Sunday, February 20, 2011

movies, newspapers and plagiarism

Cary encouraged Roz to plagiarize in "His Girl Friday"
In his ever-fascinating column, The Ethicist, in the New York Times magazine section, Randy Cohen answers a reader who rightfully questions if "The Social Network," a "Hollywood movie, the product of an industry often portrayed as a snake pit," should be tackling the issue of stealing, given its own propensity for plagiarism. Indeed.

During my years as a working journalist on the movie beat, I was always fascinated by the incredible disconnect between newspapers and the film industry when it came to the subject of plagiarism.

In newsrooms, the mere hint of "plagiarism," a word usually spoken in hushed whispers among newspeople, is enough to shrivle the testicles of any average male newspaper editor. An anonymous call from a reader (who may be certifiable or worse) heatedly accusing a staffer of plagiarism has often been the reason for countless closed-door meetings - the unfortunate staffer being guilty until proven innocent.

I know of one reptilian editor, playing Colombo, who actually stalked one of his writers, short of using surveillance, seemingly in the hopes of actually proving that the writer was guilty. Why? Why the avidity?

On the other hand, Hollywood not only shamelessly steals ideas and screenplay treatments, but actually seems to encourage its denizens to do so and will then go to great expense and lawyer up, going to court to prove that the similarities are all an unfortunate coincidence - and that the wronged party is just a greedy opportunist bent on destroying the studio.

Makes one wonder which is worse - newspapers or movie companies.


Robert said...

Interesting comparision. I never thought about it but you're right. Movie companies routinely take things and then sue, while newspapers tend to become more self-righteous and punishing (in a different way) when plagiarism rears its ugly head.

John Kaiser said...

What I find fascinating is in the portrayal or Mark Zuckerberg when no one involved in the movie or the source material (the book "The Accidental Billionares") never interviewed him or met with him. What gives? I'm shocked that they were able to get away with using his name considering the amount of names that were changed in "Goodfellas".