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peppermint
October 29th, 2002, 03:52 PM
ok that is one word every writer dreads...

but i have a question where does creative interpretation stop and plagiarism start.

what i mean is whilst there is still a vast untapped reasource of fantasy tales to be written we still have these countless tales with similar themes in some cases the same themes...

in my opinion even the great writers of all time at one stage in their lives have plagiarised another's work, but that's just me.

Cass

(Peppermint - just corrected a spelling to make understanding easier - Hobbit)

choppy
October 29th, 2002, 04:57 PM
I've noticed that in one form or another this question has a tendency to come up on this forum from time to time. I don't mind it though - it's important.

I think the specific question that's been posed is more for the lawyers than the writers. From what I know of law (and I'm sure this varies from place to place) is that plagerism is a civil matter. Civil issues are based on a balance of probabilities (as opposed to "proof beyond reasonable doubt" as required in criminal matters). Plagerism is largely a subjective thing, in my opinion, but I know that most academic institutions (universities, colleges, etc.) outline pretty specific guidlines as to what constitutes plagerism and academic dishonesty.

The bottom line is that a judge and/or jury must be satisfied that an author has directly published the work of another and passed it off as his or her own. In such cases, the party the work was stolen from is entitled to compensation.
But there is a mechanism in place that keeps most authors on the straight and narrow. Most readers are reasonably intelligent and well-versed. That means that if an author tries to pull a fast one and publish someone else's work, he or she will lose respect as an artist, and more importantly, sell fewer books.

In the genre of fantasy, we quite often draw on existing mythologies to generate new ideas. It's not surprising then that many writers turn out similar worlds - especially when it happens that people like to read about this kind of thing or that.

Valada
October 29th, 2002, 10:25 PM
I don't think you can plagiarise someone else's "theme". There are several arguments, which have been revisited on this forum from time to time, that state that there are a limited number of themes in existence. Full stop. A writer's skill and talent lies in determining what to do/how to use those themes. Even stories set in very similar worlds, and with very similar plots (and I'm thinking of fantasy here, not literature, for example) can be wildly different based upon style, skill, characterisation, development and language.

Direct plagiarism is, of course, one of the lowliest things an author can do - and no-one who consciously, knowingly plagiarises the work of another deserves to call him/herself an author.

IaNo
November 9th, 2002, 07:44 AM
I hate all of the arguments and the general civil and academic business of plagiarism. Everything we say and think is basically plaigarised in the sense that something similar has been said by somebody else. I think the only time anyone should get in trouble for it is when you blatantly just copy something. In the academic community especially, I think it is ridiculous, and it fosters unintelligent people who simply quote others all of the time and never think of anything on your own. If you are one of the brave people that write something of your own, ie an essay on your own philosophical views, you are bashed for having plagiarized because you took ideas from other works that you never even read. Do we really have to research before we can have our own thoughts? Does the fact that someone else already thought of what we thought of make our thinking just a carbon copy even if we never heard of the person we should have quoted? of course not. People are stupid.

milamber_reborn
November 10th, 2002, 04:23 AM
We are influenced by experiences, reading, TV etc.

Therefore, similiarities are likely. It is possible to plagiarise without meaning to. It is when you blatantly copy something, when it is unforgiveable. Then again, there is the grey areas of 'homage' and retelling.

Brid14
November 20th, 2002, 11:56 AM
What is important to us - to humans? Life, knowledge, understanding, happiness etc.

We authors often or always write, when you get down to it, about the same things - understanding, questions about fate, freedom, truth. So I don't think that the actual themes matter, but how you write about them, from what aspect and whether what you write is YOUR opinion, or just an altered copy of someone else's.
So really we shouldn't worry about whether our themes are similar, or even the same - but what's got to be different is the storyline and above all, the style. Individual style is what makes a good writer, and that's why it mostly takes a whole lifetime to become a good writer, i think. You need to learn, to experience and when you've have years upon years of that, then you really begin to learn who you are, and what you believe, or if you belive anything - and through that you find your uniqueness, your individual voice which in turn gives you your own style.

kahnovitch
November 21st, 2002, 08:18 AM
I've said this before but I think it boils down to "what the publisher wants to see"
I know there are many good original writers out there (and in here), but the old tried and tested, pre-marketed, sliced white bread is still the diet of most mainstream genres.
Personally I prefer a well made loaf of rye with some salt beef or pastrami, it costs more, is harder to find (especially in London) and tastes far better.

Hope that wasn't too cryptic.

;)

Brid14
November 24th, 2002, 01:04 PM
Laughs.
I think I get it, K. Powerful stuff, right? Rye bread - tough? Salt beef and pastrami - rich, full of "flavour"?
It does cost a lot more, and is hard to find - but it probably does taste better.

Katie

Tanith
November 24th, 2002, 07:22 PM
Originally posted by kahnovitch
I've said this before but I think it boils down to "what the publisher wants to see"
I know there are many good original writers out there (and in here), but the old tried and tested, pre-marketed, sliced white bread is still the diet of most mainstream genres.
Personally I prefer a well made loaf of rye with some salt beef or pastrami, it costs more, is harder to find (especially in London) and tastes far better.

Hope that wasn't too cryptic.

;)

Great metaphor, kahnovitch! :D

It's also funny how subjective the definition of plagiarism can be. I've got a good online friend who is convinced that most of The X-Files "mythology" is copied from Nigel Kneale's "Quatermass" series which was made in the Sixties. He's put a mind-boggling amount of research into this, and I got so curious that I bought videos of the films to compare them. While there are similarities, I don't know if it can be defined as plagiarism or not. Since Kneale seems to have absolutely no interest in pursuing the matter legally, it seems to be a moot point.

But supposing Kneale suddenly did decide to pursue the matter--would he stand a chance of winning in a court of law?

Tanith :confused:

Hereford Eye
November 26th, 2002, 09:20 AM
Seems to me that I read somewhere there are only seven basic plots. Everything else is derivative. So it is not possible to not be similar to something else. Even Tolkien is similar to Wagner.
But I wouldn't call similarity plagiarism. The famous case in the US this year on whether a book (whose title I forgot) was a rip off of Gone With the Wind. If every scene and every character plays just as the orginal did, that has to be plagiarism. But re-working a classic seem fair to me. The movie Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou is a patent re-telling of Odyseus. Simmon's Hyperion is a re-telling of the Canterbury Tales. No one's complaining about them.