Plagiarism can be difficult and costly to rectify. Prevention is better than the cure. The best general advice is to be on guard at all times, and to take, as a matter of course, elementary safeguards to establish personal copyright. If you find yourself plagiarised, you need to act decisively, and to be prepared to be very persistent.
Below is a summary of the findings of the subcommittee set up to investigate plagiarism in 1994. The views represented are not necessarily those of the Guild.
To protect yourself
- It is wise to be on guard. Be vague about discussing current work, or future plans, or when disclosing them in directories, interviews, etc.
- Always submit ideas of whatever nature in written form, and preferably through a third party, i.e. your agent if you have one. Head each page with the words 'submitted in confidence'. Keep a copy of all documents.
- If you have a conversation, follow it up with a dated letter confirming all relevant details discussed, making it quite clear that the substance of the conversation is confidential. Keep a copy of the letter. If you want to be certain phone to ensure it has arrived.
- Be especially vigilant when discussing ideas/themes for programmes for TV and radio. There is no copyright of ideas. Again, follow up every conversation with a letter.
- Always read the small print before signing contracts or written agreements of any sort.
To protect your colleagues
- Be honest, honourable and fair.
- Always credit your sources.
- When quoting a recipe, make it quite clear whose it is and where it comes from; whether you have altered it in any way; or, if the dish was inspired by somebody else, eaten in a restaurant, etc.
- Legally, you should ask permission before quoting other people's work, even when full credits are given. In practice, a simple credit may suffice for a recipe or short passage. For longer passages, permission must be requested, usually from the publisher concerned, even if you believe/know that the writer has kept his or her copyright. According to the Society of Authors' 'Quick Guide on Permissions', 'the use of a single extract of up to 400 words, or a series of extracts (of which none exceeds 300 words) to a total of 800 words' is permitted without getting permission but only in the context of 'criticism or review'. In the case of anthologies, 'permission must be obtained for the use of any quotation of copyright material, however short'. Note that American publishers are stricter than UK publishers. In addition, you may be expected to pay for a recipe.
- Make clear to editors that accrediting recipes/relevant paragraphs is mandatory, and that you wish to have credits included as you have written them; if necessary put this in writing separately. If the editor is unwilling to comply, ask the editor to provide a note to the author stating the reasons why.
In crediting recipes the following guidelines are suggested:
- Exact copy: This recipe is taken from (recipe) (source) with his or her permission. (Or permission mentioned in the credits.) If the author offers any variations or hints these should be included separately.
- Slightly modified: this recipe was adapted from (recipe) (source) (with his or her permission) (or possibly without). Slightly modified equals change of measurement or change of method. Such changes should be made clear.
- Considerably modified: This recipe was inspired by the recipe for (recipe) from (source) (with his or her permission) (or possibly without). Considerably modified indicates major changes, be they original ingredients, change of method, or both. It is not necessary here to labour details of what changes have taken place.
- Gift recipes: This recipe for ... was given to me/us by ... This area is fraught with danger as there is always a possibility that the giver has taken the recipe from someone else's book or is in fact third hand from someone's book. You must check this carefully and question the donor to try to establish the true origin of the recipe.
Crediting the source of a recipe, be it in an article or a book, is not of itself sufficient. Legally it is also necessary to seek permission from the author in writing. If you have made genuine efforts and been unable to contact the authors, keep all the records of your efforts to trace them, in case they surface when the book is published.
- Phone them, or better still, write. Enclose a stamped addressed envelope.
- If you get no reply after a month, try a recorded delivery copy of your letter. When you request permission remember you may be asked to pay for the recipe. Check your contract, when obtaining recipe credits for a book, to see whether it is you or your publisher who is responsible for seeking permission, and who pays. Keep all the correspondence.
There is always a problem with publishers and bibliographies. Publishers generally do not like long bibliographies and have a habit of editing them down if not severely limiting the size of them.
Make clear to editors that your recipe acknowledgements are mandatory, and to omit them constitutes an act of copyright infringement. If necessary put this in writing separately. If the editor is unwilling to comply, ask the editor to provide a note stating the reasons why.