At USC we have students turn their papers in electronically to a system called Turnitin,com. It automatically checks for plagiarism. So what are we to think about the group of German critics about to award a $20,000 prize to 17 year old novelist, Helene Hegemann, who now admits she lifted whole pages from an earlier book for her novel?
“There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,” said Ms. Hegemann in a statement released by her publisher after the scandal broke.
This reminds me of the arguments from the copyleft, regularly heard in the halls of the academy. One of my graduate students recently left a gathering of these prophets of freedom. This is their argument on why all music and films should be free.
a) “art really doesn’t belong to anyone,” b) “artists shouldn’t be creating for money,” c) “everybody” they know is happy to just to be heard, and d) “everyone” can now make music, movies, art, etc. anyway, so why should some people get paid for it?
I’m sorry, but the cult of the amateur, fueled by this kind of nonsense, has led us to our current “500 channels and nothing on” media landscape. Yes any idiot can put their cat flushing the toilet video up on you tube and call it a movie. Yes any aspiring Lady Gaga clone who can’t sing a lick can post her songs on My Space and show up for an audition of American Idol, convinced they’re a star. But that doesn’t make it so.