Saturday, March 27, 2010

Plagiarism V Imagination

It was called copying back in grade school. Being labeled a copy catter was a terrible fate; a thing best avoided.

Inspiration often grows from events and stories of days gone by. How thin is the line between inspiration and copying?

Plagiarism is defined as: A piece of written work someone has claimed as his/her own. (This definition was copied from the Bing search engine.)

Bram Stoker's widow sued over a 1922 remake of DRACULA, claiming the movie maker neither asked permission nor paid royalties on the piece. NOSFERATU was a near duplication of the vampire story minus the renaming of the main character from COUNT DRACULA to COUNT ORLOCK. Stoker won the suit and all copies of the movie were destroyed.

TERMINATOR was criticized for being too similar to two OUTER LIMITS episodes titled THE SOLDIER and THE MAN WITH THE GLASS HAND. The stories had to do with soldiers going back into the past and a robotic human with a computer device in a glass looking hand.

ROMEO AND JULIET has been remade dozens of times. The theme of forbidden love is favored both in Hollywood and among romance authors.
Our heroes may indeed be from the wrong side of the tracks, or fall in love with the "wrong" woman during a family feud, but we are careful not to duplicate the story. Though the idea of family conflict, and running away together is too tasty to ignore, we always put a new spin on classic ideas.

Romance writers believe in love conquering all, so we do like our happy endings. Human experiences, and universal themes have remained the same over the centuries, so there is bound to be some similarities among artists.

I had to laugh when I listened to a pod cast about Santa Claus. "He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you're awake." The man responded "It sounds like the Gestapo." I used a similar joke in my book KINDERTRANSPORT. I won't accuse him of plagiarism; I'm sure others have made the same observation.

Inspiration hits us in a variety of ways, through news articles, overheard conversation, even dreams. We may find ourselves improving stories of old, or remaking history to our liking. Inspiration is simply a creative response to stimulus.
Plagiarism?
With our brilliant imaginations and natural talent?
Perish the thought.

2 comments:

Jen Childers said...

your welcome.
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