Sunday, May 07, 2006

More Kaavya Fallout

Just when you thought it was safe to come out of the water ...

Kaavya Vishvanathan was back in the news this week when it was revealed that her plagiarism extended (can you believe?) to other texts as well.

The New York Times credits the blogging community with forcing publisher Little, Brown, to withdraw the product after blog search engine Technorati revealed that Ms. Visvanathan's name was the most searched term in the blogosphere:
In the age of the Internet, literary exegesis (whether driven by scandal or not) is no longer undertaken solely by pale critics or plodding lawyers speaking only to each other, but by a global hive, humming everywhere at once, and linked to the wiki. And if you are big enough to matter (as any writer would hope to be), one misstep, one mistake, can incite a horde of analysts, each with a global publishing medium in the living room and, it sometimes seems, limitless amounts of time.
Hey, friends, we're part of that! (Limitless amounts of time, though? I wish I could kick the addiction.)

Principle whistle blower was the Sepia Mutiny blog (which I intitially discovered thanks to Sharanya: the first post on the scandal is here .)

Kaavya seems also to have lifted from Sopia Kinsella's Can you Keep A Secret, from Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries, and from Tanuja Desai Hidier’s Born Confused and from Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories.

But all may not be lost for Kaavya, as some wag notes on the blog - since many Indians don't believe in intellectual property, Viswanathan could have a tremendous career writing for Bollywood!

An interesting case of cryptonesia came to light in the wake of KaavyaGate when it was revealed that Helen Keller created her own publishing scandal when she published a story called The Frost King. As Keller tells it in her autobigraphy:

Mr. Anagnos was delighted with 'The Frost King,' and published it in one of the Perkins Institution reports. This was the pinnacle of my happiness, from which I was in a little while dashed to earth. I had been in Boston only a short time when it was discovered that a story similar to 'The Frost King,' called 'The Frost Fairies' by Miss Margaret T. Canby, had appeared before I was born in a book called 'Birdie and His Friends.' The two stories were so much alike in thought and language that it was evident Miss Canby's story had been read to me, and that mine was — a plagiarism."

So it does happen.

(Thanks McLee for dropping this story into the comments of my previous post on the case.)

13 comments:

Kak Teh said...

sharon, I remember when you outed a local writer who plagiarised a few times. Thank God for some programmes which allows us to do these checks. But have these people no conscience?

bibliobibuli said...

true kak teh - though i didn't add her to my rogues' gallery just now as i know she's left the paper

but yes, the days of folks getting away with such things are probably over

i had to deal with plagiarised essays so often as a lecturer, i developed a second sense about them

Walker said...

It is remarkably easy to detect plagiarism now with tools like Copyscape (dot com). I once caught out Stephanie Klein with it (2005) when it transpired one of her blog entries was lifted from a children's writing exercise. Young Manhattanite caught on and dozens of people started analysing everything she'd written.

That NYT quote is so true. Once you start the ball rolling, and if enough people hate you (SK certainly attracts a lot of jealousy), there's no stopping the ensuing backlash. SK deleted the offending entry and prevented archive.org from indexing her site, making the claim difficult to substantiate beyond the coverage it attracted at the time.

bibliobibuli said...

wow walker - that's pretty amazing!

it's not that i want to keep blogging about plagiarism but these stories do kinda thrust themselves at you

nice to see your new look btw and am looking forward to catching up - partic with your answer from julian barned

Walker said...

But where will I go for my plagiarism stories if you stop? That's like me promising to leave Julian Barnes alone. ;)

Thanks for the comment on the new blog. arty.me has felt like a thorn in my side for a while. I wanted more emphasis on text instead of design, and literary instead of artistic content. We'll see how it goes.

lil ms d said...

Hi SB

See you tomorrow at the BC gathering. Cant make it tonight, Ihave to work?!!

Anonymous said...

Copyscape is blatant attempt at profiteering. What can it do that google can't ?

PS. Copyscape's page has been copied ! :)

Walker said...

Google can't compare webpages. What if just one paragraph of dozens on the front page of a blog is plagiarized? You can't put the entire text of that page into Google's textbox (carriage returns are not allowed). You would have to cut & paste individual sentences over and over again until (hopefully) you discovered the plagiarism. It would be a long...long...day indeed.

Unless you just punch the URL into Copyscape of course.

Walker said...

Oh, and the copyscape front page hasn't been copied. If you follow the links and view the highlighted text, you'll see that it's either mirrored by click-thru sites (probably illegally), and other pages have the same Google Ads in common.

(As far as I know, it's not illegal to have the same Google Ads as somebody else. ;) )

Anonymous said...

"What if just one paragraph of dozens on the front page of a blog is plagiarized?"

It's still plagiarism. Theft is theft whether you steal ten or ten thousand :)

"If you follow the links and view the highlighted text, you'll see that it's either mirrored by click-thru sites (probably illegally)"

That's plagiarism isn't it ?

You're right about copyscape being good at checking pages though. It's nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of. Over here everyone gets offended if you so much as disagree with them (which kinda sucks actually, how do you learn anything without this sort of parry and riposte ? plus it wouldn't be fun at all.)

Walker said...

>> What if just one paragraph of dozens on
>>the front page of a blog is plagiarized?"

> It's still plagiarism. Theft is theft
> whether you steal ten or ten thousand :)

I know. I meant that if just one paragraph was plagiarized, you'd have a hard job isolating it with Google.

> If you follow the links and view the
> highlighted text, you'll see that it's
> either mirrored by click-thru sites
>(probably illegally)

If done without permission, if being passed off as their own, yes. But the clickthrough site carries the Copyscape banner, so they're not actually passing Copyscape's words/website off as their own. It could even be a form of legitimate advertising.

:-)

David said...

A story of there Indian born Americans.

Its organized practice to promote children not worth what they are promoted to! If you have two Indian born nerds having MD to practice and earn enough to promote an average child to work with promoters who manage one to success, what do you expect? BTW, everybody coming from India with 4 year college degrees, 2 years masters degree, 12 years of pre-college education and 4 years of non-academic work experience are still 24! I just want to add. It's not 1+1=2. Its creativity we are talking about here. I hope I have been.

Anonymous said...

"If done without permission,"

In the real world it'd have to carry the words "reproduced with permission from.." but apparently it doesn't work that way online ?

"if being passed off as their own, yes."

I don't think you have to "pass off" something as your own in order for it to be plagiarism. If you "present it as a new idea" it would still qualify I think.

"to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source" -- this is the US definition as supplied by Webster. But Oxford doesn't mention the other definition.

"But the clickthrough site carries the Copyscape banner, so they're not actually passing Copyscape's words/website off as their own."

They've still presented it as a "new and original idea" though. One has an incomplete copyright message, one doesn't have one. The two sentences (a quite substantial bit of the front page, were just cut and pasted. I know what you mean about the permission, but then there's no copyright message or any form of acknowledgment. Even if there was permission there should still be acknowledgment.