Plagiarism and Original Books.

Another week, another author accused of plagiarism. Not really, no, but I did manage to stumble onto some not-so-new news about a fairly well-known author and accusations of plagiarism. I won’t get into that as it really is old news and I don’t know that much about that particular subject to begin with. It did remind me of something, though.

Last week I was reading a Sci-Fi novel. There was mention of asthma medication and, being unfamiliar with the word, I googled it, in hopes of finding out more. Unique name as it was, the search turned up only three results, one of them a forum where I found a very similar – different names, bad writing, same plot – story as the one I was reading.

*Gasp*Shock*Gasp* The story on the forum had been posted on a date previous to the publication date of the novel, and so I found myself wondering if I was reading plagiarized work. Of course, after further investigation on my part, it turned out that the novel was at its second edition, the person posting on the forum being, in fact, the thief.

So, what is and what constitutes as plagiarism? According to dictionary.reference.com, it is:

pla·gia·rism  [pley-juh-riz-uhm, -jee-uh-riz-]  

noun
1.an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own, as by not crediting the original author.
2.a piece of writing or other work reflecting such unauthorized use or imitation.
Plagiarism is theft of intellectual property. In layman’s terms, it’s stealing someones ideas and work. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to point out that plagiarizing is wrong.
Why then, if plagiarism is “using […] (the) thoughts of another author without authorization“, aren’t more authors being accused of doing it? I couldn’t begin to guess how many novels there are about vampires, for example. There are many, many, MANY books that are similar. It might be the premise, the characters, a genre cliché novel.
That does not, however, make them works of plagiarism.
I couldn’t, in a million years, have said it better myself. It’s not where you draw your inspiration from, that elusive muse, it’s how you make your work your own. That’s not to say, of course, there’s NO such thing as originality, it’s there I disagree with Jarmusch. It exists, it’s just rare.
Let it not be understood that I’m trying to find excuses for people who plagiarise. There are real, damnable cases, that are inexcusable.

What I don’t  understand is why an author would EVER steal someone elses work. Boggles my mind.

Think of it this way, say it’s an author focused on writing UF novels. It makes sense the novel he/she’s going to plagiarise will, in turn, be another UF novel and not, say, a self-help book.
Now, unless it’s some obscure, little title no one has ever heard of, there’s a very high possibility that at least ONE person will have read the two books and notice the theft. Then, as they say, you’re fucked.

Why take such a risk? Keeping in mind that no one likes to be lied to and, most probably, few to none will pick another book by an author who is a proven plagiariser, why do it? And I don’t buy the money angle because being a published writer doesn’t instantly turn you into a billionaire.

The same thing goes for bloggers and/or reviewers.  That’s why I try to keep two simple rules in mind when writing my reviews.

1. I don’t ever read many/full reviews before writing my own.

I’m okay reading the blurb, a couple or more gushing/harsh sentences about the book and checking the ratings, that’s all I need.  It has happened to me before. I read a review prior to the book, finished the book, then proceeded in writing my own, only stray thoughts kept interrupting, as such:
“But wait, “x” said he/she thought that…Huh, yeah, I guess I can see th-
But wait! I remember reading “y’s” review and..yeah, sure, sure, makes sens-
BUT WAIT!”
Yes, my mind is a traitorous fellow. In the end, I prefer having nothing to influence my final judgement of whatever it is that I read.

2. I don’t feel obliged to give a book a certain rating/review

Just because a book has a five-star rating, doesn’t mean I have to like it. I try to keep the same thing in mind when it comes to ARCs or review copies that have been sent to me by authors. While I greatly appreciate it, if I didn’t like the book, then that’s what my review will say.

What do you think, do you agree with Jim Jarmusch’s statement? What are your views on plagiarism and what do you do to avoid “infusing” your review with others thoughts and ideas? Let me know.

Featured imagine by @krypt3ia, taken from here.

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