According to Wikipedia, “plagiarism is defined as… the ‘wrongful appropriation.’ ‘close limitation,’ or ‘purloining and publication’ of another author’s ‘language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions,’ and the representation of them as one’s own original work.” Wikipedia further adds that “plagiarism is not a crime per se but is disapproved more on the grounds of moral offence, and the cases of plagiarism can involve liability for copyright infringement.”
Seriously, if you have gone to college, you should know what plagiarism is. I remember on the eve of our Yale graduation, a fellow MA student sent an anonymous letter to the English department accusing another student of plagiarism and “lowering Yale’s academic standards.” Apparently that student plagiarized himself by turning in the same paper to two different classes under two different titles. Even that was frowned upon at the tip of the ivory tower. I’d let him go.
The million-dollar question (or it could worth more) is did Hunger Games plagiarize Battle Royale?
The Japanese novel Battle Royale, published in 1999 by Koushun Takami and later adapted into a film in 2000, is set in a totalitarian Japan in an alternate timeline. A group of junior high students are kidnapped by the government for military experiments and placed on an island where they have to kill each other off until only one remains.
Published as a young adult novel by Suzanne Collins in 2008, Hunger Games is set in a post-apocalyptic English-speaking world where a group of kids between 12 and 18 are selected by a lottery to kill each other in a televised game until only one remains.
Well, Monopoly is Monopoly even if the street names and currency have been changed.
I first saw Battle Royale when it was released worldwide around 2000. I remember the Weinsteins bought the movie for North America and they never released it, although the translated novel was around and many avid fans were watching the movie on imported DVDs.
Years later a writer friend approached me with a script inspired by Battle Royale set in a private girls’ school. I told him that I personally wouldn’t feel right to just rip an idea off an existing movie and then refashion it. It’s almost plagiarism. And now, here it is, Hunger Games making millions at the box office.
Then the question I’d ask is what’s the difference between homage and plagiarism? While Brian De Palma paid tribute to Hitchcock in many of his movies, he never really quite plagiarized Hitchcock because homage consciously acknowledges the source. On the other hand, plagiarism implies a lack of acknowledgement of the source. Like appropriation, Plagiarism attempts to erase the source and makes the source its own as if it were the original. Homage is an act of respect. Plagiarism is a simple and greedy act of self-gain. And you can decide whether Hunger Games plagiarizes Battle Royale or not.