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Plagiarism: Credit Your Copypasta

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This resource is about plagiarism.

It's a bit of a loaded word, with some very distasteful connotations, especially on a site dedicated to writing and to written creative content. Since that's our primary concern, we're going to focus on plagiarized text today, although Iwaku's Terms of Service prohibit plagiarism of any kind.

Plagiarism is ultimately a form of theft. When you think of plagiarism, most of you probably think of cheating on a school paper by buying an essay, or perhaps of someone stealing your story and publishing it under their own name. It's usually accepted that these acts are done by a person with an obvious intent to deceive; they are openly claiming that they have done work which was in fact done by someone else.

I never said it was mine.

While the above are examples of plagiarism, it's important to understand exactly what plagiarism is in order to embrace the spirit of anti-plagiarism rules. Plagiarism is, simply, the act of copying another person's creative content without clearly crediting them for what has been copied (unless explicitly given permission to use the content without crediting). Intent is irrelevant. When you pick up a book, it's understood that the story is written by the person listed as the author; even if a single chapter was in fact written by someone else, no one is going to think otherwise unless they are explicitly told.

What this means is that when you copy and paste information from Wikipedia or from Google's search info or from anywhere on the internet (or transcribe it from printed sources), even if it's just to have the official info available for your Game of Thrones RP or to define what you mean by "kaiju movies", you need to clearly distinguish which words are your own and which aren't. Otherwise, you are breaking Iwaku's rule against plagiarizing--which is one we take VERY seriously. Most cases of plagiarism will simply get you asked to credit your source, but knowingly and intentionally plagiarizing and passing off work as your own will get you a permanent ban.

But I edited it!

When talking about plagiarized content in text format, it's important to note that plagiarism doesn't apply only to unaltered chunks of text. Changing names and terms or even just paraphrasing too closely is actually still plagiarism. Let's look at some examples to illustrate what is acceptable and what isn't.

Jorick said:
While Godslayer was indeed powerful, he was finally stopped by a coalition of Immortals who were determined to put an end to the madness. Among them were Jorick, the Witch of the Water, ten others who died in the fight, and a curious fellow known as Speaker of the Dead. Jorick's own account says Speaker of the Dead was vital to the success of their mission, whereas Witch of the Water wrote that he was a dangerous liability that nearly cost them everything. I note this oddity here, and suggest that perhaps the Witch was correct, because Speaker of the Dead plays an important role later on in this history. Returning to the matter of the coalition, they were those among the Immortals challenged to war who had eventually decided to stop trying to use mortals as proxies to fight Godslayer. Instead they infiltrated his fortress home and tried, and failed, to catch him unaware. The fight destroyed the fortress and much around it (locating information is sparse, but there is a lake some thirty miles southeast of Gencha with an abnormally round shoreline that I suspect may be the remaining scar of that battle). Godslayer the Immortal was slain, and Godslayer the weapon was taken by Jorick.
The above is taken from Jorick's post here in his story, "Goetterdaemmerung". Now, say I wanted to run an RP based on Goetterdaemmerung, but with my own characters. Below is an intended rewrite for my plot info thread, with my changes to Jorick's text bolded.

Astaroth's OOC said:
It was the year 2005 and Iwaku was in chaos. While Insanity was indeed powerful, he was finally stopped by a coalition of Champions who were determined to put an end to the encroaching threat. Among them were Astaroth, the Knight of Kroots, as well as ten others who died in the fight, and a curious woman known as Lady of Fire. Astaroth's own account says Lady of Fire was vital to the success of their mission, whereas Knight of Kroots wrote that she was a dangerous liability who almost brought on the Apocalypse. I note this oddity here, and suggest that perhaps the Knight was correct, because Lady of Fire plays an important role later on in this history. Returning to the matter of the coalition, they were those among the Champions challenged to war who had eventually decided to stop trying to use mortals as proxies to fight Insanity. Instead they infiltrated his fortress home and tried, and failed, to catch him unaware. The fight destroyed the fortress and much around it (locating information is sparse, but there is a lake some thirty miles southeast of Iwakucha with an abnormally round shoreline that I suspect may be the remaining scar of that battle). Insanity the Immortal was slain, and the Sword of Iwaku was taken by Astaroth. Astaroth and Diana then got married and ruled happily for several centuries.
If I were to use this text, I would need to credit Jorick for both the RP concept and the text itself, as it is the same with very few changes. (I would also need to get permission since this isn't published anywhere but Iwaku, but that's another story).

Now, say I wanted to stick more closely to Jorick's canon, including his characters, and used this text instead:

Astaroth said:
It was the year 2018 and Iwaku was in chaos. The powerful Immortal Godslayer was stopped at last by a group which formed a coalition to end the madness. This included Jorick, the Witch of the Water, the Speaker of the Dead, and ten others who fell in combat. The Speaker of the Dead was vital to the mission according to Jorick's account but the Witch of the Water wrote that he was dangerous. Maybe the Witch was correct, because Speaker of the Dead would later play an important role. As for the coalition, they chose to stop using mortal proxies to fight Godslayer. They invaded his home fortress and tried to catch him off-guard but failed. The fortress was destroyed in the fight and so was much of the land around it (information about it is sparse, but about thirty miles southeast of Gencha is a lake with a weirdly round shoreline. I suspect it's a scar of the battle). They slayed Godslayer the Immortal and Jorick took the weapon. Jorick and the Witch of the Water then got married and ruled Iwaku with an iron fist together for several centuries until she found Jorick's sex dungeon and turned him into a soup.
I've changed sentence structure and paraphrased, making it distinct from the original text, even though I used the same characters and terms. I added a few new sentences to top it off. Guess what though? That's still plagiarism. Let's look at these side-by-side, with some key bolding:

Jorick's Original said:
While Godslayer was indeed powerful, he was finally stopped by a coalition of Immortals who were determined to put an end to the madness. Among them were Jorick, the Witch of the Water, ten others who died in the fight, and a curious fellow known as Speaker of the Dead. Jorick's own account says Speaker of the Dead was vital to the success of their mission, whereas Witch of the Water wrote that he was a dangerous liability that nearly cost them everything. I note this oddity here, and suggest that perhaps the Witch was correct, because Speaker of the Dead plays an important role later on in this history. Returning to the matter of the coalition, they were those among the Immortals challenged to war who had eventually decided to stop trying to use mortals as proxies to fight Godslayer. Instead they infiltrated his fortress home and tried, and failed, to catch him unaware. The fight destroyed the fortress and much around it (locating information is sparse, but there is a lake some thirty miles southeast of Gencha with an abnormally round shoreline that I suspect may be the remaining scar of that battle). Godslayer the Immortal was slain, and Godslayer the weapon was taken by Jorick.
Astaroth's Version said:
It was the year 2018 and Iwaku was in chaos. The powerful Immortal Godslayer was stopped at last by a group which formed a coalition to end the madness. This included Jorick, the Witch of the Water, the Speaker of the Dead, and ten others who fell in combat. The Speaker of the Dead was vital to the mission according to Jorick's account but the Witch of the Water wrote that he was dangerous. Maybe the Witch was correct, because Speaker of the Dead would later play an important role. As for the coalition, they chose to stop using mortal proxies to fight Godslayer. They invaded his home fortress and tried to catch him off-guard but failed. The fortress was destroyed in the fight and so was much of the land around it (information about it is sparse, but about thirty miles southeast of Gencha is a lake with a weirdly round shoreline. I suspect it's a scar of the battle). They slayed Godslayer the Immortal and Jorick took the weapon. Jorick and the Witch of the Water then got married and ruled Iwaku with an iron fist together for several centuries until she found Jorick's sex dungeon and turned him into a soup.
As you can see, what at first glance might appear to be in my own words is in fact heavily similar to Jorick's text. It is too closely paraphrased and still requires crediting. Some similarities are unavoidable if you're retelling the same events, but it should never read like you just shuffled some words around.

BOTTOM LINE: DON'T DO THIS WITHOUT CREDITING, EVEN IF IT'S JUST CREDIT TO WIKIPEDIA.

How do I properly credit?

We're a recreational roleplaying site and money's not involved here, so it's not like we ask for much. A note following the copied text is sufficient credit. Be as specific as possible about what isn't yours, link if possible, and don't quote content or use unique ideas/terms from other people's roleplays (even if they're from another RP site) without express permission. If it's a roleplay based on a book or movie or webcomic, etc., use the fandom-related thread tags and preferably note it somewhere in your RP info; not everyone may be familiar with the inspiration for your RP. Using quotation marks or the Quote BB Code around chunks of copied text is a good way to define that something is not yours. The Roleplay BB Code is another pretty stylish way to present copied text, like so:

While Godslayer was indeed powerful, he was finally stopped by a coalition of Immortals who were determined to put an end to the madness. Among them were Jorick, the Witch of the Water, ten others who died in the fight, and a curious fellow known as Speaker of the Dead. Jorick's own account says Speaker of the Dead was vital to the success of their mission, whereas Witch of the Water wrote that he was a dangerous liability that nearly cost them everything. I note this oddity here, and suggest that perhaps the Witch was correct, because Speaker of the Dead plays an important role later on in this history. Returning to the matter of the coalition, they were those among the Immortals challenged to war who had eventually decided to stop trying to use mortals as proxies to fight Godslayer. Instead they infiltrated his fortress home and tried, and failed, to catch him unaware. The fight destroyed the fortress and much around it (locating information is sparse, but there is a lake some thirty miles southeast of Gencha with an abnormally round shoreline that I suspect may be the remaining scar of that battle). Godslayer the Immortal was slain, and Godslayer the weapon was taken by Jorick.


At the end of the day, just be respectful and make sure you're not leaving room for people to misinterpret and give you undue credit for something you didn't come up with yourself. You wouldn't want someone else getting credit for YOUR writing, would you?
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Astaroth
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