Aaaaaaand we're back. Yesterday, we talked about the concepts of originality vs. unoriginality, and why unoriginality isn't rated high enough or that originality is overrated; in the end, it's how you treate the unoiriginality in an unoriginal manner. In a sense, it's like the concept of Fair Use in copyright: it's the transformative and new meaning to the source that counts.
And now it's time to get into that little shibboleth. Hang on to your pens and pencils, boys and girls, because what I'm about to say is probably going to turn a few heads at best and floor people at worst. Also, because I could go forever on the subject and all its different permutations, I'm only going to stick to how it related to manga and comics; I'll acknowledge that it happens all too often in other media and others can cover that better than I can.
So with that, let's get started.
No doubt you've heard the stories about manga-ka and comics artists plagiarizing from each other For example, in 2005 manga-ka Yuki Suetsugu was accused of plagiarizing her manga series Flower of Eden (Eden no Hana) from another series. in the example below, the work on the left is Takehiko Inoue's work Slam Dunk, while the right are scenes from Flower of Eden.
She later admitted to the offenses and both Flower of Eden and her then-current series Silver were cancelled; her career was placed on hiatus for two years. It's fair to say that even though her work has resumed, she's probably being watched like a hawk.
It is, with delicious irony, then, that two other things occurred. Later in that same year, Inoue himself was accused of plagiarism, this time from NBA photographs. Inoue explained that it was his long experience with basketball, combined with the memories of NBA photographs of the past that led to his "error." Perhaps due to his recent victimization, his stories were left as is, his work continued unabated.
At the same time, the Korean TV Drama One Fine Day was found to have so completely plagiarized its storyline from Flower of Eden that when the manga was cancelled the drama producers were said to have been "in a crisis" and had to completely rewrite the finalized script as they could no longer use the cancelled series.
In fact, plagiarism is widespread in Japanese manga. D. Gray-man supposedly rips off Trigun and Death Note. The creator of Ikki Tousen is accused of ripping from Tenjo Tenge. Satan 666 reportedly plagiarizes from Naruto (this argument became muted when it was revealed the creators of both series were brothers); both series were eventually accused of copying from Dragonball. Then, there's the infamous "Four Kings of Plagiarism", four series (Samurai Deeper Kyo, Flame of Recca, Black Cat and Rave Master) have been so heavily accused of stealing from other sources that there are whole sites devoted into proving it (for example, this one comparing Black Cat to other series). Then there is the Chinese publisher Joustar, who has been accused of copying wholesale from art done by CLAMP.
Of course, it's just a CJK thing, right. Um...no. Over on this side, US manga-ka Hendra Wajudhi was accused from stealing from Hiroaki Samura's series Blade of the Immortal. This was considered a particularly bad case, as Wajudhi's entry was part of Tokyopop's Rising Stars of Manga contest and had Wajudhi won, a contract would have been profferred.
However, it was even worse for manga-ka Nick Simmons, whose series Incarnate was accused of swiping from not only several manga (most notably Tite Kubo's Bleach) but also from several artists on Deviant Art. Though Simmons claimed "homage", the controversy was enough for his publisher to halt production. Some have found Simmons' actions ironic, as his first post on his Deviant Art account stated the warning, "If you steal my artwork, you will pay. In cash."
So, obviously there is no way around this, right? After all, folks like Rob Liefeld, David Mack and Greg Land get away with it on this side of the pond, all the time. And of course, there's the original picture that you did that just happens to look like someone else's - you're probably going to get accused, even though you honestly didn't do anything.
Well, here's how you protect yourself.
1. Composition is Not the Same as Theft. This is the real world. Human beings can only bend so many ways. There are only 360 degrees in a circle. To quote Rudyard Kipling, "There are nine and sixty ways of contstructing tribal lays, and each of them is right." In short, chances are the way you draw someone holding a gun will be the same way that everyone else does - nothing you can do about that, because that's just the way it is. If it doesn't bother you, shrug it off. If you're that concerned about it, save those references. Just looking at a picture isn't plagiarism. Using an image as a reference isn't plagiarism. Even tracing from a picture that you based off another source isn't plagiarism.
For those of you who completely came up with the "offending" work on your own and are accused, there's even a legal term to protect you. It's called The Doctrine of Concurrent Evolution (some states will also refer to this as "Independent Creation") and has been used successfully to defend against accusations. Hell, even the folks at You Thought We Wouldn't Notice (a blog dedicated to catching plagiarism in all media) are aware of this and mention that on their site.
2. State Your Sources. In many of the cases above (especially the ones where they infringed against something not also drawn), it could have been solved by crediting the copyright holder. Yes, you'll need to keep track of it. Yes, if you do it too much, you'll gain an unsavory reputation regardless. But at least you won't be sued.
3. Homage/The "After" Clause. Homage is the most claimed defense against plagiarism, and most of the time, obviously, it's not. But there's a tradition in American comics (and one I think should be taken up elsewhere, if only so that it would negate a lot of these issues) called the "after" clause. What the after clause does is allow you to copy the art - sometimes completely - so long as you note that you did it "after" another artist (ex. Jones after Smith)
In the case above, artist Power Girl artist Amanda Conner copied extensively from a Superman cover drawn by Nick Cardy. Normally this would be blatant plagiarism, but look at her signature (located by Vartox' left leg). It says, "Conner after Nick Cardy", indicating that she genuinely meant an homage to an iconic work of art. Using the "after" clause should give you plenty of cover in dealing with counteraccusations to homage...assuming, of course, that it actually was one.
Tomorrow: Day 16 - Inspiration is Where You Get It (or Something Like That).