Saturday, July 15, 2006
Q & A 72 Guess the Plot Plagiarism
I'm still unsettled about the answer to the question by the poster about using the fake plots submitted to you by others or created by you. And I'm generally interested in issues of copyright and plagiarism, so I read about these topics.
I came across an interesting interview by YA writer Cynthia Leitich Smith of lawyer Aimee Bissonette. Ms. Smith asks about copyright and plagiarism and how they relate to each other and Ms. Bissonette answers. Her answer suggests (says) that use of ideas and concepts can be plagiarism and works derived from another's work can be copyright infringement.
I wonder how this applies to the fake plots written by others. Obviously minions who submit fake plots allow you to post them on your blog. But I wonder if that's enough to make them public domain, or if the original author still retains ownership.
Because we minions all love you, we don't want to see something bad happen. And as a minion, I hope you'll get some legal advice to protect yourself (and revise your answer, if need be), because somebody will rely on your advice and somebody else will cry foul and then it will be a mess.
As it happens, answering this question is as easy as excerpting the interview you referenced:
"Writers cannot copyright ideas, titles, or even character names, and with good reason. The truly creative work is what the writer produces as a result of the idea or title or character name. That is what is protected by copyright."
"Plagiarism is the false presentation of someone else's work as your own. Ideas and concepts cannot be copyrighted, but they can be plagiarized. The way to avoid claims of plagiarism is to give full attribution to others when incorporating their work."
As I recall, I suggested that authors acknowledge the Guess the Plot writer in their published books, so I think we're in the clear. My guess is that authors of "Guess the Plots" would be thrilled to see a book published based on their idea, and would eagerly await their take from the film rights. Below are some quotes which Evil Editor has properly attributed to their authors, thus avoiding charges of plagiarism.
"Though old the thought and oft exprest,
'Tis his at last who says it best."--James Russell Lowell
"Adam was the only man who, when he said a good thing, knew that nobody had said it before him."--Mark Twain
"I do borrow from other writers, shamelessly! I can only say in my defense, like the woman brought before the judge on a charge of kleptomania, 'I do steal; but, Your Honor, only from the best stores.'"--Thornton Wilder
"Originality is undetected plagiarism."--William Inge
"The more worthless the manuscript, the greater the fear of plagiarism."--Stanley Unwin
"Whatever has been well-said by anyone is mine."--Seneca
"Great literature must spring from an upheaval in the author's soul. If that upheaval is not present, then it must come from the works of any other author which happen to be handy and easily adapted."--Robert Benchley