Saturday, 18 July 2009

Now having written the piece on plagiarism

I will continue to the next chapter. I wrote a book. Er, make that I have written a number of books. They languish in the bottom drawer of the computer - apart from one. I sent that one to Vanessa over at Fidra. She may have time to read it one day. She tells me she wants to. It's a matter of time. Perhaps.
The book I sent Vanessa uses someone else's characters. There is no secret about this. The location is the same. The characters have the same name. I have tried to keep all the original details intact. It all required research and discipline. There is a new character. She is about nine years old and the story is really about her. It was written for another nine year old.
Now, this is not plagiarism. First of all, the story is mine. Second, were the book ever to see the shelves of a bookshop or library, there would be an acknowledgment of where the other characters come from. If the author was still alive I would have to seek her permission to use her characters. The heirs to her estate would need to grant their permission. (My guess is that this would not be a problem. It would likely increase the revenue from royalties of her books as well as the cut they would get.)
My book is not another Arthur Conan Doyle or Jane Austen type book. There are plenty of authors around who endeavour to openly imitate. They are often less than successful.
Now, I can hear you asking, "But why didn't you just write a book with new characters? Aren't you being a bit lazy here? "
Vanessa was foolish enough to ask for new books like those she publishes. The nine year old wanted another story with the same characters. I had an idea and it fitted in with those characters. Am I being lazy? No, I do not think so. Ruth is the central character. I had to create her. I could not have the other characters doing things which were out of character from the previous books. It's a sequel - sort of.
The row over the Productivity Commission report into bookselling in Australia is growing. Shane Moloney's rant in the Advertiser this morning makes interesting but unconvincing reading. If the new proposals mean that Australian authors and publishers have to open up to the world then this may be a good thing. Good writing will survive.

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