Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Public Domain Works of Fiction: A Question of Ethics

I recently started reading a book that required usage of another author's writing. This book used actual text and dialogue from a well known classic--because this was to be from the hero vs heroine's point of view. Fine, no problem so far.

Time after time, the exact words and/or dialogue from the original book were used. Again, this was necessary since it was basically the same book from the heroes point of view. However, NO credit was given to the original author.

Since the author's work is considered to be in the Public Domain, the author of the recent book does not consider what she's doing to be plagiarism. She is not doing anything illegal, but is she behaving ethically?

Here’s a definition of “Public Domain” straight from the U.S. Copyright Office…

“A work of authorship is in the “public domain” if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.”

For instance, once a book is Public Domain, we can…

Use the material in the creation of a new product.
Republish the material as is and sell it.
Legally change and readapt the book in any manner we wish.
We also have the legal right to omit the original author’s name and replace it with our own if we wish.

We have the legal right to do such…but should we?

Anybody familiar with the classic will recognize who wrote what, but shouldn't the author still at the very least give credit in her acknowledgement section for the portions of the book written by the original author?

Portions of the above were taken directly from an article I read at the below website.


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