Plagiarism? What’s that? -

Plagiarism? What’s that?

A teenage German author seems unfamiliar with the concept


Guardian Books columnist Robert McCrum weighs into Europe’s latest plagiarism scandal and focuses on it’s most unsettling aspect: the accused is not pleading innocence, she’s claiming not to know what the fuss is about in the first place. Passages in the German cult teen bestseller Axolotl Roadkill by 17-year-old Berliner, Helene Hegemann, a gritty exploration of the Berlin nightclub scene in the aftermath of her mother’s death, are plainly lifted wholesale from another novel, Strobo, the work of a German blogger who goes under the name of Airen. So far, so usual. What fascinates McCrum is that “it’s clear from the reports I’ve read that Hegemann, a child of the Internet age, simply does not understand, or recognize, the charge of plagiarism. To her, coming from the cut-and-paste world of blogs and Facebook, what she’s done is no more than ‘mixing’ (she seems to use the English term, by the way.)” Does that mean, the columnist asks, that Hegemann is simply following a line of argument now gaining momentum: copyright is meaningless when everything is available free online? For adult readers raised in an established print culture, copyright is “the bedrock of the European intellectual tradition,” but Hegemann’s response indicates that those who have come of age “outside that cultural inheritance, or at odds with it, feel, as Hegemann said, that ‘Berlin is here to mix with everything.’” McCrum feels that attitude can no longer be ignored in the Brave New Google-World of the contemporary book business, which urgently needs to “renegotiate” the way writers control their work and its economic value. “Some will say that ‘The barbarians are coming’,” he adds. “I don’t take that line, but I think the renegotiation is increasingly urgent.”

The Guardian

Filed under: