Tag Archives: plagiarism

Day 185

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.

Day 108

I just read an amusing quote from Stephen Hawking. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what it was as it was accompanied by a note.

The quotes of Stephen Hawking used are protected by copyright owned by the Estate of Professor Stephen Hawking and may not be reproduced without permission.

There is also another note.

STEPHEN HAWKING is a trade mark of, and is used by the Royal Mint under licence from, the acting executors of the Estate of Professor Stephen Hawking.

This is something that has caught my attention before, as I’m not quite sure where it takes us. At what point does someone else called Stephen Hawking lose the right to their own name. Not a great problem for most of them, but if a second Stephen Hawking came along and designed a superior type of wheelchair, what would happen then?

It’s the first time I’ve heard of quotations being copyrighted. Normally we throw quotes around as if they are free to use, and nobody minds. As far a I know you are still allowed to quote excerpts from a work so I’m not sure where these two things square up. It reminds me of J K Rowling when she became rich and famous and started suing people for infringing her copyrights. This was, I felt, strange, as Harry Potter seemed to be a lineal descendent of various boarding school stories and The Worst Witch stories.  It’s a difficult area, but if you draw inspiration from other people, perhaps you should allow people to draw inspiration from you. Like God and the big battalions, the Law seems to be on the side of the people with the expensive lawyers.

I looked up the exact quote on that subject but found it wasn’t quite as good as I remembered. I also, ironically, in view of my previous comments on copyright, found the contents of this link used in a blog post, without attribution.