Showing posts with label plagiarism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label plagiarism. Show all posts

22 June 2020

A Matter of Trust


A few weeks ago, a novice writer reached me through my web site. He said he went to the high school where I taught, but I never knew him. He told me had done "lots of research" on a crime or crimes in our city and wanted me to help him turn it into a real book.

The email had lots of problems. First, he attached a word doc instead of simply writing the message. I suspected he was recycling the letter, but most of it was specifically aimed at me. He said his MS was 100K words long, but I couldn't tell if he had a non-fiction book or a novel, and it makes a difference because my comfort zone is fiction.

I asked a few questions for clarification and told him to send me a five-page synopsis of his entire MS, then a one-page synopsis of each of the three shorter sections he identified in his first message. I warned him that was very difficult, but I needed a clearer overview of what he had. He also mentioned podcasts, and I said if that was his choice, it might be a good idea, but he needed a scriptwriter or someone with more experience in radio. I quoted an estimate and told him that could change when I knew more, and that I wouldn't commit yet.

The next day, he replied and made my decision easy. He said his lawyer wanted me to sign a one-year non--disclosure agreement for our work together. I told him he had just closed the negotiations.

Everything in the creative arts, especially writing, is about trust, and the non-professionals don't get that. If you send a query or manuscript to an editor or agent, don't put the copyright symbol on it. They aren't going to steal it for several reasons, lawsuits and a ruined reputation topping the list. They have to keep working with other people, remember? Besides, if they can't do better than something they find in the slush pile, they're in the wrong business anyway.

Do session musicians sign an ADA before performing on someone else's recording? Do museum curators sign one before displaying someone's painting or sculpture? Do actors sign one while rehearsing the first production of a play, when the playwright may still be revising the script as they go along?

Nope, nope and nope.

The same is true of writers to agents, editors, and readers. Writers ask people to read their work, so they have to create something worth a reader's time and effort. A reader doesn't pick up a book to be bored by stale plots, cliched characters, or mountains of description. That's why editors and agents reject such submissions. The publishers trust them to bring quality (salable) products to the table, and if they betray that trust, it goes away.

Agents and editors read enough so they remember something good when they see it, especially when they see it again. Yes, we hear stories about plagiarism, but they're rare, especially with a well-known writer as either the victim or the perpetrator. There's too much at stake to take such a stupid risk.

I used to teach senior English classes with students who read four to six years below grade level. I always thought it was an oxymoron and that we should have helped those kids much sooner, but go figure. Those kids, who didn't know better, frequently handed in rap lyrics as their own poetry. They were always amazed when I caught them. They didn't understand that people who need a rubber stamp to spell their own name on the paper (Make sure it's right-side-up!) probably won't use a beautiful extended metaphor (Which they thought was a sports injury, anyway).

Those kids were trying to fool me, but it was how they tried to survive in a world where they'd been set up to fail. I never told them I found "their " poems by Googling the first line because I wanted to perpetuate the myth of the omniscient teacher. I made them rewrite the stuff into something more their own. These kids weren't aiming at Harvard or Oxford, they just wanted to get out of a really ugly building and find a full-time job. OK, no harm, no foul.

But it's different in the writing world, which is sort of like golf, where you call a penalty on yourself if you accidentally drag your club in the sand trap. There's a lot of money out there, but most of us aren't getting any of it, so it's all about the handshake and who buys the beer.

And, except on really bad days, not about the lawyers.

07 December 2014

A Mixed Bag


by Leigh Lundin

In the realm of teen music, nothing is sacred. It began with the DJ-as-artist movement. Once upon a time disc jockeys with an entertaining line of patter were fĂȘted: Wolfman Jack, Casey Kasem, and America’s television DJ, Dick Clark. Some might suggest that as consumer music became less creative, DJs became more so. They ruled their club kingdom and, for a few hours each night, they became stars.

FL Studio
FL Studio
DJs began to ‘remix’, then ‘scratch’, laying down alternate tracks, overlaying dance rhythms like dubstep, adding percussion, reverb, echo, sampling, hip-hop lyrics, and autotune. Some remixes became B-sides of the originals. Remixes were seldom improvements over the underlying works, but they proved popular.

Kids emulate their heroes. They download bootleg copies of FL-Studio, a powerful program to create music, but also remix beyond the recognizable. Confined to garages and high school dances, there isn’t anything overtly criminal, not counting the illegality of purloined programs and pirated music.

But kids learn one thing, to take someone else’s work and make it their own.

Hegemann
Helene Hegemann, 17
Bagged in Berlin

Imagine such activity in the literary world. An aspiring author combines plots from Rob Lopresti and John Floyd, then sets it in Stephen Ross’ New Zealand. They borrow a lingerie-challenged character from Fran Rizer and crib entire pages of humour from Melodie Campbell. Because they can’t grok the tradecraft details from Dixon Hill and RT Lawton, they copy them verbatim.

They call that work their own, no credit given. They win acclaim, they win awards, they win movie rights.

When caught and challenged, they not only claim everyone does it, they insist Rob, John, Stephen, Fran, Melodie, Dixon, and RT nobbled their ideas from others.

One of our readers pointed out this is happening in Germany and, instead of being punished, the young authoress is being honored. Seventeen-year-old Helene Hegemann filched phrases and pages from others including passages from the novel Strobo by pseudonymous author ‘Airen’. Helene says everybody does it, that’s what kids do these days. She calls it ‘mixing’, not plagiarism. She has her defenders, including the finalists committee for the $20,000 prize at the Leipzig Book Fair.

Sandbagged by Bitches

Readers might remember famed romance writer Cassie Edwards, author of a hundred novels which resulted in ten million copies sold. Ms Edwards, noted for her research, lifted paragraphs, passages, and poems from the non-fiction material of others and offered no attribution. Romance reviewers ‘Smart Bitches’ ripped her throat out, ruining an otherwise envious career.

Defenders of new age appropriation point out Cassie Edwards was a different generation, that those were the dark ages of six years ago.

Returning to the music comparison, I suppose one might argue the anthem America the Beautiful was the result of a remix. A third party combined the poetry of Katharine Lee Bates with the melody separately composed by Samuel A. Ward and arrived at a composition greater than the sum of its parts. The difference is that the ‘remixer’ neither claimed credit for the work nor pretended to wield a talent greater than the original authors.

Bagging the Question

Hegemann
If there was one statement that caused me to entirely lose respect and sympathy for Helene Hegemann, it was this jaw-dropping, in-your-face sentence: “There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity.

I kept returning to her words, trying to forgive by asking what the hell does she know at seventeen? Other than residing in a moral vacuum, of course. I take pride in creativity and originality and my colleagues do as well, chosen for those very qualities.

But this is my unoriginal opinion. What is yours?

11 November 2013

Comedy, Strange & Weird Thoughts



by Jan Grape

The comedy part is the whole plagiarism by one of our country's high profile politicians. Don't know if any of you are a Rand Paul fan but this man obviously does NOT understand plagiarism. If I had written all the words in Wickipedia or the web sites or his books, I would have been upset.

Some news media have suggested that perhaps the author was thrilled that someone in national office would use their words in everything he writes and speaks. Maybe so, and we all know that politicians don't write their own speeches, but still. The funny thing is that the man got mad at everyone who pointed out this plagiarism. Instead of saying, "I've got to check into this, someone in my office needs to go back to school." That probably would have been the end of it. He tries to act as if nothing is his fault. He's ready to fight a duel if dueling was still legal. He talks about references and footnotes and how he can't do that in a speech.  What was wrong was saying, "This reminds me of a scene in a movie and I quote?" The more he's vented his rage, the more all his previous work has been checked and more and more plagiarism has been found.

The strange is how CBS's Sixty Minutes was duped by a guy claiming to have been present in Benghazi when our Ambassador was killed. He said he was there watching it all, and how the enemies didn't see him because he hid in the dark. He gave strong details. I haven't read his book but looks like it might be a complete work of fiction. Seems it didn't take much to disprove his story and yet the powers that be at Sixty Minutes didn't do their due diligence. I've heard the reporter and CBS has apologized and I'm waiting for the airing tonight to see if they retract the story on their time on air. I'm also wondering if anyone from that program will be fired.

The weird to me seems that lying has become the normal for politicians and the media. What the heck? We're the ones who tell lies for fun and profit, aren't we? How dare they try to take our jobs away from us. Look, folks it's hard enough to sell our fiction nowadays without everyone and his dog claiming their story is important. And they get national attention for it. I know, I know, politicians and news reporters have been lying for years but suddenly it's become rampant. Well, I for one am sick of these Johnny-come-latelys horning in on our turf. I think we should organize a sit-in demonstration. Any takers? Just spread the news, set the time and place and I'll be there with my sign of protest. I'll bring my goggles in case the fuzz tries to pepper-spray us.

That's all I can write tonight. I have a few things I need to plagiarize for a media outlet or a politician, I can't remember which.