by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 2nd 2009 8:20am
A bunch of folks have sent in the story in Cracked, entitled 5 Great Men Who Built Their Careers on Plagiarism, showing how Stephen Ambrose, T.S. Eliot, Martin Luther King Jr., Richard Owen and H.G. Wells all appear to have plagiarized certain major works. As we've discussed in the past, while straight-up plagiarism can hurt someone's reputation in pretty serious ways, we have a bit more trouble condemning "plagiarism" where someone took something and turned it into something different. Jonathan Bailey, a staunch fighter against any type of plagiarism and copyright infringement, has written about the Cracked article, where he notes that the five men listed in the article would have a lot more trouble getting away with the same sort of plagiarism today, suggesting that's a good thing. I'm not sure that's necessarily true. In at least some of the cases of plagiarism listed in the original article, these guys took something someone else had done, but made it more impressive and did a better job getting the world to experience something wonderful. Would the world be better off without some of the works by these five men, even if they didn't necessarily originate from them? I'm not so sure... That's not to say that appropriating the works of others and pretending it's your own is okay. The reputation hit you're likely to take for doing that is pretty severe and not worth it. But I have a hard time believing that the actual final effect on the rest of the world is that bad.
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