Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Authors Behaving Badly

(back by popular demand)

Evidently it's tough for many writers to think up their own stories, so it would stand to follow that it is much, much easier to steal someone else's work and pass it off as your own.

We call this plagiarism. It's illegal, but don't let that stop you.

Here's how it could work in your favor: all you have to do is go back a century or two and pick someone who was a damn good writer, but obscure and not widely read. There are so many authors like that whose fine, award-worthy work has not seen the light of day in God knows how many decades. And in this age of Nintendo DS and PSWhichever, it's not like anyone will ever read that tired old stuff again, except maybe the occasional old lady librarian.

So if you're a young writer of promise, you might steal a big chunk of another, dead writer's work for something like, say, your Ph.D. dissertation, or your big literary award-winning story collection, and probably no one will ever notice, and you can go on to teach at a big university and be awarded fellowships and win things like the Flannery O'Connor Award and you'll never get busted.

Unless you're Brad Vice.

His defense? Let me quote from the article: "I made a mistake concerning the parameters of copyright and fair use."

Well, duh.


  1. Interesting story, Sheila. I find two things mind-boggling here: one, that anyone in the Internet age would dare try something like this, and two, the fact that the person who figured it out apparently didn't need the Internet to do it.

    It's a pathetic case, IMO. If he'd been honest about it from the start, he might have pulled off his "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern" schtick. He might have had an interesting story.

    As for:

    My story has an intertextual relationship with Carl Carmer's memoir 'Stars Fell on Alabama.'

    If I pulled that on my wife, I'd find myself in divorce court ;o)

  2. That's nothing compared to the bloggers who steal other's blog entries, wholesale, with no acknowledgement. I've seen it in journalistic blogs, and I've seen it in food blogs. Word for word, picture for picture. On the Internet. How can they expect to get away with it??? And they don't, for long.

  3. Anonymous8:07 AM

    I'm sorry, when someone can read ONE SENTENCE and know they've already read the book, you have a serious problem. Sheesh, at least put SOMETHING original in the beginning!

    I've been very careful with anything I've borrowed from (fairy tales, mostly, and a couple of Greek myths), because I don't want to cross that line. I still give credit to where I got the ideas from, though (doesn't kill me to say the Brothers' Grimm had the story at the root of mine), and I definitely don't use the same words they did!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.