- 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
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #444,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Little Book of Plagiarism 1st Edition Edition
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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, 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.
Top customer reviews
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.
After that, though, the topic gets dragged. Posner gets into serial considerations of rights, copyrights, fraud, and other well-defined subjects that largely do not concern plagiarism but that occasionally wind up in the same muddle. He concludes, as perhaps many of us would have without the benefit of this small book, that plagiarism is a moral outrage, but one whose affront has altered over the centuries. It is difficult to make "pure" plagiarism illegal because it belongs to the category of things that are wrong but difficult to attach damages to, be they pecuniary or ethical. I agree with Posner that it is wrong to try to make everything that is offensive punishable -- I disagree somewhat with his assessment that author/historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was partially rehabilitated in the public's eyes of her own copyism by the efforts of blithely communistic liberal academics two generations her junior who tried to define literary theft as a non-event. For all Posner's apt drawing on popular culture for his examples, he seems to have ignored a standard high-profile "charm offensive" at its efficient best. This makes me think the author is at times more adept at parsing popular culture than dealing with the politicization of culture, though perhaps he overestimates the enculturement of academic politics.
The operative word in the title is "little" - at 106 pages and a reduced page size (I would guess 60% of normal), it's little more than an expanded magazine article. There was nothing particularly illuminating in the book - the style was (predictably) stolid, with awkward sentences like the following being far too frequent:
There is considerable overlap between plagiarism and copyright infringement, but not all plagiarism is copyright infringement and not all copyright infringement is plagiarism.
The great majority of the material in this book was a dull restatement of the obvious. Even the examples were dull - quite an accomplishment, given that the history of plagiarism is not exactly wanting for colorful characters. The only thing I learned from this book was Judge Posner's view that the difficulty of detection of an offence should play a greater role than the seriousness of damage done in determining the severity of punishment, That, and the fact that he is not a fan of Doris Kearns Goodwin.
If you want to read a well-written and interesting book about plagiarism, give this one a miss and try instead Thomas Mallon's excellent "Stolen Words".