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Plagiarism

http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Poet-Christian-Ward-says-m-sorry-prize-winning/story-17838451-detail/story.html?sp=normal&1357982258070

If you start off experimenting by using somebody else's work, just how easy is it to think you wrote it yourself?
Sat, 12 Jan 2013 01:54 pm
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If this is a conscious effort, surely the experimenter will keep track of his 'copying style for purpose', this 'exercise'. If it is emulating the style in acknowledged praise of the copied writer, that is considered acceptable. Anybody who slips out of this boundary is deliberately shifty, or mentally careless. I'm not sure which is worse. If, however, intense and prolonged reading over time has an influence leaning toward another writer's work, surely this is natural, and the enthusiast simply has to be alert. But you can repudiate almost anything - especially to yourself.
Sat, 12 Jan 2013 04:03 pm
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I am still not clear from reading Mr wards statement whether he sent the wrong draft (An early version still too similar to Helen's piece to be acceptable) or if he somehow didn't realise that his submission and the orig were too similar. The former could happen. The latter seems like an impossible mistake.

As regulars will know on WOL a lot of my output concerns found poetry. In this form the question of plagiarism sometimes arises. The code of best practices for fair use in poetry (US) puts it like this - "...a poet may make use of quotations from existing poetry, literary prose, and non-literary material, if these quotations are re-presented in poetic forms that add value through significant imaginative or intellectual transformation, whether direct or (as in the case of poetry-generating software) indirect."

Of course this is not the case with the current topic but might be of related interest. Win
Sat, 12 Jan 2013 04:14 pm
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OK, I missed the particular boat here.I did think it was a general question, even with the link provided which I did not/do not have time to follow right now. Sorry.

I've caught up after all, as I was exitting the site. Had to come back. What a hullabaloo! Very discouraging. But I think my first comment still holds water.
Sat, 12 Jan 2013 04:26 pm
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People have accused me of plagiarism. (Their words, not mine).
Sat, 12 Jan 2013 06:11 pm
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I think the guy in the link is just trying to find excuses and fails to convince.
I have tried the exercise where you write another poem on alternate lines and put your own responses between the lines- or after each line, I mean, then you strip out all the original lines and hey presto! a different poem. It felt odd doing it, but the poem I got out of it, while it had something of the mood of the original poem, seemed to e about something else altogether.
When I read it, explaining how I did it, you (Winston) told me I should read the original poem too, so the audience could make a comparison, which I think is a valid point.
I didn't explain myself very clearly Cynthia, sorry about that.
John, how did that come about? were they saying it was their work you had plagiarised?
Happy New Year everyone.
Sun, 13 Jan 2013 01:05 pm
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I think this is the second high profile plagiarism story to hit the poetry world in the past few months. Can't remember the name of the other one, but I do remember that Dylan Thomas was the poet being plagiarised.

I struggle to understand the motivation for plagiarising poetry. It's not like 'Who wants to be a millionaire?', where a few well timed coughs can net you a life time's income. Poetry prizes are small potatoes in comparison and the risks of being found out so high. Why on earth would anyone sane take those risks?

Which leads me to wonder if some poets have occasional lapses of sanity. Now that doesn't sound that much out of character for the average poet, does it?

Maybe I'm a soft touch - but I can't help but feel sorry for people brought this low by their actions. I can't imagine how I'd keep going in the same circumstances. I'm reminded of that member of the aristocracy who stole a tin of salmon due to hormonal imablance brought on by menopause - then killed herself because she couldn't live with the shame. The case should never have been brought to court - she was suffering from temporary personality change.

It's a difficult one - there are no easy answers, I suppose.
Sun, 13 Jan 2013 03:37 pm
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Somebody told me today that poetry's a bit like draughts - a game that requires lots of skill but doesn't get much in the way of remuneration...

As for occassional lapses of sanity... John Clare thought he was Byron so wrote his own version of Childe Harold... but at least he used his own words, rather than just copying Byron's.

I use lots of cut and paste, but I never use other people's poems. Newspaper articles, crossword clues, advertising etc in a kind of Kurt Schwitters Merz sense, to make a new aesthetic experience.
Sun, 13 Jan 2013 04:21 pm
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The story about Christian Ward on Write Out Loud has been extensively updated today, after the Guardian reported on it. The Guardian comments thread includes a long comment apparently from Ward himself, one from Neil Astley pointing out that a third act of plagiarism had taken place, and then a comment from the latest plagiarised victim herself. Extraordinary stuff.
Mon, 14 Jan 2013 11:15 pm
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Here's a poem I wrote after reading something by a Mr Wordsworth.

Narcissus

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A Poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Wed, 16 Jan 2013 08:07 pm
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Since all these poets have had their work published he has broken the copyright laws and they could probably look for compensation. The WOL site is quite clear that copyright remains with the author, so those who are worried are better protected if their work is already published in a book, or is on this site or similar, since that is clear evidence you wrote it. A legal dispute might hinge on who published it first.
That does seem a very legalistic reaction. I wouldn't worry myself. We say our poems are like children who grow up and go out into the world. It might be a bit disconcerting if someone else adopted them though.
I started this thread to see if anyone was awake after New Year and prepared to have a conversation. I didn't have any intention of attacking the lad personally, but I don't feel sorry for him. He has had enough education to know the difference between other people's property and your own.
Wed, 16 Jan 2013 08:33 pm
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ON a serious note. I'm not convinced the poem was sent 'by mistake' He knew exactly what he was doing. Anyone who thinks they can publish someone else's work and not be found out is only fooling themselves. I have no sympathy. Personally I have written some pieces which I have altered as I thought they resembled work by other writers. I've had my work likened to that of Ted Hughes. That is not a conscious thing. No one is totally original, we all have our inspirations and sources but I can't see how that would lead anyone to re-write a work almost verbatim.
Mon, 21 Jan 2013 09:21 pm
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I think it's a shame because I feel what it has done is effectively cancel out any work that he has produced himself - I for one have little interest in what he has created on his own merit now because I know, consciously or otherwise, that I would always be suspicious of its original source, and to what degree that source was incorporated (if not mentioned).

Ultimately, he has seriously damaged his own credibility for the sake of a few 'cheap shots' and that's the biggest tragedy. I am often influenced by other works, not necessarily poetry but often songs, films, historical documents etc. I actually think it helps to incorporate others idea's sometimes, especially if that other 'idea' is more widely known and can enhance the power and impact of your work - poetry is a great way of describing a situation without simply saying it, in a different way, and I'm proud to acknowledge their inspiration to me.

Mr Ward did not acknowledge his fellow artist, he lacked a respect for them and therefore by his actions he insulted them, whether willingly or not. That is something he has to own. By choosing to try and explain it away only further exasperates the situation and his guilt- I believe 'the lady doth protest too much' comes to mind...

I understand plagiarism closest definition is 'forgery' - unfortunately Mr Ward has committed nothing less and his artistic credibility will likely be permanently tainted for it, which is the bigger shame, but the expected and inevitable one.
Wed, 23 Jan 2013 12:04 pm
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He clearly knew what he was doing, he just didn't expect to get caught, which is very daft in this day and age. It's not even like he can claim the 'George Harrison defence' where the revered Beatle was clearly 'influenced' by another number one hit, but had at least changed all the lyrics and quite a lot of the arrangement(especially the middle eight). I, for one, thought George was innocent (i.e. sub-consciously influenced and nobody dared to point out to him the obvious similarities, what with him being so venerated etc.) although he lost the court case and had to handover millions in revenues.

What do you all think...?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU5qP20iJl0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMgCpb1nli4

Jx
Wed, 23 Jan 2013 12:32 pm
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Yes - there was definitely some 'influence' going on there - but at least he managed to improve the song and by a long chalk!
Wed, 23 Jan 2013 05:03 pm
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Woa there momma! Don't you diss The Chiffons! Tread softly, for you tread on my youth....


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpFotOi3hDs

Utterly wonderful, and you could've caught me dancing round some poor girl's handbag to that, and many others, from about 1970....to this day!

Lovely stuff!

Hmmph! Well...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kadLRdCOFm4

(sorry, contains traces of nuts)

Jx

PS The more I watch that...the creepier that era becomes...how many of that audience had to run away from him?
I've got his bloody autograph!

: (


Wed, 23 Jan 2013 06:51 pm
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...so I said to Bob, "If you can use it, feel free".

http://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=33540

Wed, 23 Jan 2013 07:19 pm
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And I can't believe that I once paid good money to go and see an ageing Gary Glitter stomp around Wembley stadium on his silver platforms!

I heard some Soft Cell last night and that brought back happy memories. I think I need to dance around my handbag again :)

I do remember Top of the Pops with affection though - it's a shame it's become tainted love :(
Wed, 23 Jan 2013 08:57 pm
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLubTUsfZD8

A UK No. 1 from the same era. I remember this one distinctly as it was on a cafe jukebox where I went with my mate after having my first skinhead haircut. Tami Lynn will be forever the soundtrack of the waltzer at a local fairground and a big rumble between between skins and greasers . . . ah, those heady days of youth . . . Nothing brings back memories like music. Thanks for the reminder John.

As for plagiarism, for me the name flatters the act a little too much. It's plain and simple "copying." No skill, imagination or artistry involved at all - just straightforward theft. I wonder, in these instances, if there really is no such thing as bad publicity?
Thu, 24 Jan 2013 03:25 pm
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Regarding this discussion,
I have a poem on just now (Lily going by) the first line of which originally read:

`Hers was a beauty sheer and clear and clean`

But which I changed to the present out of respect (reverence) for the
words of G.M. Hopkins:

`The grain lie sheer and clear`

I`ve always wondered if it would have actually been plagiarism.

What does everyone think?


Sat, 26 Jan 2013 06:38 pm
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I prefer your original version Harry. I must admit that when I read that poem, I did find clipper an unusual choice of word.

To answer your question, I suppose it depends on whether you read the poem first and then deliberately lifted the phrase - or whether you realised later that it just happened to be similar.

It's a difficult one. How much do we all borrow, without realising? It might be easier not to read the works of others and to just concentrate on writing your own, if you are worried about that. And even then, it is very easy to come up with the same idea as someone else. I can remember doing an Olympic poem for one of these WOL things and writing one with the exact same title as MC. It wasn't deliberate and I don't think I'd read his poem. We just had the same though but he posted his earlier. I suppose the important think is to be respectful of other poets - to be aware of how easy it is to borrow - and to hopefully allude to the work of other people who might have inspired you. That at least gives some honesty to your poetry.
Sun, 27 Jan 2013 12:16 pm
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Yes Steve - I suppose it all boils down to the question, why do we write? I suspect the answer may be different for a number of people.

I do it because I like to share my work, enjoy the discussion it stimulates and love feedback or recognition. I get a good deal of satisfaction if I can express something elegantly, but I know that I wouldn't write just for that. I could never write poetry to shove in a drawer.

I suppose that craving for recognition takes many forms. For some it's comments on here, for others winning competitions, for others being published, in whatever form that takes.

To achieve that recognition some change their style, preferred subject matter, and opinions even. Plagiarising the work of others seems like plumbing the depths, but maybe it's a bit like alcoholism - the thirst for recognition that gets out of control?
Wed, 6 Feb 2013 03:06 pm
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Steve/Isobel,

At the risk of being incredibly boring (I've expressed this view a few times before), from what I've seen in the way of competitions, one of the surest routes to success is to write in the style of either previous winners - or the incumbent judge. Maybe this was Mr Ward's intention?

I would much rather see competitions judged by a panel whose own output varied in style/subject etc. For any winners of the "single judge" competitions (apart from the shortlisting process) all they are able to say is that ONE person thought their poem was the best on offer - not much of an accolade when you think about it . . .
Wed, 6 Feb 2013 04:22 pm
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And I'd agree with you there Anthony. I've known people who buy the books of the judge so they can assess how to write their poem. I've also known someone do a complete volte-face in what they thought about a subject, just to be in with a chance.

The only problem with having a panel of judges is that you'd have pay more to run the competition, since they'd all have to read the poems. It WOULD make it a lot fairer though.

Wed, 6 Feb 2013 04:31 pm
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My other thoughts on the subject. Where you get competition, you will get cheating - just look at the world of athletics/sport.

I suppose we are naive to suppose that it shouldn't be the same in the world of art. The tricky thing is detecting it - there are so many obscure journals and websites out there that someone could plagiarise from, without ever being detected. The mistake Christian Ward made, was to choose someone so well known. Helen Mort seems to be the one that did him in ;)
Wed, 6 Feb 2013 04:34 pm
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It would have been too perfect if she'd been called Arthur!

Ah, well, c'est la whatsit!

: )

Jx
Wed, 6 Feb 2013 10:25 pm
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I think we all know what we mean by originality and plagiarism in the context of the arts, to the extent that we neither require no special categorisation, no tighter definition or caveat.

None of that understanding clashes with the nuanced position expressed by Twain. Being stood on the shoulders of giants and contributing one small piece, is obviously not the same as simply copying (almost verbatim) those that went before.

If it were, mankind would never have made any significant advance in any field. Instead of evolving art, science etc, everything would replicate simply and with high fidelity, more akin to bacteria than that of a complex organism (an appropriate analogy for art).. Art like history would not be progressive if worked and its nature related to the common understanding of plagiarism.

It can be argued there are only a certain number of stories to be told and the apple may not fall far from the tree etc, but little by little, substance changes in appearance, and in character to eventually become something sufficiently different from its past. This is how it evolves.

What someone creates today may have a lineage and owe much to the past and people who came before. It may conform to a given theme or prior understanding. None of which makes us label such things with the common understanding of the word plagiarism.

We can acknowledge Twain's cleverness and point, whilst also understanding on a more general level, that the inappropriate application of his thoughts and logic lead to complete nonsense with an almighty non sequitur.

Fri, 8 Feb 2013 10:58 am
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That's an interesting link John - it's good to see things from different perspectives.

I don't know much about Helen Keller's plagiarism trial. I'd say that Mark Twain was probably trying to comfort a friend when he wrote about all art being a form of plagiarism though.

Yes, many artists borrow ideas and use allusion. Word for word copying is something else though.

If you wanted to be abstract about the concept of plagiarism, then yes, you could say that anyone using the alphabet to write down thoughts, is plagiarising whoever invented the alphabet. Then the subject all gets a bit silly.

Christian Ward's case is an open and shut book. It becomes much harder to prove plagiarism when the copying and stealing of ideas is done more subtly.

Fri, 8 Feb 2013 12:16 pm
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All I know about Helen Keller was that she was damned good at Pinball.

I don't know if anyone went awandering through the links at the bottom of the Brainpickings plagiarism page (I do like a good wander) but one of them was this...also quite enlightening.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/07/27/the-usefulness-of-useless-knowledge/


Now, 'useless knowledge', at last, something I do know a bit about.

: )

Jx
Fri, 8 Feb 2013 02:42 pm
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This is a complete red herring.

In 'One on One 101 True Encounters' the author, Craig Brown, describes 101 meetings between famous people. It's a book which puts one off celebs. In the vast majority of cases, the reader can only take a dim view of at least one of the famous people in the encounter. Often, neither of them are shown in a good light. One of the few encounters in which both participants emerge as pleasant and interesting human beings is that between Mark Twain and Helen Keller. 58 and 14 respectively when they first met.

It's a moving account. Twain was in awe of Helen and went on to organise the funding of her education. For her part she said "He kept me always in mind while he talked, and he treated me like a competent human being. That is why I loved him..."
Fri, 8 Feb 2013 08:49 pm
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So, in what way is it a 'red herring?'

(and what happened to blue trout?)

Jx
Fri, 8 Feb 2013 09:53 pm
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Well, it's not to do with plagiarism.

But this is -
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21395102
Sat, 9 Feb 2013 03:38 pm
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Plagiarism and getting people to write books for you are part of the corruption that comes from setting targets for how many books you write while you are a professor or lecturer, because your academic credentials are a key to promotion and staying in a job at all. Private Eye has mentioned the huge numbe of books 'written' by Gordon Brown while he was running the country.
Its curious how the Art world sets so much store by 'originality' which often seems to mean doing something even more stupid than the last person, but top academics fail to spot plagiarism in their colleagues books. One suspects that nobody actually reads more than the first few pages of these books anyway.
Its a bit like Lance Armstrong and drugs. When everybody is corrupted the competition rolls on and truth is left at the starting post.
Wed, 13 Feb 2013 11:32 pm
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Sat, 16 Feb 2013 09:46 am
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Those with knowledge of song writing will know there is no copyright on song TITLES. (Isobel - I took the same view about our creative poetical connection in that respect). Plagiarism is the full-blooded descendant of derivation. IMHO most, if not all, art is the result of what has gone before. Humanity, consciously or not, is influenced by this factor. It is the DEGREE to which it is indulged (e.g. lengthy copying!) that results in plagiarism. The written word is easier to pin down and thus any literary party is running the bigger risk at being exposed and held to account. I recall once reading biographical stuff and thinking I'd read it before, to discover later the author was guilty of plagiarism - raiding another writer's books for chunks at a time! Both were well known names.
Thu, 28 Feb 2013 04:10 pm
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It is interesting that we eschew copying the words of a fellow wordsmith and denounce those who so do and yet we laud those who replicate a rhythm or rhyme scheme.
Was a sonnet-form or a haiku someone's intellectual property at one time? Or is it just that the statute of limitations on them has run out?
Fri, 1 Mar 2013 12:27 am
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Just noticed this comment Yvonne. Interesting point.
I used to take the rhythm and pattern of a song I liked and write new words to it.
I think the thing about a poetic form, or the form of a song for that matter, is that it presents a challenge as to how to fit your words to the form in a way that makes absolute sense and feels as if you couldn't have put it better any other way.
Poetic forms are a bit like different chord patterns in music. you can take the notes of a chord and improvise any amount of melody from them. You can create harmonies.
With the sonnet form, it has a metre, a rhyme scheme, and a set number of lines, with a point where the whole burden of the poem shifts, and lifts into a resolution. In one kind of sonnet that is just the last two lines. In another it is the last six lines.
There are so many lovely sonnets that I think this is a very natural shape that English fits into.
When you think about it that is a bit like the Golden Mean, (Golden Section) which lends itself to visual composition in a way that is very satisfying.
Sun, 26 May 2013 01:19 am
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i have seen my words, themes and definate phrases used by other poets on here. ..ive literally sent my poetry to people to say look how similar this is! i have to take it as a compliment.
Tue, 28 May 2013 04:25 pm
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Rachel - only asking - how could anybody 'copy' a theme? If anything was universal ownership, I would have thought that themes were.
Mon, 3 Jun 2013 03:15 am
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If this is a conscious effort, surely the experimenter will keep track of his 'copying style for purpose', this 'exercise'. If it is emulating the style in acknowledged praise of the copied writer, that is considered acceptable. Anybody who slips out of this boundary is deliberately shifty, or mentally careless. I'm not sure which is worse. If, however, intense and prolonged reading over time has an influence leaning toward another writer's work, surely this is natural, and the enthusiast simply has to be alert. But you can repudiate almost anything - especially to yourself. T Carroll

http://youtu.be/C2q2bis6eLE
Fri, 7 Jun 2013 07:39 am
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I myself have been inspired by others writings. But I try to give them credit for my inspiration. I myself have had two poems copied or just outright plagiarized.
Fri, 7 Jun 2013 04:39 pm
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It's a damn good quoted comment, Tommy. But I don't know whether I'm being put down or lifted up. God's truth.
Sat, 8 Jun 2013 03:24 pm
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