Comments: 3
It's a Hardback Life 5 years ago
I love this book. She also did a more "common essay" collection called At Large and at Small that is just as good.
Debbie's Spurts 5 years ago
I liked this, too. I just never consider plagiarism (nor book piracy) to be sticky subjects -- theft is theft. The only sticky area for me is when what got allegedly plagiarized is a common theme or element that was hardly original with either author involved.
Murder by Death 5 years ago
I don't question where you're coming from on this, but I think her point (I think...I might be wrong) is that what defines plagiarism is a line that is sometimes hard to draw: is it an idea? If it is, every author after, let's call it 100 years after Gutenberg's press, is screwed because there are no new ideas.

Is it reusing phrases verbatim? If so, then just about all of us have been guilty of plagiarism every time we've used any of these phrases in writing, without explicitly citing Shakespeare:

“Brave new world” — (The Tempest) [Is Aldous Huxley a plagiarist?]
“Break the ice” — (The Taming of the Shrew)
“Refuse to budge an inch” — (Measure for Measure / The Taming of the Shrew)
“Dead as a doornail” — (Henry VI Part II) [Charlaine Harris?]
“Eaten me out of house and home” — (Henry IV Part II) [said every parent...ever]
“For goodness’ sake” — (Henry VIII)
“The game is afoot” — (Henry IV Part I) [for the record, Holmes never said this in print]
“Give the devil his due” — (Henry IV Part I)
“Good riddance” — (Troilus and Cressida)
“Heart of gold” — (Henry V)
“Kill with kindness” — (The Taming of the Shrew)
“Knock knock! Who’s there?” — (Macbeth) [The lawsuits would be endless with this one]
“Laughing stock” — (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
“Love is blind” — (The Merchant of Venice)
“Wild-goose chase” — (Romeo and Juliet)

[Selections taken from BBCAmerica's article "45 Everyday Phrases Coined by Shakespeare"]

Plagiarism absolutely exists and is a pathetic act - absolutely no question - but the stickiness arises somewhere in between the wholesale stealing of vast tracts of writing almost verbatim, and absorbing smaller phrases or ideas and using them in your own work; fan-fiction lies at the heart of this sticky area: at what point is one author's work changed so much under someone else's pen that it becomes that person's 'original story'?

I have no idea myself. I know I stay away from fan-fiction because I'm not comfortable with other people appropriating/manipulating an author's characters, but I also know I've read and enjoyed stuff that I've found out later started out as fan-fiction and didn't know it.