Monday, October 31, 2011

"Something Borrowed"

Malcolm Gladwell’s “Something Borrowed” is an article that discusses the extent to which plagiarism amounts as theft and copying someone’s already written words or life story versus creating a work of art out of someone else’s idea, sometimes by accident. Gladwell begins by explaining the situation of Dorothy Lewis, a psychiatrist who studies serial killers. She was upset and filed a lawsuit against Byrony Lavery, a playwright, for plagiarizing her book and inaccurately plagiarizing some of her life story in Lavery’s play “Frozen.” However, Lavery explains to Gladwell that much of what she had written in her play had come from Gladwell’s profile about Lewis in a newspaper, so Lavery did not think that she was plagiarizing. She had credited much of her play to the story of Marian Partington and her murdered sister. Because she included Partington’s personal story, she believed that it had to be acknowledged, but in relation to Gladwell’s work, she thought it was legal to take without accreditation because it was “news.” Gladwell then references how musical artists had taken chords of previous songs and added them to their own new song, and it was usually never considered plagiarism because it was thought to be “art,” and there was no way to prove that one artist owns the origin of those chords. Also, Gladwell explains that it is too difficult to claim plagiarism in music, but when it comes to written words, people become more upset when their words that they wrote are being taken.

This article had an affect on me as a college student because as I am about to write a research paper, I need to be especially careful when writing about something that has already been published. It’s hard to determine between your idea and an idea that you think is yours after you already read it somewhere and you subconsciously stole it. This reminded me of how Mark Zuckerberg had to deal with a lawsuit about his stealing the idea of Facebook, and I was reminded of a quote I saw in the movie Social Network. “If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you'd have invented Facebook.”

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