What Determines Architectural Plaigarism?

We all know there are precedents from which common design elements and styles were established and then "borrowed from."
However, how much of a design and its expression derived from historial precedent must and can be considered to establish the design was plaigarized and built by others when the person's design being plaigarized is itself derived frrom historical precedents?
How can we possibly establish the meaning and the scope of "how much?" I know what I was taught in school and in practice about the vocabulary of architecture but where does plaigarism begin and end?. What would your criteria be? Could your criteria be substantiated formally or "officially?"
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<%= Clinton Gallagher
NET csgallagher AT metromilwaukee.com
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Coming up with ideas is the fun part of the job for me. The trickier the better. Why anyone would cheat themselves of that experience just to get straight to the working drawings is beyond me.
I've got a proposal out to do limited invitation competition for a difficult addition to an infill office building ins a chic part of town, and all I can think about is "I hope I get it", even though I know it's going to be a major headache... I can't wait to see what I'll come up with.
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MichaelB
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Reading through this thread, I find myself wondering about this - various people mentioned "elements", and my question is, How do you make some elements all that much different from something that's already in existence?
For example, someone wants a dormer. Um, how many different things can you do to a dormer, and at what point can someone claim "plagiarism" if you dormer ends up looking exactly like theirs, but only because the house styles are similar (due to the different clients' similarity in taste), and, well, heck, it's a *dormer*.
I'm just curious as to where the boundary is before someone else can claim plagiarism.
- K.
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The whole topic depends on establishing some means of communicating an actual or presumed infringement. The term "element" has to be defined somehow by general consensus perhaps but defined in a manner that the word may be used and understood by others engaged in the discussion.
As best as I've been able to determine an architectural element would be considered as some distinctive feature which may be considered as a part of something else or stand alone on its own merit. A smooth column of conrcete for example lacking any other distinctive characteristics may stand vertically in space alone in the middle of a field or may stand as one of many others located equidistant around the perimiter of a circle.
Let's use the latter as a point of discussion; a series of concrete columns standing in space to define the perimeter of a circle. Do the columns in aggregate not form a distinctive design element?
<%= Clinton
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You're going to have to steal more than an element to get busted.
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MichaelB
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<snip />

It would be a jury that would determine the facts and the jury would need to be educated about the "elements" of architectural design which comprise a specific work and how a plaigarist had taken a proposal submitted by someone else (or a design committed to "paper") and then used the idea and most of the fundamental elements of the design to create a derived work.
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