minnow at minnow at
Wed May 14 17:38:36 EDT 2003

Jackie S wrote:

>Anyway, I had so many students telling me in class that Rowling HAD
>plagiarized (for whatever reason, students seem to assume that the person
>bringing the lawsuit must be correct) that I finally had to investigate a

Being fair to the students, it's possible they'd done what my
then-fourteen-year-old did when she read the first Potter book: she went
through it saying "That's in X', "Y's got that in it", "I read that in Z"
and so on at regular intervals.  (I wish now I'd got her to make notes, it
would have been fascinating to see what a reasonably well-read teenager
noticed had been around before in other things.)  So they might simply have
assumed it was another example of a thing that they had spotted somewhere
else before they read Rowling, just an example whose serial numbers hadn't
been filed off very well.

I have never been quite sure anyway where the line is drawn between
re-using an idea that has been around for a while, and plagiarising.  I
mean, Alan Garner took a chunk of the Mabinogion for *The Owl Service* --
so is anyone else who uses the same Welsh story to write a book round
simply using the same source material, or are they plagiarising Garner, and
who decides, and how?  If Neil Gaiman writes something that owes a lot in
the way of ideas to his reading of some old fairy-tales, and someone else
does the same thing and happens to pick the same fairy-tales, is it just a
race to get published first?


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