‘Plagiarists speed up the spread of knowledge’

R. Jagannathan, the executive editor of DNA, offers an extraordinary, pinch-yourself, hope-he’s-being-sarcastic defence of plagiarism in today’s paper:

“Now that the buzz has died down, it is time to sit back and look at the whole issue of plagiarism with fresh eyes. I’m sure Aroon Purie, editor-in-chief of India Today, is embarrassed that his lines on Rajnikanth were “lifted” from Grady Hendrix’s article in Slate.com.

“Grady, for his part, has extracted the last ounce of juice from Purie’s discomfiture and subsequent apology, so much so that there is an entire column in Slate devoted to it. Not only did he dissect the apology for elements of contrition (Grady’s verdict: it wasn’t much of an apology), he was cock-a-hoop about it.

“Grady protests too much. He is the one true beneficiary in all this, for plagiarism is the ultimate form of flattery.

“When you quote somebody’s work and attribute it, you are merely acknowledging the source. But when you lift a passage out of someone’s myriad outpourings and pass it off as your own, you are paying him the ultimate tribute. You find the lines so good that you wished you had written it yourself.

“This is not an invitation to Indians to copy someone else’s intellectual output with a clear conscience. We Indians have to learn to respect copyright, as we are too blasé about stealing. But plagiarism does have real (positive) spinoffs: it speeds up the spread of knowledge at the cost of slightly retarding innovation.”

Read the full article: The upside of plagiarism

Link via Ramesh Prabhu


Also read: How to write an editorial when not “jet-lagged”

1 Comment

  1. Mysore Peshva

    Come on, Mr. Jagannathan, that’s a wishy-washy argument, and you know it!

    In addition, you seem to be confusing plagiarism, which is an ethical issue, for copyright, which is a legal principle.

    Copyright protects the exclusive right of an author to benefit commercially from his or her creative work. It is enforced by the courts when the market value of a work is diminished because of unauthorized sale or distribution. Plagiarism, on the other hand, means to pass off someone else’s work as one’s own without citation or attribution — which is what Mr. Poorie did.

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