Control-C

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It’s all about finding the right word.

When your clothes comes off, intentionally or unintentionally in a public place, it is called “wardrobe malfunction” as if your wardrobe is an I-Pod whose electronics just happened to short itself.

When you have to lie through your teeth to sell your product, it’s not called chicanery any more—the term of choice is “creative marketing”.

I am sorry I should not have used the word “lying”. I meant “liberal with the truth”.

And when the fact that your original work of fiction is not as original as you claim it to be is exposed to the world, it is not called plagiarism now-a-days. Oh no.

It’s “internalizing”.

Yes I am referring to literary superstar 19 year old Kavya Vishwanathan , who signed a book deal for 500K before she was 17 years old, and has now accepted that she borrowed passages from a previously published book.

In her defence, Ms Vishwanathan says:

“While the central stories of my book and hers are completely different, I wasn’t aware of how much I may have internalized Ms. McCafferty’s words. I am a huge fan of her work and can honestly say that any phrasing similarities between her works and mine were completely unintentional and unconscious. My publisher and I plan to revise my novel for future printings to eliminate any inappropriate similarities.

Sepiamutiny puts up some examples of her internalizing and once you go through the “similar lines” your first reaction is: ” Oh it’s just an accident”. Individually, none of the controversial lines, taken by themselves, are directly lifts—a similar sentence structure here, a similar turn of phrase there. However the problem is that there are just too many such instances of similarity to be attributed to coincidence.

Of course, I may just be acting like a male bitch—- no doubt because I am jealous that a 17 year old easy-on-the-eyes Indian lady gets a huge book contract while someone like me who is 30 and big-boned (yes I have mastered the art of linguistic deception) has never gotten within 100 feet of a publisher.

First read the short synopsis of How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life here. (if you don’t know it already).

Then answer this question:Say I had written How Atish Pal Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, a story about Atish Pal (Apal), a boy from Paikpara, Kolkata whose clerk father and schoolteacher mother had brought him up with the sole intention of get into IIT—-shuttling him from one tuition to another till one day he is asked during his “ragging” :

“What do you do for fun?”

At which Apal totally blanks out and goes into shock. Iftikar, the morose doctor tells the parents: In order for Apal to get back to his Timoschenko and Young, he needs to be able to answer this question.

His parents thus have 3 months (summer vacation) in which to get Apal a life.

If I had written this, would this have been published? Would I have been paid $ 500,000? Rs 5 even?

Nope.

I would have had a class action suit from millions of kids in India who would accuse me of having plagiarized…sorry internalized their life story.

I digress. Actually Ms. Vishwanathan has at least been smart. At her age a lot of people take the easy route–like copying passages verbatim with no changes, copy pasting code and changing the variable names from “i” to “j”. Many people much older do it too–i.e. execute the shameless lift: Anu Malik, Bappi Lahiri, Nadeem Shravan being names that automatically come to mind.

But not Ms. Vishwanathan. She has concentrated on sentences rather than passages (i.e a succession of sentences are not consecutively copied) and in each instance of internalization put in her original spin. And you do have to accept— each of her modifications do make sense unlike a guy I know, who during a written exam copied another person’s code and sought to distinguish his answer from the other’ s by replacing each scanf statement with a printf. (For non-C people, that’s like replacing the word “read” with “write”)

Of course, she was naive to source all her stuff from a single author’s book but then again she is just seventeen.

But how can you absolve Farhan Akthar, supposedly one of India’s most talented directors, whose movie “Don” (a remake but a publicly-announced one) has a movie poster that is almost a blind carbon copy of any Matrix promotional material—-the darkness, the tall buildings and the green shade—the exact same shade no less ? [I don’t know if Farhan okayed this but he should—the director should have total creative control over his product and knowing the power he wields I am sure he does] of being unoriginal?

Sorry to say this Mr. Akthar, but even Kavya Vishwanathan would call this a copy.

[More about Kavya Vishawanathan here]

[Update: I come across a forward today highlighting the greatest sledges of all time. And this is what it said about the Amir Sohail-Prasad incident]

Prasad has bowled thousands of deliveries and taken hundereds of wickets in his career but, it was this one granted him a place in the History of Indian Cricket .. for ever… the ghost of Miandad’s last ball six was exorcised, once and for all.

This is what I said, a year ago, about the incident in this post :

Miandad gets run out and is shamefully booed off by the Bangalore crowd….India wins….the ghost of Sharjah is fully exorcised.

Of course it might be me who has internalized and I cannot prove when the other person wrote his piece—however I can assert,(and leave the believing to you readers) that I did not read this forward before I wrote my piece a year ago.

Not a big deal but I make the point so that people like Shrik don’t accuse me of the “internalization”.

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54 thoughts on “Control-C

  1. Sorry GB but this was one of those rare instances where the sequence of comments turned out to be funnier than your (generally superlative) post(s).

    On a more serious note,are there any plans afoot wrt your book?If so pls keep us updated;would def be interested in your book.

  2. Again, Plagiarism is one of those issues where not all is black and white. Any sensitive person gets affected by whatever happens around him – that includes the movies he watches, the books he reads, so on. All that goes towrds forming our own opinions and how we would react in day to day life or visualize a certain situation.

    Of course, copying everything verbatim is obscene.
    Other than that plagiarism has been made too much of an issue these days. And not surprisingly, only when there are huge sums of money involved in it!

    jEDI

  3. And yes … I am eternally grateful for that pic of Mithun-da who appears to be in the throes of a massive climax in your blog banner (which is, by far, one of the funniest I have seen on the net).

    The pic, along with your post (when I had discovered it some time ago) on “Classic Dance of Love”, had made my whole week. It still does and I revisit it regularly from time to time. Thanks again !

  4. “The controversy, however, has given a big boost to the sale of both Kaavya’s How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life and McCafferty’s Sloppy Firsts (2001) and Second Helpings (2003)” – hindustantimes.com

    That’s not at all surprising, but now if we see these two parties settle out of court, the obvious and not implausible conspiracy theory would be that this was all pre-planned between the two authors – or more likely, between their respective publishers – to attempt to boost sales 🙂

  5. bang on! This plagiarism thing is always double edged- there are bloggers who will shamelessly shout ‘ Plagiraism plagiarism in the blogosphere’ using pirated software on their machines…as if their works are nothing short of Somerset Maughm’s novels…all a nice ploy to get public attention.

    But this post was very poignant- think of all those subtle plagirisms that we all did- 1 guy did the assignment- all copied and just changed that wee bit..instead of let the fn be f, make it let the function be g. Then those days when you were copying from someone in the exam and you deliberately did not copy the full thing so that the 2 exams werent similar. I had a friend in school who was a master cheater..used to intersperse history notes with physics chits…and when caught would shout ” they were just lying in my pocket…im not a fool to bring history notes into a physics exam”. Plagiarism is also rampant in the software industry…..coding mostly is copy and paste..rest all is waste…believe it or not.. as a trainee with one of India’s biggest firms, I had to insert several dummy loops to make my program different from the person from whom I was copying. I personally feel GB that that ‘unconscious plagiarism’ is automatically induced into all Madhyamik board students…when they try to write those 10 page history essays after studying from 10 different notes.

    You said, “Individually, none of the controversial lines, taken by themselves, are directly lifts—a similar sentence structure here, a similar turn of phrase there. However the problem is that there are just too many such instances of similarity to be attributed to coincidence.” Nothing could possibly captured the essense of this issue better than those lines. We dont write by plucking ideas out of thin air- but after the effects of reading from many different sources over several years, the effects percolated amalgamate so seamlessly that the ‘output’ is original, merely because the coctail tastes completely different from any of the vital ingredients. In this case, I just feel that the body of literary work that she had read has either been too limited..or she has been too enamored with that particular author and hence the plagiarism shines through. As you say, shes 17 and not yet well versed with the ways of the world.

    And that Atish Pal thing was too good..just 2 good. But strangely such a book may not have a market in India, but it may well be extremely popular in US . It might seem exotic and alien to people here.. life of a ‘nonresident alien’ from Pluto..but to people back home..itll be nothing short of a chronicle of their daily vagaries…so yes…never write such a book…you WILL be sued. And bollywood would case to be bollywood without copying.

    Lastly, a lot of people are asking you to write a book…and I urge to give serious consideration to this…you are a gifted writer blessed with charm and wit. It can be say on a collection of short stories where you have seen traces of Mithunism- eg. like say Amitav Ghosh’s ‘Incendiary circumstances’; or it can be say your chronicle of life and times of an Indian youth in the 80’s and 90’s and how people like you defined an era (example- the book Liar’s poker ) . But whatever it is, your first book should not be a novel – that can come later when you age and get more wise-I can guarantee you that you will be an extremely successful writer. Can you imagine the feeling of seeing your book being sold like hot cakes on a cold Calcutta afternoon at the book fair in 2010? A stray thought- Is today’s Sunil Ganguly the GB of 2040?

  6. Great post GB. And very relevant too.

    However, my personal opinion on plagiarism is a bit different. When somebody uses material created by me found in the Internet, and acknowledges my contribution, it’s fine. Even if they don’t acknowledge my contribution, it’s fine. But when they claim that material to be their own creation, then it becomes unacceptable. This has actually happened to me recently, someone else used photographs taken by me and indirectly claimed they were his own. I refrain from explaining further as the said person is a close friend.

    @Yourfan2: I don’t think the issue of piracy is admissible here. The intent of plagiarism is sheer laziness to write original things and intention to make quick bucks riding on someone else’s work. However, piracy, in many cases, is encouraged by the software companies themselves by obscene pricing of their products, and the buyer is forced to opt for the pirated version. In a different domain, take the example of JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” which was released at Rs.890 per copy. A week later, it was being sold on the footpaths at Rs.150 per copy. Whose fault is it? If the original was Rs.300, I’d never look at the pirated one.

  7. Isn’t trying to show that a poster is copied when the movie itself is a remake kinda redundant? Farhan will cite ‘inspiration’ and heck, he might be right. He even might go ahead and claim it to be a movie like Matrix…that will get a few more ppl in the theater even if it is to prove him wrong. No publicity is bad publicity for the movies. Now, go look at the poster for Brokeback Mountain and tell me it doesn’t remind you of a poster from a certain sinking ship movie.

  8. Opal: “You didn’t write that yourself, did you” ?
    Jeff: “Well… I suppose I did”

    — HOMGKGWGAL (Page 118)

    They were discussing posters – rhyming couplets about dangers of drug abuse and drinking that bear a striking similarity with Rushdie’s funny and clever road signs in Haroun and the sea of stories . So she did leave some hints for discerning readers.

    The example that really pained me was the one where she substituted a Psych class with Human evolution class while talking about Personal Space . Which evolution theory deals with Personal Space and which subconscious internalization process replaces the Psych keyword with a totally inappropriate one and leaves all the other words in the sentence intact?

    Please give a second thought to writing Atish Dipankar Pal’s saga – how he visits Sonagachhi to learn about sex and how he immerses himself into Dr. Greatbong’s crash course: “A dummie’s guide to Bollywood kernel”. I promise I will buy 5, no no 3, copies. And don’t be misled by the direct quote from KV’s book. I did not buy it, just internalized it from a quick and free Barnes and Noble browsing session. You know, some people have photographic memories.

  9. Internalised?right!
    how did she think she’d get away with it in this age?
    u can only get away plus become a rage only in bollywood or Ekta Kapoor nonsense.and research not to forget where u can contradict urself all over the place every 3 months and keep stealing ur students’ work at all times brazenly!
    Dont bother with Ashit write a bollywood script a dash of all our idols in a perfect blend.we all readers will try and produce that film.

    @SPYDER MANN: better? no best!

  10. OOOFFF, the media….!!!
    I just don’t understand one thing : Why put the blame only on the poor little girl when a large fraction of ‘CREATIVE’ Indians (Anu Malik, Bappi Lahiri, Vikram Bhatt, Sanjay Gupta etc etc to name a few ) have made it a tradition to be ‘INSPIRED’ by someone else’s work….so much ‘INSPIRED’ as to copy it in to-to.

    When Veerender Sehwag first came to play for India, his bating style (stunce, backlift, strokes and even some body-movements like touching the abs for checking whether the abdomen-guard is at the appropriate position or has shifted) looked much the same as Sachin Tendulkar’s. Veeru then had admitted that he indeed was so influenced by Sachin that he had developed a batting style like him by trying to copy him. Can this be called plagiarism?

    Kaavya Viswanathan, too, has admitted ‘INTERNALIZING’ Megan McCafferty. She at least didn’t claim this to be her ‘original style which may have been by co-incidence used by someone else before’ like Anu Malik and the like do.
    I personally feel instead of threatening to sue Kaavya or being so harsh on her , being a senior author , McCafferty should have encouraged her and may be could have given her a piece of advice not to copy from someone else’s work so evidently. In fact, McCafferty should have felt proud about her own work that someone could get so very much influenced and inspired by her novels that she used her quotes, languages and style in her own novel. Any writer should be proud of having such readers.

    @ Arnab :
    A good take on this issue. 🙂

    Loved the Atish Pal part. 🙂

    Man!!! What a co-incidence ! I was thinking about writing a post on this poster of Farhan Akhtar’s DON. Good that you did. 🙂 After I saw it yesterday for the first time, I thought may be it was a goof-up by the publishers to publish a still from Matrix with an article on Don. Then I visited some other sites and saw the same picture everywhere and looking closely at it, SRK could very well be recognized.

  11. Now, how novice should I call such a publicity stunt. Had it not been for this controversy, I wouldn’t in my life have moved my eyes towards this book. But no, this book as already hyped has made the population agog about it, collecting its due(or perhaps undue) worth.

    And in that sense Farhan Akhtar too is not letting go that poster without his notice. Even that’s a planned starategy to let people ostentate their penchant for a movie like ‘Matrix’ in public by saying ‘Hey look that poster resembles closely to that of Matrix!’, as if the listeners din’t already know that.

    So,all in all these are just different versions of contentious advertising to make your presence feel to the rest of the world.

  12. C’mon guys…. is this soooo bad???? Rnt v giving additional publicity to whats obviously a carefully orcastrated pulicity stunt??? Both parties are laughing all the way to the bank as scandalised masses buy the books to find the similarities… Smart 🙂

  13. So before it is pointed out by your horde of readers – yes, my blogging name (the ‘bong’ part at least) was totally ‘inspired’ by you. I must have internalized your blog too much.

    Btw, I think ‘internalized’ is such a funny word to use in this case – sounds like a physiological digestive process.

    Atish Pal – careful with the name here……bears an uncanny resemblance to someone you know 😉 (the life story is also somewhat similar upto a point. Heh!)

  14. I totally agree with & second Dipanjan when he asks you to publish “A dummie’s guide to Bollywood kernel.”
    I promise I’ll buy 10 copies (pirated of course) to gift to all my friends! 😉

    Jokes apart, I think young Ms. Vishwanathan will discover that stupidity extracts a high price, once you are a celebrity!

    Of course, for someone whose blog is a “point, quote & comment” journal, I can’t be too critical of such figures (except when it comes to the money they’ve earned!)

  15. Well, loved your post.

    Know your views on plagiarism..oops sorry Internalising through an earlier post on Sanjay Gupta. So, no surprises there.

    Atish Pal–Well do write about himm ..Maybe one day, one of the publishers might just move their eyes from seventeen year olds and allow you to come within their circle..

    Cheers,
    HP

  16. @Ron: Its not that everything I write is meant to be laugh-out-loud “funny”—there is sometimes social commentary mostly driven by different shades of outrage. I am sorry though that you did not like this post.

    As to my book, I dont know how it works—write book first and then shop for publisher or publisher comes to me and then I write the book.

    @jEDI: What you are saying is not the point under discussion here. Sure everyone gets influenced by everything around them—however in this case it is pretty obvious what has happened–isn’t it? I also don’t agree that plagiarism has been made too much of an issue: it is indeed something that we Indians are morally lax about. And I am not talking about a bit of copying during exams —I am talking about writing novels/research papers which are smartly/stupidly plagiarized.

    @PaddyK: Thank you…but seriously it would be plagiarism if every two posts, we start seeing similar sentence structure or similar organization of ideas….and as to those Mithun-da pictures, I took screenshots from the Classic DOL VCD—these images were just too amazing.

    @Debashish: Not an implausible conspiracy theory. Only that Kavya is under serious threat of being expelled from Harvard as of today.

    @Anon: Ahem.

    @yourfan2: I fully agree with your thesis that plagiarism is implicitly approved in our education system—teachers want to see students copy their essays from P Acharya’s horrid book….they never put their foot down when they see whole classes memorizing the same essay and puking it down on their answer sheets—-it is actually the guy who tries to be original who is punished (have seen this myself).

    I have a book idea—-basically a collection of essays—-we may discuss this over mail sometime.

    @Joy Forever: Well your idea of plagiarism is very lax—I would be very pissed off if material on this blog appeared anywhere else with my name removed. Which incidentally has happened—my Ganguly post was forwarded to me with my name removed. I would be even more pissed if someone tried to monetarily profit from my original work.

    @Patrix: No it isn’t. Farhan Akthar makes a remake of a movie and acknowledges its source—keeps the same name in fact. There is nothing intellectually dishonest with that. However copying the poster idea from Matrix is. Is there any footnote on that poster citing the source? I think not. Most Indians have no idea of Matrix—(I am not talking about the so-called multiplex crowd) and will be impressed by the “cool look” of the poster. Which sends a message that the movie will also be “cool”. This is profiting from someone else’s work without acknowledgement—–in other words plagiarism.

    @Dipanjan: Thats good—Mr Publisher are you listening?

    @SpyderMann: 🙂

    @Varsha: I also wonder how she thought she could get away with this.

    @deBoLIN: Have to disagree. Sehwag plays on his own calibre—-if he picks his bat up like Sachin there is no plagiarism there. Because we are all free to try Sachin’s bat swing and we still would be dud batsmen. However all of us can be Dickens if we copy him. She said she never copied McCafferty and subconsciously internalized her work—-which frankly is a big steaming bowl of BS. Which is why noone buys it. And just because Anu Malik is a bigger cheat, does not in any way justify Kavya Vishwanathan’s actions.

    @Shishir: I doubt the typical Indian movie go-er (note “typical” ) has ever seen a poster of Matrix.

    @Rahul: Again I dont think that being kicked out from Harvard U may have been part of the plan.

    @An Ideal Boy: 🙂

    @BongoPondit: Yes it sure sounds like that. As regarding to Atish Pal, I might have internalized the name of the person you allude to….;-)

    @Just Mohit: Good. 5 copies for Dipanjan, 10 copies for you. I can just smell another Da Vinci code in the making.

    @HP: Maybe. Just maybe. Also I need to do a few body-modifying operations so that people dont even dream of comparing me with that Saptak guy (1st comment on the post)

  17. Onething’s sure.. Kavya hasn’t drafted that apology note. It reeks much od blatant lawyer speak… Your take on writing a book on similar line was damn funny. Indeed an Indian publisher woyld have asked you to get a life !!

    Kavya can consider writing Bollywood scripts once she graduates from Harvard.. Bhatt brothers/ Abbas-Mastan would give an arm to “Internalize” a Hollywood script.

  18. GB, I agree with you on one point. We live in a culture that thrives on epuhemisms but to assume that “internalizing” only means “copying” is too limiting.

    For example, any art student will tell you that Renaissance painters were required to spend years in apprenticeship under a Master. During this period, they were required to “internalize” the Master’s style. They would sometimes even be called upon to produce knock-offs (signed by the Master, of course) for patrons who could not afford to pay top florins or guilders. It was how they learned the craft. Today, we can call these works “copies”, but the process did involve more than just producing a facsimile.

    Maybe it’s a matter of semantics, maybe it comes down to the artist’s intentions. Either way, it’s not easy to say what exactly happened in this writer’s case.

  19. GB: It simply boils down to this. Plagiarism is no big deal really and as you correctly point out we are lax about it. Some people are good at switching/changing around the original content (in Bollywood-speak this is called getting “inspired”) and some use it verbatim. Doesnt really make one a whole lot different from the other.

    However, the point I’m making is that we only seem to notice these things when ..ahem.. someone for instance gets a book contract or stands to make a good sum of money 🙂

    I do agree with you for the most part. I only insist that most people do it. Its only a matter of degree 🙂

  20. LOL! I didn;t know about this Kaavya episode at all! Well, to be fair, as most of us in a doctoral program are taught(subtly ofcourse) “you learn to be a true academic when you master the art of plagiarising smartly – with citations..”..

  21. LOL! I didn;t know about this Kaavya episode at all! Well, to be fair, as most of us in a doctoral program are taught(subtly ofcourse) “you learn to be a true academic when you master the art of plagiarising smartly – with citations..”..

  22. Don’t you just love political correctness? It’s a hoot. But I think, despite all the taunts, it’s taking over the world all the same, so we should really work even harder at being politically incorrect. Whatcha say?

  23. We all get “inspired” every now and then by other people’s works…I mean look at Bollywood, it practically runs on inspiration! Vasu Bhagnani made a career out of producing movies which are inspired from B-grade Hollywood romantic comedies. Sanjay Leela Bhansali took truck-loads of awards by making Black which was inspired by The Miracle Worker. Even great composers like RD Burman, Bappi Lahiri and Anu Malik has succumbed to “inspiration” from western or regional music from time to time! It’s okay to get inspired…but do it smartly. In Bengali there’s a saying “Churi bidya maha bidya, jodi na poro dhora!” Loosely translated, it means “Stealing is a great art, till you get caught”!

    Talking of Bappi Lahiri and his inspired works, reminds me of another Lahiri. I read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies sometime in late 1999. It was such an amazing book; completely unputdownable! As a fellow Bong, I was so proud when she got the Pulitzer Prize…she certainly deserved it!

    A few years later I stumbled upon an article in an in-flight magazine about contemporary Sri Lankan literature. It also provided a list of authors and their works. I managed to get hold of a few of the titles and one of them was Monkfish Moon by Romesh Gunesekera, a Sri Lankan writer based in London. He made his debut with this collection of nine short stories in 1992.

    But something bothered me while reading the book, specially the story “Captives”; a story about Mr Udaweera, the owner of a newly opened guest house near Sigiriya, and his first guests, an English couple. Udaweera assumes they are on their honeymoon, and goes out of his way to help them, eventually overstepping the thin line between hospitality and emotional involvement. There was a great similarity between Mr Udaweera and Mr Kapasi of “Interpreter of Maladies”. Both are guides in exotic historical monuments and both are enchanted by a tourist woman with a secret of her own.

    In the story ‘Batik’, Gunesekera depicts the disintegration of the interracial marriage between Tiru (Tamil) and Nalini (Sinhala) in their self-imposed exile in a nondescript London terraced house. They are able to physically escape the ethnic carnage of the 1983 riots, but not their emotional or psychological effects. In essence it was very close to the slow and unspoken death of a marriage in “A Temporary Matter”.

    In fact, the similarities were so glaring that I read both books back to back once again. Both had nine stories each, about an ethnic group (Bengalis and Sri Lankans) in different parts of the world. And several stories had the same essence. Yet nobody can accuse Jhumpa Lahiri of plagiarism, because she didn’t “lift” any passage, nor did she blatantly copy a story idea. Hers was an “inspired” bit of writing, which made her a lot more famous than Romesh Gunesekera, (and definitely a lot richer!) And she’s way smarter than Kaavya Vishwanathan, who should learn from Ms Lahiri how to “internalize” without getting caught!

    Heard that there are plans for a film on Opal Mehta. I wonder if the studio who bought the rights will back out because of this controversy. Most probably not—after all, this fiasco gives the book the kind of publicity that money cannot buy.

  24. Big-boned? The art of linguistic deception? That’s about right, ‘cos THAT’S PLAGIARISM TOO! HAHAHAHA! You sir, ‘internalized’ that line straight out of Eric Cartman’s mouth, you Kaavya, you 😛

  25. Give her a break! We cudn’t have passed History in Std 10 without ‘internalizing’.. and this girl is in Harvard!! I think she should be given a some leeway here 😉 .

  26. @Joy Forever- 🙂 When you say that software prices / book prices are obscenely high to justify piracy, you are really missing the point. Without even meaning the slightest disrespect for you or your views, it is ingrained in the psychology of people like you and me that we can buy pirated cds , books etc (casettes in my time) without any feeling of compunction(specially in India). However English teachers in schools have extolled the virtues of original work and condemned plagiraism in such scathing terms that you consider it a crime. Not that I dont support pirated music/ books…nor do I encourage plagiarism. But say you blog on Shakespeare and a student says,” the guide books are obscenely costly and hence ill use a free tool like google” to get into your webpage and plagirize your stuff. By your logic, he’s therefore not guilty. Why I wrote that sentence was beacuse i have seen several instances of some specific bloggers creating mountain out a molehill for personal benefit an popularity of their fledgling blogs(wont take names though 🙂 ). Say we have 2 bloggers , one famous and one not so. The former finds 2 lines similar to his work in the latter’s work and shouts ‘ thief’ . The mob carried over by the herd mentality goes to the latter’s blog and abuses him like anything. The stock of the former rises. If its a genuine case then its fine, but I was the latter blogger and not guilty , i would have challenged the former ‘ hey bugger, you think you are the only one can write those lines? Cant this be a coincidence? ‘. Therefore my line was directed towards those kind of bloggers with that kind of cheap mentality. And when I find those bloggers not exactly condemning piracy in equal terms, I smell double standards…you see my point?

    By the way , you friend deserves nothing short of a kick in his arse for his ‘friendly’ behaviour.

  27. @Amit: Well I dont know about that—however all her books are being withdrawn: which I am sure is something the lawyers have advised .

    @KM: Reproducing the work of a Renaissance artist so much so that it is impossible to distinguish the fake from the original is in itself an art. However selecting with a mouse, Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V is something all of us can do and needs no expertise whatsoever. That is the only distinction.

    @Shreeyomoyee: And why do we need to get a life? Because we blog in general. Or because we blog about plagiarism?

    @Anon: 🙂

    @JeDI: Again the difference is the amount of effort being put in. I am fine with adaptations and genuine inspirations—it is the direct lift and the smart lift (cosmetic changes) that I am concerned about.

    @Sudo Phish: Citations are precisely so that people don’t think that the statement you made was original.

    @Sue: Being politically correct isnt the bad thing…for instance if calling someone “challenged” rather than “handicapped” makes him feel better I am all for it. But this is using soothing words to hide something rather distasteful….”collateral damage” for example.

    @Nautilus: Very interesting…very interesting.

    @Shrik: In your eager haste to “take me down” you forgot to “internalize” what this post was saying. Each of these euphemisms I have used (“creative marketing”, “wardrobe malfunction” etc) are used rather commonly nowadays—-there was no originality claimed in the coining of any of them (far from it, the point was exactly the opposite).

    Similarly with the word “big boned”—-the reason South Park makes fun of that word is simply because it is something which a lot of Americans themselves use to paper over their obesity problem: in that case South Park has also internalized (intentionally) a word used in everyday speak.

    @Ali: We did it because there was no other way—that is the education system made us. She did not do this for an exam but to get 500,000 USD. That’s what the difference is.

    @Just Mohit: Pallika Bazar of course along with the “Loha” CDs and the Monisha Koirala MMS clip.

  28. Why I should get a life? Mainly because much thought and ink has been spent on a teenager who was stupid enough to think she could pass of unoriginal work with a bit of face lift. Not to say that her age excuses the folly but the outcry is more a matter of scales. Would I have thought as much if my local Hindi publisher claimed that Ms.XYZ has been found out lifting passages of say Premchand? I would have felt disgusted at the audacity of the person, read a small clipping that TOI would have unfailingly dedicated to her ( though this is a Hindi book now and not one tenth as glamorous as an Opal Mehta, so don’t know if TOI thinks thats read worthy) and moved on. But we are talking about a second generation Indian in the U.S with a Harvard stamp and commission from an International publisher. So then it’s a fantastic scandal and a book with a name long and lame enough to compete with our own Hindi movies gets all this attention.

  29. I think plagarism is not really such a big deal and wrote about it some time back. However, Chetan (you may want to read his comment) made an excellent point to my post regarding the way we treat plagarized written media and other forms of media.

    I think we as humans only have a problem with some form of plagarizing. Eg – As long as everyone loves the song “Woh Lamhe” from Zeher, nobody complained too much that its a copy of a Paki song 🙂 – its only when there are high stakes, that plagarism becomes an issue as such.

    Suyog

  30. Er, was my tone too accusing? ‘Cos I certainly didn’t mean it that way. Relax man, I get all the stuff. Just thought I’d make an ‘internalization’ discovery myself 😛

  31. @Shreemoyee

    Actually yeah. Anybody in the public (and in this case, global) eye has a sort of ‘social responsibility’. One could vaguely draw parallels to any other case involving a celebrity. Granted Kaavya’s technically not yet a celebrity, for the right reasons at least, but bear with me.

    Salman Khan’s drunk driving case, for e.g.

    A public figure’s wrongdoing carries greater weight (and obviously, media attention) than any Joe Schmoe’s.

    Your bud making a racist joke while at lunch together is vastly different from, say, George W Bush making the exact same joke.

  32. Shrik: Social responsibility is not a cross on shoulders of just prominent personalities. A racist joke, plagiarism, running over people is as much condemnable by a person in the public eye as any insignificant un-newsworthy person. Social responsibility is not a glitzy dress a person thinks of donning, the moment newspapers decide to spend some ink on him at a party premiere, its a trait of a person. I am just saying, keep the scales of judgement same for all.

  33. Shreemoyee:

    I’m not saying the retribution should be different. All I’m saying is that the relative importance of the misdemeanour is increased in the case of a public figure, precisely because they’re that. Hence the increased eyeballs.

    These people need to be politically correct. When everything one says or does is splashed prominently across the papers, one needs to take extra care to ensure that one says/does the ‘correct’ thing.

    Bouquets and brickbats on an equal scale.

    This female gets BUCKETLOADS of hype for something she’s done supposedly well, so if it turns out she hasn’t really done it, well, she deserves to eat the same BUCKETLOADS of crow.

    If your Premchand-copying auntyji had gotten a phat advance from the publisher, and Karan Johar had paid her for the rights to make a movie, and then this writer gets busted, then yeah – shit, meet fan. But if all she ever does is submit this ‘internalized’ work to J. Arbit Hindi Magazine, then.. umm..it’s more like cat-poop, meet swaying banana leaf. If that.

    p.s: I’m not saying Karan Johar will ever make a Premchand-type movie.

  34. Great post Arnab!

    In this case, Kaavya can be both right and wrong, rather, wrong and not wrong! Like u mentioned, if u consider the cases of hundreds of Filmmakers who copy (I remember your other article which was similar, zinda buddha beta! :)), she is not at all wrong compared to them. On the other hand, while all these happen in India, in kaavya’s case, It has happened in the US, where plagiarism laws are pretty strict, maybe unlucky may be the right word to describe her situation. What say?

    Speaking of plagiarism, the 1st thing that came to my mind was Karan Razdan complaining about Mahesh Bhatt of stealing his story, “Hawas”, when he himself had taken the story from “Unfaithful”!! what level of internalization is this??

  35. I take your point, sometimes it helps to use, well, euphemisms. But they are overused and confuse the issue. A couple of generations later, folks will require a special dictionary just to decipher what we meant when we said the convoluted things we did. Since the emphasis these days is on clearer and cleaner communication, you can understand why I find this whole thing so ironic.

    To use your own example, I’m fine with ‘challenged’ instead of handicapped. But when you use ‘specially abled’, you may be implying that they can do things ‘regular’ people can’t. Sometimes they can, such as blind folks having sharper hearing etc. but it’s not always so. That’s what I mean by overuse. I’ve worked with folks with disabilities and by and large they don’t much care what they are called so long as they are treated right. And most feel terms such as ‘specially abled’ are patronising.

    You see, somewhere we must draw a firm line.

  36. This whole Kaavya thing really really pisses me off. Porquoi? Lemme tell you. Kaavya’s level of pinching, while inexcusable in context, is no greater than what I would expect of a creative writing student who’s OD’d on romance novels like the Princess Diaries, Can You Keep a Secret and the McCafferty books (all implicated in her borrowings). She reached Little Brown not through her own merits but through a book packager called (har har HAR!) Alloy Entertainment. Who (surprise surprise!) had also worked on McCafferty’s books: in fact the same editor was fulsomely thanked in both cases (since left company: yeah right). How did KV contact book packager? because she went to a career manager to get her into harvard, which apparently she couldn’t do under her own steam and needed 20K US of tuition to pull off (how dumb is that?) Career manager took one look at her Harvard entrance application essay and shipped it to Alloy. Now, the level of plag. in her book would be unremarkable in standard Mills & Boon type romance novels which are in any case written to a template often by consortia, or in the case of run of the mill potboiler chick lit which barely bobs up in the bestseller lists before the Next Big Thing displaces it. But Alloy upped the ante with the 500K advance which got everyone on KV’s case. and voila! out popped the borrowings. Amazing what a difference oodles of cash make to the moral standing of a crime.
    And BTW, i do think what she did was wrong. I do think it’ll make life more difficult for serious writers. but i don’t think it was entirely her fault. How many kids at seventeen (esp wealthy children of indulgent parents) can deal with this kind of c**p?

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