Plagiarism definition – to take or copy the work or ideas of another person and pretend they are your own. For further information, see the Oxford English Dictionary definition of plagiarism.
Inspiration definition – a sudden, clever idea inspired by an event, an observation, or just daydreaming. Again, for more details, try the Oxford English Dictionary definition of inspiration.
Well, if you’re searching for writing inspiration and you go and watch a Harry Potter movie and decide to write a story about a young wizard called Barry Cotter who is attending a school of magic with his friends Don and Harmony, that’s copying someone else’s ideas. That’s plagiarism.
If you watch the movie and think Robby Coltrane’s portrayal of Haggrid makes him look like a humongous badger, then you might start thinking about a planet called Spadge where gargantuan badgers wage war against baboons that shoot venom from their oh so colourful posteriors creating a world of desolation and perturbing aromas. That’s inspiration. I should point out that inspiration does not always bring forth good ideas, but any ideas you do have should always be original.
If you are unsure about anything you have written, or, for that matter, anything anyone has written, there are many online plagiarism checkers. These will also help you search out those who might have stolen your work and used it on their own websites without your permission.
Copyscape is an excellent, free online plagiarism checker. The free version is very useful, but the paid version is very reasonably priced.
If you think someone has stolen your words and you want to do something about it, you can learn a lot more from this very informative Plagiarism website. However, I must point out that I have no experience in dealling with plagiarism of my own work or ideas to date. Long may it stay that way :)
Through writing this blog post, I was invited by Voice of Russia (a well regarded radio station) to participate in a debate regarding plagiarism. At the time, Led Zeppelin were being sued for allegedly copying Randy California's riff when they wrote Stairway to Heaven. The radio debate is all about music, but still very interesting for writers.
The debate has been removed from the Voice of Russia website now, but you can listen to the podcast on Joe Bennett's website. Joe appeared on the show with me.
By Christopher Fielden