Monday, October 31, 2011

Something Borrowed

In 'Something Borrowed', Gladwell explores the idea of plagiarism and wonders to what extent words and stories can be considered intellectual property. Gladwell investigates the case of Bryony Lavery, who was accused of plagiarizing material from several people for her Broadway play "Frozen", including work from Gladwell himself. Lavery's play is about three people: Ralph, a serial killer who murders a girl, the murdered girls' mother Nancy, and a psychiatrist Agnus. Lavery based the character off a lot of the work that Dorothy Lewis and Gladwell had done regarding serial killers. Eventually, Lavery was accused of plagiarism for using other peoples ideas in her play. However, Lavery did not think that what she was doing was wrong because she claims that she was taking old work and creating a new story by twisting the stories together and developing a new plot and theme for the playwright. She argues that what she did was not plagiarism. Gladwell investigates other cases of people being caught for plagiarism, including cases in the music industry. He ponders what can truly be considered intellectual property and believes that all work is kind of based off of past work.

I thought this was an interesting essay. It gave a new perspective on how I thought about plagiarism. The idea of intellectual property really bothers me. I understand why plagiarizing an entire paper or big chunks of the paper and basically stealing the idea from someone else should be considered plagiarism because that is not original at all. I think that in many cases, if someone combines ideas from several different resources into an essay and comes up with a different conclusion, it should not be considered plagiarism. On the other hand, in Lavery's case, where she essentially uses someone else's life story and then adds little bits and pieces to it to the point where others would question if that actually happened to her, I can understand why Lewis would be upset about that. The debate about intellectual property and plagiarism is a confusing one because there is no way to really set strict guidelines for what is an appropriate summary of someone else's work or to what extent using someone else's ideas would be considered plagiarizing.

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