by don
(seminole fl)

Question: My novel is about a subject better covered by other authors. Can I lift some portion of their work and then give them credit in the acknowledgement page? What if I change it slightly- use different words for instance but keep their content intact? Does it matter if I don't try to sell my book- just give to my family and friends? Is there some concise source for this problem?

Answer: If you are writing non-fiction, you can certainly discuss ideas and information other authors have written about, giving proper credit regarding the source. Ideas cannot be copyrighted, only their expression. However, passing off someone else's research as your own without giving them credit is plagiarism and can invite a lawsuit by the other publisher. Don't just use a bibliography. Give credit in the actual text itself or via footnotes. You can use some quotations, if they are not too long, are clearly identified as quotations, and you give proper credit to their authors.

If this is a novel (fiction), there is no good reason to copy someone else's story. Yes, there are re-tellings of classic tales that are in public domain to make them accessible to a new generation. But don't copy from works not in the public domain. It's illegal and immoral.

Either make your story original or put away your pen and tell people to read the other person's novel.

Comments for plaglarism

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May 17, 2013
by: don

My question concerned plaglarism and copyright infringement. My book is fiction- a novel- and has technical aspects that are important to the story but have been explained in other books. Since there is only one truth to the technical explanations can I change or replace some words or copy verbatim? It seems a waste to change things that are already written perfectly. I do give credit to the authors and their books in the acknowledgement page. As an alternative, would it be possible to try to contact them and ask permission to use their words? Again- these are technical terms I'm concerned about.

May 17, 2013
by: Glen

I would have the definitions in quotes and try to find a way to identify the source in the text, as well as in the acknowledgments. However, it is ultimately a matter for your publisher's legal department to iron out, once you reach that stage.

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