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Plagiarism seeks to conceal the source, while allusion seeks to reveal it. In creative writing (poetry, fiction, drama, memoir), you may indeed include allusions. These are references to other texts that extend your meaning.

—Frequently Asked Questions about Plagiarism, Hope College,


Accusations of plagiarism are a recurring theme in fan fiction communities. They bring up issues such as what to do with guilty parties, how archivists should handle it, feelings of being plagiarized, why people plagiarized, and if fan fiction is itself nothing but plagiarism. Indeed, there are issues which the fan fiction community simply cannot resolve involving plagiarism because of the legally nebulous area that fan fiction occupies: there is no remedy if some one is found guilty of plagiarising in fan fiction. [1]

The fan fiction community has traditionally treated the copyright issue as a legal issue and the plagiarism issue as an ethical issue. This is an important distinction both historically and culturally in how the fan fiction community approaches the issue.

This is supported by copyright law. Nowhere in Title 17 of the United States Code is the word plagiarism used. Offering legal defenses for plagiarism or condemning plagiarism for its illegality is thus moot. Plagiarism can be part of copyright infringement but it is, in and of itself, not necessarily infringement. It is not relevant to the discussion.

It should be noted that there are parts of the fan fiction community which have ties to the Organization for Transformative Works, acafen and Harry Potter fans that are plagiarism apologists. Their views are not considered mainstream. Their support of plagiarism is based on a sliding scale of fandom morality, where they see other offensives as more agregious. This is explained by franzeska as follows:

*shrug* Vast portions of fandom are severely lacking in the moral compass department. I'm usually more bothered by fans who post other people's real names or cause intentional drama than by those who've done something stupid in their fanfic. [2]

Below is a timeline of some plagiarism related fan fiction events.

Timeline of plagiarism events in fandom



I've been asked to say something about plagiarism so OK, here goes. First up, IT IS ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE TO DELIBERATELY COPY THE WORK OF ANOTHER AUTHOR. Plagiarism is wrong, pure and simple. Don't do it. [7]




Chart that explains not all Harry Potter fans are plagiarists.
  • On May 14, 2001, the Harry Potter fan fiction community that surrounded Cassandra Claire became aware that a thirteen year old author was plagiarizing Cassandra Claire on FanFiction.Net. Cassandra Claire's fans were appalled that some one would plagiarize Cassandra Claire. [20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28] Cassandra Claire's fans were leaving her reviews that could be construed as harassing because the author plagiarized their favorite author, Cassandra Claire. Cassandra Claire told the members of ParadigmOfUncertainty "I also agree with the people who say to give this kid a break -- she's only 13 -- and like I said, I'll deal with it. ;)" [29] and offered a "cookie" for one of the chapters for her stories. Cookies are short extracts of a story or chapter, designed to entice the reader to read the fic. Notice the behavior pattern: Cassandra Claire's fangirls were being extremely mean and harassing. Cassandra Claire was made aware of her fans' behavior. Rather than clearly tell them to stop, she offers one throw away line and then tries to make everyone feel better. This type of behavior foreshadows the events of Charity Wank where the fans are not told to back off and stop behaving badly. Interestingly, this would have been a good time for Cassandra Claire to discuss her own borrowing found in her stories as it made for a good parallel with the current situation.
  • On June 22, 2001, Cassandra Claire was kicked off FanFiction.Net for plagiarizing Pamela Dean. It would later come out that she had plagiarized extensively from more sources than just the one that got her kicked off FanFiction.Net.









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