Thursday, April 27, 2006

Are Writers a Bunch of Lazy, Lying Fucks? (Or Is That the Wrong Question?)

So everyone is all excited about the book packaging angle, which they should be, in this Year of the Book Scandal. But my response to Viswanathangate is more a big question mark. And not about the rushed execution, which certainly played a role. Or the shared copyright, which makes all parties damned-if-they-do-and-damned-if-they-don't. (After all, if the author blames the packager, then that amounts to admitting she didn't write the thing. And if the packager blames the author, then what, exactly, was their role in this project, especially since one of their former members is also acknowledged as an editor in the McCafferty books?) Aw hell, it's fun to catch plagiarists. I did it when I was a teaching assistant, and was smug as hell for weeks after that.

But to me, the more interesting question now is how, exactly, does the human memory work? Remember Judith Kelly? Or how about this harrowing story from Helen Keller? This is the nightmare of every artist, that one's offspring is unknowingly adopted. What writer doesn't read? And how, exactly, do we remember what we have read? Does it become our own experience, somewhere, in the drawers and pockets of our brains? Is it human for us to remember turns of phrase but not remember their source? And how can we police this human frailty?

Plagiarism is one of those crimes that is hard to prove, because it involves intent. Better to focus on something that can be proven: copyright infringement. Except copyrights are becoming a postmodern joke too, in this day of internet giants posting whole digitized books on the web....



I think the entire copyright law is going to have to go through a major overhaul some time soon.
Interesting blog matey

6:30 AM  
Blogger Myfanwy Collins said...

Well said!

8:15 AM  

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