Recently, I learned an unpublished author brought a lawsuit against a published author and her publisher (in this case Harlequin, which is also my publisher) for allegedly plagarising from her contest entry. It didn't matter that Kate Walker hadn't even judged the contest, this person believed because of random things like patent leather shoes and eye and hair color, as well as unplanned pregnancy, that her "idea" was stolen. I can only believe this plaintiff didn't read a lot of romance, or she'd have been suing hundred of authors.
The judge, of course, dismissed the suit. The entire thing is here, if you're so inclined to read it.
It reminds me of when I used to attend chapter meetings and an unpublished author I used to critique with was so worried someone would steal her idea. Or of the random people who have come up to me over the years and offered to give me their idea and "let" me write the story, and we could split the profit. As if the idea is the hard part. I have so many ideas, I couldn't possibly write them all.
You can take ten authors and give them the same idea, along with the same plot elements (example, unplanned pregnancy), and ask them to write a story. All ten - every, single one - will be completely and utterly different. Why? Because it's breathing life to the story, writing the characters and their backstory, working out the resolution,where originality comes in. We all bring something unusual to the table, something uniquely personal.
Take one movie idea - an asteroid hits the earth and wipes out civilization as we know it. Make three movies with the same idea. All different.
I feel for Kate. She's been through hell this past year, over something she had no control over. She didn't judge the contest, she'd never seen the entry, and there was no plagarism. So I'm going to buy her book on Kindle. The Proud Wife is here, if you want to show your support.