More Plagiarism in the News

Now this is plagiarism!

The Dan Brown plagiarism case is now history. He won — I thought he should in that particular case — and the plaintiffs will be using all their future royalties to pay legal fees.

But now there’s a new case in the news. I just read about it on Slate in an article by Jack Shafer titled “Why Plagiarists Do It.” Mr. Shafer’s article was written in response to news that 19-year-old Harvard student Kaavya Viswanathan (don’t ask me to prounouce that), who had gotten a $500,000 two-book contract while still in high school, had completed her first novel — with a little help from another author. It appears that Miss Viswanathan borrowed at least 29 bits and pieces from two similar novels by Megan F. McCafferty. Although she claimed it was accidental, Mr. Shafer sums up his opinion (and mine) on that as follows:

Please! Pinching one or two phrases from another book in the course of writing a 320-page novel might be accidental. But by the time a novelist does it 29 times, the effort is transparently intentional and conscious. Unless, of course, Viswanathan composed her entire novel during Ambien-induced sleep-writing episodes.

(It’s wit like that that keeps me coming back to Slate again and again.)

I read articles in the Harvard Crimson and the New York Times that provide plenty of examples of the borrowed phrases. This is a pretty clear-cut example of plagiarism — 29 instances of it. In fact, if this isn’t plagiarism, I don’t know what is.

Interestingly, Mr. Shafer’s article lists a bunch of reasons why someone might become a plagairist. None of them are flattering.

But I think that what pisses me off the most about this is that this kid got a half million bucks in advance money to write two novels and she rewards her publisher and editor and agent by stealing passages out of other books — books that probably didn’t earn a tenth of that.

I think it goes without saying that she should be ashamed of herself. Unfortunately, she probably isn’t.

I hope she loses her movie deal.

4 thoughts on “More Plagiarism in the News

  1. LOL! I don’t think they’ll send her to jail. But I hope she gets her butt sued off by the author of the books she stole from.

    I was also thinking this morning about what a crappy way that is to start off a life. 19 years old and she’s already cheating to get by. She’s learned a wrong lesson. Will she unlearn it?

    And if she isn’t punished for this, what kind of message is that sending to other kids?

  2. It truly is a shame.

    Such a bright young lady with much potential.

    And that potential was recognized early (how many high school students land book deals before graduation?) — too bad she couldn’t realize it in herself.

    The only thought that keeps echoing in my mind is didn’t she realize she would be caught?

    She obviously isn’t an idiot, but plagiarizing an already established author isn’t very bright.

    I’m fairly certain she will be punished.

    In some respects, I believe the fanfare that’s going around now is just the beginning of that punishment.

    ~ Teli

  3. I agree that the bad publicity is probably part of her punishment. She has to go through the rest of her life with this on her record. But it’s important that plagiarists are punished to discourage would-be plagiarists from doing the same thing.

    What I don’t understand is this: if she’s so brilliant, why did she do it? Why couldn’t she come up with her own words those 29+ (I recently heard 50) times?

What do you think?