33 comments

  1. Lots of truth here and remixing has become popular with students–where permitted. Luckily, government laws take much of the guesswork out of whether it’s a copyright infringement. Of course, that means we artists have to know the copyright laws worldwide. Yikes!

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    • I was relieved when I realised there were clear government guidelines on copyright. I first came across them when Sherlock aired on the BBC. I was baffled at how they could use existing characters, so I looked into it. Apparently most of the Sherlock Holmes adventures were out of copyright, but not all (Just to make things even more baffling!)

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  2. I honestly worry about this, all the time! I feel sometimes like I’ve never had an original idea in my life. Like I’m just stealing plots and ideas and I feel so guilty for letting another work inform mine. When what I’m doing is re-mixing and honoring the things I loved about another artist. Of course I’m not going to take their ideas word-for-word, but even taking them as inspiration made me afraid of being accused of theft. This post is such a relief.

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    • I used to worry a lot too, especially since my current WIP is based on the end of BBC’s Merlin (albeit loosely, but I know that’s where I got my inspiration and chances are fans would too!). The MA has been amazing for boosting confidence and making it clear what we’re doing is remixing not theft. Glad to help 🙂

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  3. We only know what we’ve seen and what we’ve learned. I agree getting inspirations and ideas from what others have written is not plagiarism, as long as you proceed down the left side of your well-composed chart. Old ideas can become new and revised. When in doubt and when the parallels become too close, give credit to those who inspired your writing. As usual, good topic and great post!

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  4. I agree.
    I think there’s a way in which, if someone calls it stealing, I’m doing it wrong.
    When it’s done well, no one feels that way. Maybe they smile at the homage or nod to other works, or they find it refreshing or frustrating that the story doesn’t go the way they expect, but as you say, they still think of it as “an original”.
    I think part of the difference is between those who set out to recreate, vs those who start with inspiration derived from the original, but then they create in their own space, letting memory and perception transform what they previously experienced, rather than concretely referring back to the original source.
    Thanks for sharing.

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    • I love it when I notice nods to other works in a story, it makes me smile as you say 🙂
      Good point: I always find when I’m inspired by something I don’t want to recreate it, because there are often things I dislike (or downright hate) about the original that I’d never want in my own stories. It’s all about being inspired and making it our own work 🙂

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    • Supernatural’s on my ‘to watch list,’ and I’m up to Season 4 of GoT 😀 ( I really should get back to that one!)
      None of us liked ‘Stealing’ either, I love ‘inspired by’ as an alternative though 🙂

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  5. I’ve heard from many that the idea of “stealing” is very Western. In Eastern culture, plagiarism is sometimes the highest form of flattery (this was reaffirmed in my work with a student who was new to the United States and wanted to include verbatim sections in a written report from her sources but had no concept of citation…. anyway, I fully support this – even Shakespeare had his predecessors!

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    • That’s an interesting point. I know in Japan copyright doesn’t seem to be an issue at all. Fan comics (doujinshi) are sold on ebay and in stores, and no one seems bothered, but here that kind of thing would be frowned upon.
      We all get our inspiration from somewhere 🙂

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  6. I love the artistic family tree idea. And I think, to some degree, it’s almost impossible not to borrow/steal/be influenced by what we see and read. It always brings this quote to mind: “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own”.

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  7. There are no new ideas, only new ways to tell the story. I’m editing a Cinderella story where Cinderella holds a typically male job that is very physical, which sets her apart from her traditional sisters. Storytelling is about how you interpret age-old themes that resonate with the reader.

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  8. I kind of love that nothing is truly original. I still get twitches when I see a scene in a film or TV show that is similar to something I’ve written, not because that’s a bad thing, but because I feel like people will assume I just ripped off the show somehow. At the same time, I love subverting tropes and generally messing with archetypes and cliches. No deep and meaningful reason for that. It’s just fun 🙂

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    • Me too, it was reassuring especially because I’m writing based on Arthurian legend, but inspired by BBC’s Merlin, so when I first started the project I was so wary of being a rip off.
      I agree, messing with cliches and experimenting with writing is a lot of fun 🙂

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  9. Ohmygoodness, I LOVED the Worst Witch! I was thinking about it the other day. 💜

    Thanks for this post. I agree (and teach) the concepts that there’s nothing new and ideas resonate. Resonance is one of the reasons similarly themed novels are released within a short time. It’s what you do with the idea that counts.

    I recently wrestled with this idea in a WIP. I decided it echoed Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” enough that readers would likely think the resonance was intentional. When i though about it a while I decided that the poem and my WIP did actually resonate so well that, instead of reworking it, I made the protagonist a fan of the poem, so i’m capitalizing on the connection rather than fighting it. That’s another way to look at this topic.

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