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The Little Book of Plagiarism 1St Edition Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
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; 1St 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: #687,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 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
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those of us who enjoyed Judge Posner's Public Intellectuals or Law & Literature, this very little book fits in that niche -- easy to read, full of charming bits, grindingly rational. The book's topic and brevity will give it a natural market among school administrators and teachers. Maybe a private school or two will make it required reading for students. Students in particular need to know that schools now are using an internet software service to catch plagiarists.

But like Posner's other books, this one asks a deep and haunting question. Why do we prize originality so much? The best writers (Posner cites Shakespeare) copied extensively, improving as they went. The ancient Egyptians went thousands of years painting the same odd figures on their tombs; they disdained originality. Ironically, Posner explains, student textbooks may be the least original of modern writings.

The book is well worth $[...], an evening's reading, and further reflection.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Richard Posner is an extraordinarily prolific economist and federal court judge. He has written widely in the field of law and economics, which I think he actually helped to create as a distinct academic discipline. His writing has been so extensive, as well as so stimulating and often controversial, that rumor has it that he missed a Supreme Court nomination some years ago because White House aides were afraid that his writings provided too much fodder for Congressional opponents.

If Posner has a fault, it may be that he falls into the "think it, write it" trap; that is, he's too prolific. This book does a decent job of discussing definitions of plagiarism and the possible legal consequences of plagiarism. It also has some interesting, if very brief, discussions of recent plagiarism cases, including that of Doris Kearns Goodwin and the Harvard undergrad who was caught swiping parts of her teen lit best seller. But the whole discussion seemed way too brief for me. He should probably have published it as a magazine article or an entry on the blog he publishes with Gary Becker. Or, he should have taken the time to write a more extensive book on this subject. So, while the book is interesting enough, take very seriously the label "Little Book" before plunking your money down on this one.

Finally, as the gap between Kindle prices and print book prices shrinks -- in this case, the gap is negative, with the hardcover selling for less than the Kindle version -- I think it is fair to point out when the conversion to an e-book has been sloppy. While there are no major glitches here, there are a number of misplaced hyphens in the middle of words. Presumably, in the print book the words were hyphenated at the end of lines. It wouldn't be acceptable to have random hyphens sprinkled through the text of a print book, so it shouldn't be acceptable to find the same problem in an e-book -- particularly this far along in the history of e-publishing.
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