wot do u call it?
timothy burke has posted a post on plagiarism, remixing, and originality..
most striking is the problem of talking across media, which may share many characteristics but also have fundamental differences in form and affect and meaning. transposing the different discourses describing and deriving from them is bound to produce confusion, despite suggestive metaphors. i'm not really sure the same arguments hold from literature to music to painting to photoshopping - at least insofar as what constitutes "direct copying"; digital reproduction seems to shift the debate, esp in music (attempts to reconcile such things via 'mechanical' and 'publishing' rights notwithstanding). in a sense, if a radically open sense, these different discourses ideally should apply across arts: every work is a derivative work, though perhaps some to a lesser or greater (explicit) degree.
i think we need to read kaavya viswanathan's stumble with at least two things in mind: 1) that she was writing for/within a corporate publishing industry that is content to rework and repackage the same cliches again and again; and 2) that inspiration, allusion, and - yup - copying are not simply common but fundamental aspects of the creative process. if zadie smith's last book could be sold - and successfully at that - as having "a structure that mimics E. M. Forster’s Howards End" (nymetro), why couldn't viswanathan's be sold - ridiculous as it may sound - as having "a structure that mimics Megan McCafferty’s Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings [update!: and Sophie Kinsella's Can You Keep a Secret?]"? some examples of mimicry are undoubtedly more infused with originality than others, but isn't that for the reader to decide?
all this chatter reminds me yet again of the plight of sample-based music producers - people whose craft depends on direct copying of other people's music and who find themselves, often against their best wishes, unable to give proper attribution to those who provide the grist for their mill. bound by a copyright regime that remains entrenched in 19th century conceptions of "the work," sample-based artists may be better described not so much as thieves as (reluctant, and sometimes cavalier) plagiarists.