Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Plagiarism Redux

Much of blogdom has heard of the sorry tale of Ms. Kaavya Viswanathan, who has recently been busted for stealing many passages of her first novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life, from other recent works by Megan McCafferty. She's been - well, not coming clean. More like sheepish and fawning, adhering to the growing standard society has been borrowing from its young (instead of sharply correcting). It was inadvertent. She "internalized" things she'd read.

(w/t to Sheila for link number one and Emily for link number two.)

She also had the services of a "book packager," so named because they stand behind-the-scenes and massage workable novels out of the rambles of authors. In other words, she couldn't even plagiarize somebody else's work on her own - she required help.

It's a small advance for society, I suppose, that Ms. Viswanathan didn't merely throw it all on the anonymous packager. And she did contribute some original material. She and her publisher have announced that future editions of her novel will offer more of it in place of the stolen bits. In software terms, that means that "Opal Mehta" was a beta version pawned off as a finished product, requiring patches and additional work that the consumer should have gotten in the first place. I was rather hoping that the practice wouldn't catch on elsewhere. (And I should know, since I ran a blog carnival that blew up in my face some months back. Yes, it was my fault.)

But if that wasn't enough fun, today I open to the funnies in the Star Ledger and find this from Vic Lee. And that sounded eerily familiar. I jogged upstairs and consulted the wall of a coworker and, sure enough, there it was.

That was a panel by Mike Twohy, originally running in the New Yorker on July 8, 2002. Ironically, his daily single-panel, That's Life, was replaced in the Ledger by Lee's "Pardon Our Planet" - in the same spot on the page, no less. I guess Lee promised them that some days, nobody would be able to tell the difference.

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