Author Topic: Is this plagerism?  (Read 1572 times)

Offline JMJ

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Is this plagerism?
« on: January 07, 2007, 12:23:44 PM »
I came across an excerpt from a diary of a Victorian girl on the internet.  I thought it would be a great start for a story.  Would I be able to use it as it is, using her own words and name and then carry on telling her story myself or would I need to just 'steal' the idea and rewrite her original entry and change her name?

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: Is this plagerism?
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2007, 12:31:47 PM »
Would I be able to use it as it is, using her own words and name and then carry on telling her story myself or would I need to just 'steal' the idea and rewrite her original entry and change her name?

Not having seen the source or knowing anything about it, who may have written it or how old the original is, I can't answer your question.

But I do have another question for you that may lead you to your own answer.

How would you feel if you had posted the diary entry and then learned someone had either taken it in whole or in part to use as their own?

Another question, now that you have an idea about a story, can you find a way to write it, making it completely your own?  Do you feel the diary entry is so important that the story can't be told without it?

Sorry, I seem to have had more than one or two questions.  :)
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Offline eric

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Re: Is this plagerism?
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2007, 01:28:17 PM »
JMJ, your first idea sounds like a sort of plagiarism (there is no such word as "plagerism") of the original post of the Victorian diary.  Check with that post to see if it's permitted.  Your second idea presumably plagiarizes the diary itself unless it's sufficiently rewritten to cast the idea into your own words.

These days the more critical question in America, outside of educational institutions, is whether the item in question is covered by copyright.  I do not know what British standards may be.  A Victorian diary would not be copyrightable, but the website in which it appeared could be.  Also, a modern piece of fiction called "Diary of a Victorian Girl" would be copyrighted.  Basic ideas are not copyrightable under American law, only the expressions of  them.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2007, 01:32:59 PM by eric »


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Re: Is this plagerism?
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2007, 01:30:46 PM »
Yes I agree with what CG has said and I really think you have the capabilities for an excellent story here, but you have to make it your own.   Plagiarism is often a difficult subject - sometimes we can write something and not realise we have copied it from somewhere in the past, then there is direct plagiarism with deliberation which I dont think could ever be tolerated only in exceptional cases.  

I am sure you can do this on your own and use the Victorian Diary as a basis and maybe in the acknowledgements say Based on an idea from the Victorian Diary if you would like to give credit to the writer of the diary.   You could also ask permission depending on what you want to do with it.   No harm in asking.

Good luck


« Last Edit: January 07, 2007, 01:32:18 PM by Lin Treadgold »


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Re: Is this plagerism?
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2007, 01:46:28 PM »
I would say go with the muse.

A diary written by a Victorian girl would be out of copyright. If it is on the net because it has since been published in the last 70 years, then you will have to go back and change names and make sure you are not quoting her words directly. Eitherway, you should acknowledge the debt you ow the original Diarist in your book.

If you have been following the row about Ian McEwan who did a very similar thing, you will know that a lot of top authors have come out in support of him and admitted they have done the same in their books.

C'est la vie.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2007, 01:48:53 PM by NaomiM »

Nadine L

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Re: Is this plagerism?
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2007, 02:55:51 AM »
I would contact the person who posted the diary and request permission to use it. Technically, it has been "published" on the internet, so ask (my best guess). Now, the other question is whether or not the person who published it on the internet had the right to do so, therefore do they have the right to give consent for use?

I say, just make up something of your own. If you can imagine a whole book, you should be able to write a diary entry, right?


Offline Gyppo

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Re: Is this plagerism?
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2007, 04:33:54 PM »
I would suggest reading several similar diaries to get a feel for the style and the language, and then writing your own book.  There will almost inevitably be some 'echoes' of other people's work, but by having several sources of input you will be avoiding the obvious risks.

My one published novel was compared favourably by one critic with Geoffery Household's 'Rogue Male', but was most definitely not an attempt to re-write that particular tale.  A lot of it was drawn from my own experiences, which helped to stamp it as mine rather than a 'write-alike' modern version.

Obviously you cannot go back and live as a Victorian, but you could perhaps visit some museums where the artifacts of that life are preserved.  If you ask nicely - as 'a writer doing research' - it's surprising how many of the living history type museums will let you handle stuff which is normally kept the far side of the rope or glass barrier.  That tactile connection with the objects of the era you are wanting to portray is priceless.

Handle a flat iron - the sort that needed to be heated on a trivet in front of a fire before ironing clothes.  It may strike you as heavy, but in some ways they are easier to handle than the modern electric item with a trailing cord.

Pick up a chamber pot - a Guzzunda in Yorkshire Dialect because it' goes under' the bed - which saved the owner from making night time trips to the outdoor toilet.  Even empty they're heavier than you might expect.  If they let you fill it with water and carry it a way you'll be amazed.  Modern children's potties are flimsy lightweights in comparison.

Stuff like this may not feature directly in your 'Diary', but it will guide your mind into what could be called a 'Victorian Groove'.

Wider research - either by reading or seeing/touching - is the best way to avoid any worries about plagiarism.

And think how much more satisfying it will be to *know* it truly is your own work ;-)

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