« Viswanathan-gate | Main | U.S. versus U.K. »

Comments

brian Orme

I appreciate your humility, but I still tend to side with you on your previous argument. Genre...and context make a difference. I just think it's such a hot-button now that people can't see it. And, yes, the kinos line, not bad...

Robert Mayer

What fascinates me about this is how many people in this blog responded.

I teach English at a two-year college, and my 201 students' last essay is on plagiarism and academic dishonesty (I just finished grading them this morning).

We spend two weeks looking at data about academic dishonesty (The Center for Academic Integrity is a good place to start), then discuss the reasons plagiarism is such a widespread problem. A couple of students even went out and did their own surveys and came up with data that was as equally disturbing.

That work is a big reason I'm somewhat surprised at the amount of the responses. The results indicate that students in general see cheating and INTENTIONAL (unintentional is a "whole 'nother discussion") plagiarism as a survival tactic when a crisis arises -- a survival tactic they learned from not only their classmates, but from the world around them.

Then again, maybe I should reconsider my reaction to the reactions. Every one of my 19 students in their final essays stated they see cheating and plagiarism as wrong; in fact, some came up with their best essays of the year.

Maybe what I'm seeing from both the bloggers and my students is a case where the small fraction of those who still see this as wrong are courageous enough to take a stand.

(Now I'm really kicking myself for not going with the instinct to make Blink one of the texts for 201 this semester. Oh, well, I can always assign a section of The Tipping Point for 102 this summer.)

John McGrath

dude, you're oprah!

michaele

My reaction to this incident is similar to "a white bear", Bob, and Robert Mayer above. I am surprised that you haven't addressed the issue of memory and unconscious plagiarism. She is 17--are we all forgetting that?

Genre fiction is derivative by nature so I wouldn't say your first post was wrong, it just didn't address the underlying issue of memory and how it might be possible for a teenage writer to unintentionally write a passage that is identical to something she read previously.

My other question for you is what responsibility does her publisher, editor and/or agent have in assuring that her work is original?

Grant Sanders

You are right. The Kinkos line is great.

I might use it in my newspaper column this week.

Thanks.

G.

roxy

Dear Malcolm, and all bloggers

While I would never pick up a book remotely resembling chick-lit teeny fiction, I feel strongly that I must say something about respect for female writers.

i love the new yorker, and I love harpers etc. Perhaps one day I might even apply for a job at one of these publications- but wait. No. I am a woman.
The litterary world of non-fiction (you know, the kind of writing that does not produce the kind of dismissive comments like those made by you, Malcolm) is extremely closed to women.

See below. Argue with me, please. These numbers cannot lie.

Gentlemen's Club
By Jennifer Weiss

Bylines in the nation’s top intellectual and political magazines are heavily male, as shown by these ratios (male/female), calculated using the ProQuest database from October 2003 through the end of May. At several magazines, women writers were occasionally shut out of entire issues.

National Review 13/1
Foreign Affairs 9/1
The New Republic 8/1
Harper’s Magazine 7/1
The Weekly Standard 7/1
The Atlantic 6/1
The New York Review of Books 6/1
The New Yorker 4/1
The Nation 3/1
National Journal 3/1
CJR 2/1

This week? 1 female byline. poetry

roxy

Dear Malcolm, and all bloggers

I am a reading nut. While I would never pick up a book remotely resembling chick-lit teeny fiction, I feel strongly that I must say something about female writers.

I love the new yorker, and I love harpers etc. Perhaps one day I might even apply for a job at one of these publications- but wait. I might not ever get one that is worth a damn. I am a young woman.
The litterary world of non-fiction (you know, the kind of writing that does not produce the kind of dismissive comments like those made by you, Malcolm) is extremely closed to women.

See below. Argue with me, please. These numbers cannot lie.

This is from Columbia:

Gentlemen's Club
By Jennifer Weiss

Bylines in the nation’s top intellectual and political magazines are heavily male, as shown by these ratios (male/female), calculated using the ProQuest database from October 2003 through the end of May. At several magazines, women writers were occasionally shut out of entire issues.

National Review 13/1
Foreign Affairs 9/1
The New Republic 8/1
Harper’s Magazine 7/1
The Weekly Standard 7/1
The Atlantic 6/1
The New York Review of Books 6/1
The New Yorker 4/1
The Nation 3/1
National Journal 3/1
CJR 2/1

This week? 1 female byline. poetry

What do you think?

John

I agree with you, Roxy.

look at this.

Its long, but I cannot express how important it is to read it:

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2597

This should spark some discussion with you litterary types.

Brian Baron

How about this for plagiarism:
From David Edelstein's column in this week's New York, condemining plagiarists:
"Words belong to the person who wrote them. There are few simpler ethical notions than this one, particularly as society directs more and more energy and resources toward the creation of intellectual property."

From Malcolm Galdwell's essay "Something Borrowed":
"Words belong to the person who wrote them. There are few simpler ethical notions than this one, particularly as society directs more and more energy and resources toward the creation of intellectual property."

Kate Hamilton

So, anyone who is interested Kaavya and "Opal" should check out A&E this Sunday at 8AM. They're airing a piece on the show Breakfast With the Arts that has Kaavya actually reading from her book and talking about it! It's the only show that has this exclusive footage! Check it out:

http://www.aetv.com/listings/episode_details.do?episodeid=166939

Ben Fitt

A spy novel nut? Have you tried any of the Alan Kraik novels by Gordon Kent? IMNSHO, they are excellent.

richard

With such scrutiny today in literature, I think it is defintately going to have a negative impact. Fewer would-be writers will try to get published for fear that somewhere they have been influenced by another writer. Publishers may release fewer books because they find small similairities, or because it takes so long to check the new works against previous books. All because of a fear that a few sentences match. blah

Matt G

I think the reason it is so hard to decide what constitutes plagiary is that there is an inherent struggle between the ideas of progress and originality.

On the one hand, progress depends on building on the ideas of others. If humans were machines designed to create the best products possible, we would constantly be "stealing" the best ideas that we had heard of. What better way to progress than to start with the best of what already exists?

However, we are not machines. We have self-interests to look after, and if people aren't rewarded for their ideas, then they aren't going to bother coming up with them (or share them with others). So we value originality because it provides an incentive (both money and recognition) to work hard to come up with great ideas.

The ideas of progress and originality are extremely important to our species, if not fundamentally part of it (in my opinion, they are byproducts of evolution). However, they are somewhat conflicting ideas, and it is therefore very difficult to find a suitable middle ground.

Perhaps, as some have noted above, the best solution would be to allow copying, but require that it be acknowledged and perhaps financially compensated. Of course, this is a highly idealistic solution and not very workable in the real world, but I still think there's some value in coming up with the best ideas, even if they can't be put into practice at the present time.

On a different note, I used to be active in the field of standup comedy. I've seen comedians blatantly steal material (which made me very angry, as it implied a sneakiness on their part, in addition to a lack of talent) as well as write completely non-original jokes without stealing from any one comedian in particular (which made me more depressed than angry, since it implies a lack of talent but not necessarily sneakiness - although I often was angry when the audience liked their material far more than mine). But I've also been in the position of realizing that I've been telling a joke that I thought I came up with, but actually heard somewhere else and forgot about. To me, this just further drives home the point that there's no way to draw a line between good and bad in this issue. It's all shades of gray.

Serg

v

Daniel Widrew

from what i read, most of the people disagreeing with your last post simply didn't understand it. borrowing this many vs that many words is not important, because even if the phrases and sentence structures were totally new, the *idea* is the same. why should that be less important? one person was asking how much of the text of "the shining" could be copied before it was unacceptable - well, how about if the words were all shiny new, but the plot and themes were exactly duplicated? my first question would be, is it a good book?

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Bio

  • I'm a writer for the New Yorker magazine, and the author of four books, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference", "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" and "Outliers: The Story of Success." My latest book, "What the Dog Saw" is a compilation of stories published in The New Yorker. I was born in England, and raised in southwestern Ontario in Canada. Now I live in New York City.

    My great claim to fame is that I'm from the town where they invented the BlackBerry. My family also believes (with some justification) that we are distantly related to Colin Powell. I invite you to look closely at the photograph above and draw your own conclusions.

My Website

Books

  • What the Dog Saw

    buy from amazon

    Outliers

    buy from amazon

    buy from amazon UK

    Blink

    buy from amazon

    buy from amazon UK

    Tipping Point

    buy from amazon

Recent Articles

Blog powered by Typepad