Thou shalt not steal!

CREATe Studio, an interdisciplinary reading group,  met for the first time on 17 October 2013 to discuss the BBC Radio broadcast The Sins of Literature: Thou Shalt Not Steal. The broadcast consulted with authors regarding their perspectives on plagiarism of their works. Each author held slightly different views on plagiarism, and a main factor for whether an author would approve of or allow direct copying of a work related to whether the work was somehow transformed or used in a way that did not overlap with the author’s market, e.g., exactly copying a passage from a “poppy, airport, nonfiction book” and using it in a Broadway play was appreciated by the original author.  However, all authors agreed that the author’s voice is the most unique and important part of the work to protect, posing a challenge for legal systems due to the nebulous nature of the author’s voice.

The group agreed that not all copying is plagiarism, but that they can and do overlap. Additionally, it was suggested that the author’s perspective on what should be protected is itself shaped by current intellectual property regulations, creating a shifting baseline of societal perspectives.  Last, the group considered the role of moral rights and the enhanced power to control the context in which their work is used, which is a strong right granted to authors in certain jurisdictions such as France but not available in jurisdictions with weak moral rights like the United States.  The attitudes of the authors do seem to reflect an expectation of a community code of use rather than a strict legal interpretation of copyright infringement in plagiarism.

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