“Something Borrowed: Should a charge of plagiarism ruin your life?”
By Malcolm Gladwell
An article from The New Yorker, titled as “Something Borrowed – Should a charge of plagiarism ruin your life?” and written by Malcolm Gladwell, answers the question of how to distinguish between plagiarism and creativity with a real story.
In Section 1, Gladwell begins the story with Dorothy Lewis finding out her personal life has been copied in a Broadway play “Frozen,” written by a Brithis playwright Bryony Lavery. After reading the play script, Lewis discovers both the thematic similarities to her book “Guilty by Reason of Insanity” and the verbatim similarities to her profile “Dammaged,” written by Gladwell. And Lewis is considering a charge of plagiarism.
In Section 2, Gladwell introduces the concept of intellectual-property protection and the trend of plagiarism treated less of ethical notions and more of legal issues. However, after reading the play script, Gladwell feels that “Frozen” is more like a work of art, instead of plagiarism. And he starts to doubt about the plagiarism charge.
In Sections 3 and 4, Gladwell reviews the copyrighted music lawsuits in the past and uses them as references to think about intellectual property in his own case. At its core, the copyright law balances the private and public interests without inhibitting innovation and creativity. The basic distinction is whether borrowing is transformative or merely derivative. At this point, Gladwell realizes that this distinction is the key in Bryony Lavery’s borrowings.
Finally in Section 5, Gladwell narrates the conversation between Lavery and himself, and states the arguments in Lavery’s, Lewis’s, and his own perspectives. He concludes that “Frozen” is not a plagrism and the charge of plagiarism should not ruin Lavery’s, Lewis’s, and his own lives.