Response to Something Borrowed and Ch. 2

“The Picture Problem” talks about intellectual property and copyrighting, using a case story of psychiatrist whose published papers on serial killers influenced a playwright and her work.  The problem was, the playwright decided to borrow enough of the psychiatrist’s work that the doctor’s associates recognized the similarities. Although not the entire play focused on the psychiatrist, details about the doctor’s work and personal life were incorporated into a fictional play, where the fact and fiction became blurred.  However, the issue which brought the psychiatrist to the brink of filing a lawsuit was that she was never given recognition or credit for her work used in the play.
The article compares the situation to cases of intellectual property battles from the music industry.  Examples of resemblance in song structures and melodies vs. theft of complete scores have been matters of importance with musicians since the classical era.  The author talks about these cases as examples of resemblance, inspiration, and influence, part of the creative process.
Eventually with the intellectual property doctrine, there are certain situations where you can steal. Time limits of 20 years are given to copyrights for  protection of economic incentives more so than intellectual preservation.
I believe that it all comes down to properly crediting the playwright’s sources. If she properly credited the psychiatrist’s stories as an influence into her play, then plagiarism is disconnected from the other issues, royalties. Towards the end, plagiarism seemed  disconnected from questions regarding the playwright’s ethics.  The psychiatrist seemed to become more concerned about her personal affairs tied into the fictional situations of the character.  The psychiatrist became more concerned with questions of her personal affairs relating to the fictitious situations. The people who recognize the character may question her credibility since her work and life are combined with imaginary sets of circumstances.

The chapter “Intertextuality, Authorship, and Plagiarism” focuses on originality and ownership of creative writing and literature.  Using examples of human influences, from parental upbringing or church scripture, to reactions of students and their experiences with writing, the author presents the question about the seriousness of plagiarism: is it so harmful?  Is it criminal? Plagiarism is viewed as fraud.  The author examines the use of other people’s ideas orally through quotes and in writing.  The author looks into new resources such as open access to creative and academic work online.  Questioning plagiarism has become so incensed that if writer provides citations and footnotes on materials used, readers wont be able to decide if every thought has been properly credited.  It is left to the writer to build one’s credentials as a student or scholar to be removed from suspicion.  Fear of one’s argument belonging to that of another person questions the concept of original thought.  It is believed that there is more than one way of saying something or interpreting work, but is it possible to be original?

Writers continue to  focus on the property of ideas, when scholars should be more concerned about who they are influencing. The purpose of writing  is suppose to reach a greater audience with one’s art and ideas. Only then can others learn from it, build on it, and come up with alternatives.


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