Sunday, June 10, 2012

When is it Plagiarism?

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know why I have such strong feelings about plagiarism. I actually started in this industry because others were plagiarizing my work. I figured if my stuff was good enough to be in print under someone else’s name, then it was good enough to be in print under my name. Even in the beginning, people thought I was stealing ideas from other folks. In 1992 at GENCON we were advertising expansions for Legend Quest. One of them was “Dynamite Dinosaurs”, which eventually morphed into The Forgotten Hunt. As you might imagine, in 1992 (after Jurassic Park the book but before the movie) the few people aware of Crichton’s novel asked if we were copying it. I wasn’t one of those people aware of his novel and had actually gotten the idea from watching The Valley of Gwangi. I had been debating between two plot lines, and eventually included them both in the book. Neither is close to Crichton’s. I described the yazzteea to someone, and they thought I was stealing the idea from Aliens (pick a number). The yazzteea are a race of social insects/spiders in Convergence. They were born out of two things - my fascination with social insects and the thought that four foot tall spiders tck-tck-tcking their pointy legs down a cave or hallway would be REALLY creepy. So what is my problem? Well, it’s not being as prolific as I wish I was. Had I published The Forgotten Hunt in 1992 instead of advertising it, I would have scooped the movie. I write a lot of stuff! at least by my measure. You’ll likely never see it all, because while much of it is the basis for the products that come out, a ton of it is more background or sourcing material and not the “big deal”. The problem is that there really aren’t that many original ideas out there. Sometimes really famous guys and I get inspired by similar stuff and produce somewhat similar stuff. Sometimes I get inspired by their stuff, but think I can do it that much better. In those cases, you likely won’t recognize the inspiration. I’ve always supported the idea of letting other stuff inspire you, but then making it your own. Don’t steal an idea and use it, let it initiate thoughts that you improve upon and change into something that winds up being entirely yours. We hope that is exactly what our products are doing for you! And if you think I stole an idea - point it out. I’ll let you know where it really came from!

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