Monday, February 15, 2010

Rewarded for Plagiarism

“Creativity is great, but plagiarism is faster.” - Unknown

Having survived the 1960s, I’ve always considered myself open-minded and progressive. However when I read articles like, “Author, 17, Says It’s ‘Mixing,’ Not Plagiarism,” (, my “crabby-little-ol’ lady” persona can’t stay hidden. I find myself mumbling about the younger generation’s lack of values and wonder what the world is coming to.

Helene Hegemann, a young German woman of seventeen, has attained the major accomplishment of having written a best selling novel. The book, Axolotl Roadkill, is about Berlin’s drug and club scene as seen through the eyes of a sixteen-year-old after the death of her mother.

I have no problem with that. In fact, I’m in awe of someone achieving so much at such a young age. My problem is that, according to the article,

“…a blogger last week uncovered material in the novel taken from the less-well-known novel “Strobo,” by an author writing under the nom de plume Airen. In one case, an entire page was lifted with few changes.”

Other unattributed sources have also been discovered in the book.

Here’s the author’s response to the accusations (quoted from the article):

“Although Ms. Hegemann has apologized for not being more open about her sources, she has also defended herself as the representative of a different generation, one that freely mixes and matches from the whirring flood of information across new and old media, to create something new. ‘There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,’ said Ms. Hegemann in a statement released by her publisher after the scandal broke.”

That doesn’t sound like a very sincere apology to me. Isn’t it ridiculous to feel you have the right to claim someone’s work as your own simply because it is out in “the whirring flood of information” and is free for the taking?

There’s more.

The article went on to explain that even though the panel knew about the plagiarism charges, the book was named as one of the finalists for the $20,000 prize of the Leipzig Book Fair in the fiction category.

“‘Obviously, it isn’t completely clean but, for me, it doesn’t change my appraisal of the text,” said Volker Weidermann, the jury member and a book critic for the Sunday edition of the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine, a strong supporter. ‘I believe it’s part of the concept of the book.’”

It’s bad enough that someone plagiarizes a fellow writer, but to have a respected award committee give their approval of it adds insult to injury to all the authors out there who manage to be creative and authentic without stealing pages from another author’s book.

If this story disturbs you and much as it did me, you may want to read the entire article. You can find it here.

So tell me, am I missing something? Am I just being a crab or is there something very wrong with the attitude of this author and the judge?

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: plagiarism, Hegemann, Axolotl Roadkill, Leipzig Book Fair,


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Hmm. Sounds like a spoiled teenager. Oh--wait! It IS a spoiled teenager.... :)

Mystery Writing is Murder

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's what the world is coming to - we reward bad behavior! I think it's awful - the book should no longer be eligible for any contest since it's not original.

Karen Walker said...

Yikes. Totally agree with you, Jane.

Joanne said...

You are not being a crab, you are being fair and most notably respectful of the craft of another's writing. I wouldn't give Helene the courtesy of calling her an author, and find a lot of naivety and sense of entitlement in this young generation.

Helen Ginger said...

If the words are not hers, then there is no "authenticity" to her book. It is not authentic at all. She's a cheat and a spoiled brat, IMO. Whatever money she makes off this book should be divided among all the people whose words are in the book.

OK, I'm stepping of my high horse to tell you I awarded you the You Are My Sunshine Award today. And you are. You certainly shined some light on this situation!

Straight From Hel

Anonymous said...

You are not a crab. Bad behavior should not be rewarded. It should be a painful experience for the one conducting themselves in this manner.

Stephen Tremp

arlee bird said...

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
If the original material is not quoted or cited or given acknowleged from the outset, I think there has been deceit. To attempt to pass someone elses writng as one's own is stealing. If one did this in academic circumstances-- in a thesis or the like--they would get the boot. I don't care who does it, they don't deserve any rewards for their "effort" (non-effort?).

Elspeth Antonelli said...

Did the teenager write it? No? Then it's plagiarism. End of story.

Nancy J. Parra said...

I am horrified with you, Jane. This is bad, bad news and sets a terrible precedent. There should never be "remixing" in the world of fiction. Thanks for sharing.

Marvin D Wilson said...

No you're not being crabby. I'm in total agreement with your position on this.

The Old Silly

Jan Morrison said...

The author is trying to use something that has become part of some artistic movements - like in music sampling for ska or reggae or metal etc... or in visual art with collaging or assemblages to justify lazy practices. In those other artforms the listener or watcher or experiencer KNOWS that is what the artist is doing. So this is completely bogus and the organization is just scared of being labeled fuddy duddies. All should be ashamed.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

You have a point there, Elizabeth. She does sound like a spoiled teen.

I so agree with you Diane.

Thanks, Karen.

Joanne, it’s nice to know that others think I wasn’t simply having a crabby moment when I read the article.

Helen, good point about “authenticity.” Maybe someone should explain the meaning to her. Thank you so much for the award – I’m flattered.

Thanks, Stephen. I think I was more upset about the behavior being rewarded than the act itself.

Well put, Arlee!

Nancy, for some reason it makes me feel better to know that others found this news horrifying, too.

Jan, that’s a good comparison and makes the stealing of words even seem more disgusting. I hope the good standing of that organization has dropped in lots of folks’ minds.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

No, Jane, you're certainly not a crab. I think the salvation is that every generation is seen as bankrupt in someway and headed on a runaway train striaight for hell...taking the future with them. Seems like I've seen that for every generation that passes by. Fortunetly, somewhere along the line, they turn into reasonable adults...for the most part.

Still, "mixing" is just plain wrong. Ultimately, I'm not sure the kid's claim to be "representative of a different generation" would be appreciated by the rest of the generation.

Best Wishes Galen.
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Patricia Stoltey said...

It's all about ethics, isn't it? Do they even teach ethics in school these days?

Jeanne said...

She's a cheat, a thief, and that awards committee needs to have their collective head examined.

Using blocks of text, let alone whole pages, of another writer's work is plagiarism, plain and simple, meaning it is illegal. I hope the original authors take her to court, and then go after the awards committee.

Joanne said it right, naïveté and entitlement--Helene is a horrendous "remix" of poor values and no ethics.

Carol Kilgore said...

And so maybe someone should take Helene's book and remix it. I wonder if she would like it so much.

Journaling Woman said...

Sounds like stealing to me. Sounds like she lifted someone elses goods. I don't like it. None of it.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Galen, I agree that every generation is frowned upon at some point which is why I didn’t want to be a “frownee,” but just couldn’t help myself. It would be interesting to know how many of her generation agree with her statement.

Good question, Patricia. I’m thinking that the answer is “No.”

Well, Jeanne, I think I know how you feel about this subject! I agree with everything you said.

I like that idea, Carol!

Exactly, Journaling Woman!

Bob Sanchez said...

You suggested I read the linked article, but I couldn't bring myself to finish it. The girl is a thief.

JennyMac said...

one that freely mixes and matches from the whirring flood of information across new and old media, to create something new.

I know that approach..its called stealing others work and pretending its your own.

This is crazy...and hard to believe its being rewarded.

thanks for sharing this Jane..I had not read this story.

Alexis Grant said...

Plag. can never be okay! I like your hard-line attitude. And I like that you made me think about this today!

Rayna M. Iyer said...

No, you are not being a crab. If she copied, she copied, end of the story. I would have been more inclined to take a charitable view if she had taken permission from the other person and credited them, BEFORE the similarity was spotted.
Thanks for sharing this.

Cold As Heaven said...

I doesn't surprise me that this issue comes up in literature too. In rap and hip-hop music you see this all the time; artists who take well known songs, add their own rap bla bla bla on top of it (usually a neverending sequence of of fuck fuck ..., seams to be their favorite word) and then release it as their own work.

veterankindergartenteacher said...

Thankfully, this is not an issue I have to deal with in Kindergarten!

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world