Thursday, April 27, 2006

Shafer on plagarism

Jack Shafer muses on plagiarism. He is skeptical of Kaavya Viswanathan's claim that she unconsciously took phrases from another's work.
Pinching one or two phrases from another book in the course of writing a 320-page novel might be accidental. But by the time a novelist does it 29 times, the effort is transparently intentional and conscious. Unless, of course, Viswanathan composed her entire novel during Ambien-induced sleep-writing episodes.
I wonder if it's true that no one has ever really confessed to plagiarising, and not passing it off as a mistake or a misty memory of someone else's presumably better writing that somehow spilled unbidden onto your pages? Since many writers toil with no great monetary rewards, a big consolation is they have is credit for what they wrote, and plagiarism steals that - I think it's a cardinal sin of writing, but in Shafer's piece he points out a lack of consequences instead.

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