Friday, 23 August 2013

Plagiarism - Sins of Literature

Plagiarism is a crime against creativity, a mortal sin that has destroyed lives and careers. The contributors agreed to a difference between  brazen theft and inadvertently using a few words written by someone else as your own. The discussion ranged over many topics attached to or affecting plagiarism, and I captured a few of the main points.

Some authors think that if they write and publish a sentence, it belongs to them. Others think sentences belong to the world once they're published.
Will Self believes one can't avoid a bit of the old klepto when dealing with words. Malcolm Gladwell thinks there is a difference between the theft of a physical item such as a watch, and the theft of ideas and words.

Every young writers has authors in his head as models when he begins writing, They have studied literature for twenty years and their favourite authors are deeply embedded in their brains. They make a deep impression, and initially the budding writer writes in the style of ...... but the budding writer has to move away from them, must gradually discard them until the voice they use is theirs alone. That's when they've grown up as an Artist. One's own voice is only to be found by writing, writing and writing.

The impact of new technologies is changing our brains and making us smarter. Time moved slowly in the 15th century, but now it moves at a much faster pace, and novels need to be streamlined, too. The average reader wants Narrative, Characters and Entertainment when they read, and the long rambling novels of the sixties and seventies would not have more a a couple of hundred readers today. Copyright has only been in existence for two hundred years at best, and the rest of the time prose writing has been up for grabs, you might say. Electronic publishing will have a great impact on copyright and plagiarism, but the world hasn't really got to grips with the possibilities or the problems yet.

As a final word on plagiarism, Malcolm Gladwell thinks that if someone copies your words and uses them in a different way to you, that's OK; it is a compliment. If they use them in the same way, that's outrageous.

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