[FoRK] The Kaavya Viswanathan ("Harvard Novelist") plagiarism case

Stephen D. Williams < sdw at lig.net > on > Tue Apr 25 14:19:46 PDT 2006

I can see how someone could reuse language in a similar way and style 
without realizing that it was too close.  We all pattern our speech and 
writing, at least at some point and some ways, on things we have heard 
or read.  I sometimes realize that I regurgitate an exact line from a 
movie, usually to an oblivious audience, because the situation called 
for exactly the same sentiment.

Actually, it's a bit funny that anyone using contemporary speech would 
have to copy famous lines from known works, not to plagiarize but to be 
realistic about how certain people talk.

The detection service would also be useful to writers to know when 
they've matched something.  The negative would be to prevent true 
coincidental use which is actually protected.


Matt Jensen wrote:
> Two thoughts.
> 1. Just an interesting coincidence: this past weekend was the biannual 
> used book sale for the Seattle Public Library.  There was a copy of 
> "Sloppy Firsts" (which I'd never heard of) sticking out like a sore 
> thumb in a section in which it clearly didn't belong.
> 2. Who's going to offer the plaigarism-detection farm?  After a number 
> of high-profile plaigarism cases in the last decade, I'd think there 
> would be a good market for a service that accepts a book draft, 
> compares it to a few million existing titles, and spits out suspicious 
> overlaps.  The customers would be publishers (and maybe literary 
> agents).  There are services for checking college term papers, so why 
> don't book publishers do this?
> Matt Jensen
> http://mattjensen.com
> Seattle
> Quoting Rohit Khare <rohit at commerce.net>:
>>> Suspicion enveloped the precocious college sophomore Kaavya  
>>> Viswanathan yesterday after The Harvard Crimson reported that  
>>> passages in her newly published debut novel, which helped earn her  
>>> a $500,000 deal from Little, Brown, are "strikingly similar" to
>>> ...
>>>  "Sloppy Firsts" (Crown), a 2001 novel by Megan F.  McCafferty, the 
>>> author of three novels and a former editor at  Cosmopolitan. One 
>>> 14-word passage appears in both books, The  Crimson reported.
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