During the day I had, as usual. several great ideas for tonight’s post. As the day progressed, also as usual, the ideas gradually seemed less good, or simply faded away. The one about plagiarism seems less interesting now that I am sitting in front of the computer, and the other two have simply been forgotten.
The result is that I have a blank screen and a blank mind. It is not unusual. If I were still planning to write the post on plagiarism I would have to point out that “It is not unusual” bears similarities to the words of a song by Tom Jones. It can, I imagine, be quite complicated.
It’s all a question of monkeys. With an infinite number of monkeys and a finite number of words, duplication would be inevitable. If they can write Hamlet, which always seems to be a favourite when discussing this subject, they could certainly manage some of my stuff, or the tedious instructions for jury service I was recently sent, or a shopping list.
However, if a monkey duplicates something, is it plagiarism? It’s much the same question as, if a monkey kills someone, is it murder? Murder requires intent, and it’s not likely that monkeys can form the intent to kill in the same way that a murderer would. People seem to see plagiarism as something that can happen by innocent coincidence.
However, other definitions refer to it as a process of copying the work of someone else without giving credit. In that case the typewriting monkeys there is no copying, as, to the monkeys, it is an original work, even if they are the second ones to produce it.
In my case, the worry is that with a limited number of words, ideas and conventions, it seems almost inevitable that two people will eventually write the same haiku. It’s always worried me about haiku.
Then, finally, we come to the inevitable question of whether I am a poet or a monkey.