April 27, 2006

Miss Harvard Gets a Lesson

Teenager and Miss Haar-vaaaard undergraduate, with a half-million dollar book deal under her belt has been caught plagiarizing, in her very first novel. Apparently she had difficulties coming up with her own plot lines … and words.

Read a summary here, and look out for witty quote from an English Professor at the end of the piece.

Each of the three books involved in this little fracas are obviously aimed at teenaged girls, so it’s not as though we’re examining hoity toity literature or anything, but it’s still fascinating to see how the plagiarizing Miss Haar-vaaaard takes the original crisp and well paced text and mangles it into something ponderous and awkward.

For a few shinny moments Miss Haar-vaaaard had a shit load of money, the world at her feet and her entire radiantly successful life ahead of her. Ooops, where did the world go?

Stooopid girl.

Update: the book by Miss Haar-vaaaard has finally been pulled off the shelves, however:

“Little Brown (publishers) has said the book will be revised as quickly as possible.” (The Weekend Australian, 29-30 April 2006)


By whom, we wonder:

It would seem that Miss Haar-vaaaard may not have been the only person to have verbatim “internalized” two entire books by another author. A “book packager”, going by the new name of Alloy Entertainment, helped Miss Haar-vaaaard to:

“conceptualise and map out the plot. Although there has been no suggestion the actual writing was done by anyone other than Viswanathan, it is highly unusual for fiction to be packaged this way, suggesting that the author was regarded as a marketing opportunity as much as a writer.” (The Age, 29 April 2006)

No suggestion that “the actual writing” was done by anyone else, and yet, for reasons not explained by anyone, the copyright for the book is held jointly between Miss Haar-vaaaard and the President of Alloy Entertainment, Leslie Morgenstein. Now that’s an unusual copyright arrangement.


  1. Anonymous2:07 PM

    Hey Caz.. Here's a witty comment from the plagiarist herself. Having finally admitted that she did read McCafferty's novels a few years back, she euphemistically declared "I wasn't aware of how much I may have internalised Ms McCafferty's words". Yeah ..honey. Tell that to the fairies at the bottom of the garden!!

  2. Internalized is the new plagiarized.

    That girl isn't the only stooopid one in this story. What about the idiot editors & publishers involved in this deal?

  3. Its amazing how psychiatry gives a language for such behaviour.

    Personally, I think that plagarisim is reprehensible. I mean what about the idiot editors & publishers involved in this deal?

  4. Kathy - thanks for that quote, I hadn't seen it.

    Yers, I think we can all agree that appropriating the language of psychiatry isn't necessarily too far off the mark, ironically, but I suspect it was only because she couldn't find a word of her own.

    Publishers are becoming a bit like used car sales people - can't trust them about anything.

  5. Apologies to cube. I introjected his comments by mistake.

  6. OMG - Captain - a second apology, quick smart - Cubicle is a charming & beautiful woman, with very fine lines, as you can tell, yes?

    I'm sure we can all forgive your introjecting, on this, or any other occasion.

  7. Dear me! I am so sorry! Its straight off to self-flagellation for me. No, I think I'll chemically dissociate instead.

  8. psydoc, you should be flogged until you drop ;-) Just kidding. No offense taken.

  9. BTW, thank you caz for that lovely (and oh so accurate) description of my polyhedron self ;-)

  10. Speaking of plagiarisers from Harvard, a couple of weeks ago I read a fairly famous plagiarism called 'Bored of the Rings' by 'The Harvard Lampoon' (actually Henry Beard and Douglas Kennedy who are, I think, contemporaries of P.J. O'Rourke).

    I think it qualifies, since most of the basic plot elements are the same, and it says itself that its purpose was to 'make a quick buck'.
    Though I'm not sure that the plagiarism is as nasty or mean-spirited as the case cited here ...

  11. I thought Bored of the Rings was more satirical in nature. Idon;t know that it would qualify as plagiarism.

  12. Satirists can get away with more. A lot of their tricks rely on reusing ideas/quotes/characters, but putting them in an unfamiliar context to get laughs.

    'Bored of the Rings' shares the general plot structure and some of the quotes of the Tolkein original.

    It's not exactly plagiarism, but it's not exactly original, either. I'd be interested to know if Tolkein read it, and, if he did, what he made of it. Seems to me that a lot of the pop culture references and the American nature of the jokes would have gone over his head; on the other hand, there's a lot of classical references in there, too, that other readers would have missed.

  13. An awful lot of people would suddenly be out of work if satire was reclassified as plagarism. And yet, the satarist does make a living off the original efforts of others - I'd never really looked at it like that.

    Then again, most people never have an original idea, so pretty much everyone exploits the ideas of others, one way or another - well, you only have to go so far as looking at most blogs (except for the Mummy blogs & the poetry blogs, which are all, clearly, fully the original work of the owners).

    I don't think it's difficult to distinguish plagerism from satrie, or sloppy work, or whatever. It's still a fairly easy call - most plagerists aren't nearly as clever as they think they are & people aren't as dumb and gulible as the plagarist imagines.

  14. Some years back, CNN considered suing the Chaser on the grounds that the title 'CNNNN' was a breach of copyright - and also, presumably, because their brand of commercialised news was being so effectively parodied.

    A more remarkable case happened when the Fox network considered suing itself. It seems Fox news was offended by a parody of Fox news that appeared on The Simpsons. Apparently, a character is watching Fox News, and the headline appears at the bottom of the screen: 'It's official: Democrats cause cancer'.

    Neither of these examples were really plagiarism, but it was typical of the networks being parodied that they treated it as if it were plagiarism.
    I think a lot of satirists are aware that there is a fine line, which is one reason why they are so fond of puns, veiled references, and so on. It's all part of the fun, really.

  15. Actually, I'm not sure if my use of the term 'plagiarism' is quite right here, possibly the cases I describe above would come under another legal definition. Slander, perhaps?

  16. Timmy - I'm thinking theft of intellectual property, which is a nice broad term.

    Cadbury chocs have just failed in suing Darrell Lee chocs over the use of the colour purple. Not sure what the basis of the case was though - terminology wise - other than Cadbury arguing that everyone associates purple with their brand. Brand infringement? Not a good example, as it was a pretty dumb case. Who would walk into a Darrell Lee shop to buy Cadbury chocs?

    When you think about it, it's not uncommon for people to be threatened with law suits for taking the piss out of some brand, or image or business. If the send up is any good, it would usually be flying pretty close to the wind, using familiar terminology, charactaristics, naming converntions - as with The Chaser guys. It's a fine line.

    The gamble is whether a business will draw further attention by taking legal action, or if they are better served by copping it sweet and at least pretending that they have a robust sense of humour.

  17. The Simpsons, in particular, toe the line quite effectively. They had a brilliant send up of the Mary Poppins song 'A Spoonful of Sugar'. The lyrics went:

    If you cut every corner,
    It's really not so bad,
    Everybody does it,
    Even Mum and Dad,
    If nobody sees it,
    Then nobody gets mad:
    It's the American way.

    Everybody knew that it was sending up Mary Poppins, but there was no way that Disney could sue, because the music was different. In fact, the melody used in The Simpson's was the reverse of the melody used in the Poppins film (Simpsons melody - rising up; Poppins melody - falling down).

    They must have quite a talented team of writers and composers to be able to get away with that kind of thing.

  18. Indeed, I am familiar with the episode, and the ditty.

    How intriguing about the music, instantly recognisable, but perhaps because we already had the context, that is the Poppins character, it sounds the way it should.

    The scripting is so darned clever (hey, the damned characters have been the same age for a decade; they never progress - zilch, zip - how do they still come up with new script ideas?), I guess we shouldn't be surprised that they would be so clever with music too.

  19. I think the trick is, they only change one aspect of the song (the melody), and they keep the other recognisable aspect (the jaunty rhythm) the same.

    They have a fantastic musical sensibility; the 'opera/musical' season special they did once comes to mind, or the many songs.

    My personal favourite is the Mr Burns solo 'See My Vest'.

  20. Ah, "See My Vest" - and who didn't feel their toes still tapping and a small tug of regret when the song ends?

    What a glorious tune, what marvellous lyrics. It gave us all a chance to see Mr Burns in a whole new, jaunty, light.

    A brilliant show tune, by any standards.