Can anyone answer my question please - If I cover an old story (from the 1800s, when I obviously wasn't around) that has been covered before by lots of other people, a bit like the 'Jack The Ripper' story, is this classed as plagiarism? It hasn't been done for ages, and I would be doing it in my own words.
It's OK to write stories like that lucieanne.
Plagiarism is copying the whole story, phrases, quotes or series of words etc of other writers without acknowledging their writing.
It's OK to use some phrases, sentences etc from other writers but you must put them in quotation marks and acknowledge the source.
I agree with Travelespresso's explanation about plagiarism, but would like to add that some people go out of their way to rewrite content written by others in order to hide the origins: It may still be plagiarism.
Ideas are not subject to copyright, only manifest expressions. I don't see anything for you to worry about. If you do quote from other people's work, do so conservatively and with proper attribution.
Okay. Thanks guys. I'll crack on with it then. I only stumbled on it whilst researching another subject, and I had never heard of it before, so the chances are there's a few more who haven't. I'll be sure to use the quotation marks where appropriate.
One more thing, when I was reading this article from wikepedia I clicked on a link to a well known UK newspaper who wrote an article about this story in 2007 and it was virtually word for word the same as wikepedia's version. Hmmm I wonder who the culprit is.
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