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The Little Book of Plagiarism First Edition Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0375424755
ISBN-10: 037542475X
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Not all plagiarized authors will agree with Posner's conclusion that plagiarism is an "embarrassingly second-rate" offense, "its practitioners... pathetic," and that plagiarism should remain an ethical rather than a legal offense, punished by public shaming. But in a fascinating historical tour of the subject, he dismisses the idea that good art must be totally original. Shakespeare stole the plot of Romeo and Juliet, and Manet's Olympia is a reworking of Titian's Venus d'Urbino—both examples of what Posner calls "creative imitation." But focusing on Kaavya Viswanathan novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, Posner (Uncertain Shield), a judge on the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and expert on intellectual property, says this was a particularly modern, market-driven form of plagiarism: Viswanathan was attempting to compete against Megan McCafferty in the chick lit market by appropriating her competitor's own words. Posner focuses a lot on student plagiarism and seems to think all students should be considered suspect; schools that don't subscribe to detection software like Turnitin, he says, are "naïve." Indeed, he believes publishers should, and will, begin to use such programs, concluding, optimistically, "We may be entering the twilight of plagiarism." It's unfortunate that Posner briefly brings politics into this important and timely discussion, superciliously accusing the so-called academic left of being "soft on plagiarism." (Jan. 16)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Legal scholar Richard Posner has written books on many newsworthy issues, including President Clinton's impeachment, the 2000 election, and 9/11. The Little Book is trademark Posner: smart, concise, elegant, topical—and a little smug. Although he never exactly excuses plagiarism, Posner does illustrate how in Shakespeare's and Rembrandt's times, the public condoned copying since it considered art a more collaborative venture than we do today. Posner, who delves into the legal, economic, and ethical implications of plagiarism, entertains with smart, pointed examples. But some of his arguments—for example, that plagiarism must be materially harmful to be considered a crime—raised questions.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (January 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037542475X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375424755
  • Product Dimensions: 4.7 x 0.7 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #336,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard A. Posner is a judge of the U.S. Court Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of numerous books, including Overcoming Law, a New York Times Book Review editors' choices for best book of 1995 and An Affair of State: The Investigation, Impeachment, and Trial of President Clinton, one of Times' choices for Best Book of the Year in 1999 and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist, 2000.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Plagiarism is not a legal offense in itself. Thus, you might think that Judge Richard Posner might not be the best of guides to it, even though he has written books about non-legal issues before. But plagiarism does sometimes include fraud, copyright infringement, theft, and unfair competition, issues that are clearly legal in nature. In _The Little Book of Plagiarism_ (Pantheon), Posner has turned a legal view onto the very gray areas of plagiarism, an offense that everyone thinks is bad, but which comes in many forms, each with variants that are not offenses at all. Plagiarism has been in the news a lot lately, with famous (or potentially famous) people damaged by the charge. In the digital age, plagiarism is easier, and so Posner has written a useful volume to guide logical thinking on a hot issue. It is indeed a little book, 109 pages of text, but there are plenty of big ideas here, expressed in pithy prose that calls out for re-reading just to appreciate its clarity and lack of superfluity.

People weren't always so picky. One of Posner's examples is that of Shakespeare's use of Sir Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's description of Cleopatra's barge, which shows up in blank-verse paraphrase in _Antony and Cleopatra_. Posner includes both passages here, and it clear that Shakespeare really did borrow North, and also clear that Shakespeare's description is more colorful and fun to read. ("If this is plagiarism," jokes Posner, "we need more plagiarism.") If Shakespeare were writing today, he'd probably be in trouble for all his borrowed plots and characters. Plagiarism changes depending upon time, locale, and profession. So, how do we know when something is plagiarism and when it isn't? Posner suggests, among other things, that we evaluate the harm done.
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Format: Hardcover
Posner is an accomplished federal judge and author. As a judge Posner adeptly distinguishes subtle differences in the way ideas are copied. What is plagiarism? - Posner asks. Posner give his full answer at the book's end: "Plagiarism is a species of intellectual fraud. It consists of unauthorized copying that the copier claims (whether explicitly or implicitly, and whether deliberately or carelessly) is original with him and the claims causes the copier's audience to behave otherwise than it would if it knew the truth" (pg. 106).

Posner not only discusses contemporary plagiarism but gives a history of the topic that places the modern version in its context. The first recorded usage of modern sense of plagiarism was in the Roman Empire by the poet Martial who claimed his work was plagiarized, Posner continues by giving additional examples which complicate our notions and require distinctions on terms such as "copy", "fraud", "plagiarism", "imitation", "copyright infringement", etc. Gathering together his ideas in the last chapter, Posner writes, "The vagueness of the concept of plagiarism should be acknowledged and thus a gray area recognized in which creative imitation produces value that should undercut a judgment of plagiarism - indeed an imitator may produce greater value than an originator, once 'originality' is understood, as it should be if we are to understand plagiarism in properly relativistic terms, just to mean difference, not necessarily creativity. In modern commercial society, which places the stamp of personality on goods both physical and intellectual for economic reasons unrelated to high culture, a verdict of plagiarism is pronounced without regard to the quality of the plagiarized original or, for that matter, of the plagiarizing copy" (pg. 108-109).
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By hrladyship on February 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is meant for a variety of readers: writers (beware), legal eagles (what is the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement?), students (don't copy that Wikipedia article), professors (be careful about your student's research), etc. It is brief and to the point, yet raises several interesting questions. Do we most value originality or creativity? Posner defines the difference, although some readers may disagree with a a few bits here and there.

According to Posner, the concept of plagiarism as a bad thing is a fairly recent attitude. Shakespeare and others in the past -- from the Egyptians to the writers of the Bible -- have copied earlier works, improved on them or not, expanding the ideas and the discussion.

One concept is missing from the present discussion, however, that of "work for hire." For instance, writers are often paid to write works, fiction in particular, in a specific milieu, often under another name, without receiving public credit for that work. This may include students who do the research for a scholarly book that the professor writes (but I would not think the same holds true if the student does the actual writing and credit should be given, of course). Posner also states that plagiarism is more of a problem for students than professors. Given the "publish or perish" mentality of universities in hiring and granting tenure to professors, it would seem that plagiarism could become more and more of a temptation.

Beginning with the young "chick lit" author whose work was full of copied sections, working through scholarly writers, many instances of being caught are cited. Posner, like the news media, places greater emphasis on the fiction rather than the scholarly.
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