Monday, February 27, 2006

Deciphering the Code of Plagiarism

In light of our class's recent discussion of plagiarism, I found this article very well timed: "'Da Vinci Code' Author Accused in London".

Dan Brown, author of the popular book "The Da Vinci Code," has been accused of plagiarism. Specifically, Mr. Brown's trial will be heard in London's High Court due to a supposed lifting of "ideas and themes" from a 1982 Random House published book entitled, "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail."

Mr. Brown's defense argues that Random House, in its suit, is attempting to claim a "monopoly on ideas or historical debate." Mr. Brown has been sued before for other alleged copyright infringement. Does this particular case highlight just how fine the line of plagiarism can be drawn? At what point can someone write about a somewhat well known piece of conspiracy theory and still claim the tale to be his own? If it is determined that Mr. Brown indeed plagiarised, how much of the profits of his wildly successful book must be surrendered--and what constitutes just compensation? After all, some of the "Da Vinci Code" must have been Brown's work alone, if not most of it. Will he be stripped of everything he's earned on account of the accusations?

Also, and seemingly most important, does the public even care? Noting the upcoming release of the Hollywood movie inspired by Brown's book, will plagiarism affect the book's already massive clout and popularity? I have a feeling that the average American wants entertainment, tinged with conspiracy, and he or she does not care whose sources were used and abused in the making. If I'm right, does this attitude create (or has it created) an environment in which lifting others' ideas and concepts is acceptable?

Lastly, I pose this question: are we out of good, money-making blockbuster concepts for movies and books to the extent that we must borrow from the tried-and-true? Look at the flood of sequels and remakes (read: rehashes) at the box office. Can we entertain with entirely original ideas anymore?

I encourage you to read the article and formulate your own answers to these questions.


Kelly said...

I am very intrigued by your example of yet another current author caught in the tricky web of plagiarism. It is especially interesting because Mr. Brown is going to trial with a large publishing company, Random House, but far most interestingly at the conservative London High Court. It does seem a bit unfair to consider that none of the work could be his own in “Da Vinci Code” especially with the following it has created. I think that the creativity of the author is the only way large a large group of people would be inspired to share their thoughts and spend their money.

On the other hand, it does seem that the general public could care less what happens to the author; they are more concerned, as in this situation, as to whether they will still be able to see the movie. I do not know if the plagiarism will affect Mr. Brown’s popularity or his famous book’s selling power. It seems the American public is especially fickle when it comes to such trifles.

As it goes, one can only wait and see how this ship goes down. For the record I appreciated Mr. Brown’s story and feel the use of language was his own unique style. Yet again, however, I must ask, “Where is the plagiarism line; what does it look like? “