Ellen G. White and Her Critics


The Legal Aspect of Plagiarism

Because of the well-defined copyright laws that now obtain in the United States—and in most other countries for that matter—it is possible for an author who feels that another writer has plagiarized his work to enter suit against him. Needless to say many such suits have been instituted. As a result there is a rather large body of decisions that set forth the consensus of legal thinking on this matter. The following is quoted from the authoritative summary of the current rulings of the courts regarding this matter: EGWC 409.5

“In determining the question of infringement, the amount of matter copied from the copyrighted work is an important consideration, but to constitute infringement it is not necessary that the whole or even a large portion of the work shall have been copied, although on the principle of de minimis non curat lex it is necessary that a material and substantial part of it shall have been copied, it being insufficient that mere words or lines have been abstracted. If so much is taken that the value of the original is sensibly diminished, or the labors of the original author are substantially and to an injurious extent appropriated by another, that is sufficient in point of law to constitute a piracy. The question is one of quality rather than quantity and is to be determined by the character of the work and the relative value of the material taken, and it has been said that in deciding questions of this sort the court must look to the nature and objects of the selections made, the quantity and value of the materials used, and the degree in which the use may prejudice the sale, diminish the profits, or supersede the objects of the original work.”—18 Corpus Juris Secundum, Sec. 94, p. 218. EGWC 410.1

“Making extracts, even if they are not acknowledged as such, appearing under all the circumstances of the case, reasonable in quality, number, and length, regard being had to the object with which the extracts are made and to the subjects to which they relate, is a fair and noninfringing use.”—Ibid., Sec. 105. p. 224. EGWC 410.2