Plagiarism in its most common form — cutting and pasting whole sections of other people’s academic work from the internet — is no better than theft; it deserves to be punished; but it is easily counteracted. You can buy a piece of software which is a form of electronic detective that casts its eye over the finished product and lets you know in seconds how much is simply copied, passage for passage. There is no such simple test for a work of fiction. An idea may be “inspired” by a previous work, as Alex Haley claimed when he was accused of lifting his book Roots from an earlier work on African slavery; or it may be an “echo” from another writer, as Graham Swift argued, after claims that he had imitated William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying rather too closely. T. S. Eliot thought that plagiarism in the hands of a good writer was an artform: “Immature poets imitate; great poets steal,” he said simply.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Goethe, Marlowe, Chaucer and Shakespeare: master plagiarists
Magnus Linklater finds the High Court action accusing Dan Brown of plaigarism over The Da Vinci Code baffling: