1. ANONYMI
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    ANONYMI New Member

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    When is it plagiarism?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ANONYMI, Mar 17, 2015.

    Hello, everyone,

    How similar does a plot have to be to another work for it to be considered plagiarism?

    In my particular instance, I have found that my book idea is very similar to a book that is already out: Lucas by Kevin Brooks. While the beginning is vety dissimilar to what I have written, its the end that I am worried about. At the end of Lucas, a boy gets framed for the vicious assault of a girl, and the town, not knowing he was framed, drives him to suicide by drowning. Well, in my book, the exact same thing happens at the end: a boy is framed for something violent against a girl, then the town drives him to suicide by drowning.

    I am also worried because the male character has very similar behaviors and overall a similar "Aura" to Brooks' s character Lucas. The only difference is they do not look the same and have different names...

    I happened to check out Brooks' s book from the library recently and find that this book had so many similar elements in the end it was frightening.

    There are some minor differences: my character drowns in the ocean, his character drowns in the mud flats of an island. His character is accused of assault, mine is accused of murder, etc. But the overall plot is the same, just not the little details.

    Does this qualify as plagiarism and should I change it, or should I be fine?
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's pretty hard to accidentally plagiarize fiction. Lots of stories have similar plot elements, similar characters, etc.

    Your story may be considered unoriginal, but it's not likely to be considered plagiarized, not unless you actually plagiarized it.
     
  3. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    Pretty much this. You are unlikely to encounter any legal repercussions.

    Even so, I would change certain things if I were you. Not out of any moral necessity; you have every right to write the story you want, it's really no fault on your part. But fault or no, you will mostly be criticised for ripping the story off ... even if you actually didn't. And so, it may be better to change some basic things to throw off this criticism just a bit. For example, would it really be so much of a problem if the character killed himself through some other method? Or does drowning have some particular significance?
     
  4. United
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    United Member

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    Plagiarism/copyright infringement if:

    1. It is the same exact story (same character names, same character personalities, etc.).
    2. Same exact plot/outline, but just different character names, etc. with minor tweaks.
    3. Usage of established trademark/brand name characters and literary entities. For example: if you use the name Harry Potter (or any other "big name" in literature) in your story you will get into legal trouble for plagiarism/copyright infringement. You can, however, mention big names in your story, only as prop or reference information.
    Note: depending on how much information you use, you will probably need to contact and be granted permission by the copyright owners of that information to use in your story. If you are just referencing names for namesake, you probably won't need permission, but please check up on it anyways so that you are absolutely in the clear.

    I think these are the only cases where you can get into legal trouble with published writing.

    *Please feel free to add anything (or rectify) if there is anything that I missed.

    In your case, from what you have provided, it seems that you may be up for a suit if Brooks ever decided for it. I'm not telling you that you are plagiarizing. In fact, I think you're an earnest and candor person who just wants to know what'll happen if this story continues (and gets published/profited from). To a judge/court, based off of the facts, and what's on paper, it really does seem like an "imitational piece" rather than an "inspirational piece". Again, this is just based off of what you provided about your plot, etc.

    It's arguable that it could be not seen as plagiarism, but there is a lot of information from your story to back up and support the claim of "copyright infringement".

    I'm just trying to be honest and real here. I'm sorry. :(
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2015
  5. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    The OP was for a story where the ending is similar, in that the MC commits suicide by drowning because of small-town prejudice. So, in what way is this the SAME EXACT PLOT.
     
  6. United
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    United Member

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    LOL. I re-read the original post. I thought I read somewhere that he had basically the same plot as the book. Whhooopsssssssss. God, I'm getting old.......
     
  7. Jenurik Name
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    Jenurik Name Member

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    That ending is so specific, down to the method of death for the main character. And on top of that, you're saying - in your own words - that even the main character's traits are similar. The plot is the same. So to me it would seem like you ripped it off (except you're saying it's a coincidence). I'm not sure how it'd go down legally, but readers and critics who read Lucas before reading your story would be on your case. The only good news is that I've never heard of Lucas, so it's a fair guess to say not many would know of it either.
     
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  8. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    Your book and Lucas are way too similar, I mean its down to the character and death. Do you have other stories in mind that you can work on?
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Copyright infringement requires actual copying, though. If you independently create the same work, it is not copyright infringement, though convincing a judge or jury you did it independently is an issue.
     
  10. Lance Schukies
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    Lance Schukies Active Member

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    have him shoot himself, or hang himself. For me suicide by drowning is not one I would use in a book. then you have changed the plot a bit more.
     
  11. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Plagiarism is when you claim credit for work done by someone else. Writing a book with a similar plot does not count as claiming credit for writing a book you did not write.

    With that out of the way, your real concern is whether the similarities make your book a bad book.

    The answer is no. Your book might even be better. There might be an occasional reader who has already read Lucas and has some weird thing against your book because it is similar. Those readers are negligible. There will always be readers who have some weird thing against your writing; you can never please everyone.

    Write the best book you can write, regardless of what other people have already written.

    Also, since the law has been mentioned in this thread, plagiarism is perfectly legal. Trademark infringement and copyright infringement are illegal. Writing a book with a similar plot point is neither representing your product with a symbol that is supposed to represent another product (trademark infringement) nor reproducing someone's intellectual property against his will (copyright infringement).
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2015
  12. sweenett101
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    sweenett101 New Member

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    Hey guys sorry for resurfacing this post here, but i was googling an issue of mine and this link popped up. i'm having the same issues. I wrote a book and am hoping to get it published. but a mini plot line in my story is similar to a film haha

    Essentially, my plot is about a bunch of girls with supernatural abilities and they're in an institution run by a witch. i have another plot intertwined; a witch who is in love with a man, cursed him to be a vampire when he broke her heart and lived together in the modern day, but he developed feelings for another girl who reminded him of his old wife, so she kills her and he kills the witch for it before taking his life.

    in the film: a man who had a relationship with a witch. he didn't return her feelings. She killed him. Buried him and he awoke in the modern times. In the end, she ends up dead but not by his hand, the vampire lives happily ever after with the girl he loves.

    Difference: The vampire gets a happy ending in the film, the film revolves largely around him whereas in my story there are other plots too, in my story the vampire was originally in love with the witch but changed his mind when he fell in love with another (in the movie the vampire never loved the witch), in my book the witch didn't bury him but instead ran away from him when he tried to kill her. Different names and entirely different character personas as well. Um, in mine the Vampire kills his wife, whereas in the movie the witch killed her.

    So essentially, quite a few differences. But i'm still worried. Should I be? I remember J.K Rowling being sued a ton because in the Goblet of Fire where she had little tasks and a ball and stuff, somebody else claimed to have written that too. Another person sued her because they came up with the word muggle. Others have sued her for tiny things. Which has me worried about my story. I'm no J.K and the charges were dropped, but still i'm worried that because they are a big movie company vs a simple author or literacy agent, i could be in trouble.
     
  13. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally I argue how similar the works are. I may not have read either, but I still feel I can argue that.

    I think this sums up everything to me. Which is this. Everything can look similar depending on how far away you look. Let me give some examples.

    1. I am a male. About what... half the planet is male? If you don't look any deeper than I am completely unoriginal. There are after all 3 billion more male humans on Earth.

    2. Ella Enchanted and Lord of the Rings are both fantasy books. Again, if you don't look any deeper they are exactly the same.

    3. Doctor Doom and Magneto are both misguided villains that think they need to fight the world in order to save it. See where I am getting here?

    Take your male here. Think deeply. What does separate him? Did he really have the same backstory? Remember, look deeply. I mean if it is just similar that implies differences? What are those differences? (I am not actually asking. I am more creating a thought exercise for you, in which you can see your character in a different light and stop worrying about the similarities because you can see the differences.)

    Edit to add: Oppsie. I didn't realize this was an old thread. Well I didn't technically bump it and I think my advice can apply to @sweenett101 So I will consider that enough of a win. lol
     
  14. John the ninja
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    John the ninja New Member

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    My opinion might be unpopular, but I think if you are influenced to a great degree to the point where your story is a retelling, its plagiarism.

    For example...sword of Shannara *IS* a plagiarism of Lord of the Rings. The characters are different and so is the overall setting, but the book blatantly plagiarizes Tolkin's work (in my opinion)

    People can write a story about elves and have it be original. But if your Elvin story contains a council on how to deal with an ancient evil, and a sole weapon / item to defeat said evil, and characters that are a copy and paste from another story...its plagerization
     
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  15. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm going to quote an earlier post from this conversation....
    So Sword of Shannara may be unoriginal, but it isn't plagiarism. Terry Brooks himself even said his story was heavily influenced by Tolkien. Influenced. Not stolen.
     
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  16. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    Like most discussions, definitions are extremely important. I share the view that knockoffs are considered plagiarism, but I acknowledge that they do not constitute a legal challenge in a lot of cases. The market probably wants a retelling of certain stories, so there's all kinds of fostering of the idea that there's no plagiarism. But from an artistic standpoint, a line has to be drawn somewhere for people coming up with their own creations.
     
  17. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    If it doesn't give rise to a legal cause of action, then I'm fine with it in the context of fiction. There should be a lot of leeway there, and copyright strikes a pretty balance
     

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