While I'm not typically one to get involved with conflict, every so often something comes around that, while it may be deemed controversial or conflict-inducing, is important enough to say that I don't care. I do usually try to avoid this kind of thing, though, especially online I just find it nerve-wracking and 90% of the time unnecessary. However, In the past few months I have noticed quite a bit of plagiarism here on wtw. While I have tried to politely call out those that I found, I've been made aware there has been much, much more than the little bit I've seen. Plagiarism is against Write the World's policy and even if it wasn't, as young writers it should be against our own. Every single writer on here works hard on their pieces and for someone to plagiarize it is not acceptable behavior. In fact, it's gotten adults arrested and students kicked out of schools and colleges. Definitely not a minor thing that we can try to blur the lines on.
That all said, the lines might seem a little blurry, especially to our younger half who may not have learned about it in school yet (or parts of the older half that forgot!) Allow me to explain.
Plagiarism, as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary is, "to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own use (another's production) without crediting the source; to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source"
So to put it simply, plagiarism is the act of stealing either someone's writing or their ideas, and many times it can easily be prevented by doing two things: asking the original writer or owner's permission to use their ideas or republish their words, and then properly citing the original piece as your source (which we'll get to later.)
After that, it gets complicated. I can see you scratching your heads, wondering "Well what about fanfiction?" or "How about paraphrasing? Those are valid questions and I'll do my best to explain them (and any others you have. Ask away in the comments, I make sure to respond to every single question!)
Fanfics are NOT plagiarism. Usually. (I've only seen this been mistakenly called out once, but I did want to include just because I used to wonder and thought you might, too. Besides, it's good to know.) I can hear it now..."But Riley, fanfics use characters from another writer's work, right? So why isn't it plagiarism?"
And while it's true fanfics do use someone else's original characters, they have their own original plots. They aren't being sneaky or coming up with things like "Parry Hotter and the Philosopher's Rock" to try and put authors out of business. In fact, they're almost constantly referencing the original source! Also, fanfics are typically posted on sites like wtw, prose, tumblr, and wattpad where they can be read for free, therefore not infringing on any profit the author would make on her book series. They do not interfere with sales of the actual work (in fact, they may heighten it) and so long as it stays that way, it's all legal and everyone is fine and dandy.
However, to publish a fanfic in print and then try to sell it at a bookstore or online is not legal. (This is where it kind of gets a little confusing.) To make money off your fanfic would infringe on the copyright on the actual author's books and characters. While the plot may be your own, to use someone else's characters or settings you'd need to get their explicit permission to sell and earn profit off of it. The original author would need to legally write and sign to you some of the rights on their characters or franchise.
Paraphrasing is NOT plagiarism. Let's get something straight about paraphrasing. It is NOT changing one or two words. Doing that would be plagiarizing. To paraphrase is to completely change the sentence/paragraph/whatever to say what you need it to say with the material it said before. So if I wanted to write about, say, Lemony Snicket, I'd have to change the material I found from this Wikipedia article...
"Lemony Snicket is the pen name of American novelist Daniel Handler (born February 28, 1970). Handler has published several children's books under the name, most notably A Series of Unfortunate Events, which has sold over 60 million copies and spawned a 2004 film and TV series from 2017 to 2019."
Lemony Snicket is a pseudonym of author Daniel Handler, most widely known for the "A Series of Unfortunate Events" books, the inspred movie, and television show that came after.
While I changed the wording, however, I'd still need to cite my source because it's where I got the information.
Not taking the entire article is still plagiarism. "But I didn't use the whole piece!"
Yeah, well think of it as a meal plan. You have your grandma's old recipe cards for turkey, green beans, and mashed potatoes. You let your neighbor see them for a potluck she's going to and she only decides to make the mashed potatoes. She may not be using the whole meal, but would that make it okay for her to pass the one dish off as her own? No way! You'd want credit where credit was due, and it works the same way with books and articles. Authors deserve credit for what they've worked hard to do. It's easy to give it, too, and that perfectly leads us into our next section...
Citiations are easy! (By the way, these are just the citations I have learned. If you know of other ways to do it, feel free to shout them out down below!)
How to cite a book: Author's last name, Author's first name, "Book Title." Publication City, Publisher, Publishing Date
How to cite a site (see what I did there...ahaha, yeah, I'm not funny): Author's last name, Author's first name, "Article Title." Website Title, Publisher, Publication date, Medium, Date Accessed.
When writing papers for school, your teacher will typically ask that you compile your citations on a bibliography page, or, for direct quotes in the text, in the footnotes of the page they are found on. Here on wtw, they should be put in the footnotes section down below. If any of the required information is not stated anywhere in the article or site, it is acceptable to cite without it.
Thank you guys so much for reading this. I know it was long but it's important to know, especially as a writer. Everyone on here has so much talent and plagiarism is never necessary to gain attention. Always make sure your writing is your own work, and remember it's totally okay (and actually very flattering) to ask someone if you can write a piece based on, quoting, or continuing one of theirs.
Lastly, I'm not trying to to come for anyone or offend anyone here, I just wanted to help. If you find anything said in this piece in any way offensive, tell me and I'll edit it out. Have an amazing day, write free, and let's continue being the awesome community I know we are.
1. "Plagiarize (definition)" merriamwebster.com/dictionary, Merriam Webster. Website. Accessed May 30, 2020.
2. Litte, Jane. "Fan Fiction, Plagiarism, and Copyright." dearauthor.com, Dear Author Media Network, 2012. Website. Accessed May 30, 2020.
3. "Lemony Snicket." wikipedia.com, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, 2020. Website. Accessed May 30, 2020.