RARA-AVIS: It'a steal, it's a theft, it's ...plagiarism!

Etienne Borgers (freeweb@rocketmail.com)
Fri, 23 Apr 1999 02:44:58 -0700 (PDT) All this discussion about theft and steals, gives me
the feeling that I don't know anymore if I'm
following a tragedy or a slapstick here...

Nobody went to the end of the road in this thread: up
to plagiarism.

A few reflections:

1. Popular arts, whatever they are, were always
fueled by copiers... Popular literature does not
escape the rule.
The lower is the consideration given to the form of
art concerned, how more open are the steals.
Think about comics, cinema of the first ages...etc
Or pulp literature?
So copy of general plots are not that bad, unless it
sticks to the *details* of the model like a swimsuit.
And this can still happen, especially when a work is
successful. But I don't think this is still
acceptable today in areas like mystery novels of

2. In more refined or more elaborated forms of art,
accepted as fine arts, inspiration taken in previous
works or masters is not a bad thing as long the new
work adds something original. No addition, then its a
steal. At least in our Western world's art.

3.And then there is plagiarism.
That's the real steal. Frontal, violent and damaging...
Driven by greed most of the time... But also in some
cases by gross stupidity, the author doing it
thinking he/she will be as successful as the other
one, as now what he/she produces is as good as the
model. Right?
But here, there are laws and plagiarism if
established can be stopped.
There was a famous case recently in France (1 1/2
years ago) were media (inclusive TV) , some
publishers and part of the critics had their
reputation really tarnished as they pushed on the
front scene a writer who was just a plagiarist; they
even forcefully denied the claims made by a critic
and the first author putting these claims on the
account of envy, jealousy...
Yep... until somebody took the pain to read the first
book and publicly reported ( book by an established
but not very celebrated writer- published a few years
The plot and characters were stolen, even the
organization of some chapters and complete written
parts of some others... Conclusion: most of the
supporters did not even bother to check if the claims
were true!
This finally went to court to be settled, and
plagiarism was officially declared.
There is a limit in stealing written matters! There

4.And our final:
in the Asian world, being copied is a form of
recognition. Copies there being open plagiarism.
As a Chinese once told me (not speaking of art) : "If
you produce something of bad reputation, you will not
be copied... Copies are always done of the best and
the most successful things, or brands..."
Well, universalism took a bad shot here...
And yes, most of the Hong Kong movies are copycats of
Western productions, not even bothering to change the
scripts too much. Or mimics of the film forms found
in the West with a total lack of substance.

OK. I stop here. For the petrol, only unleaded

Hard-boiled Mysteries
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