Sunday, March 20, 2011

Something Borrowed

In his essay titled "Something Borrowed," Malcolm Gladwell questions whether plagiarism is always a terrible act to commit.  Gladwell describes how Bryony Lavery plagiarized throughout her play "Frozen" from Gladwell himself and Dorothy Lewis.  She bases a main character in her play off of Lewis, but does not get permission to do so because she took the information about Lewis from Gladwell's profile of her published in The New Yorker.  Lavery had made sure to get permission from other sources she used in her play, but did not even think to ask Lewis because she saw the piece as "news" and thought of it as free to the public and O.K. to take from.  She also stated that she exactly copied because she wanted to be accurate and exact in the information she was using and providing through her play.  Gladwell states that he feels her plagiarism is not completely wrong in this case because she took the information from this piece and transformed it in order to use it for a completely new purpose than what the original essay's purpose was.  Gladwell also includes examples of plagiarism in music where there are segments of songs that have similar or even identical patterns of notes within them, but they are completely different songs.  As another example, Gladwell proposes the instance that if someone were to find a cure to breast cancer and patented it, this only can secure a person's rights to claim it as their own for a certain period of time and then everyone can copy and mass-produce this cure.  Because it is in the population's best interests to be able to mass produce the cure, the individual rights to it can't be protected forever.  Although he does state that exact copying is wrong, Gladwell uses these as examples to show how plagiarism is not a terrible act.

I agree with Gladwell's opinion that plagiarism is not a terrible crime, or even a crime in all instances.  If you take something and use it in a completely different way, I do not believe that it is a wrong thing to do.  For instance, while I was taking piano lessons, I was given the assignment to write a song.  I found this task extremely difficult because whenever began writing something, I realized it sounded exactly like other songs that I knew and liked.  I was unconsciously pulling melodies out of my head and believed them to be my own, at least at first.  I also think that if people are writing on the same topic, their pieces will end up sounding very similar.  For example, this blog most likely sounds very similar to the blogs my classmates have written.  I may have even used all of the same examples from the essay that someone else did, but I am not plagiarizing their work or stealing their ideas, because I havn't read any of the other blogs prior to writing this.  I do believe that just copying a work or exact segment of anything is wrong without getting permission, but using those segments as inspiration or transforming their meaning is fine in my eyes.  I found this piece to be very intriguing and well written.  I enjoyed the piece and thought it brought to light the many holes in the grand idea of plagiarism.

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