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Full Version: Repurposing, or, a Defense of Plagiarisim
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I'm throwing this link up for group discussion, because it has great implications for fanfiction without the article ever referring to it.
-- Bob
Then the horns kicked in...
...and my shoes began to squeak.
TLBig GrinR, but from skipping from the middlish to the end for the conclusion, I disagree; it is plagiarism and just as bad as it ever was, but in the age of easily downloaded music & video that makes all but the most straightlaced a casual criminal (Ever downloaded a song to see if you liked it before buying the album? BAD! NO COOKIE! THE FBI IS ON THEIR WAY! YES, EVEN IF YOU DELETED IT LATER! You criminal.) people just don't care as much if they're "committing intellectual crimes" any more, and the "stick it to The Man/information wants to be free" counterculture mythology just encourages it further. Then too, the fairly sharp divide between bands who make most of their money from touring and either don't get in a twist or actively distribute their music online as a form of promotion versus the ones who have a wall of gold and platinum records and are ferociously against it just makes the "intellectual property is real property and copying it without compensation is just as wrong as stealing via electronic funds transfer" look like nothing but greedy self-interest. To avoid a TLBig GrinR of my own, I'll just say this:

The adage that there's nothing new under the sun is itself at least a century old, but we've still managed to find ways to frame the same old ideas in ways that are if not new, at least chopped finely and stirred into a stew with a flavor all its own. To say that such efforts are uneccessary and that simply pulling a potato from this garden, some carrots from that window box, an ear of corn off the truck out front, and a chicken thigh from the freezer, then throwing them in a bowl without bothering to make the detailed preparations and add a twist of your own seasoning, will produce a result of equivalent quality and impact is so obviously wrong to me that even this metaphor fails to fully describe my reaction to the idea as applied to writing.

- CD, writes fanfic but doesn't presume to claim that it's good for anything but the amusement value
"Anko, what you do in your free time is your own choice. Use it wisely. And if you do not use it wisely, make sure you thoroughly enjoy whatever unwise thing you are doing." - HymnOfRagnorok as Orochimaru at SpaceBattles
woot Med. Eng., verb, 1st & 3rd pers. prsnt. sg. know, knows
I actually slogged my way through the entire thing. And rather than rip apart some of the very weak (or just plain wrong) arguments presented in it, I'll try and focus on the topic we tend to care more about: Plagiarism and Fanfic.

There is a difference between taking someone's work wholesale and presenting it as your own, and building on ideas presented in another's work.

To ping off of CD's point, the practice of sampling is not plagiarism. The music industry seems to have accepted this point, as long as you acknowledge that parts of the song you built are not your own, no one gets too mad.

I believe (if the disclaimers are anything to go by) that most fanfic writers are well aware they are building on the work of others, and they aren't trying to pass of the work as their own.

No one that I know of is trying to pass of the works of JK Rowling as their own. We all know that we are building our works on the foundations of others.

And in general I've seen people respect the wishes of authors who don't want fanfic based off their works.

Fanfic is where a lot of writers have learned their craft (or at least learned to better their craft). And I think that very few would outright attack some of their most enthusiastic fans.

So I'm of the firm opinion that as long as we don't make asses of ourselves (by claiming we came up the ideas in the source material ourselves) we are fine.
"so listen up boy, or pornography starring your mother will be the second worst thing to happen to you today"
TF2: Spy


I have to go back a decade or so to really answer this... to Napster vs. Metalica.  This was the start of the RIAA lawyer blitzkreig madness.  Its a good place to start.  Ignoring the spin on this issue from both sides here is what happened: Metalica asked Napster to kindly take down a few files.  These files were not as suggested previous albums or even bootlegs of live concerts... those they concidered free advertising and WAFTy ego boosting.  No, what they wanted down was preproduction sound tests of an album more than a year from being released.  They were songs not yet fit for public consumption.  Alpha tests.  One of the recording company's employees outright stole these from the company and released them on Napster.  Metalica asked politely several times for these to be taken off the net as they hadn't had enough time to beat the suck out of them yet.  They would only need to take them down until after the new album was out.  Only after listening to Napster effectively declared itself involital and made of win, repeatedly, and not take thing down, did they get the lawyers involved.
In short, what set loose the RIAA sharks was a case of industrial espionage and a group aiding and abetting it.  Napster was flat out in the wrong... its exactly the same as when the [wall of explitives] hacker that stole an alpha version of Half Life 2 and posted it and a foul, scathing review of every bug and issue with it as if it was the public final release.  Apparently it just never occured to him not to publically declare you hacked into a company and stole their data... the treated it as public domain.  This caused DRM madness in response... Root Kit DRMs are that guys fault.  Later Steam goodness evolved from it, so sometime things recover.  The practice of stealing work before its completed and releasing it is a separate issue from what people do with the post production work.  Metalica thought it was great people were recording their stuff directly off the radio and bootlegging it that way.  They made stuff worth stealing and bootlegging songs like those has been going on sense at least the 60's.  My dad told me about bootlegged off the radio with reel to reel, during that era.
Anyway, this article deals with post production stuff... badly.  It talks about people cutting and pasting in attributed pieces of other people's work, complete with bibliographic notes explaining where the quoting came from, formatted in italics in the centered on the page... to a man sending in someone else's work chapter by chapter and getting a book deal out of it.  These are vastly different things... and if the students are cutting and pasting and not attributing it is plagiarism outright.  By literal definition.  This gets you kicked out of school with no refund and a giant black mark on your record... I don't see how doing it for profit makes things all better.  Granted it was the New York Times, who have a history of only firing reporters after they get caught lieing outright repeatedly, but this is a case that is exactly why we have copyright laws.  Intellectual property copyright laws are about credit, where credit is due.  People may think about only the monetary value of intellectual property, but that is really a side issue (major/important as it is).  Its about acknowledging that other people have worth... stealing their work and calling it your own is effectively declaring them a nonentity.  Declaring other people as nonexistent and their work your own is not the work of a caring mind... look at what happened with the creaters of the AK 47, Tetris, and the smiley face... all only get credit after the fact and these are all cultural icons.
Relative to fanfiction, there is a major difference between tagging on a disclaimer and doing a crossover or change one thing type story... and the occassional hack job of copying and pasting a random story and slapping their own name/handle on it.  The second one is intellectual theft, which I've heard of several cases cuaght on FF.net.  The first is building on a preexisting work, which sweno covered.  If we go back to the article linked above, he sights a work that is made up of other people's work cut and pasted together on the topic of people writing about the same thing... judging by the way the article mentions this I'm guessing it is attributed to the original sources... making it effectively a work of art and perhaps very meta...
If we actually step back on the linked article/excerpt and think about it, it is not an article about plagerism in the digital age at all... its an article that argues against the validity of the existance of bibliographies.  Note all the focus on student works and how 'writing it in your own words' (a process that is meant to prove you thought about what you read long enough to rephrase it as you'd personally explain it... therefore proving that you processed enough of it to remember it twelve minutes from now) and how this makes bibliographies useless busy work because computers and the internet is involved.  Ignoring bibliographic notatation for such things is commonly available.
In short, in terms of fanficition, this is a badly argued attempt to remove the need for disclaimers by virtue of claiming its okay to just move it to the original work section of the fanfiction archives... because computers are digital technology.