Another beautiful rainy day. I'm listening to Fountain, a piano solo by Maurice Ravel. Simply perfect for posting a new book review. Hopefully you will enjoy reading thoughtful commentary on an interesting book while listening to wistful, reflective music. A gray sky would make it all perfect. (You in the north may disagree but cool weather is so delightfully refreshing here in Texas.)
The Little Book of Plagiarism by Richard A. Posner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is brief, interesting and quickly read. Posner is a judge in the United States Second Court of Appeals and a lecturer at the University of Chicago law school. In this book he defines plagiarism, explains the difference between it and copyright infringement and when it is actually a crime.
He lists some famous examples of modern plagiarists plus a history of plagiarists in the past. He discusses why plagiarism is a crime, why should it be a crime and why some plagiarists should be more severely punished than others. Also, he points to times in the past when plagiarism was not considered much of a crime, or a crime at all, and why.
He also cites a few famous authors who, because of famous and influential friends, did not suffer career losses, even though they were exposed as blatant and prolific plagiarists.
I felt his writing could have been clearer at times ("Should plagiarism be a crime or a tort? It should not be.") Excuse me, but that was an "either or" question and if "tort" means the same thing as "crime" than you should have inserted a comma after crime or in some way made it clear that you were using a synonym and not asking a question that demands a choice.
That is one of a number of obtuse expressions of which Posner is guilty.
Also, I disagree with his attitude that the only reason plagiarism is wrong is because it puts the plagiarist in commercial competition with the original author. How about stealing from the author is morally wrong? You deserve to be discredited and punished for that.
He includes quotes from some people who do not believe there is anything wrong with plagiarism because of their egalitarian philosophies:
"Notions of genius, of individual creativity, and of authorial celebrity, which inform the condemnation of plagiarism, make the leftist uncomfortable because they seem to celebrate inequality and 'possessive individualism' (that is, capitalism)."
He writes of another self-described "liberatory pedagogy" believes that students "should not be punished for 'patchwriting'.
Overall the book is worth reading, especially if you are an aspiring writer (like me:) )
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