Friday, November 04, 2005

Now That's an Idea ...

A serious day today, and a serious post on the subject of writing.

It is generally a good thing for people to do their own work. In the writing profession, for example, penning your own words is a good start. Sure, linking to others and replaying good articles is a part of the blogging world, but out-and-out plagiarism is just … well, let’s call it cheating. And nobody likes a cheater.

It’s bad enough in politics, where we have come to expect cheating in a general sense and where we even see it creeping into the written word. Ted Kennedy, for example got kicked out of Harvard for cheating. Lifting text straight out of someone else’s speech and not giving credit, like Joe Biden did in the 1980s, does not go over well.

But when allegations of stolen ideas enter the world of literature, then we are talking about a threat to our very culture.

Or at least some deep pockets.

Because the latest “word theft” accusation just happens to target a book that has sold nearly 30 million copies around the world, has created an entire industry around it, and is the basis for what is likely to be Hollywood’s blockbuster hit of 2006, you are in a different league.

Yes, I am talking about Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” And yes, there is another lawsuit, this time in the UK, claiming that he lifted the book’s theme and details from a 1982 nonfiction work about the Holy Grail and a possible Jesus bloodline.

The main problem for the plaintiffs is that when it comes to the written word, the law does not protect ideas but rather presentations of those ideas. So I was not surprised to hear that lawyers reached an agreement last week in London on technical details of the case, prompting the publisher’s spokesman to say that the accusers would drop a "substantial part" of their claim.

You might recall that a couple of months ago, a judge here in the United States decided that Brown’s book was not so alike in substance to the book “Daughter of God” that it infringed on the latter’s copyright.

Brown certainly read all kinds of things about the Holy Grail and studied numerous scholarly works—after all, his novel is massively popular worldwide because it links history, conjecture, and drama together so compellingly.

He may have even relied upon the very books in question for much of his research. I, for one, am quite OK with that: How else would you expect him to write in such detail about the historical controversies underlying his drama?

In a previous post, I mentioned that “The Da Vinci Code” succeeds more because of its sense of history than its literary gravitas. Let’s face it; Brown’s characters are not well developed. If the courts start to rule that writers cannot borrow ideas from different sources and combine them in creative new ways, we are all in trouble, because nobody can come up with entirely new ideas all of the time.

We would have, for example, no “Star Wars,” which George Lucas quite openly admits is a melding of ideas from early science fiction, Japanese cinema, and especially enduring common myths.

There just are not that many basic plots out there; some say seven, some say nine, and others say the number is in the teens somewhere. But the point is always the same.

It’s what the author adds to the basic storyline—the direction and the development—that makes a story unique.

I think most of us would hate a world in which the law forces us to watch our backs. To document every thought that occurs to us after seeing another work of art. To research sources that we have NOT used, simply to protect ourselves from potential lawsuits.

Writing can be hard enough, so let’s not go there.

(If I have borrowed these words from any of you, call my lawyer.)


At November 04, 2005 11:28 PM, Blogger Dear Jane replied to my musings ...

well said. i am sure you will see your exact words re-said in the future ;-)

At November 05, 2005 12:27 PM, Blogger Aladdinslad replied to my musings ...

thiese is al ridikulus fuckre ideus aneywais....god can nod be a womans and god can nod be haves a darters or a sons.....god is god pereods...he wil nod havs a childes and god dam he shur wil nod becoms mans or womans him own selv...god wil nod go insides a womans filther disgust stinkre pussies to be borns as a mans...god wil nod lowers him selvs to thiese disgust fuckre levels.....

At November 05, 2005 7:00 PM, Blogger The Phoenix replied to my musings ...


Anyways...nothing is wrong with imitation or being inspired by someone else's work. That's inevitable. But lifting someone else's writing is straight up illegal. It's tough to prove, unless you copy it word-for-word.

Tough case, really to win.

At November 06, 2005 11:52 AM, Blogger .: raven :. replied to my musings ...

actually ... a few months after i started my blog ... i had an email from a girl who said: "i love your blog ... we have a lot in common" ... so of course my curiousity got the better of me and i visited her page.

thank God that i did because her most recent post was MY post called "Missing You" ... she changed a few words here and there but she had taken my words and posted them like she had written that piece.

oh it gets better. she had also taken my description of myself in the profile ... and used it for her own ....

and then she had taken my list of quotes ... and used them on her page ..

and as a matter of fact ...

her page was the same exact blog template / color / set up / etc.

i was like W.T.F.

needless to say ... i was not happy ... and made her life hell until she removed the post and changed her description. i couldn't do anything about the quotes (i didn't write them) nor the blog template ... but my original writings ... oh hell yea .... it was on.

i HATE that shit.

that being said ... i haven't read the Da Vinci Code. :)

At November 06, 2005 2:00 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Jane: I'm keeping my eyes open for plagarizers. It seems Raven has precedent for me.

Aladdin: I have no idea what the hell you are talking about. Did you use Bizarro-world spell check??

Phoenix: Agreed, lifting sucks--I hope I made that clear.

Raven: Creepy, no doubt ... but at least someone liked your writing enough to claim it as her own. Take it as a compliment! (I hope you have a restraining order now...)

-- d.a.

At November 07, 2005 9:02 PM, Blogger Dear Jane replied to my musings ...

raven...that sounds a little too single white female for me...yikes.


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