When is copying not plagiarism?

by Harry on May 8, 2013

Sometime ago (just after the 2001 general election), I was listening to a senior adviser to Tony Blair at a non-academic public policy conference. He started saying some things that were quite critical of the promises New Labour had made, and implemented, in education, and I found myself, at first, thinking how sensible and well-thought out the criticisms were. Then, I started thinking that I recognized the language in which they were couched, and, eventually, realised that the reason it all sounded so good was that it had been taken, more or less verbatim, from something I had written. My first, momentary, response was to be irritated by this—but, once I remembered where I had written it (the cover story of a magazine that was distributed widely at the previous Labour Party conference) I was, simply, pleased. Of course, he is not going to cite me in a speech, and if you write in that sort of venue you should be hoping that somebody like him will take your words and ideas and make them their own.

If an academic had done that, I would have remained irritated (for about 20 minutes, I imagine, I really don’t care that much), and I think that it would have counted as plagiarism. If a student did the same thing I would regard it as serious academic misconduct. But in the context it seemed just fine.

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*The Half-Made World* and *The Rise of Ransom City* are both rich books, full of pleasures for the reader; but the pair of them are also, to an unusual degree, in the business of being deliberately frustrating, of withholding from readers a set of expected pleasures that seemed to have been virtually promised us. I mean pleasures that are usual to fantasy – pleasures, even, that are usual to the implicit contract a plot makes between writer and reader. And it’s this I want to concentrate on a little, because it seems to me that what Felix Gilman holds back, what he refuses to deliver, is essential to the power of the effect he does create. (Spoiler alert, by the way. I can’t talk about what Gilman doesn’t do, in plot terms, without sometimes revealing what he does.) [click to continue…]

“All successful revolutions are the kicking in of a rotten door.” – J. K. Galbraith

Kickstarter is glorious insofar as it is a well-earned kick to a rotten door.

That’s why a lot of people are griped about Zach Braff funding his Garden City sequel this way.

The idea – and it’s a great one – is that Kickstarter allows filmmakers who otherwise would have NO access to Hollywood and NO access to serious investors to scrounge up enough money to make their movies. Zach Braff has contacts. Zach Braff has a name. Zach Braff has a track record. Zach Braff has residuals. He can get in a room with money people. He is represented by a major talent agency. But the poor schmoe in Mobile, Alabama or Walla Walla, Washington has none of those advantages.

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