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Apple

Plagiarism

This may sound a daft question, but humour me, but where does cheap rip off end and plagiarism start?

Plagiarism, as defined in the 1995 Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary, is the "use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work."

The reason I ask is I have read a number of books which are incredibly simular in topic and the run of the story to others, and the one which springs to my mind most recently is Dead until Dark and Twilight the content of the story is so simular its uncanny even down to certain points in it which have been used but altered slightly in the copy (Twilight).

I just wondered what constitutes plagiarism and how it can be proved?
TheRejectAmidHair

Plots, I'd guess, would be easy to rip off. But what about ideas? What about, say, certain images? If writer A uses a metaphor that writer B has used, is that plagiarism? How would you prove it?

And of course, there is a difference between plagiarism and influence. For instance, Tobias Smollett's novel Sir Lancelot Greaves is, effectively, Don Quixote set in Enland. But Smolett's work was a tribute to Cervantes' novel: he assumed that the reader will know about Don Quixote, and wasn't setting out to deceiv.

I don't know that there's any definite boundaries here. Writers often influence each other, but unless it's something very obvious such as, say, a writer actually using the same sentences as another, it would, I'd guess, be very difficult to prove anything in court.
Caro

Interesting that you make the point of writers using the same sentences.  One of our pre-eminent novelists and one of my favourites, Witi Ihimaera, is in some trouble because he has written sentences from other writers.  A reviewer happened to notice what seemed slightly odd wording out of keeping with the rest of the novel and checked.  

It seems Witi takes pieces from other writing but normally attributes them and these were an oversight.  I have to admit to being rather surprised to see how similar these sentences were, assuming authors always put things into their own words.  http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/books/3039038/Witi-Ihimaera-apologises-for-plagiarism

He was awarded a Laureate for the Arts Foundation award this week (just days after the aforementioned scandal) which comes with a $50,000 monetary prize, and is highly thought of as a writer.

Some years ago I was a pre-judge for a short story competition and read through about 100.  One of them I had read before, but when I put passages of it into Google nothing came up and I couldn't remember where I might have read it, not being a great short story reader.  But I was quite certain.  It may of course have been something the original writer had regurgitated for this competition, but I suspect that is unlikely.  

With music plagiarism seems to be able to be assumed even if there was no intent, or so I have read recently.  People may be unconsciously influenced by another song or sound and that can constitute plagiarism which I think is a bit silly.

Cheers, Caro.
MikeAlx

It's a difficult area unless exact words are copied. Recently there's been a scandal in the horror magazine market as someone (a law student apparently!) tried to pass off a couple of early Stephen King stories as their own work, basically just rewording them. Needless to say, they were found out pretty quickly, but only after one had been published.

I was reading recently that theft of material is increasingly a problem for stand-up comedians. People are going to shows then publishing the best gags on the net, so the shelf-life of jokes has been getting shorter. Also, joke-writers have been pinching material and selling it as their own work - most notably, a Joke of Jimmy Carr's was nicked by Jim Davidson, (presumably via an intermediary "writer" - even Jim Davidson can't be that thick!). Article here:
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts...matter-for-comedians-1818222.html
Caro

Further to my post, Witi Ihimaera's book is now to be recalled and is to have the acknowledgements added to.  My reaction to this was to say, "We had better go and buy one of the originals immediately." (But we probably won't.  Our library has one - I wonder what it will do.  Maybe they would sell me it.)

But I rather agreed with CK Stead - another of our very well known writers - who said he wasn't so worried about the attribution a about the fact that how do we know what exactly is Witi's style if he often pops in other people's words, especially since they come from writers of different centuries.  However I doubt that my critical faculties are great enough to notice anything a little amiss.

Cheers, Caro.
Green Jay

MikeAlx wrote:
It's a difficult area unless exact words are copied. Recently there's been a scandal in the horror magazine market as someone (a law student apparently!) tried to pass off a couple of early Stephen King stories as their own work, basically just rewording them. Needless to say, they were found out pretty quickly, but only after one had been published.

I was reading recently that theft of material is increasingly a problem for stand-up comedians. People are going to shows then publishing the best gags on the net, so the shelf-life of jokes has been getting shorter. Also, joke-writers have been pinching material and selling it as their own work - most notably, a Joke of Jimmy Carr's was nicked by Jim Davidson, (presumably via an intermediary "writer" - even Jim Davidson can't be that thick!). Article here:
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts...matter-for-comedians-1818222.html


This is a 21st- century version of music hall comics saying that telly ruined their material. One TV show would use up material they could use for a year touring the various halls and clubs, where audiences were fresh every night. But a comedy show viewed nationwide meant that the jokes had already been aired, and couldn't be recycled live.  Probably didn't stop them, though!
Green Jay

Caro wrote:
Some years ago I was a pre-judge for a short story competition and read through about 100.  One of them I had read before, but when I put passages of it into Google nothing came up and I couldn't remember where I might have read it, not being a great short story reader.  But I was quite certain.  It may of course have been something the original writer had regurgitated for this competition, but I suspect that is unlikely.  

Cheers, Caro.


Possibly you had read it as an entry to another competition. Unsuccessful stories get recycled quite a lot, as judging is ultimately subjective and it's always worth another try elsewhere. Even successful ones get recycled, sometimes  just with a different title, though by the rules they're not usually meant to.

Is it very cheeky of me to ask, Caro, why you were invited  to be - or perhaps lumbered with the job of being - a pre-judge  of a short story competition, when you say yourself you're not much of a short story reader??? A bit like asking me to judge a pork pie competition.
Chibiabos83

If that should ever happen, Green Jay, please send me a message. I would be delighted to step in on your behalf.
Evie

I was about to say the same thing!
Green Jay

Melton Mowbray or any kind? And which of you shall I ask first. Seconds out!
Green Jay

Evie, I'd never have associated you with pork pies. My image of you is shattered. Confused
Evie

Ooh, now I like a pork pie, as long as it's good quality.

I like a Big Mac too, if that helps...

Sorry to shatter your illusion - but that's the beauty of messageboards - my true persona, physical and spiritual, is hidden from view!  Much the best way.
Chibiabos83

All things considered, it might be a good idea for me to stop eating pork pies, at least until I am able to get up from a chair without making a grunting noise.
Caro

How odd - less than an hour ago on another message board I have said how ghastly pork pies are.  (Unlike delicious NZ meat pies.)

Green Jay, this competition was by our little local writing group, of whom I was a peripheral member, and I was asked as a known reader.  Though I don't like short stories and indeed think I have given up on our book club book this month which is a collection of connected short stories, I enjoyed reading these.  Many of them were not traditional short stories, but little memoirs of our area.  Others were completely useless and funny for that reason.  One bothered me since I thought it showed the writer on the verge of a nervous breakdown - handwritten with the words tapering off down the page, with some odd words repeated and in very peculiar style.

But half a dozen were really good, funny or stylish or interesting.
They were judged by one of our literary writers and she was given them in a vague order so she didn't have to read all of them - another person had also read through them first.  The one I liked most she placed in the top 5, but not first.  

Cheers, Caro.

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