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  1. #11
    Charles Aidan

    Re: Plagiarism vs. Fair Use

    >> Charles, your "in this day and age" is cliché.

    Well, at least it's not plagiarism! ;-)

  2. #12
    Ray Veen

    Re: Plagiarism vs. Fair Use

    I'm sure there are some firm legal definations of what constitutes plaigarism (any lawyers out there?), but this guy's example didn't seem like it would qualify. 'Instances of love being rare' is not all that unique a sentiment, you know? I could see two writers using the sentence to describe two different situations in two different stories.

    If the situations the sentences described were similar, then there'd probably be more a case for plaigarism.

    Just guessing here.

  3. #13
    Busy Lizzy

    Re: Plagiarism vs. Fair Use

    OK, I've done some googling, and it seems that I'm wrong. Obviously plagiarism is much more serious and far more closely defined than I thought. Check out this:


    It's quite informative and tells you a lot of the legal stuff you might want to know.

    Hope this helps rather than adds to the confusion.

    Busy Lizzy

  4. #14
    Charles Aidan

    Re: Plagiarism vs. Fair Use

    >> I've done some googling, and it seems that I'm wrong.

    I'm sure I've done a lot more googling than you have on this topic, and what I never find is any discussion on where fair use trumps the charge of plagiarism. In other words, can the "plagiarist" borrow 3 consecutive words in someone else's work (without citation) without having to worry about the charge of being a plagiarist? How about 4 consecutive words? 5? 6?

    What if the original source is an audible source, like a TV newscast or radio show and you "borrow" a sentence directly from a talking head?

    What if the original source is from a newspaper editorial where the author's name is withheld?

    You never get these detailed examples discussed in these googled results. 90% of the google results on plagiarism come from universities trying to warn/prevent students from cheating. But what is permitted in the way of copying 3, 4, 5 or 6 consecutive words and not citing the source is never addressed. Never do these sites show how fair use "borrowing" of another author's sentence can be allowed.

  5. #15
    nom de plume

    Re: Plagiarism vs. Fair Use

    I don't quite understand the brouhaha here. As Ray pointed out it, the quoted example isn't that earth-shattering. Seems you could have spent the time put into this thread to come up with something original. Such should give more satisfaction than determining at what point you cross the line of plagiarism.

    I think there may not be an absolute rule on determining where the use of certain words is unintentional and where it becomes plagiarism.

    Let's use Lolita's famous opening:
    "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul."

    If you use "fire of my loins" it's clearly plagiarism. Everyone knows these are Nabokov's words. If you use "light of my life" it's more debatable. etc. etc.

    Saying clunky stuff like
    "You put my loins on fire because you're the light of my life"
    is imho just a pathetic attempt to steal from someone and hope to get away with it.

    I wrote this in haste, so pardon any typos. Now i'm out of here. Nice day to all.

  6. #16
    Charles Aidan

    Re: Plagiarism vs. Fair Use

    >> Everyone knows these are Nabokov's words.

    I don't have a clue who Nabokov is, and even if I did, I fail to see how using his 4 words "fire of my loins" in my sentence (without a citation) is a literary crime (aka, plagiarism).

    Example: My wife is indeed the fire of my loins and the pulse within my heart.

    Must I put a footnote after "loins" and insert a bibliographic reference to Nabokov? Seems silly to me. Must I destroy the mood of my sentence by rewriting it, "My wife is indeed, as Nabokov said, the 'fire of my loins' and the pulse within my heart...?" Yuck! OK, so I here have just made the sentence "legal," but at the same time I've destroyed the whole mood of the sentence.

    >> Seems you could have spent the time put
    >> into this thread to come up with something original.

    You are missing the point.

  7. #17
    nom de plume

    Re: Plagiarism vs. Fair Use

    No, Charles, it's you who's missing the point. You're picking your brain about how many consecutive words--4?, 5?,6?--you can "borrow" from an author.

    "Fire of my loins" is only four words, including the very generic "of" and "my." Yet, the sequence of these four words is now considered uniquely Nabokov's because he was the one who sweated over them and published them. And it's really Nabokov, not YOU, who created the mood. If you want to re-create that mood, use your own words or, with the permission of the publisher and whoever owns the copyright to Nabokov's work, at least exercise the minimum courtesy to give Nabokov credit for it.

    It's no one's problem but yours if you don't know Nabokov. It still doesn't entitle you to use his distinctive sentences in a book for publication. I doubt you've used this sentence exactly as is thus far. Thanks to this thread, now you know the sentence too. If tonight in bed you'll say it to your wife, she may well say "Oh, Charles, you've such a wonderful way with words. You're such an original" and no one will be the wiser.

    I read books not to be able to paraphrase the author but to get something out of it. The information learned goes into my knowledge-base that is the sum of my education, culture, experiences, talks with other people, books I've read, movies i've seen, songs i've heard, places i've visited... Out of that mix i hope to come up with something original. I don't want to create something by borrowing left and right. That to me seems "silly" and isn't even "creating."

    If originality is so hard to come by for you, maybe writing is not for you.

    Bye Charles!

  8. #18
    nom de plume

    Re: Plagiarism vs. Fair Use

    And lastly, google all you want but you'll never find an exact answer about the 3-6 (or more) words of free "borrowing." The answer is simple: it all depends. In numerous posts, people have been pointing this out in this thread.

    Oh, how i wish now i had never seen this thread. Enough already.

  9. #19
    nancy drew

    Re: Plagiarism vs. Fair Use

    Ooh, I saw the phrase "coprophageous gibbon fancier" once in reference to Tom Cruise.

    I've always wanted to poach that phrase.

    How about:

    "That coprophageous gibbon fancier was the light of my life, the fire of my loins, the steak on my barbecue. But frankly, my dear, in this day and age, he didn't give a damn that gibbons like being made into coats."

    (-With acknowledgements to Kaavya Viswanathan)

  10. #20
    Joe Zeff

    Re: Plagiarism vs. Fair Use

    Gregory, there's a good reason you'll never find the answers you're looking for: highly detailed questions like that are always left to the jury to decide because they depend so much on circumstances. No sane legislature would ever try to write fixed rules for questions like that because "hard cases make bad law." That is, if you try to cover every possible situation in the statute, you end up with unreadable, confusing, potentially unenforceable laws. That's what juries are for: to decide how to apply the law to corner cases.

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