Monday, October 31, 2011

Something Borrowed

In “Something Borrowed,” Malcolm Gladwell addresses the issue of plagiarism and what constitutes it.  In this essay, Gladwell describes a personal encounter he had with plagiarism earlier in his career involving a British playwright, Bryony Lavery, who wrote the hit Broadway play “Frozen.”  Problems arose when Dorothy Lewis, a psychiatrist who studied serial killers, realized that parts of the play closely resembled much of her own life story, and found that pieces of  her own work as well as Gladwell’s were included the play without their permission.  Though Gladwell was not particularly upset about the issue, the matter prompted him to further explore the idea of plagiarism, intellectual property doctrine, and what exactly qualifies as plagiarism.  He goes on to describe various cases of plagiarism in music over time.  Gladwell wonders whether something should truly be considered plagiarism if it uses someone’s words but applies a different meaning to it.  In some respects, he feels that this form of “plagiarism” is acceptable because modifying someone else’s original idea could produce an even greater result.

My initial reaction after reading just a few pages of this essay, especially after Gladwell began talking about how he felt okay with Lavery’s use of his work, was that Gladwell would basically warrant plagiarism in the rest of the article. And to be honest, I got a little excited.  I have never personally been one for plagiarizing, nor do I ever plan on doing it intentionally, but for some weird reason I became excited when he started defending plagiarism! Overall, it was an intriguing article with an interesting perspective that made me reexamine my own beliefs on plagiarism.

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