A concise, lively, and bracing exploration of an issue bedeviling our cultural landscape–plagiarism in literature, academia, music, art, and film–by one of our most influential and controversial legal scholars. Best-selling novelists J. K. Rowling and Dan Brown, popular historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose, Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree, first novelist Kaavya Viswanathan: all have rightly or wrongly been accused of plagiarism–theft of intellectual property–provoking widespread media punditry. But what exactly is plagiarism? How has the meaning of this notoriously ambiguous term changed over time as a consequence of historical and cultural transformations? Is the practice on the rise, or just more easily detectable by technological advances? How does the current market for expressive goods inform our own understanding of plagiarism? Is there really such a thing as “cryptomnesia,” the unconscious, unintentional appropriation of another’s work? What are the mysterious motives and curious excuses of plagiarists? What forms of punishment and absolution does this “sin” elicit? What is the good in certain types of plagiarism?
Provocative, insightful, and extraordinary for its clarity and forthrightness, The Little Book of Plagiarism is an analytical tour de force in small, the work of “one of the top twenty legal thinkers in America” (Legal Affairs), a distinguished jurist renowned for his adventuresome intellect and daring iconoclasm.
Not all plagiarized authors will agree with Posner's conclusion that plagiarism is an "embarrassingly second-rate" offense, "its practitioners... pathetic," and that plagiarism should remain an ethical rather than a legal offense, punished by public shaming. But in a fascinating historical tour of the subject, he dismisses the idea that good art must be totally original. Shakespeare stole the plot of Romeo and Juliet, and Manet's Olympia is a reworking of Titian's Venus d'Urbino-both examples of what Posner calls "creative imitation." But focusing on Kaavya Viswanathan novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, Posner (Uncertain Shield), a judge on the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and expert on intellectual property, says this was a particularly modern, market-driven form of plagiarism: Viswanathan was attempting to compete against Megan McCafferty in the chick lit market by appropriating her competitor's own words. Posner focuses a lot on student plagiarism and seems to think all students should be considered suspect; schools that don't subscribe to detection software like Turnitin, he says, are "na ve." Indeed, he believes publishers should, and will, begin to use such programs, concluding, optimistically, "We may be entering the twilight of plagiarism." It's unfortunate that Posner briefly brings politics into this important and timely discussion, superciliously accusing the so-called academic left of being "soft on plagiarism." (Jan. 16) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.