Friday, March 17, 2006

Severe Warning - Plagiarists Around!

My post on the Dan Brown case the other date sparked plenty of discussion about what constitutes plagiarism and your comments raised some very important questions.

I've since found an excellent website about plagiarism of all kinds. John Lesko's Famous Plagiarists blends careful academic argument with humour. It's a topic he clearly feels passionate about:

Plagiarism is an offense against authorship and originality, and we are criminal accomplices in such offenses if we attempt to justify a plagiarist or ameliorate the consequences resulting from such odious behavior.

Strong words, and there's plenty more. He lists some of the most famous literary plagiarists and kleptomaniacal popular writers along with their threat rating (as in the picture I plagi- ... er ... borrowed above).

There are writers we might expect to be there like Mr. Navahoax himself - Tim Barrus and Dan Brown. (The former gets a red rating , the latter only blue.)

But there are surprises - TS Eliot (rated yellow), Jack London (yellow), Stephen King (green), J.K. Rowling (blue) ...

... and the grandaddy of English Literature himself (blue -guarded risk). Shame on you, Billy!

8 comments:

The Great Swifty said...

Hah, I already knew that Billy the Bard's a plagiarist... since seeing Shakespeare in Love.

qaminante said...

I haven't looked up the index, but have been discussing the Dan Brown issue with friends, after your post about this. In this context, am I the only person in the world who has noticed that Penelope Lively's "Making it Up" (pub. July 2005) is based on exactly the same premise to Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's "My Nine Lives" (pub. June 2004)? I'm sure there is no plagiarism in terms of actual text, but I have to wonder how this identical concept, namely, what if real events in their lives had turned out differently, can have occurred to these two writers at the same time...

bibliobibuli said...

swifty m'dear - 'shakespeare in love' is ... fiction ... but yes, okay, we know he lifted stories

qaminante - interesting parallel ... haven't read either of the books though i had read an article by penelope lively and decided to use it for a creative writing class ... it dealt with other possible parallel lives ... the what-if syndrome ... and you know, i think it really might be a case of hitting on a universal theme

... robert frost tapped into it with his poem 'the road not taken'. and Theroux wrote 'my other life' about a fictional Theroux ...

Sharanya said...

Hi Sharon,

Since you've been dealing with intellectual property alot in your blog lately, I thought you might be a good person to ask about a dilemma I'm having.

I have a title for the novel I'm working on, and it's one that means alot to me. My concern (paranoia maybe?) is that someone may use the title before I have the chance to publish my own book.

I checked out the Library of Congress' website, and it turns out that you can't get a legal copyright for titles. It may be possible to get a trademark for that particular sequence of words, but even then only through an expensive, long process - with no guarantee of securing it.

As an author who has come up with what is, as far as I know, a hitherto unused title (and what I think is an unusual one at that), what are ways in which I can protect myself?

I've thought about setting up a website and a public blog a la Laila Lalami or Neil Gaiman, in which the title of my work in progress will be prominently mentioned in my bio -- some people have told me that this may be a good idea if I can secure a large enough readership, and thereby make it public knowledge in the blogosphere that someone named Sharanya Manivannan is already using the title "_____". But someone else told me that doing so would expose me to an even higher possibility of having the title stolen, as there is no legal protection even if there is awareness out there about it being mine, besides which anyone could wander on my site, like my title and use it, then declare that they had never heard of me.

What do you think?

Glenda Larke said...

And do you think I could sue J.K.Rowlings for zillions of dollars for stealing my plot about maps that show the movement of people as they move, and using the idea in one of her own books, years after my own book about such maps was published? *g*

The truth is, there's hardly a new idea in the world - they were all told in the Bible and other religious books, or in the old myths and legends...

Sharanya - I'd shut up about your title. If it's unusual, odds are no one will think of it, so don't draw attention to it.

And don't get too hung up on it anyway. There's a good chance your publisher won't like it and will want it changed! What is between the covers is what counts, believe me.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah about editors.. sometimes it gets changed so much you want to say "look, whyn't I give you the structure and you can write your own novel ?" :)

Glenda Larke said...

Ah, I adore my editors. I worship at their feet. Really - I'm not being sarcastic!

They take what I thought was a good book and suggest how to make it even better. I take on board 95% of their suggestions, even the ones about changing the title...

bibliobibuli said...

sharanya - i asked aneeta for her legal know-how (legal advice in excahange for coffeee and cake) and she said that you can't copyright a title

besides ... when i've been ordering books i've often discovered more than one novel with the same title

i think glenda is right ... just keep quiet about it for now ... and that should keep it safe ... and i am very much looking forward to reading it