By November 27, 2006 2 Comments Read More →

"The Literary Equivalent of Suicide by Cop"

More old news. In his Slate article “Dead Plagiarists Society,” Paul Collins discusses intriguing possibilities in the age of Google:

Given the popularity of plagiarism-seeking software services for academics, it may be only a matter of time before some enterprising scholar yokes Google Book Search and plagiarism-detection software together into a massive literary dragnet, scooping out hundreds of years’ worth of plagiarists – giants and forgotten hacks alike – who have all escaped detection until now.

We’ve seen the start of this already, as he wittily notes:

For any plagiarist living in an age of search engines, waving a loaded book in front of reviewers has become the literary equivalent of suicide by cop.

But one of the most intriguing details, for me, was an aside:

There have always been a dizzying array of ways that authors can rip each other off, even in reverse: Literary critic Terry Eagleton has written entertainingly of “anti-plagiarism,” a 19th-century literary wheeze favored by Irish critics, who pounced on poets or novelists for plagiarizing or surreptitiously translating some little-known domestic or foreign work and presenting it under their name. The trick was that the “original” work presented by the prosecuting critic was itself a forgery, written after a new work’s publication to frame an enemy.

Which is interesting, because I was just about to announce to the world that The Da Vinci Code was actually first written about twenty years ago, in German, by me. And so besides being a horrible plagiarist, Dan Brown now owes me a lot of money.

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix.

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