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Wednesday, October 08, 2003
So I've been doing much thinking over the White Wolf gaming enterprise suing Sony, the makers of the movie Underworld. While I've been a longtime fan of White Wolf, this is utter bullshit.
Being a writer myself, I take seriously the accusation of plagiarism. Plagiarism is defined by Merriam-Webster Online as:
to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source and to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.
The question is, did Sony plagiarize White Wolf's ideas? I would have to say, no more than White Wolf plagiarized the ideas of Anne Rice, Bram Stoker and every other vampire-story writer out there. I first purchased Vampire: The Masquerade and The Vampire Player's Companion the year they came out (1995) and vampires were all the rage. My friend and I were big Anne Rice fans, and I had just recently finished her Interview with a Vampire series. When reading the White Wolf RPG books the Rice influence was very obvious to me.
The point is, you cannot steal an idea. Merriam and Webster may have a name for the act, but, in my opinion, the world of creativity and ideas is open to any and all who are able to tap into it. The fact that elements of Underworld are similar to elements of Vampire: The Masquerade is no more pertinent than the fact that VtM is similar to Anne Rice, and Anne probably got some of her base ideas from Bram Stoker.
As Peter McWilliams so eloquently put in his Philosphy of Created Stuff:
"Art, therefore, needs to be readily available - available to the general public for entertainment, and available to artists for pilfering. Artists should be able to incorporate - consciously or unconsciously, credited or not - the work of other artists."
Touche. I couldn't agree more. Mr. McWilliams has every one of his books on his website, where you can read them for free - and even hopes that you are able to use his work. Now, that, my friends, is an artist.
I have always believed that if you begin to be greedy about your work, you will lose the talent to create true art again; your muse will leave you. There are a million ideas floating around in the ethers - ready for any and all to grab them, use them, and put their own distinct and unique mark on them. I had the idea of a Romeo-and-Juliet type story between a vampire and a werewolf when I was in high school. As a close friend said, "Who hasn't?" Should everyone that's ever had any idea similar to any movie ever created start suing? Nobody owns an idea. To believe so is ridiculous.
And that's my two coppers on that.