Tuesday, December 12, 2006

When is it Stealing?

The growing potential scandal about Ian McEwen's Atonment, has created some interesting questions for me. I read about it on Smart Bitches (links below). What it boils down to, is McEwen wrote a book about a that is in part about a wartime nurse. Lucilla Andrews, who herself was an author, had written a memoir of her experiences as a wartime nurse. McEwen acknowledges her as being a helpful source but has apparently found her so helpful that he cribbed a few passages. I have read neither so I am unaware of the level of cribbing other than what has been reported (which is a few paragraphs where McEwen clearly lifted with some non-essential word swapping). However it is creating an interesting debate as to where the line between appreciation and plagiarism is. If there are only a few sources for a particular type of character, is it more likely that you would have to rely heavily on that source. If you relying heavily on a source where is the line between use, tribute, and stealing? Is it better or worse if you are an established author found to have possibly plagiarised than a new author? If you credit your source does that make it not plagiarism? Adding into the mix, Andrews had apparently been recently made aware of the similarities and had planned to address it, but sadly passed away before she could.

In order-ish:

Original post at Smart Bitches - the post and the comments have great links and discussion.

Interview with Nora Roberts at Smart Bitches (Roberts was a victim of plagiarism).

Follow up post at Smart Bitches with link to follow up article by writer who pointed out the similarities.

Bookseller Chick provides the link to Slate's coverage.