” she said sarcastically. ”I know what that cabrón probably said. “An actress should not be in politics.”
    So, my question is, is this sort of reference allowed? I wanted to slip in an allusion to Evita, as something the reader can either pick up on or not.
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    The problem that you have is that in order to convey the allusion you are trying to make, you need to include more of a line or lyric than could be considered common usage, and thus could constitute copyright infringement. Which means that you would need to obtain (and most likely pay for) permission from the holder.

    But I also think you may have a more elementary problem - you say that familiarity with the musical is needed to completely understand the plotline. Your plotline should be able to stand on its own. Allusions such as the kind you have in mind might add a little extra resonance, but a reader unfamiliar with it should still be able to derive a complete understanding of the story and characters.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if it's a verbatim line of dialog/lyric from the musical, DON'T!... that would be plagiarism, infringement of copyright, etc....

    if it's a paraphrase, it should be no problem, but with someone of webber's stature and clout, i wouldn't count on it and advise you to consult a liteary attorney first...

    no one here can give you fully knowledgeable advice on this, so take all we post with a good handful of nacl...
     
  4. Morwen Edhelwen
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    Morwen Edhelwen Member

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    Maia, the lyrics are:

    "Dice are rolling, the knives are out,
    Would-be presidents are all around,
    I don't say they mean harm, but they'd each give an arm
    To see us six feet underground." This is going by the stage and movie recordings.
    The only actual quote is "Dice are rolling. The knives are out."

    Ed, I meant what you said, I just couldn't say it in the title, otherwise the title would be too long.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Fair use only applies to excerpts used in reviews, scholarly essays, and the like. It most definitely does not apply to inclusion in a work of fiction.

    Morwen: as Maia said, consult a literary attorney. Rationalizing how you would like it to work can get you in trouble.

    You can use a song title without permission, but not the lyrics. Modifying the lyrics won't protect you.
     
  6. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    If in doubt, don't. The payoff for using it is not worth the risk. No one will notice if it's missing.
     

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