Web Paint-by-Number Forum
Topic #345: Is It Plaigiarism?
By Kristen Vognild (kristen)

#1: Kristen Vognild (kristen) on Aug 14, 2012

Recently, there have been some questions of plagiarism, and feelings have been hurt and things have gotten a little bit paranoid. Because I have an Art background, I know a thing or two about this issue. I offer a handy primer, so you know whether you've just plagiarized someone, and how to avoid it in the future.

1. If you copy an image pixel for pixel or a story word for word, that's obviously plagiarism. You can't get around it by changing one or two pixels or one or two words. It isn't your original work. If you try to pass it off as your original work, that's wrong.

The simplest way to get around this is to GIVE CREDIT. I'll be the first to admit that I have trouble coming up with new ideas, and I'm often inspired by other people's drawings or ideas. I always give credit. Either "I was inspired by ___" or "taken from ___" or "See puzzle # ____". You can look through my puzzles and see evidence of this.

I also post my source photographs often, so you can see the original image and how it compares to mine. This is especially useful if you've done a pixel-by-pixel copy, and you want to show others what you used to create your image.

2. Another touchy subject is using someone else's story. There are many grey areas here, but the best thing to do is again give credit to the original storyteller.

Some stories are in the public domain, and you don't need permission to retell, say, Cinderella. But if someone has told a story, and you retell the same story but change a couple of names, credit the original storyteller. If you don't know the original storyteller, say "I read this somewhere" or "Inspired by a story I heard," something to show that it was not your original story.

It works the same for characters. Many of us, myself included, have been inspired to build on a character that someone else has created. While it's nice to get explicit permission from the character's creator, it's sufficient to say who made the character, or refer to a puzzle number.

You don't need to say "I got permission from _____ to use this character."

When you write papers for school, you not only credit the sources you used, but you provide footnotes listing the author and source quoted, so your reader can look it up for themselves. It works the same way. Give a name, or a title, or an image; some way for your audience to look up your source material for themselves.

To sum up, it's okay to use someone else's idea. Just give the creator credit, and don't try to pass it off as your own idea.
#2: Kristen Vognild (kristen) on Aug 14, 2012
Darn, I just saw that I misspelled plagiarism. I fixed it in the text, but you'll just have to try to ignore it in the title. :)
#3: Kristen Vognild (kristen) on Aug 14, 2012
See forum topic #15 for more details on copyright and plagiarism. Jan goes a step further than I do: I'm okay with an exact copy, if the person says "I wanted to show you this amazing puzzle and here's where I found it." Jan deletes any such puzzles.
#4: Jan Wolter (jan) on Aug 15, 2012
There have been some cases where people posted puzzles with the description saying "This is a really neat puzzle I found on such and such a site". I delete those, but I have a much more positive opinion of the poster than I otherwise would. I would leave them up if I had good cause to believe that the puzzle creator had given permission to repost them here. There are quite a few puzzles posted both here and on hieroglyphics.com, but they were all posted in both places by their authors.

Mainly this is all because I care quite a bit about copyrights, even if there is no obvious financial loss to the person whose work is being copied. But other arguments could be made - if you solve puzzles both here and on griddlers.net, do you really want to solve all the same puzzles in both places?

If you really want to share a puzzle on another site with users here, post an forum topic with a link. I try to avoid mentioning webpbn in forums on other sites, because I don't know how their administrators feel about that, but I'm 100% happy with people promoting other puzzle sites here.

I am pretty lax about the question of posting original puzzles that contain images of trademarked characters, like Disney characters and such. Maybe I should care more about that, I dunno.
#5: Kadou (Kadou) on Aug 15, 2012
I don't feel it's right to make an exact copy of someone else's work even if the original creator is mentionned. There is no merit in spending a few minutes to reproduce someone else's work which may have taken hours to create.

IMO it's "O.K." to create a puzzle of a trademark character if it's taken from another medium (video, photo, etc.).
Other puzzle websites have a fair share of trademark characters.
#6: Lollipop (lollipop) on Aug 28, 2012
Tom Lehrer, the brilliant satirist, musician, and Harvard mathematician, wrote a fantastic humourous song on this subject. (Although some of his songs are dated now, some are still fresh and relevant 50 or 60 years later -- "Vatican Rag," "Pollution," "A Song for World War III," and on and on.) I haven't yet figured out how to put a link into a comment, but you'll find him on YouTube.

Some lyrics from "Lobachevsky" (a 19th century mathematician), sung with a caricature Russian accent:

Let no one else's work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
So don't shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize -
Only be sure always to call it please 'research'.


I have a friend in Minsk,
Who has a friend in Pinsk,
Whose friend in Omsk
Has friend in Tomsk
With friend in Akmolinsk.
His friend in Alexandrovsk
Has friend in Petropavlovsk,
Whose friend somehow
Is solving now
The problem in Dnepropetrovsk.
And when his work is done -
Ha ha! - begins the fun.
From Dnepropetrovsk
To Petropavlovsk,
By way of Iliysk,
And Novorossiysk,
To Alexandrovsk to Akmolinsk
To Tomsk to Omsk
To Pinsk to Minsk
To me the news will run,
Yes, to me the news will run!

And then I write
By morning, night,
And afternoon,
And pretty soon
My name in Dnepropetrovsk is cursed,
When he finds out I publish first!

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