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WEbook's superstore for talking shop: colons vs. semicolons; dialogue format; point of view.  And everything in between.
Posted: 4/20/2016 2:51 AM PDT

Satyr
Hannah,
Although I accept what you say as being good advice in a general way and would hope that all writers avoid plagiarism in any shape or form I would argue that allusions within a work to a classic are quite acceptable.  Part of the 'fun' when reading Eliot and Joyce is chasing down all the allusions to the works of Dante, Shakespeare, various classical philosophers and commentators, biblical references and so on.  I do perceive a problem in the modern world though and that is what is to be presumed a common background for all readers.  Not everyone nowadays has read Chaucer or Baudelaire, knows the Greek, Celtic and Norse myths or has even been forced to study the Bible, etc.  

I have always presumed that literary references, such as "those are the pearls that were his eyes" would instantly be recognised as being an allusion to both Eliot and Shakespeare, "April is the cruelest month" instantly takes one to Eliot but there is slight resonance of Chaucer's Prelude "Whan that Aprill with his shoures ..." or "the wine dark sea" as being a reference to the Iliad but you suggesting that one cannot rely on readers recognising these allusions any longer.  On reflection, I suspect that you may be correct.
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Posted: 2/12/2016 4:37 AM PST

hlk88

Moderator
Hi Terry12345,

You might find this useful: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries%27_copyright_lengths

Generally, about 50 years after an author has died the copyright to their work becomes part of the public domain, meaning that anyone can use it. This does differ between countries through, so the above Wikipedia article will help in that respect.

If you don't know who the author is, then it would be prudent to make reference to the fact that the lyric or words have been lifted from an existing work - otherwise there's the risk of being accused of plagiarism. Stating that the author is unknown is a good way to cover yourself in the event that the work isn't out of copyright. The important thing is to highlight that you're using something that someone else has written and that you're not taking credit for having written it yourself. 

Hope that helps!

Hannah from the WEbook Team
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Posted: 2/9/2016 2:08 PM PST
If I borrow a snatch of poem or song lyric, and the original author is unknown, how do I write the acknowledgement? Just put Author Unknown? In the example I'm thinking of, there is no official title to the work and it goes back many many years. To add to the confusion, it's something that's used frequently by a certain group of people, although it's usually spoken aloud. Anyone know the answer to this?    
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