With all the hype going around about JK Rowling and plagiarism, I thought I'd write a quick note. I hope every author knows that while exact words and the work as a whole are copyrightable, ideas are not. I don't know anything about Rowling's situation, but I will say whenever someone claims plagiarism, I'm quite skeptical. I believe ideas are just floating around in the air, waiting for someone to snatch onto them. Case in point:
A few years ago, while I was going through a lengthy submission process for MISSING, I came across a blog where commenters were given the opportunity to submit a book idea to the blog owner. I decided to look over those comments and discovered that someone I didn't know had written out an idea for a book that was very similar to MISSING. So similar, in fact, that the main characters had the same names--though different spellings. I was shocked, to say the least, concerned that maybe someone had already heard about MISSING and was using it, and worried enough that someone might think I'd actually stolen their idea, I changed the name of one of my main characters. To this day, I fear that whoever wrote that comment has heard of MISSING and is angry with me. And yet I had no connection with them or their "idea." It was actually about five years (or more) between the time I began writing MISSING and the day it was published.
Let me reiterate. Ideas are not copyrightable. Neither are they exclusive to one person. So, as soon as that great idea comes to you, use it. Don't wait. If you do, someone else is bound to grab it's twin or sextuplet out of the sky and cash it in.