5 may. 2006

Plagiarism really isn't the same thing as copyright infringement, although a partricular case might be both things at once. If I publish a pirate edition of a book by William Bronk, that is infringement, but not plagiarism. If I publish as poem as my own, that Bronk really wrote, that is plagiarism and infringement as well. If I plagiarize something whose copyright has expired, that is still plagiarism even if nobody has standing to sue me for it. If I plagiarize a few lines, but not anything lengthy or significant enough to be sued over, that is still plagiarism. If I read an article in the PMLA and write my own article, with the same ideas but completely different words, that is plagiarism, but have I infringed copyright?

If I cite something in a footnote, with proper attribution, that is not plagiarism; but if it is a complete, self-contained poem then I might need permission not to infringe on a copyright, according to some interpretations of the law.

Infringement is reproducing a text without permission, in a way that damages the interests of someone who owns that text.
Plagiarism is misrepresenting the authorship of ideas, phrases, sentences. It's easy to see why these two concepts are confused.

8 comentarios:

Bob dijo...

The recent Harvard case is really interesting for a number of reasons, one being that the student's novel likely plagiarized in two different ways: misrepresenting other authors' work -- the prose of Kinsella and McCafferty -- as her own without these authors' permission, and misrepresenting another author's work -- someone at her book packager's -- as her own WITH that author's permission.

Jonathan dijo...

The bottom line: the idea of the integrity of the work as piece of writing is devalued. It's easier for a ghost-writer to plagiarize, because that person has less invested in the integrity of his or her word/work.

Bob dijo...

What do you call a ghostwriter -- who is by definition already engaging in a kind of "consensual" plagiarism with the purported author -- who plagiarizes without consent as well?

An odd kind of disgrace, surely.

Jonathan dijo...

Well, if the book says "as told to..." then that makes it a little different. Even celebrity memoirs that don't say "as told to" are assumed to be written by ghost writers. At what point does that become simply a convention that doesn't even need to be acknowledged? We just assume that someone else wrote the book unless there's some reason to believe otherwise.

Bob dijo...

"The integrity of the work as [a] piece of writing" was devalued as that particular novel was being conceived as a means to numerous utterly nonliterary ends. Literally, everyone in the process was "invested" elsewhere: fame, movie deals, etc.

Bob dijo...

I've ghostwritten about a half-dozen books -- mostly memoirs, interestingly enough. I never considered the prose my own, though. It was bought and paid for, and delivered to service the needs of "the author" (who provided greater or lesser guidance to me, depending on his or her reasons for "writing the book"). This contractual arrangement didn't really carry an ethical dimension, as far as I was concerned, beyond the scruples I tried to bring to every writing or editing project I was a part of.

Jonathan dijo...

Did the books say "as told to Bob Basil"?

Bob dijo...

Uhhhh, no.

To me ghostwriting was a form of editing, actually, and 99.5% of *that* work was never acknowledged either.

Whereas typical editing involves, say, rewriting an author's words, ghostwriting is the rewriting of words that don't exist properly yet as prose: spoken stories, memorabilia, etc.

My favourite example of ghostwriting is the brilliant "Philosophy of Andy Warhol," ghostwritten by Bob Colacello and Pat Hackett, neither of whom, to this day, take credit for a single idea or even phrase in the book they acknowledge having completely "written." To them, their work was a type of what New Agers'd call "channelling."