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Posts tagged "plagiarism"

Jun 05, 2014

“You don’t go into a museum and paint a moustache on somebody else’s painting.”

Mr. Don Henley (drummer/singer for The Eagles, with an estimated net worth over $200 million) doesn’t want people messin’ with his music. Henley recently sent takedowns to Frank Ocean and Will Sheff of Okkervil River—Ocean sampled the whole master track from “Hotel California” for “American Wedding”, and Sheff rewrote portions of his cover of “The End of Innocence.” His take:

“They don’t understand the law… You can’t re-write the lyrics to somebody else’s songs and record it and put it on the internet. I’m sorry, but it wasn’t an improvement. We were not impressed. So we simply had our legal team tell them to take it down and they got all huffy about it.

It’s a different mindset. I don’t know how they’d react if I took one of their songs and re-wrote the lyrics and recorded it, I don’t know if they’d like that. Maybe they wouldn’t care but I care. We work really really hard on our material. We spend months writing it and years recording it. You don’t go into a museum and paint a moustache on somebody else’s painting. Nobody would think of doing that.

(Actually, Mr. Henley, somebody did think of doing that, in 1919. But anyways…)

Technically, Henley is legally very much in the right. As Rolling Stone points out, “United States copyright law allows anyone to record a cover of any song without asking permission, so long as the musician does not alter the original.”

But to paraphrase Jeffrey “I hate the fuckin’ Eagles, man” Lebowksi, “You’re not wrong, Don, you’re just an asshole.”

Frank Ocean responded:

He (They) threatened to sue if I perform it again. I think that’s fuckin awesome. I guess if I play it at coachella it’ll cost me a couple hundred racks. If I don’t show up to court, it’ll be a judgement against me & will probably show up on my credit report. Oh well. I try to buy my shit cash anyway. They asked that I release a statement expressing my admiration for Mr. Henley, along with my assistance pulling it off the web as much as possible. Shit’s weird. Ain’t this guy rich as fuck? Why sue the new guy? I didn’t make a dime off that song. I released it for free. If anything I’m paying homage.

Will Sheff’s response was a bit more thoughtful, and very much in line with Steal Like An Artist:

I started noticing something [all my favorite artists] had in common – they all copied each other…. I realized that this is what artists are supposed to do – communicate back and forth with each other over the generations, take old ideas and make them new (since it’s impossible to really “imitate” somebody without adding anything of your own), create a rich, shared cultural language that was available to everybody. Once I saw it in folk art, I saw it everywhere – in hip-hop, in street art, in dada. I became convinced that the soul of culture lay in this kind of weird, irreverent-but-reverant back-and-forth. And I concluded that copyright law was completely opposed to this natural artistic process in a way that was strangling and depleting our culture, taking away something rich and beautiful that belonged to everyone in order to put more money into the hands of the hands of a small, lawyered few.

He then goes on to explain why he altered the Henley cover in the first place. Worth a read.

One funny bit that nobody’s mentioned: The Eagles themselves probably ripped off Jethro Tull’s “We Used To Know” for “Hotel California,” which sold over 16 million copies in the U.S. alone, and made them all millionaires.

Feb 04, 2013
I suspect that many of my enthusiasms and impulses, which seem entirely my own, have arisen from others’ suggestions, which have powerfully influenced me, consciously or unconsciously, and then been forgotten…. There is no easy way of distinguishing a genuine memory or inspiration, felt as such, from those that have been borrowed or suggested

Sep 04, 2012
The paradox of plagiarism is that it actually requires a lot of care and hard work to pull off successfully.
— David Foster Wallace, The Pale King (via)

Aug 01, 2012
The human plagiarism which is most difficult to avoid… is the plagiarism of ourselves.
— Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past


“Unoriginality was much more ancient than I had originally suspected.”

Over at the NYTimes, Drew Christie has a fun video op-ed called “Allergy to Originality.”

When reading a 1976 oral history book called I Wish I Could Give My Son A Raccoon, he came across a line that seemed really familiar: “We’ve always been hewers of wood and the drawers of water.” He went home and checked his bookshelves:

I grabbed off the shelf a copy of Cormac McCarthy’s 1985 masterpiece, “Blood Meridian.” Right there in the first paragraph of the first page was the line: “His folk are known for hewers of wood and drawers of water …” I thought I had uncovered some secret, cracked a code. As McCarthy himself said in one of his rare print interviews, given to The New York Times in 1992, “The ugly fact is books are made out of books.” After a little more research, I found out this same line about hewers of wood and drawers of water appears in a much older and more well-known book, the King James Bible, in Joshua 9:23. At first I thought McCarthy had copied this woman’s line, but in reality, she had likely taken it from the Bible as he probably did. Unoriginality was much more ancient than I had originally suspected.

Filed under: originality, plagiarism

(via Aiden Livingston)

Jul 30, 2012

Jun 27, 2012

On the “self-plagiarism” of writers


Show me an artist/writer who has not re-used dialogue or images or music or gestures and I will show you an artist who has no obsessions—aka, a pretty shitty artist. You know who was an awesome writer and wrote kickass dialogue? Shakespeare.

From Hamlet:

POLONIUS: What do you read, my lord?
HAMLET: Words, words, words.

From Troilus and Cressida:

PANDARUS: What says she there?
TROILUS: Words, words, mere words.

I could dig up more examples, but really, I rest my case here.

Exactly! As Hitchcock said, “Self-plagiarism is style.”

(via maudnewton)

May 10, 2012
The kernel, the soul — let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances — is plagiarism.
— In 1903, Mark Twain sent his friend Helen Keller a letter, addressing plagiarism charges that had been made against her a decade earlier.

(Source: explore-blog)

May 03, 2012

Mar 22, 2012
I cannot explain how Playgiarism works. You do it or you don’t. You’re born a Playgiarizer or you’re not. It’s as simple as that. The laws of Playgiarism are unwritten. Like incest, it’s a taboo. It cannot be authenticated. The great Playgiarizers of all time — Homer, Shakespeare, Rabelais, Diderot, Rimbaud, Lautréamont, Proust, Beckett, Federman — have never pretended to do anything else. Inferior writers deny that they playgiarize because they confuse Plagiarism with Playgiarism. It’s not the same. The difference is enormous, but no one has yet been able to explain it. Playgiarism cannot be measured in weight or size. It is as elusive as what it playgiarizes. Plagiarism is sad. It whines. It cries. It feels sorry for itself. It apologizes. It feels guilty. It hides behind itself. Playgiarism on the contrary laughs all the time. It exposes itself. It is proud. It makes fun of what it does while doing it. It denounces itself.
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