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First Discussion - The Fandom Psychiatrist
September 28th, 2006
04:50 pm
[bibliophile20]

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First Discussion
Greetings, all! I figured that I had best get on with the purpose of this comm and start a discussion.

Now, rather than start a debate on, say, the whole Ms.Scribe saga, which I think should be saved for the future, when we have more members, I figured that I would instead start what will undoubtedly be the first of many posts on this topic:

Plagiarism.

The question is simple: Why? Plagiarizing in a fandom is far different from plagiarizing in, say, academia, liturature, or any of the other fields where the potential payoff includes actual material benefits or prevents some form of punishment. So what is the motivation, which is apparently fairly common, for someone to steal a fanfic or fanart from someone else and to post it as their own, with no material benefits resulting from their dishonesty?

It has to be psychological, but how can praise for something that they had no hand in producing help prop up their own egos?

BTW, if everyone could go around and announce the existance of this comm on their journals, that would be much appreciated; the more people we have, the better.

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From:redcoast
Date:September 28th, 2006 09:55 pm (UTC)
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It has to be psychological, but how can praise for something that they had no hand in producing help prop up their own egos?

Ever heard of Munchausen's?

It doesn't matter that someone is not really sick, people are paying attention to them!
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From:bibliophile20
Date:September 28th, 2006 10:07 pm (UTC)
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So, you think that the root cause is a need for attention? Humm... I can see that; however, if you're a plagiarist, attention is a self-defeating desire, because it increases the risk of exposure.

Of course, I'm sure that alot of these people fail to consider that.
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From:redcoast
Date:September 28th, 2006 10:11 pm (UTC)
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Most plagiarists Ive known have simply not realized that its unacceptable behavior. Theyre the sort to include uncited material, but if you were to comment and say "This is really funny!" theyd respond, "Thanks! I didnt write that, thats Shil Silverstein!" or whatever.
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From:bibliophile20
Date:September 28th, 2006 10:21 pm (UTC)
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Can you expand on that last statement? I think I got it, but I want to be clear on your point.
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From:redcoast
Date:September 29th, 2006 12:12 am (UTC)
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My ' key wasn't working (strange, but true!).

I've never read any study of plagiarists, but in my own personal experience they have always readily owned to it when questioned about their work.

The Bad Penny report on Cassandra Claire touches on this. Cassandra Claire certainly didn't want to get caught plagiarising, but in replies to comments about the plagiarized chapter, she repeatedly mentioned the book she lifted from. Same goes for the other plagiarizers.
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From:bibliophile20
Date:September 29th, 2006 12:32 am (UTC)
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And why is that, do you suppose? Think it's because the fact that they've plagiarized is so easy to back up once proven that they decide not to get into deeper water?
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From:redcoast
Date:September 29th, 2006 12:51 am (UTC)
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Perhaps they weren't plagiarists in the traditional sense of the word: they weren't intent on passing off someone else's work as their own. Common decency (and guilt) would encourage them to admit it when pressed.

Another way of putting it would be to say that these people weren't out to fool anyone; they just didn't know it was wrong.

A person I beta-read for once cut-and-pasted a bit from the HP Lexicon into their story. When I pointed it out, they weren't offended at all; they removed it without complaint.
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From:bibliophile20
Date:September 29th, 2006 03:20 am (UTC)
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they weren't offended at all; they removed it without complaint.

Huh. Most of the plagiarists that I've seen thus far get highly defensive when their theft is revealed.
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From:redcoast
Date:September 29th, 2006 03:22 am (UTC)
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I think that indicates a difference in motive. Defensiveness implies a guilty conscience.
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From:bibliophile20
Date:September 29th, 2006 03:23 am (UTC)
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Indeed, it does, which implies that those do realize that what they're doing is wrong... yet they do it anyway; what does that say to you?
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From:mickawber
Date:September 29th, 2006 03:41 am (UTC)
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The plagiarism I've seen around the HP fandom is mostly on a far less sophisticated scale than Cassandra Clare's, which was almost brilliant in its packrat deployment of unattributed little bits and pieces of others' work.

Most often I've seen entire fics cut, pasted and posted under the name of the new 'author'--often with a different title, but not always. (It's happened with art too, which is pretty wild, since artists' styles tend to be so easily identifiable.) This strikes me as stunningly stupid, not to mention utterly amoral. The only motivation that I can imagine is Munchhausen-esque--a desire to get a lot of adulation, and a desire to take possession of a piece of fiction (or art) that you love and call it your own.

I think it may also be an outgrowth of the Kazaa/Naptser mentality: if it's out there, it's mine. If it's mine, I can do anything I want to with it. Intellectual property? What's that?

(We can talk about the ethics of IP another day--I just wanted to point out that this might be part of the mindset, especially since most of the plagiarists seem to be fairly young...)
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From:bibliophile20
Date:September 29th, 2006 03:58 am (UTC)
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I think we've all agreed that one of the primary reasons that people, especially younger people who make up the core of any fandom, plagiarize is because they want attention, and, as you pointed out, the whole "information is free! information belongs to us all*!" mentality certainly doesn't help.


*and Karl Marx is undoubtedly laughing in his grave
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From:melisus
Date:September 29th, 2006 04:18 pm (UTC)
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I personally wouldn't go so far as to say Cassandra Claire owned up to her plagarizing. Yes she did say at one point that she had lifted things (especially that large passage from that book) but she never exactly formally cited the reference, used it with permission, and there were previously several other false explanations (in other words, lies) that she offered.

But I do think that in the case of most fandom plagarising issues, Cassandra Claire is an exceptional example.
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From:bibliophile20
Date:September 29th, 2006 04:37 pm (UTC)
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I think at one point we're going to have a whole series of case study discussions: CC, MsScribe, Caina, and that's just in the HP fandom. But before that, I have to go and familiarize myself with the whole story of CC's misdeeds
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From:melisus
Date:September 29th, 2006 04:40 pm (UTC)
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Heh, yeah. I've read all about Ms.Scribe (and in doing so realized that I was actually present in the fandom for some parts of that "legend"), and started reading up on CC just the other day (don't know why... just did). I haven't heard of Caina or what happened there but I'll definitely be familiarizing myself now.
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From:bibliophile20
Date:September 29th, 2006 04:55 pm (UTC)
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*is amused* cool, but let's not get started on that right now; shall we save it for a post where that's the focus?
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From:melisus
Date:September 29th, 2006 05:21 pm (UTC)
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Haha, well of course.
From:redsioda
Date:September 28th, 2006 10:57 pm (UTC)
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There is a need for attention. One does not cheat and plagiarize for himself (like writers do write for themselves) or for the pleasure of it (ok, it may happen, but that is another problem). I think that the gratifications may be external (friends, reviews, quotes), and that has an impact on the ego.

I think there are several kind of cheaters and their motivation may be different.

1. There is the "naive" cheater, who loves a fic so much that he writes "his own" by borrowing the biggest part to another fanfic. I agree with redcoast: this cheater may not even realize that he steals in doing so. But it is still stealing.

2. There is the cheater who wants to break his isolation. I think that this kind of cheater uses Internet to make friends. Fanfiction websites are big. What a better way to meet people than loading up some great stories, and becoming a beloved writer overnight? When his cheating is unveiled, he loses that circle of friends he created. I suspect it is a behavioral pattern.

3. The is also the cheater who cheats at whatever he does. There must be a link with this behaviour and his moral development.

Great topic, by the way :)




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From:bibliophile20
Date:September 28th, 2006 11:06 pm (UTC)
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Humm... interesting points.

For #1, I can see that, but while that particular outlook of naivete seems--at least to me--to be endemic to the younger portions of the fandom, that group primarily goes for the approach of #2, wholesale cut-and-paste of another fic; that just happened to a friend of mine, almond_joyz a short while ago.

For #3, I know the type, and they'll be the topic of a whole 'nother post somewhere down the road--the compulsive cheater, who isn't happy unless he's working the system. I've seen them in school, online, in console multiplayers like Halo 2. Like I said, that type alone is going to be the focus of a post or three.
From:redsioda
Date:September 28th, 2006 11:49 pm (UTC)
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I can see that, but while that particular outlook of naivete seems--at least to me--to be endemic to the younger portions of the fandom, that group primarily goes for the approach of #2, wholesale cut-and-paste of another fic

Yes, I do have the feeling that some younger fans go for #2. It is the easiest way.

However, I have seen #1 in French (my native language). I think that these two types of cheating do not hold the same significance.

#1 is somehow considered as an inspired "homage", while #2 is a way of being accepted in a group, and the fic becomes a tool to get to bond with others. Cheater #2 does not care for the fic.
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From:bibliophile20
Date:September 29th, 2006 03:22 am (UTC)
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I've seen #1 as well, but they weren't homages; the one in particular that I'm thinking of was nothing more than a blatent rip-off and rewrite of someone else's fic; he used his own words, true enough, but you could see that he used the other fic as a direct outline.
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From:melisus
Date:September 28th, 2006 11:32 pm (UTC)
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Ironically, I was just reading about the whole Cassandra Claire debaucle about five minutes before I stumbled upon here.

It's been said by others so far, but I pretty much have to agree - people plagarize for the attention. However, I think in the case of fandom, there is often a very specific motivation:

The ever-present desire (in most fandom members) to become a BNF or to at least earn some recognition for it. Reaching a BNF status doesn't happen to everyone because not everyone can be fortunate enough to get passed around and find themselves a specific niche or styling within a fandom. But that won't stop people from trying. I know you decided not to bring up Ms.Scribe but I can't help doing so here as she's a prime example of the sort of things people will do in order to build up their own popularity.

But not everyone has the "skill" or self-confidence to effectively mass-produce sockpuppets. Therefore others, who are perhaps not very confident in their ability to contribute to fandom (therefore craving recognition and status all the more as a form of praise and confidence) lift things from other people that they believe to be "witty" or "profound" and present it as their own.

As for why this sort of thing probably continues? In my experience it is the loudest people who know the least. Underlings and rabid fans will loudly promote and praise a piece of work long before someone more alert and wise comes along and recognizes the plagarism. As such, while it may be short-lived, some people believe that any attention is better than no attention at all.
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From:bibliophile20
Date:September 28th, 2006 11:53 pm (UTC)
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It's interesting, however, how so many of them either ignore the consequences, or don't think it through to the end result--like what happened to gunderpants last spring--or just simply don't care. AS you pointed out, they want the attention, or, as redcoast said, Munchausen's Syndrome, but the bare fact is, their desire for attention outweighs the fact that what their being praised for, they aren't responsible for producing.
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From:melisus
Date:September 29th, 2006 04:29 pm (UTC)
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Exactly. But I did some more thinking today (I've no idea why) and I came to something interesting. We've all been discussing WHY people plagarize but exactly WHAT constitutes plagarism? Using something without permission? Without acknowledgement of outside creation or inspiration?

I was just mulling over the idea that perhaps plagarism and tribute/inspiration run a lot more closely in fandom (a world with no copyrights) than in the published world.

I'm speaking especially about the incident with the LotR Very Secret Diaries (again, Cassandra Claire). They were incredibly popular but Cassandra Claire decided she didn't want to write them anymore and quit. Because the idea was interesting and entertaining, someone else decided they'd write their own to keep the trend going. I'm sure people know what happened since it made Fandom_Wank but if not I'll explain it away anyway. These new diaries (given a different name... so essentially were a different and original fic) became popualr and when Cassandra Claire found out she went on a tirade about people stealing her idea and that no one was allowed to write any super secret diary fics because they were her's.

She essentially claimed plagarism? But is it? In the world of fandom you can't exactly lay claim to a certain styling of writing. The diary fic isn't exactly new and I've seen dozens written that way. Obviously the person was directly influenced by CC's fics, but I wouldn't say they were plagarism.

Would you?
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From:bibliophile20
Date:September 29th, 2006 04:54 pm (UTC)
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This is true, but anytime you start discussion anything that has to do with a BNF (and the aspects of that moniker will undoubtedly provide fuel for several discussions) as you said, true inspiration and plagiarism run very close in those areas. But what we're talking about here is:
taking someone else's art, and changing it a bit, or not at all and putting it up as your own
C&Ping a fic and maybe changing a few words, or even just rewriting it nearly entirely
Or, to put it more simply, the type of plagiarism that you see every day in the fandom, the kind that get's reported to stop_plagiarism instead of Fandom Wank (BTW, stop_plagiarism has a very good definition in their userinfo.)
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From:melisus
Date:September 29th, 2006 05:26 pm (UTC)
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Yes but I think art is a lot trickier to look at than fic when it comes to plagarism. Look at The Shoebox Project for a moment. Since its creation I've seen a lot of artists draw Remus Lupin much like he appears there. If the creators were really irate they could probably raise a plagarism wank.

Especially when it comes to character designs, artists who are just starting out are probably going to have character images that look very similar if not identical to an artist's they enjoy or admire. I'll use my own example here: I look at fan art a lot and sometimes I'll come across a picture that makes me think, "Yes! That's so-and-so right there!" For a long time if I sat down and drew a picture of Remus Lupin he ended up looking a lot like the Remus Lupin of mon_starling because I really enjoyed her art and found that her image was exactly what I had in mind. My Remus Lupin drawings have since "evolved" from that initial stage (probably from me watching the latest season of Doctor Who), but I do think that even though I was only inspired, if I posted Lupin art there could be someone out there who would turn around and accuse me of plagarism.

I think that this then relates to what someone else said in the comments about some plagarists not realizing what they're doing. Perhaps there CAN be innocent plagarists even if they are found far and few between.
From:madeof_stars
Date:September 28th, 2006 11:46 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, you know, I don't get that either. I mean... unless they are just so devoid of any attention in their real lives, so they feel the need to get some by posting something that isn't theirs?

Basically, and this is the psyhch major in me *not* talking, but...basically you know what I think?

People are ASSES. Full stop. Case closed.

I think the whole human race has just grown lazier and lazier with time and stealing someone's story and taking all the credit is just the epitome of that face.

I'm in a very cynical mood today.
From:madeof_stars
Date:September 28th, 2006 11:47 pm (UTC)
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And omg there are so many errors in that comment. Eep. Ugh, I should give up on LJ today.
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From:bibliophile20
Date:September 28th, 2006 11:56 pm (UTC)
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*smirk* I comepletely agree with that viewpoint on plagiarism--that it is decidely reprehensible, to put it more politely--and I'll just give you a big *HUG* for whatever put you in a cynical mood.
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From:ohginnyfan
Date:September 29th, 2006 01:22 pm (UTC)
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*waves hi*

I'm here thanks to a rec by bringandfly.

I think those that plagiarize don't necessarily realize they want attention - I think they want to be a part of the fandom they're plagiarizing, and they can't come up with their own work or they've been told their work is crap. They go out, find a decent story and C/P it - sometimes making changes, sometimes not. But ultimately, whether they realize it or not, they want the attention - make a name for themselves - and they do it to get recognized.

I believe some probably don't even realize it's not right to plagiarize. They do it thinking it's okay.

People who have been convicted of stealing from companies for whatever reasons have said that when they were doing the stealing, they didn't really realize what they were doing was wrong. I know that's hard for some to fathom (I have a hard time fathoming it), but for some reason, in their brains, they are able to reason it is okay to do what they're doing. And I think perhaps, sometimes, that's what happens here, too. They find some sort of reasoning mechanism to make them think it is okay to steal another's work.

Susan
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From:bibliophile20
Date:September 29th, 2006 04:47 pm (UTC)
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As mickawber pointed out above, a sense of entitlement that seems endemic among the last couple of generations (my dad gets annoyed sometimes at the sense of entitlement displayed by fellow Baby Boomers) and they figure the world owes them something for the fact that they exist. My icon sums up my opinion of that perspective nicely.
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From:jennifergale
Date:September 30th, 2006 03:42 am (UTC)
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Gosh. There are a lot of reasons why someone might plagiarize. In grad school, there was a large population of brilliant students who were faced with doing grad-level work in a second language. A lot of these students turned to plagiarism, and it was...sad. They did so to save face, because the work was already hard, but even harder for them because they were parsing complex material and constructing complex arguments in a language they did not know. Lazy these people weren't, but pride made them use the materials of other authors and students.

Some of the people who plagiarize in the fandom seem to do it for the instant friend factor...but I think pride/ego can be a factor as well. My old classmates wanted to get A's, and this was important enough to them that they felt a need to steal. CC wanted reviews, wanted popularity...wanted to be thought brilliant. Who doesn't? So she plundered her favorite books in order to wow her audience with the things that wowed her. No chance she didn't know what she was doing, or she wouldn't have made her plunderings so un-google-able. There's no copywrite on plot lines, but there's certainly something ethically wrong about passing off a plot line as your own when it isn't.

but how can praise for something that they had no hand in producing help prop up their own egos?

The thing is...I think that, when some people who do this hear the praise, they believe it. They might know that this or that line wasn't their own, or that this and that plotline wasn't their own...but they still believe in their own brilliance. They steal because they believe they are that brilliant. If CC's reviews said something like "Your dialogue is OMG witty!", how easy it must have been to assume the reviewer meant her original dialogue.

(Glad you started this comm, J. :)
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From:bibliophile20
Date:September 30th, 2006 04:20 am (UTC)
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But that's in a school enviroment for the grad students; their gamble could have paid off. The question was: what is it in a fandom enviroment that people will try and plagiarize? Still you summed it up fairly well, and I think that the false attribution factor certainly has something to do with it--the plagiarizers hearing the praise as being for their own original material, no matter how little of it there is.

And I would, at this time, like to state that all of the Babylon 5, Star Trek, Star Wars, Dune, Monty Python and others that I add minor references to in my own far are just that: references, meant as tribute and for my own private amusement.
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From:jennifergale
Date:September 30th, 2006 08:40 am (UTC)
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But that's in a school enviroment for the grad students; their gamble could have paid off. The question was: what is it in a fandom enviroment that people will try and plagiarize? </i>

Yeah, I understood that was the question - just thought the stakes, desperation, and motivation to appear as she/they envisioned themselves seemed the same.

And I would, at this time, like to state...

And references are great. Resonance is one of those things that makes us like (or dislike) a certain author. Published authors reference Shakespeare, Austen, pop culture... Honestly, CC's references to Buffy didn't bother me much - it's like quoting Star Wars or Monty Python in this culture. Most people in our corner of the net-verse is going to get it. If Snape ends up saving the day at the end of Book 7 and someone writes a story where characters sing a song with the line: "The hero of Hogwarts, the man they call Snape," a third of the fandom will say, "Firefly!"

It just boggles the brain that someone would equate references/tributes with lifting huge sections from relatively unknown and out of print books.

(Heidi's is the plagiarism that fully baffles me. How can someone claim to regard intellectual rights so highly and yet steal - boldly, boldly - from two of the most beloved childrens books? On a dare? In belief that everyone's too stupid to cotton on?)
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From:bibliophile20
Date:October 4th, 2006 05:40 am (UTC)
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Heck, I have references liberally sprinkled throughout my own WIP--Star Wars, Babylon 5 (especially), a little bit of Star Trek, Dune, a few others. But those were included for my own amusement, and to see if anyone would notice them (which, thus far, I have been disappointed on the majority), but I didn't actively steal anything: I aknowledged that I got the initial idea for the story from a Star Trek DS9 episode called "Distant Voices" which I then took the concept from and expanded it in my own direction, and the title is a direct homage to a Babylon 5 episode which is a favorite of mine, but I freely aknowledge that I put those in there--mostly for my own amusement, and the fact that my imagination insisted.

But trying to pass off someone else's work as their own isn't a tribute--it's theft, nothing more, nothing less.
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From:reciprokates
Date:October 3rd, 2006 06:24 pm (UTC)
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I think most things were already said and I totally agree, that there are different types of plagiarists out there, who have different motivations.

For me the angle point is wheather they do it conciously or just don't know what they do is wrong and if it they don't know, if they actually do it because they love the work or out of a different motivation.

Those who with no bad intention, would be the one who shouldn't mind just aknowledging the origin of that art, ect.
From:mrs_wolf
Date:October 15th, 2006 01:34 am (UTC)
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Hello Joseph. I am busy procrastinating and happened to wander in. It's a nice little place you've got here.

I think I have a much different slant than others, simply because I've been lied to very, very seriously in real life (and fallen for it) and I have an overwrought imagination.

I think the serious plagiarists are control-freaks and also manipulators. These are the ones who plagiarize successfully.

Personally, when I read something it is an escape--a door to another world! Often I am loathe to even speak of the characters to other people. They are secret friends, and I keep them close. This might be what plagiarists are doing in an extremely exaggerated sense. They are making characters theirs for good, "claiming" them.

I think it's also a fear of who they are as people. They live in imaginary worlds (like I do, except deeply exaggerated) because they cannot bear the real one. It is easy to give false truth in fandom. I think everyone does it to some extent. They exaggerate parts of themselves and keep hidden other parts. Plagiarism might just be a mask, the same the honest of our communtiy wear, except a whole lot thicker.

As Orson Scott Card once said (and he arguably plagiarized from Le Guin), "It is impossible to pretend to be something and not become it." I truly believe that plagiarists believe that this is their own work. Maybe they feel they have to for their own insanity. (And what is theft but a material lie?)

In my experiences with pathological liars, what makes them so very convincing is their own belief in what they say. It's a bit shocking, really. They channel emotions from what is "real" into what is "false" so that they can avoid whatever it is that they are running from.

I don't know. Maybe I am wrong. But I think plagiarism goes alot deeper than just wanting attention.
From:mrs_wolf
Date:October 15th, 2006 01:36 am (UTC)
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Whoops! insanity=sanity.
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