T Nation

Is This Plagiarism?

Hoping someone will know. Is this plagiarism? It is hard to explain so, I will give an example.

" I carry an image with me, like a Kodak snapshot from 1960 when the colors still looked gooey under the gloss. It’s a picture of my maternal grandmother, Nafina (an Armenian version of Athena) Aroosian, and her daughters, Aunt Gladys and Aunt Lucille, walking up our flagstone path. Behind them, out of focus, a Chevy Biscayne, ice-cream white, with thick chrome tapering to the back fender. The tops of the turquoise-colored seats glare in the noon sun. It’s Sunday, after church, and everyone is out. There’s a hardball game going on in the cul-de-sac at the end of the block. Kids run through the spray of a sprinkler, darting between hedges of newly planted hemlocks."

Now, if you were to put this whole paragraph in your novel, remove some sentences, or rearrange them it would be considered plagiarism.

What if instead you did this:

" In my back pocket I keep a photo, a polaroid from the 90"s but, it looked much older. In it are my parents, twin brother and little sister, standing in front of the Washington Monument. Behind them, out of focus, a little girl tugging at her moms sweater and an old man feeding some pigeons or maybe rats. I always liked to believe they were rats…"

So, you would follow everything the whole book just changing as much as you can as you go.Changed liek making men women, day to night, cold to hot, etc… Is it plagiarism?

I have asked/searched the web and most have said no, few yes, and many said no but, that it seemed like a HUGE hassle.

Now, before people ask what I plan to do. I do not want to do this but, I am positive some ass in my class is doing this using Wordsworth poems. I am not going to do snitch just curious.

In my opinion it would be. Or it’s closely skirting on it.

It might not be something that someone can sue you over, but doing something like that is definitely compromising your integrity as a writer, and it’s a good way to have your work ignored.

Taking inspiration from other works is good - in fact, it’s ideal - but you’ve got to take the image that those words have created and use it to create your own picture. Find your own Truth in it, don’t steal someone else’s. It’s intellectually lazy.

If your professor, I assume this is college, can’t figure out that someone is plagiarizing Wordsworth but you can then there is another problem present.

It would be a case by case thing. The specific example you used could be fine, or it might not be, given the larger context. If the rest of the poem, essay, book, or whatever, didn’t resemble the original material, there would be no problem. If it did, there would be a problem. These sorts of things are subjective, and there doesn’t exist a clear, broad answer to your question. Some situations are more obvious than others. It can be difficult to draw a line between inspiration and plagiarism.

People imitate styles and sentence structures, and ideas all the time, and it’s often not considered plagiarism. If all you read was Hemingway, for instance, you’d probably adopt a lot of his literary techniques. Your implementation of those techniques would not necessitate plagiarism, but it would be likely that you’d be in the gray area.

I say yes.

It may not hold up in court, but to have so many congruencies with only the nouns switched would be such a huge coincidence as to defy belief.

What you’ve quoted doesn’t look like plagiarism to me as so many changes have been made as to make the two quite distinct. You’d have a hard time proving one came from the other without getting hold of the writers notes to see how that section was developed.

But what do I know. Plagiarism, copyright laws and patents are a legal minefield capable of reducing grown lawyers to tears.

As an example of how bad it gets. The entire original work does not need to be copied to make a case for plagiarism in a new work. In their song ‘Land down under’ the band ‘Men at Work’ were eventually found guilty of plagiarising the old song ‘Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree’. The offending part buried in the middle of ‘Land down under’ was a three second flute riff, which was the opening of the Kookaburra song.

Or how about Harlan Ellison’s novel ‘I have no mouth and I must scream’? There are enough similarities with the concept of a defence computer becoming sentient and deciding to kill off everyone as to make the guys who wrote Terminator very, very nervous. IIRC it was settled out of court.

The best rule is: ‘Copy from one person its plagiarism, copy from many, its research!’

I find this really interesting!

In a short descriptive passage, such as your example; it can be done succesfully.
But, if you were to apply the same technique to a novel, it would be very tricky to try and navigate the text as the entire context and coherency could be altered or even reversed.

As the story becomes more intricate you would surely run into difficulty with setting and the co-ordination of characters, locations and events.

I agree with my man Irish above - you’re not actually being creative as the inception of the idea was never yours - but, it would be a challenging exercise and would take a lot of dexterity to make it work.

It would be wicked to rewrite some stories :smiley:

[quote]zecarlo wrote:
If your professor, I assume this is college, can’t figure out that someone is plagiarizing Wordsworth but you can then there is another problem present. [/quote]

This was my thinking. I really do not care that the guy was doing it at least not enough to do something but, how in the hell does the prof. not see it? I mean come on.