Friday, February 12, 2010

You can't re-mix a book

From today's NY Times the story of a young German author caught plagiarizing,

The publication last month of her novel about a 16-year-old exploring Berlin’s
drug and club scene after the death of her mother, called “Axolotl Roadkill,”
was heralded far and wide in German newspapers and magazines as a tremendous
debut, particularly for such a young author. The book shot to No. 5 this week on
the magazine Spiegel’s hardcover best-seller list.


blogger last week uncovered material in the novel taken from the less-well-known
novel “Strobo,” by an author writing under the nom de plume Airen. In one case,
an entire page was lifted with few changes.

As other unattributed
sources came to light, outsize praise quickly turned to a torrent of outrage...

The author's response to all of this is to cite the re-mix culture in which we reside,

Although Ms. Hegemann has apologized for not being more open about her sources, she has also defended herself as the representative of a different generation, one that freely mixes and matches from the whirring flood of information across new and old media, to create something new. “There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,” said Ms. Hegemann in a statement released by her publisher after the scandal broke.

I'm a blogger, I leach off of the work of journalists and other bloggers as I write, trying all along to add something of value. I link and attribute everything though, as any ethical writer, journalist or author should do. I hate to break the news to Ms. Hegemann but t's not just this generation that mixes and matches from different sources of information in order to create. What she describes as unique to the 21st Century is of course the basis for research since the dawn of time and has been foundational to artistic expression as well.

Musicians, artists, and authors draw inspiration from those who came before them. You can't excuse away your unethical (and possibly illegal) behavior by claiming that your generation is somehow unique. While the quantity of information may be far greater today than ever before the fundamental relationship between the artist and their inspirations has not changed. Even today's hiphop artists who take previous works and build new songs upon them pay royalties for the use of those melodies and samples.

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