Degrees of plagiarism: where do we draw the line?

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Title: Degrees of plagiarism: where do we draw the line?
Creator: trinityofone
Date(s): August 8, 2006
Medium: online post
External Links: Degrees of plagiarism: where do we draw the line?; archive page 1, archive page 2
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Degrees of plagiarism: where do we draw the line? is a 2006 post by trinityofone.

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts from the Post

I’ll admit, I’ve been reading the latest incarnation of the Cassandra Claire plagiarism debacle over at bad_penny. Like the whole Ms. Scribe saga, I find it fascinating the way I find most human drama fascinating. However, there are some issues related to the various plagiarism charges that make me uneasy, and that’s what I want to talk about.

From the account, I think it’s clear that Cassandra Claire plagiarized Pamela Dean, and I think that’s pretty inexcusable, and made worse by how badly she handled it. My opinion on this is meaningless; I’m not even in Harry Potter fandom. But it’s the issue of the other quotes she used that has me worried.

My previous experience with the Draco Trilogy was that a few years ago (2002, I think) I read “Draco Dormiens” and enjoyed it, and started “Draco Sinister” and got bored pretty quickly and didn’t finish it. By the time I started reading it, the disclaimers regarding the Buffy quotes, etc., were already in place—which was good, because I recognized a lot of them (the Red Dwarf stuff too — yay Red Dwarf!). I had mixed feelings about them being there: some of them were fun, even — or especially—when I recognized them; others seemed out of place. Whatever. To each his own.

What’s bothering me now, however, is how angry people are getting about the “plagiarism” of those quotes. I’m sure in some sense it’s a matter of degree: Cassie Claire clearly plagiarized a ton from Pamela Dean, and on top of that, each of those borrowed Buffy quotes must seem like a slap in the face. Especially if her fics are praised for their witty dialogue and none of what’s being quoted is hers — the semi-recent incident with the American President fic in SGA fandom springs to mind. Anyway. I want to make it clear that I am not defending Cassie Claire.

But. I have now started seeing people leveling accusations of plagiarism against her specifically for her use of phrases like “You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake” or “Daylight’s burning” — attributing those quotes to Chuck Palahniuk and Veronica Mars, even though neither of those lines is unique to those sources (I can still very clearly hear AD Skinner saying “Daylight’s burning, agents” to Mulder and Scully). And even if they were, I would argue that some level of quotation has to be allowable without obsessive, scary attribution. I mean, “real” authors do this all the time—for them it’s called allusion. But where is the line? When does something stop being allusion or fun, in-jokey reference—and become plagiarism?

I think this is an important issue for fandom to address. I think this is an important issue for me to address, because I am an author who loves allusions. My fics are full of them. And just like the American President mini-scandal, which broke right before my reel_sga fic was “released,” made me nervous, this makes me nervous, too. Am I doing something wrong?

Excerpts from Comments at the Post


Some people cite way too much for my taste (I get too distracted by all unnecessary notes); some don't do it at all and yet I see their whole fic as a riff on any Whedon show.

So bottom-line: if someone lauds you for a specific line, you tell them it's not yours, or you're a thief. That's the only test for me, whether the author does or not.

So bottom-line: if someone lauds you for a specific line, you tell them it's not yours, or you're a thief. That's the only test for me, whether the author does or not.

That's exactly what I was going to say. If someone says, "Oh, what a great turn of phrase: 'did you look behind the couch-- IN HELL! You're hilarious!" and you say "Thanks!" instead of "Yes, it's from Buffy!" then you're taking credit for someone else's work, and that's wrong.

The problem with Cassie wasn't that she *used* other sources-- we all draw on sources and inspirations when we write-- but that she used specific scenarios, whole action sequences and very specific bits of plot, and also included specific bits of description and dialogue from those sources, and then only cited *some* of them in very brief incomplete ways (using a dozen lines of Buffy dialogue and only citing one short phrase as being non-original, saying "I was inspired by Pamela Dean" when she actually took much more than inspiration from her work, etc.)

Exactly what I wanted to say. A couple lines or a credited inspiration is one thing, and that's very clearly what you do; CC and her compendium of other people's writing with new character names is a whole other thing.

I read it back when, or tried, and even the quoting was too much for me after the first story - I've never read any of the novels mentioned, but I thought the prose was uneven and that CC's style changed radically throughout.

The difference that I see is in the ratios for one thing.

And for another, when you *do* use large chunks, the other source is at least MENTIONED. And personally, one line isn't cause for concern.

The big thing I see is that her entire work was made of other's works, and she is claiming it as her very own and then when caught, claiming she possibly has permission.

The other thing that bothers me is that, personally, hers was very badly done, but that's neither here nor there.

It's the Tom Stoppard argument for most things though. RnG is not plagiarism but fanfic.

You are upfront about what you do on purpose if it deals with a large part of another source, or are honestly influenced by another source. Personally, influence is a tricky thing, I mean, when do I have to start attributing using wormholes in original fic? (which I have and will be doing again)...

There is no hard and fast line. Seriously.

Rule of thumb? When in doubt, cite.

When someone pokes you at it, and you possibly did without realizing, say so.

But influence is influence and all of literature is one influence on another. You're worrying too much.

The reel_sga challenge presented stories and TOLD the readers where the other plot/influence came from. Right FROM THE START. Right there it's a completely different story.

I'm glad you saw this too... I'm a bit afraid to comment, given that I've only skirted the periphery of most fandoms I've followed (X-Files, Buffy, HP, and now SGA). But you've discussed the issues very thoughtfully, so here are my two cents.

In my opinion, it's one thing to write a story like those from reel_sga, in which the reader knows up front that the basic plot, certain aspects of characterization, and even some dialogue were created by someone other than the reel_sga author. I'm not going to read The Sound of Music a la reel_sga expecting something original; I'll read it to see Rodney McKay in a nun's habit, and John Sheppard as emotionally constipated Captain von Trapp. (Which isn't much of a stretch from canon, but anyway). To me that isn't plagiarism because anyone who hasn't lived in a cave for the past 50 years knows The Sound of Music, and only the person in the cave next door would be stupid enough to claim authorial credit for it.

The bad_penny saga strikes me somewhat differently, in that a.) I don't recall that the Pamela Dean scenes in the Draco trilogy were attributed, as homage or otherwise, and b.) at the time, Pamela Dean's books were out of print, so it seems unlikely that the audience would be familiar with the quoted material. I think it's inevitable that people are going to remember choice bits from television, movies, what have you, and that those bits will inevitably make their way into their work. (As an example, and also for transparency's sake, I realized mid-way through my indulgent SGA vampire AU that I'd lifted an idea from ltlj. I deleted the reference and credited it to her in my next post.) But to see whole scenes copied in a story deemed original, with sentences lifted verbatim without attribution -- that leaves a much different, and bitter, taste in my mouth.

I was totally afraid to comment over on bad_penny, too. I'm not sure if this post is braver, or just as cowardly.

Your interpretation of reel_sga is exactly what forcryinoutloud, siriaeve, laytoncolt and I intended when we founded that community. HOWEVER — the issue arises as to how that's different from the American President thing. My gut reasoning would be that the American President story failed to do any reinterpretation, but that's a very personal stance, which is what makes this difficult.

The Pamela Dean thing was, OTOH, pretty damn blatant, once it was discovered. But just because the plagiarized work was largely unknown and thus not immediately spotted doesn't make it worse (or better) to rip-off. If I'm in good faith borrowing from something that not too many know, or that I think is well known but turns out not to be (like The Searchers) how responsible am I to make sure people realize that it's NOT MINE? I mean, if I have someone say "May the force be with you!" in a fic, nobody is going to think that I'm trying to pass that off as mine. But the catch phrase "That'll be the day" wasn't nearly as well-known as I thought. Did I then err in quoting it (and other lines) unattributed? What about the famous speech from Jaws? Etc., etc.

I'm only going to comment on this one particular thing most likely, since I have oh so very, very many words about the whole issue... In regards to the AP thing though, it could be argued that there was no *chance* to reinterpret the story. I mean, the author had only gotten what, 20? 22? minutes into the movie? Something like that, before the brouhaha started. She could have gone a certain distance with a male/male pairing in a male/female paradigm before the story would *have* to be reinterpreted in a far more original way.

My whole issue with the AP thing was that in her original A/N she *said* that she had just watched the movie the night before and that there she substituted J & R for the leads since the President's name was Sheppard. Apparently the screams came from the fact that she didn't credit *Aaron Sorkin*, not that she didn't credit the movie, even though some people tried to make it out to be that way.

Now, the BS in all this that gets me is the rewrites of episodes, wherein the author is essentially novelizing an episode. We the readers get A/N's like "Spoilers for Hot Zone" or "Home spoilers - I don't own 'em!" and *nobody* makes a beef about the lack of crediting like the AP debacle.

But then people kept taking it further and further to the point you've reached with your post: exactly how much citation is needed for an *effing fanfic*? There *were* some people - and I honestly (if hopefully wrongly) got the impression that Alyse either supported them or was one of them - who felt that *everything* needed a citation, up to and including "May the Force be with you."

My hand to god, everytime I post a story in the SGA fandom from here on out, I'll be making EULA's look short with my credit notes, just to make a point.

But I think it does come down to the fact that fandom is going to have to decide whether stories/challenges like reel_sga are 'permissible'. Is putting slash-goggles on when 'rewriting' an SGA episode more permissible than what happened with the AP story? If so why? What about the authors who post NO credits or disclaimers with their stories? Why hasn't fandom come down on them just as hard? They certainly didn't invent Sheppard or McKay or Zelenka or Weir, unless there's something they aren't telling us. Since the law of 'reasonable judgement' has apparently gone out the window, authors do have every right to demand answers from those running the fandom.

Oh, wait...

God. *hangs head in shame* This was the short version. I'm so sorry. I told you I had issues.

After thinking about it for a bit, I think there has to be a common sense standard. John can't say "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," unless Rodney responds with "Don't think you can get out of this by quoting Casablanca, asshole." I'd never heard of "That'll be the day," -- personally, I thought it was from the Elvis song that goes "That'll be the day/that you say goodbye," etc -- but if it's drawn from The Searchers, and you say that you've drawn heavily from The Searchers, then I think it's okay. Perhaps "When it doubt, point it out" would work as a guideline on outside materials? And if someone questions the authorship of a quote or idea, and they're right, you either take it out or add a proper attribution. I think that, ultimately, is what has pissed people off so much about CC's work -- not only that the plagiarism was so blatant, but that she offered such absurd excuses for it all.

As for commenting on bad_penny -- ha. You could throw a Genii-engineered nuke in there right now and no one would notice.
... I would have considered "You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake" to be an obvious quote. Maybe those allegations were just evidence that people have very little patience with CC right now.
Probably! That, and people are looking specifically things she didn't cite.

i don't think you've done anything wrong, although i'm too sleep-deprived at the moment to articulate where the distinctions are. intent is always a dangerous thing to base an argument on, of course, because some person, somewhere, will always have "not intended" a consequence that the rest of us would have seen coming as though hailed by a welcoming flock of pink flamingoes, or something, but i think that there is a very big difference between purposefully alluding to something and trying to pass it off as your own. there's a very big difference between borrowing wholesale chunks of text vs. snippets of dialogue - and i'd go further to say that it makes a difference if the character uttering the dialogue might reasonably be making a reference on purpose, or not. if rodney mckay makes an off-handed remark about flying being simply throwing yourself at the ground and missing, i'm going to be amused by the reference, not under the impression that the writer is trying to take credit for the line. if rodney gives a 3 minutes speech lifted directly from macbeth, i'm going to be extremely puzzled and fairly certain that the author should have acknowledged the source unless the title of the fic is "atlantis puts on a production of the scottish play." although i suppose even there there is some gray area - a muttered moment of "out out damn spot," depending on context, would probably seem totally fine to me.

the thing is, much of literature is an allusion, one way or another, to something that came before, and we'd have to throw out an awful lot of really good and really famous writing in order to exorcise every un-cited allusion. an allusion, when well done, works less well if it is cited, i think. and so much of literature plays on the reader's expectations of what is "real" and what is "borrowed" - look at eliot's "notes" on the wasteland, for example, which are largely just an exercise in fucking with the reader's mind even further than the wasteland might have already done (not that there's anything wrong with that - i love the wasteland).
I think you make some very good points. The "is it in character" question is interesting—a lot of the problems that people had with CC's fic is that she made British wizards seem like California Scoobies, and that was...weird. I mean, I guess it doesn't technically matter if your quoting is IC or not, but on some level, if you're striving to make ALL material, borrowed and original, IC, the whole endeavor seems more...appropriate.
Now words or phrases that have fallen into common usage are not plaigerism at all. But I think its important that people realize that even ideas are considered the author's intellectual property. You do not only need to quote directly from an author to steal from them. I realize how tricky this is in fandom, where we are using the ideas the authors give us to create our fanfiction. So if another writer in fandom uses another fandom writers ideas or similar plot or characters, how are we suppose to respond to that...I think we should be polite and use disclaimers like we do when we say that the author's characters or plot is not our own...The line we draw, I think, is out of respect for the person we are drawing ideas from when we write...

When we're out here in making-no-profit land (to make it clear: we're not talking about copyright infringement, which in a very oversimplified nutshell is your right to make copies, rather than plagiarism, which is passing off someone's work as not-their-own), the objective rules are incredibly simple, to me.

Was it made clear that someone's hard work was used in the making of this fic?

When we put "by Methefan" anywhere that means we are taking *ownership* of everything that follows. We sat down and wrote something. We did not, perhaps, create the universe we are writing in, and the community standard is that we're not passing it off as our own, because if we were writing a television show, it would be on television. But we are taking ownership of the hard work we put into writing the fic.

It's not enough to brush it off and say it's all subjective. It's just not. The subjective part is really the community standard. Did people recognize Pamela Dean's work? Not everyone. Did a huge chunk of the audience recognize Buffy? Probably. Did the people who read The Waste Land recognize all the allusions at the time? Given the heavier emphasis on the classics at the time and Eliot's audience -- yes, they probably did. It was like quoting Buffy. No one, however, disputed that Eliot a lot of time and agony writing it. It was just that his audience wasn't going to be someone who'd never read Latin.

But the line itself is very simple, and easy to find. Does the audience think this chunk of work was by the author, when in fact it is not? That would be lying. Plagiarism is *misleading* the audience based on the words that are on display. (In other words, everything you put into text is what we have to take at face value; you can't go back and say I didn't *mean* to do it if it's right there in writing and we can line it up like a row of Red Rackham's parchments. That's Tintin by Herge, btw.)

Now there are all kinds of community standards for the use of others' work, from pastiche to parody to allusion to simply quoting it. Lois Bujold quotes Robert Frost, and although I had to look it up the first time, she made it clear in the story that it was a *quote*. Stargate Atlantis uses a manuever that was recognizably a Star Wars trick, and then nudges the audience with "I saw it in a movie." Or Star Wars itself, which includes in its publicity and lore the fact that Lucas was into Campbell and therefore borrowing from a lot of existing mythology. Ideally if everyone attributed (read: RESPECTED) their sources, we could follow that story-line all the way back to dancing bulls of Minoa.

Borrowing only goes without saying when the community standards are set up to recognize the source of the allusion. In other words, writers are obliged to cover their own asses here, because who knows what the community standards are. There are, of course, accidents of the subconscious, and yes, it's possible for a whole lot of readers to draw the line in bold between an accident and deliberately keeping the book open next to you, or quoting from memory. It's subjective, but if it's utterly clear to the audience, then there's very little gray area.

And aren't writers at least trying for clarity when they communicate?

It's kind of like kindergarten. If you use the crayon, put it back in the box.

I agree with about 99% of this. I think the idea of respecting one's sources is very important. The problem I see is that, on some level, it's impossible to anticipate what people will recognize or not recognize. I expected more people to be familiar with The Searchers than actually were, for example. Further, what if you really want to reference something but you know it's not going to be popularly familiar — like Rakoff, for example? Can you not do it? Or maybe you citations just need to be more complete when the material is less recognizable? I would very much support that, actually.

I'm amused that you mention Lucas' influences: the scene where Luke rushes back to find his aunt and uncle murdered is clearly taken from The Searchers. I would say "great minds," but I don't think I want to be so linked with Lucas anymore. *g*

I think part of it comes down to ratios. It's not an exact thing, no; but there is a certain element of 'I know it when I see it', and when it goes above a certain level of quotation and lifting, then it edges over the line.

Especially when what is being re-used aren't some iconic lines--I mean, you know I haven't seen The Searchers, but even I knew of the 'That'll be the day' line--to make a point or a joke, or to resonate with the audience, but instead narrative or chunks of dialogue because the writer is too lazy/conceited to write them themselves. Terry Pratchett does that kind of thing very well; he satirises or parodises using lines or imagery taking from pop culture sources, but sparingly. He uses when it's needed, but no more.

However, even that's not a sufficient test some of the time. I mean, look at T.S. Eliot. The man wrote some of my favourite poetry of all time, but enormous chunks of what he wrote was taken or paraphrased from earlier sources. Some of the time, it's recognisable to a fairly literature reader. At other times, he's working from sources which even I would consider quite obscure, and the references he uses are incredibly dense. He certainly doesn't disclaimer everything he uses, not by a long shot. But the difference is that he is using those sections to say something about the western canon of literature, and that he is using them to create something new. He's not letting other people's word suffice for him; he's not relying on them; he's taking them and reshaping them and using them to say something unique. That is the difference for me; though of course, ymmv....

I'm still not sure if I explained it perfectly, because god knows, this is a grey and nebulous area. But still, even on a gut level I know that what CC did is bad, what T.S. Eliot or Stoppard did isn't.
A lot of SF, like a lot of fanfic, doesn't depend so much on originality as it does *execution*-- that's one reason why I think people make such a big deal about CC's quotage. Anyone can write "Harry falls in love with Draco because Draco's not so bad after all," and hundreds of people *do*. But it takes talent to write that story and fill it with creative magical creatures and mythologies and hilarious dialogue-- *that's* what makes a story great, the little frills and flair that the individual author brings to her execution of a common idea. So when it turns out that CC steals her McGuffins and action scenes from obscure fantasy novels, and her dialogue from TV, then you're left with really nothing at all to say "but she's really a good writer even without that!"

Damn near everything is derivative in some manner, which is why it's so difficult to be a great writer or artist: we've got millenia of people who've already done it, and likely did it better. But casting an old story in a new light or reframing it in a fresh context is totally valid.

Plagiarism isn't.

However, fusions like reel_sga, that take known source material and turn them on their heads, DON'T strike me as plagiaristic at all. They're fanfic, but they're fundamentally original in their approach to merging disparate universes into a new whole.

As far as where the line should be between crediting general inspiration and crediting outright borrowing...I don't know. Quotes need attribution obviously, but we get inspired by all sorts of things through the course of our lives. There's also a difference between ripping off a cool image and sending a fannish shout-out to a writer we admire. Sometimes credit is necessary, but sometimes it just seems gratuitious. I think the key is tied up in the notion of 'authorial intent', but I don't know if that's something anyone can quantify...

In Due South fandom, there's a retelling of Dirty Dancing as a slash story between RayK and Fraser (I can't remember offhand who wrote it), and she took the dialogue from the film -- attributing it in the story notes. For me, using the film's dialogue was a nice touch, and I thought worked well because it was playing the slash against the film's historical setting. I love fusions and I love reading historically heteronormative sources reframed in a queer perspective. But like I said, correctly attributing directly quoted passages (and by that I mean text that's identifiably someone else's creation rather than a universal trope) is a big deal.

In other words, having a character say, "Go ahead, make my day," doesn't need a citation because it's a universal pop culture reference; but if the story draws wholesale from Dirty Harry, then I expect an author's note saying, "this fic borrows heavily from Dirty Harry." If the note ISN'T there, then the author of the fic is misrepresenting the Dirty Harry story as her own work, and that's plagiarism.
Personally, I think it's a matter of degree. Using one unattributed quote in a fic seems perfectly fine to me, especially if it's someone like John who would likely quote pop culture all the time. Using several quotes may be pushing it if they're all from one source; best to put in a quick disclaimer like "Some of John's lines are taken from such-a-film, which you should all watch because it's awesome." However, if you start using unattributed quotes all over the place all the time the way Cassandra Claire seems to have, that's clearly going too far. Especially if the people saying said lines wouldn't have had much pop culture exposure like, say, Draco- how would he possibly have watched so many Muggle movies to be able to quote them all by heart? (Well, that's possibly more a case of stupid writing rather than actual plagiarism. But still.) Besides, the Buffy/Red Dwarf/whatever quotes are not the main issue, I think; people are angry at Ms Claire for the blatant plagiarism of Pamela Dean's work, and since they're not familiar with that text it's translating from "I can't believe Cassie plagiarised!" into "I can't believe Cassie plagiarised from my favourite TV show insert-name-here." At least, that's the way I see it.

I think, perhaps, the problem people have with Cassie Claire is not that she used quotes (very few things said in life haven't been used before) but the fact she wasn't honest from the upstart. We're online. You can't look at someone, watch their body language and say "You're lying. Just be honest and let it be done." You have to depend on integrity with people on the computer. That if someone thing comes out, that the truth will be acknowledged, not repeatedly spineless with excuses and blame-gaming instead of just owning up. That is essentially what upsets a lot of people, I think.

Like you, I saw instances of “Well, that’s not particularly noteworthy.” Then of course it becomes a matter of “did she just squee over the same episode the line might have been yanked from recently?” If so, then it’s easier to pinpoint and note. I’m not saying that she did and should be jumped on for doing it, but if it can be, well there’s a lot more circumstantial evidence.

She pushes the excuses around, or says "Well, I discussed with Pamela Dean, so it's moot." No, it's not. She only contacted after she had been caught red-handed. It was never "Well, I did this, and yeah it was extremely stupid. Let's move on and I'll never do it again." Trust is important, it helps bond a community - which the internet is - and it's up to us (those that participate in this place) to take care of that. We have to look out and notice these things, call on them, because we're lucky to be able to actually write/vid/graphic/art/whatever in fandom at the creator's allowance. It's not a right, but a privilege.

Actions speak louder than words, too. Which I realize just contradicted what I said at the beginning. The thing is that’s the actions of people that are just letting it be swept under the rug of “it was years ago so it doesn’t matter” or “who cares, it’s just fan fiction” that I’m speaking of. They’re the ones that are letting that behavior come across okay and making the rest of us look it’s accepted, which isn’t necessarily true.

As a group, on any fandom, we tend to take the privilege for granted. We all do it, and it will continue to be done because it is human nature to take things for granted (not just in fandom, but anything we want/have). However, that also places that burden on the same group to watch out and make sure we're given that same privilege, to prove that we are aware away of what is right and wrong. The fact CC didn't own up to it, and still doesn't judging from the pouring of excuses or inability to be honest on the subject, puts the rest of the fandoms at risk. By that, I mean if we can't say "No, that's wrong" then why should the people that gave us the worlds inspired from at risk? CC’s had many years to alter or cite the very clear references she’s stolen from, and yet, chose to just slap up a half-hearted disclaimer and be done with it (excepting the Dean references for above stated reasons). If you use someone else’s work and ideas, then at least have the courtesy to do it when it’s being written and properly cited from/at.

Just because it is fan fiction doesn’t mean plagiarism is any less important than if it were academic. It is still your reputation being put on the line.
... it really does all come on to honesty and trust. I was saying (down-thread, I think) that I hope I never have to be expected to cite everything I quote or reference, because it would become really tiresome and distracting. But if there's not some basic level of trust, it becomes necessary, and that sucks for everyone. So yes, Cassie's behavior, not her quoting, is what's truly bothersome.
I have no brilliant insight to offer on where exactly to draw the line with attribution, but I am seriously baffled that people even would lump plagiarism and allusions/references together. Plagiarism is attempting to pull the wool over the reader's eyes; allusions and references are there to be recognised.
I think the problem arises from the fact that CC was clearly plagiarizing with the Pamela Dean stuff, but her intent in regards to the other quotes is much less clear. And now everyone's, rightly, pissed at her, so accusations are flying left and right.
As I said over on my own journal earlier today, the overreactions to this business make me pretty furious. CC did something that usually is perfectly innocent as well as something that is not, but she did the usually innocent thing so much that it crossed a line as well, especially considering the lines kept being attributed to her, and she didn't correct that. But there's no doubt to me at all that the people claiming the very act of using pop culture quotes is The Ultimate Evil are being just as over the top as the people who claimed she did nothing wrong because "all fanfic is plagiarism" (argh!).

I guess I just can't understand how putting a one-line note at the bottom of a story -- "I'll be in my bunk" is from Firefly -- would alienate readers who already know the quote. Again, they'd probably think it was really silly, but I don't get why it would bother anyone.

But we're talking extremes here, and I guess the point I was trying to make is that while that Firefly example is fine -- I mean, really, I wouldn't have a problem if I read a story and saw that quote; in fact, I *have* seen that quote used many times in fanfiction -- but at what point does a line of dialogue cross the line and truly need attribution? It's impossible to say.
[Cassie] conciously took credit for stuff that wasn't hers, and lots of the lines she copied are subtly changed in ways that make them harder to recognise. Additionally, she didn't use the lines to make a thematic point or show something about the character or to do something different with it. The reference doesn't... mean anything, it's not there for a reason other than to make people laugh at the same joke while making it look like Cassie wrote it.

frankly, i think our culture is fucking *insane* when it comes to "intellectual property". for practically all of recorded history most of art was *retelling* stories that you didn't invent, and the person who had the most interesting retelling and added the most resonant details got the most success. I mean, not to be cliched, but -- shakespeare??

The ability to turn a story idea into a compelling *told story* is pretty much ignored in our society -- it's all about having the idea, but hell, just one look at most genre fiction will prove that the real skill and achievement is in being able to tell it well. successful synthesis of various sources to make something greater than its parts is just as much "writing" as inventing a brand new world and characters and plot.

maybe also i'm more used to my comics background, where *of course* stories (canon published stories) have winks/nods/allusions to other, older stories by other people. The power of any Batman story isn't created solely by the author -- every issue is in some way a collaboration with decades of other writers and readers, and old stories become common cultural property to draw on and rewrite and play with.

basically i just -- find this whole thing sad, not as in pathetic but *tragic,* that people (like you) who are amazing writers, who make such thoughtful and brilliant use of intertextuality and genre history and layers of meaning and associations that draw the reader in to interact with the story as part of their own lives, are being accused or made to feel like there's something *wrong* with that. it's absurd.

I think there is a large difference between using a turn of phrase and elements from previous work as a tribute to said work and out-right ripping it off with the knowledge you are doing so and never planning to attribute it to its source. There is a difference. I really, really believe that. (Which, okay, that phrase was used on Buffy, it suddenly occurs to me, but that combination of words is not exactly unique, so there is no reason for me to credit it! :P)

Look at it this way: the writers on SG-1, and probably Atlantis, use all sort of pop-culture references, plots, and snippets of dialog. No one is suing them because they're only using small fragments as a reference/tribute. Their entire story generally doesn't hinge upon these little bits and if push comes to shove, they will gladly admit that they incorporated something because they are a bunch of geeks.

Plagerism in fandom is like plagerism anywhere else -- cite your sources where possible. If you have to cite a large percentage of your work? You're ripping off too much of someone else's stuff and you need to get an original idea out of that head of yours. If someone calls you on a line or something, don't deny it until fandom gangs up on you. Just acknowledge that you used and move on.

I must admit that this whole thing has got my stomach in a knot, too. I'm nearing the completion of my reel_sga story to Lost Horizon and it's brought another question to mind:

What if the quotes you're using are from the show itself, i.e., Stargate Atlantis, in the case. I'm doing an AU or more of a alternate timeline story, and I've stuck in lines that are obviously from the show (or at least obvious to me). Things like the tea exchange, and a paraphrase of the ATA therapy scene from "Hide & Seek", which I'd originally thought people would read and smirk, recalling the source. I'd intended to say in my notes that bits of dialog are from the show and name episodes - now I'm concerned, though. Is that enough? Should I take them out? Should I state each line I take from the show and credit which episode? Should I forget the whole thing and work on that ulcer I've been wanting to get?

What about other stories that take a sort of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern" turn on a show by looking at an episode from a minor character's POV - I know I've seen that somewhere in another fandom, and I thought it was great because of course *I* knew what was from the show and what was original. But what about someone who'd never seen the show? Would they think that all the lines were from the fanfiction writer? Would they watch the episode instead? Just how anal should we get?

*feeling a headache coming on*