All the World a Plagiarized Stage

Plagiarism instances (sometimes merely allegations) are rampant the past few months.  And not just in the realm of American politics, but also in doctorate programsdesignsshort stories, and poetry.

What constitutes plagiarism?  Is it five of the same words strung together?  Ten?  Twenty?
You can't copyright ideas, so ripping off (much of) someone's plot isn't plagiarism.  You can't steal a writer's protagonist wholesale but you certainly can tweak him and slap him into your story.

Do different types of media have different plagiarism definitions or measures?  Thirty stolen words in a novel might not mean much, but a whole poem could use less than that.  Some designs are incredibly generic and could only require different words within a shape to be unique.  But, changing the color of Mona Lisa's hair still makes her the Mona Lisa.

There is no consistency.

Combine that with writers and other artists who believe everything should be in the public domain and no one should have claim over any creative project...
Take the following horrible poems (wrote in less than five minutes so please don't criticise):

You lit the fire, hungry                        I start the fire, famished
Watched shadows play                      Shadows frolic
upon the moorland                            upon the moors
stretching out like a cat                      spreading like a virus
I see the cold light in you                   you, full of frozen brightness
Turn away, ashamed                          Make me spin, in mortification
It isn't food you crave                        You want me more than supper

Is the second piece plagiarism (if they both weren't mine)?  Why or why not?  Could the poet who wrote the second piece get away with writing it if admitting it was written in homage to the first?
Plagiarism is more of a moral issue than a criminal one, though creators can sue for copyright infringement if there is proof.  But it doesn't do much good, especially if there is no severe amount of income lost.  Income loss isn't something most of us indie or small creators can easily claim.  Court costs are often too prohibitive for the payoff because we don't see a million sales.

The culprit, if found guilty (and sometimes if just accused), will probably find themselves ostracized from their artistic communities, at least for a while.  For many offenders, the shaming and cold-shoulders are enough to cure them.  For others?  Well, that's what pseudonyms are for.

What do you think of all the plagiarism going on?  How do you define plagiarism?

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