Home » Plagiarism » “For the Summer” Plagiarized?

“For the Summer” Plagiarized?

24 September 2013

From Dear Author:

I had put the news piece to bed when my inbox blew up with links to a Goodreads review of Shey Stahl’s For the Summer. In the DNF review (rated one star), the reader details eight instances of similarities including exact verbiage and scene blocking to a highly beloved Twilight fan fiction called Dusty written by Sarah and Mary Elizabeth.

. . . .

As for Stahl, she vehemently denies any plagiarism and her fans are out in full force. (The fan fiction authors have stated that they have been blocked by Stahl and that she has messaged them and claimed she never read their fiction and that her work is her own)  Fans of Stahl accused the Goodreads reader of trying to ruin Stahl’s career and have demanded “Legal Proof”.  On her facebook page, people are suggesting that the real way to handle this sort of thing is to take it to a court of law.

. . . .

In this instance with Stahl maintaining her innocence, it is possible it won’t be taken down until legal action does occur.  For the fan fiction authors, given that their work is not registered with the US Copyright office, they’d only be entitled to whatever the text has earned so far.  If they had registered the copyright, they would be entitled to treble damages.

It’s probably time for Amazon to contract with TurnItIn and require all self pub manuscripts be run through a plagiarism checker.  As for Stahl, I don’t doubt the fan fiction group is combing through her every work now. I feel for her fans. I saw one blogger post a facebook update which pretty much indicated she was devastated.

Link to the rest at Dear Author and thanks to Randall for the tip.

To be clear, PG hasn’t reviewed any of the works involved and, consequently, has no opinion concerning the plagiarism claims that have been made.

A couple of points, however:

1. In an internet age, you’re a dope if you plagiarize. It is simply too easy for plagiarism to be detected with electronic works. And social media will spread plagiarism claims like wildfire.

“For the Summer” no longer shows up on Amazon. PG doesn’t know whether Amazon has taken it down or Ms. Stahl has done so. Amazon does have the ability under its KDP Terms & Conditions to remove all books by an author from sale. Other online bookstores can do the same thing.

2. With regard to the Dear Author recommendation that Amazon run all self pub manuscripts through Turnitin, here’s a question – Do commercial publishers run their publications through Turnitin or otherwise routinely perform any checks for plagiarism prior to publication? Commercial publishers have published plagiarized works. See Kaavya Viswanathan for just one example.

It would be difficult for a successful claim for copyright infringement and damages arising from a plagiarized work to be made against Amazon for listing an indie book for sale since Amazon isn’t the publisher and would undoubtedly assert the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as a defense. That would not be the case with a traditional publisher who published a plagiarized work.

In either case, however, both Amazon and the publisher of a plagiarized work would, in turn, be suing the author for any damages or attorneys fees they incurred. Another good reason not to plagiarize.

For more on plagiarism detection tools, go to Plagiarism Today

Plagiarism

64 Comments to ““For the Summer” Plagiarized?”

  1. I’m too lazy to look this up, and it hasn’t been answered in the various articles I’ve read about this incident: does the TurnItIn corpus include fan fiction? What about commercial fiction?

    Or to put it another way: I know of its uses in the academic world — how useful is the service for the world of commercial fiction?

  2. The latest update from Geek Girl Playground has some even more interesting bits. Remember that I can’t confirm any of this:

    * Her books are no longer available for purchase from Amazon, including those published by Simon and Schuster.

    * She wrote in a tweet that she took down her stories and is speaking with a lawyer about possible legal action against the accusers.

    * On GoodReads, “Max”, claiming to be her former editor said that he noticed plagiarized passages in “For the Summer” and “Delayed Penalty” and brought it to her attention, and that he took legal action to get his name pulled from the book when she refused to remove them.

  3. And it’s also possible that the fanfic author plagiarized the actual novel…

    • No, it’s really not. The fanfiction was published in 2011. Stahl’s novel was published 4 days ago.

      Furthermore, Stahl stole passages from SEVERAL fanfiction stories that were present and popular in the very fandom that Stahl visibly participated in prior to her self-publishing pursuits. It just so happens that the theft from this particular fanfiction is the most substantial and noticeable.

      • Even for a fan fiction published years ago—it can be updated at any time, even completely, while still showing the original publish date. I used to be an active fanfic writer. There are ways to jiggle dates and make things seem like copycats that actually aren’t.

        My point is that the single piece of data given above—some things were found substantially similar between the novel and the fanfic—the plagiarism could’ve gone either way.

        For it to be more definitively indicated one way or the other, more information was needed, such as that which you provided in your reply to my comment.

        • No, I’m sorry, but you’re terribly misinformed. Fanfiction.net, where the story is hosted, has an original published date, and a ‘last updated’ date. It’s not possible to edit the story without having the date reflected. And it’s certainly not possible that the fanfiction authors used the 2 days between Stahl’s self-publishing and the accusations of theft to not only edit their fanfiction, but for every single Twilight fan who has read it, quoted it on blogs and in reviews, discussed on forums, and even made graphics celebrating it, to have their memory altered enough that they’d spot the plagiarism themselves (it was not the fanfiction authors who found it, but fanfiction READERS, as per the initial Goodreads review).

          • I was responding to what was quoted above.

            You’re reacting as if I’m “misinformed” when I was pointing something out that could have been true, based on what information is available on this page.

            I never tracked down more on the topic. I never claimed nor suggested I had tracked down more.

            That the publish date and last updated date on FF.net indicate the book definitely came later? Isn’t in what PG quoted. That multiple fanfics were plagiarized? Isn’t in what PG quoted.

            Based on the incomplete information I had when I made my points, what I said very well could have been true. Note the tense, which indicates possibility. It doesn’t even mean something’s necessarily probable, just possible.

            Mind your assumptions, please, before you start assuming someone is “misinformed”. That’s downright rude.

            Logic, verb tense, and the information on the actual page where a comment is made. They matter.

            • My apologies. Every single fact I mentioned was linked in the original Goodreads review, which was supplied by PG in the very first sentence of this blog. So I figured one would surely click through one time and inform oneself before suggesting something so inflammatory as the victims possibly being the actual plagiarizers.

            • Let’s keep the tone friendly and civil, please.

        • Yes, but most people keep copies of favorite fanfics on their own computers, because life is short and favorite fanfics disappear. I’ve got fanfics from Usenet, myself. If the whole community knows these fics and has read them tons of times, no wonder people were recognizing them in Stahl’s book.

          Frankly, I find the pattern of the tiny changes pretty damning. It’s not a matter of someone reproducing lines unknowingly; it’s a pattern of using quotes and scenes and then changing them just a tiny bit. Why she didn’t just write an original draft that didn’t copy so much, I don’t know.

          • Because that requires talent?

            Bad artists plagiarize. Good artists steal. Stealing is in fact much harder than plagiarizing.

            While I’m slinging slogans, it’s kinda like arson. If you do it right, nobody can be sure – or might even suspect – that you did anything at all.

  4. First off, many thanks for the link! I’m honored to be included.

    A few quick thoughts though. First, Turnitin would not be the right plagiarism detection service for this. iThenticate is Turnitin’s sister service (I do consulting for them) and they target the business side, including publishers. That being said, I don’t know if their database includes works the publishers involved so I can’t say if it would really be useful.

    That being said, since we’re starting with a known (alleged) original and known (alleged) plagiarism, it’s actually pretty trivial. All we need to do is get clear text copies of both works and use a tool like WCopyFind to find the similarities. The process should only take a few hours for an initial evaluation (though a full report for the courts would take much longer).

    If there’s interest and someone can provide me the works involved, I’ll gladly do the test.

    Thanks again for the link and shining light on a story I was unaware of!

  5. Do commercial publishers run their publications through Turnitin or otherwise routinely perform any checks for plagiarism prior to publication? Commercial publishers have published plagiarized works.

    There was also the more recent (2011) instance of Q.R. Markham’s “Assassin of Secrets” that was literally (and skillfully by many accounts) stitched together from near-verbatim passages from dozens of books:

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2011/11/q-r-markham-plagiarism.html

  6. I wonder to what extent the exact number of words similar to other works become plagiarism? Let’s face it, we all use words, and assemble them to make sentences. In music it’s even worse, they’re only twelve notes. The shorter the sentence the more likely is to find exact sentence in other works. There is a limit of how creative you can be with two, three, four or even five words when describing the same thing or situation. Also, we read other writers’ works, and undoubtedly some of the sentences are remembered by our subconsciousness. We may use them involuntarily. Anyone has any idea?

    • It has to be substantial. I’m not aware of any exact formula, or if there even could be. However, there is obviously a gaping cavern of difference between two like sentences and pages upon pages of like passages.

    • Yes and no. I usually remember where I got something from, but crypto-plagiarism is an occasional worry. Describe red hair:

      ~Cherry red (sometimes see that)
      ~Auburn (frequently)
      ~Titian (only for Nancy Drew)
      ~Fire engine red (or clown red)
      ~Orange-red
      ~Orange (Roarke in the Fountainhead)
      ~Sunset red (a horror writer)
      ~Rosewood red (a character in my WIP)
      ~Fox red (I think Tanith Lee used that one)
      ~Carnelian red (A character in a WIP)*
      ~copper red (I see that one all the time)
      ~Persimmon red (a character in a WIP)
      ~Warrior red (Florence Welch’s description of her own hair)

      *She’s not human.

      Eyes:

      ~Flinty
      ~Pale
      ~Watery
      ~Opaque
      ~Flashing
      ~Sharp
      ~Beady
      ~Piggy
      ~Puppy dog
      ~Sable (a heroine in a WIP)
      ~Diamond-cutter sharp (a heroine in a WIP)
      ~Icy
      ~Dull
      ~Dead
      ~Mesmerizing
      ~Pick a jewel tone
      ~Honor Harrington is sometimes described as having eyes like “liquid helium,” IIRC.

      So you’re right that there are some go-to phrases for descriptions, but I don’t think anyone would be accused of plagiarism for using those descriptions–well the Honor Harrington one, yes, but in general I don’t think that’s the issue. At most people would just say you’re cliched, I think. It’s when you lift whole paragraphs or unique turns of phrase that you legitimately leave yourself open to the charge.

      • The ‘liquid helium’ description isn’t original either. And it suits the character it first described (to the best of my knowledge) much better than it suits Honor Harrington.

        “Dr. Susan Calvin of U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation,” intoned the reporter. “The lady with hyperspace where her heart should be, and liquid helium in her eyes. She’d pass through the sun and come out the other side encased in frozen flame.”

  7. There has to be access and substantial similarity to establish copyright infringement. Access, she clearly had from the fanfic site. Substantial similarity is not susceptible to mathematical measurement. It does not mean verbatim copying, necessarily. If the heart and soul of the work is taken, no matter how few the words, it is infringement.

    Whether she took down her books or Amazon did, Amazon’s KDP contract terms make it very clear that they can prevent her from opening another account — for this reason, or no reason good reason. She may be done (bien cuit) on Amazon.

    • I never knew that about Amazon’s KDP. Thanks, Kathryn. That’s good to know, since she can obviously create a new pseudonym, but I believe Amazon requires your real legal identity to pay out.

  8. Judging by the samples, she definitely plagiarized, but not nearly as blatantly as Christopher Paolini. At least she attempted to make some changes and hide it.

    • Well, we also have to wonder just how many of the changes from the original (aside from names) were actually applied/suggested by the editor(s) before publishing. Fanfiction is usually bit rough around the edges. To be frank, and I say this as an avid fanfiction writer, Shey’s published product is about what I’d expect professionally edited fanfiction excerpts to look like.

    • I don’t believe that anything Paolini did fits the legal definition of “plagiarism.”

      If you stretch these definitions far enough, at some point we’re all just stealing from someone else. There is no such thing as pure originality.

      • No, we’re not all “just stealing from someone else,” and that’s a surprising view from a writer.

        Are there bound to be some similar scenes or themes in, say, my work and some others? Of course. There are a lot of stories out there.

        But I know for a fact that I didn’t knowingly take someone else’s scene, rewrite some of it, and flat out copy the rest, which is what Paolini did with Eddings. Honestly, I don’t see how it’s defensible.

        If you don’t think that’s plagiarism, fine, but then I have to doubt that you believe anything is plagiarism.

        • We are all stealing something, for a given definition of “steal.”

          Personally, I define plagiarism as copying and pasting actual text. But ideas, IMO, should be free game. Even scenes should be free game, if the context has been changed and the scene adapted to the new story.

          • So, here we have a scene where the hero and his companion are crossing a bridge.

            Eddings:

            “Beside the ford stood a small hut. The man who owned it was a sharped eyed fellow in a green tunic who demanded a toll to cross. Rather than argue with him, Sparhawk paid what he asked. “Tell me neighbour,” he asked when the transaction was completed “how far is the Pelosian border?”
            “About five leagues” the sharp eyed man replied. “If you move along, you should reach it by afternoon.”
            They splashed on across the ford.
            When they reached the other side, Talen rode up to Sparhawk. “Here’s your money back,” the young boy said, handing over several coins.”
            Sparhawk gave him a startled look.
            “I don’t object to paying a toll to cross a bridge” Talen sniffed. “After all, someone had to go to the expense of building it. That fellow was just taking advantage of a natural shallow place in the river. It didn’t cost him anything, so why should he make a profit from it?”
            “You cut his purse, then?”
            “Naturally.”
            “And there was more in it than just my coins?”
            “A bit. Let’s call it my fee for recovering your money. After all, I deserve a profit too, don’t I?”
            “You’re incorrigible.”
            “I needed the practice.”
            From the other side of the river came a howl of anguish.
            “I’d say he just discovered his loss” observed Sparhawk.
            “It does sort of sound that way, doesn’t it?”

            Paolini:

            The Anora River flowed between them and the town, spanned by a stout bridge. As they approached it, a greasy man stepped (out) from behind a bush and barred their way. His shirt was too short and his dirty stomach spilled over a rope belt. Behind his cracked lips, his teeth looked like crumbling tombstones.
            “You c’n stop right there. This’s my bridge. Gotta pay t’ get over.”
            “How much?” asked Brom in a resigned voice. He pulled out a pouch and the bridge keeper brightened.
            “Five crowns” he said, pulling his lips into a broad smile.
            Eragon’s temper flared at the exorbitant price, and he started to complain hotly, but Brom silenced him with a quick look. The coins were wordlessly handed over. The man put them into a sack hanging from his belt.
            “Thank’ee much” he said in a mocking tone and stood out of the way.
            As Brom stepped forward, he stumbled and caught the bridge keeper’s arm to support himself.
            “Watch y’re step” snarled the grimy man sidling away.
            “Sorry” apologised Brom, and continued over the bridge with Eragon.
            “Why didn’t you haggle? He skinned you alive!” exclaimed Eragon. He probably doesn’t even own the bridge.”
            “Probably” agreed Brom.
            “Then why pay him?”
            “Because you can’t argue with all the fools in the world. It’s easier to let them have their way, then trick them when they’re not paying attention.” Brom opened his hand, and a pile of coins glinted in the sun.
            “You cut his purse!” said Eragon incredulously. Brom pocketed the money with a wink. There was a sudden howl of anguish from the other side of the river. “I’d say our friend has just discovered his loss.”

            Paolini stole the scene, the actions, the context, and flat-out lifted phrases and dialogue.

            That’s not plagiarism? More importantly, if someone who writes in whatever genre you write did the same to you, you wouldn’t mind?

            And please stop saying we’re all stealing something, because we’re not all doing this. However, if you want to expand the definition of “steal” to mean that we’re all using words that we didn’t invent, then I have to agree.

            • I’m not sure that rises to the dignity of plagiarism. In Eddings’ scene, the characters are not crossing a bridge, but a ford, and Talen justifies his actions on the grounds that charging a toll is simple robbery. The dialogue is sprightly, well-timed, and mildly amusing, and tells us something about the characters. Paolini’s scene loses the ford, the repartee, the moral question, and in the process, the whole point of the incident, and it is written in a clunky, banal, ‘on-the-nose’ style that is a chore to read.

              If I were a plagiarist, and I couldn’t do a better job of stealing than that, I would resign from business. It’s as if a man should find a paper bag full of twenty-dollar bills, throw away the money, and keep the bag.

            • There’s a doctrine in copyright law called scènes à faire, or scenes that must be done. Standard depictions of common themes are in the public domain. Like the extortionist at the tollgate. There’s one in Game of Thrones, he’s a king. There’s one in The Outlaw Josey Wales. She’s a rebel sympathizer. So, using the scene may be fair game. Lifting the exact dialogue may not.

            • Yeah, that’s not plagiarism. Plagiarism would be a copy-and-paste sort of thing on the order of whole paragraphs, not copying someone else’s idea.

      • By the way, if that came off sounding snarky, my bad. I’ll give you a free one back at me. 🙂

  9. I knew Paolini took plot points from a number of recognizable works, but I’d never heard him accused of outright plagiarism before.

    • Well, pretty much every name he had was ripped off from LOTR, and he did a remake of a bridge-crossing scene from David Eddings.

      There’s a lot of other stuff that fantasy readers have pointed out.

    • I’ve never heard that either, but from reading a critique of his works I got the impression that he still had the training wheels on when writing Eragon; he did what all beginners do and *emulated* his favorites. He was 12, right? So, it just stood to reason. This is the first time I’ve heard that he flat-out plagiarized. Bummer.

      • He started it when he was 15, and his parents published it when he was 17. From what I can gather, he emulated (such as the entire plot of Star Wars and the LOTR names), he “borrowed” (scenes, magic systems), and he stole.

        • I read Eragon, but I never thought that it wasn’t original; cliched, sure.

          If we couldn’t steal plots, archetypes and other symbolic crap, we’d all be out of business.

          It’s really hard to have an original fantasy name that isn’t from LOTR because Tolkien listed every last one of them in there.

        • Just for clarification, ideas aren’t proper subjects for copyright. Only the expression of ideas qualifies.

  10. Just remember there is a difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement.

    Plagiarism is not illegal, just unethical. It’s copying someone’s ideas, even if you put them in your own words.

    I have no opinion on this case, though, because when fan fiction is involved, the whole genre is based on plagiarism. To actually draw the line, you have to know a whole lot more than you’ll ever get via the press and internet rumor.

    • “the whole genre is based on plagiarism”? A genre in which original creators are given continual and full credit, and in which creators oftentimes even offer explicit permission and support?

      That’s not plagiarism.

      • No, not plagiarism, but since the entire genre of fanfiction is by definition derivative work, there’s still debate over whether it’s wholesale copyright infringement or transformative work.

        Which does not excuse someone plagiarizing someone else’s work, fannish or not. There’s homage; there’s allusion; there’s great minds thinking alike; and then there’s blatant ripping off.

    • To quote Ashley, “No, not plagiarism, but since the entire genre of fanfiction is by definition derivative work, there’s still debate over whether it’s wholesale copyright infringement or transformative work.”

      This. Fanfiction is derivative or transformative, depending on how AU it is, though sometimes it’s pretty original because it’s alternate universe AND out of character (which as fanfiction is. not. good), but it gets ugly if anyone finds out you’ve plagiarized.

      Plagiarism is stealing words, scenes, and lines. Fanfic is derivative, mucking around adding to or changing canon. Sometimes, it addresses the same scene from a different POV or melds into an adaptation that hasn’t canonized that yet, but plagiarism, directly word-for-word regurgitation is extremely frowned upon.

      • *nod* My humorous fanfic drabble of, say, the characters of GetBackers meeting characters from the TV Avatar: The Last Airbender? Derivative, obviously. But I didn’t copy any descriptions that anyone’d written before, to my knowledge. (Except myself, when I went and did 2 more drabbles on the same theme.)

        (Hm. If I ever become Really Popular, I should totally write slashfic of my own stuff under an assumed fan-name. >_> )

  11. Comedian Bill Hicks once responded to people noticing that Denis Leary’s early act included routines that were pretty similar to routines Hicks had been doing for years:

    “I have a scoop for you. I stole his [Leary’s] act. I camouflaged it with punchlines, and, to really throw people off, I did it before he did.”

  12. Just as PG said there is a difference between ideas and copying word for word other people’s writing, and that was a questioned I had above in a post.
    However about ideas, I recently wrote a blog about ideas, and I’ll take the liberty of posting it here (Since I’m copying my own blog I don’t believe I plagiarize)
    “Similar ideas, different writers” (http://sandru.com/blog/)
    My daughter brought me a magazine clipping about the Fall TV Preview from People magazine. On October 25, at 10 PM on NBC there will be a new show “Dracula” starring Jonathan Rhys and Jessica De Gouw. OK, another show about Dracula.
    What surprised me was the plot. Dracula comes to London to do business and meets a woman who seems to be the reincarnation of his wife. Wife?
    For those of you who read Vlad V Vampire, you know that Vlad V wife’s look alike is the climax of the story. Coincidence that two writers, the show writer and I, used almost the same plot? No, not really, ideas are all around us, and occasionally two or more people use the same idea in their writings.
    This happened on Arboregal, which is a story happening in a giant tree. I started writing the story in 2001 and completed it by 2004. What was my surprise when I saw Avatar in 2009? It had a giant tree. It also had those levitating mountains (rocks). Arboregal has a giant tree and levitating rocks in a crater. As far as I know James Cameron and I never exchanged notes, but used two similar ideas in the stories. Thank God I didn’t use blue creatures.
    What’s an author to do? Keep on writing and dreaming of a new plot, even though someone already used it or will be using it.

    • Generally, the same thing every single creator in the history of the universe has had to do. Nothing is inherently ‘original’. Everything is like something else. Everything is inspired by something else. Multiple things are inspired by the same things. We do our best to instill our own twists on things, and even then, those are not usually totally unique. It is the way in which we bring all of the ‘inspired by’s and ‘reminds us of’s together that makes a work unique.

      It is utterly fruitless and sort of alarming to see authors wringing their hands over being possible targets of plagiarism accusations, simply because they believe there are too little words and ideas in this world, and limited avenues of stringing them together. Not only is this a terribly defeatist attitude, but the author is also evading one of their biggest responsibilities as a writer, which is to be creative.

      People don’t get accused of plagiarism for writing about similar things. That’s just run-of-the-mill unoriginality. They get accused of plagiarism for stealing passages and/or ideas that are notably unique to another author.

    • Mit, if it makes you feel better, same thing happened to me. Except in my case it was Steven Spielberg. 😆

      http://wildwickedwacky.blogspot.com/2009/10/steven-spielberg-stole-my-plot.html

      • How true. How about Stephen King, Under the Dome. There was a Simpsons episode where a dome is placed over Springfield and no one can get out. I heard Stephen King saying that he never saw that episode of Simpsons and when someone told him about it, the books were being printed. Aside from the fact the he had an editor, and there was a blog today about editors, I believe that Stephen King did not imagine that the idea could have been used by others, like the Simpsons. And there is nothing unique about a dome. What’s unique is the story behind it. In the Simpsons the dome is placed over the city by the government with helicopters. In Under the Dome the dome is created by a “thing” whatever that is. It happens to everyone, even to Stephen King.

    • Cameron himself couldn’t claim complete originality on Avatar. A lot of the ideas and themes have a striking similarity to Frank Herbert’s The Jesus Incident.

    • I had the same exact thing happen to me. A few years ago I had this fun idea for a romance wherein Santa had to find a wife in order to stay Santa (it was an inherited position). You can imagine my surprise when not one, not two, but THREE movies came out later that year with the exact same idea! Two were on TV, and one was the Tim Allen Santa Clause movie. I’d written my story before those movies, but hadn’t had it published (it’s in my “to do” pile for indie pubbing). Now I figure people will think I ripped the idea off when I had it first! 😀

  13. Where is PG on this? Can you elucidate for us the differences between plagiarism and copyright violation? And whether fan fiction writers have any stand in this at all?

    I truly believe that this is no issue on the Internet more rife with misunderstanding, confusion and just plain ignorance than this one. PG, you can really help us out here.

    • Wikipedia has a Venn diagram showing how the two are slightly different but still overlap:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Plagiarism_vs_Copyright_Infringement.png

      And the University of Connecticut has the simplest explanation of the distinction between the two:

      Plagiarism vs. Copyright Infringement

      Copyright infringement is a violation of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder and may carry legal consequences. Copyright infringement can take many forms. Examples of copyright infringement may include borrowing significant portions of another’s work in the creation of a new work, making and distributing unauthorized copies of a sound recording or video, or publicly performing another’s work without permission from the copyright holder, even if the original work is cited.

      The law identifies several exceptions and limitations to copyright that do not constitute infringement.

      Plagiarism involves using another’s work without attribution, as if it were one’s own original work. It is considered an ethical offense and can be detrimental to one’s academic reputation and integrity.

      It is possible to plagiarize without violating copyright, and it is possible to infringe on another’s copyright without plagiarizing. It is also possible to both plagiarize and violate copyright at the same time.

      And this post expands further:

      http://www.rightsofwriters.com/2011/07/unoriginal-sin-differences-between.html

      Excerpt:

      Plagiarism does not amount to copyright infringement unless (a) the plagiarist has republished copyrightable expression of another, and (b) the amount of copied expression exceeds the boundaries of fair use. For example, facts and ideas are not protected by copyright; only original “expression” is. So, an academic who harvests facts from another scholar without giving due credit may be a plagiarist, but, if she expresses those facts and ideas in her own words, she is not an infringer. Or to take another example, works first published in the U.S. before 1923 are no longer in copyright. Consequently, a novelist who lifts sentences and scenes from the short story sequence Winesburg, Ohio (first published in 1919 and now in the public domain in the U.S.) without crediting Sherwood Anderson would also be a plagiarist, but not an infringer.

    • Jane at DA is an attorney, and if you read her full post, rather than just the excerpt here, she lays it out well. 🙂

  14. Does a living person have copyright on her name? I.e., if I wrote a Snookie fanfic (will never happen, so rest easy) and simply renamed her as Snookums or something, could she sue me?

    I have a WIP that tells a story, wholly from my imagination, but it could be read as though it refers to a living person. If I file off the serial numbers, could she still sue?

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