Public Service Announcement

I have noticed that some members of the community do not understand the scope of plagiarism. This is not a problem unique to CoG, as it is a topic that inevitably arises on any writing site. However, I think from time to time, as new members arrive, it is wise to post a reminder of what plagiarism encompasses. Furthermore, I think a refresher does us all good from time to time.

As a caveat, I shall speak largely in general terms, my goal is to illustrate the scope of plagiarism, not to fully cover the topic in arduous detail.

Simply put, plagiarism is the the theft of writing or ideas. However, plagiarism is not limited to the verbatim taking and stealing of another’s words.

The common context most are familiar with is recycling old exams and passing them off as your own in grade school or university.

But plagiarism extends to the partial theft of language and ideas. What does this mean exactly? It means that when a passage, scene, or story mirrors another work so closely so as to have clearly derived from the original work without a transformative component to it - then that amounts to plagiarism.

Now, there are certain stories that belong to the public domain. These include tales such as the Legend of King Arthur, Robin Hood, and Beowulf. These general stories and the characters in them are no longer owned by anyone, and they are free to use as you will. But of course, if Sarah writes a story about Robin Hood, you cannot take portions of her manuscript and use them in your own story of Robin Hood. The right to use a general story concept does not allow one to plagiarize another’s writing on that subject. For example, if Disney made a new movie about King Arthur, then Warner Bros. cannot recast the actors and reuse portions of the Disney script in their own King Arthur movie two years later. Not without purchasing the rights to the script.

The other primary exception where a writer may use another’s idea, within certain limits, is in the case of parody. Parody is presumed to fall within the realm of fair use in the United States. However, the parody must still be transformative in nature and not infringe upon any of the rights of the owner of the original work.

What to take away from this?

Writers have taken inspiration from other writers for generations. However, we must be mindful not to allow our inspiration to fall so short as to collapse into the category of mere imitation and recitation.



If anyone feels something reaches the threshold of plagiarism, they should make CoG staff aware of it asap.

With that said, we should be very careful about assuming something is imitation or recitation. With historical based works (historical fiction, etc) the source material everyone has is often the same source material and because this material is often limited (due to language and other such factors) it can lead to multiple writers creatively writing vignettes or scenes that are very close in nature.

Plagiarism is a very serious charge that can damage a person’s reputation within a community, so it is not something to “throw out there” on a whim or just because … the best way of handling this is quietly and with the proper people involved from the beginning.

Besides “parody” there is also satire, review and a few other legitimate purposes to “copy” another’s material. One common thing done in this community is to pay homage to your colleagues or those writers you admire. Examples of this is when @JimD mentions other works as games you can play in his Zombie series.

If you want to do this, often it is best to give the author you are paying homage to a heads-up and to at least ask them for their formal permission to use their material.

Our community is growing and as such, there is going to be more people working on ideas that on their face may seem similar - don’t assume anything if you see this. Alert the CoG staff and let them go forward with your concerns.

Edit: Just a fyi @Bucky - I moved this to writing development as a category because plagiarism can be a concern for both Cog and HG works as well as non-company projects.

Edit 2 - This is not legal advise, do not take any post or statement made by me as legal advice.


Is this because you’ve noticed plagiarism in COG’s games (or HG’s), or because in discussion it appears they don’t fully understand plagiarism?

Since you touched on satire…

Critiques fall into a similar category to parody as well. Although, I personally feel like most critiques are either going to clearly be commentary or essentially parody if you take a creative spin on the matter.

If you suspect plagiarism has happened, to your own work or someone else’s, I would say there are probably two things you should never do:

  1. Ignore it. If it was enough to rouse your suspicion, it likely bears a further look or a discussion with the involved parties at the very least.

  2. Immediately make an accusation of intellectual theft. Unless it is clear-cut word-for-word copy, you can’t be instantly 100% sure plagiarism occurred, and you need to find out more about the situation before you go off half-cocked (or possibly uncocked entirely). As @Eiwynn said, those are damaging accusations, and even if the accused is exonerated there will be a stigma just at it having been said in the first place. That is not something to inflict on another member willy-nilly.


I saw someone implying that only verbatim copying is plagiarism, and that is a dangerous and inaccurate message to allow to float around without correction. On the most basic level, I think being generally informed on the matter is an important part of showing respect for our fellow writers and artists.

I shared the same message on ChooseYourStory as well, since it’s good general information for writers to keep in mind when they’re developing their projects.


Oh yeah totally.

An example would be how I’m making this game myself, which I’ll continue after exams, which will contain a companion, recruiting, quest system. Another game has the same features planned, and so I know this isn’t plagarism (unless I use their code/ systems or just base mine off theirs with a small change, like bad fanfic)

I have contacted authors before (maybe the same guy ^ too,) in case I want to ‘borrow’ a really good mechanic they used, which I find is the best way of clearing up confusion.

Personally I’d just say copy my code for the systems I use, not the characters, maybe a bit of the plot.
Oh and add my name in the code comments of the game, if anyone still looks at that haha.