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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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, topicaland 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 argumentsfor example, that plagiarism must be materially harmful to be considered a crimeraised questions. Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.