Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Another plagiarism scandal

Anybody been following Kaavya Viswanathan's story? Kaavya is a 19-year old Indian American student(she was born in Madras and moved to Europe with her parents when she was 3) at Harvard University. She became a literary sensation when she landed a half a million dollar contract for writing 2 novels when she was just 17. Her first book How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, about how a teenager's parents help her gain a social life, was released end of last year and quickly found a place on bestseller lists. But the teenage author is now in the middle of a plagiarism scandal as more than 40 passages from her book are said to be similar to passages from 2 other books, also revolving around a teenage girl, written by Megan McCafferty.

Kaavya yesterday accepted the accusation of "literary identity theft" and said that since she loved McCafferty's books, which she read when she was in high school, she must have subconsciously 'internalized' passages from them. She claims that it was unintentional and is altering those passages in her book's second edition. But McCafferty has refused her apology, calling her response disingenuous.

Wonder how this one's gonna end...

23 Comments:

At 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ayyo pavam...hopefully they dont trouble the chinna ponnu too much, after all she's just 19 - a young budding author. Dont't people (eg publisher or editorial staff) check for plagiarism before the book is published?

Sri

 
At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how one could "internalize" 40 passages from two books and also claim that it was unintentional. Prima facie evidence (aamaam, naan periya investigator paarunge!) suggests that Kaavya has committed the sin of Blatant Plagiarism. but dont wanna spew too much venom without having read her works (not that i plan to, either!). On the other hand, I have also seen instances of people being subconsciously influenced by the works of their mentors/idols...Vasanth who was panned by one and all for re-making Agni Nakshathram as Nerukku Ner, also made the underrated Nee Paathi Naan Paathi where I thought he paid more of a homage to the styles of Balachander (first half) and Balu Mahendra (second half, with some striking similarities to Moondraam Pirai) than just copying/imitating them...anyone remember this one...?

 
At 3:09 PM, Blogger Filbert said...

Internalizing 40 passages can never be unintentional as she claims. But what about her second book? Does it have any similar accusations yet? If there is no such accusation, then she can redeem herself a bit.

Ram, I do remember Nee Paadhi Naan Paadhi and agree with you when you say "NPNN" as under-rated. That movie is definitely one of the better efforts of Vasanth and I especially liked the relationship between Gouthami & Srividhya. Sadly the only reason the movie is remembered even now is for the 'Nivedha' song. May be, Balaji can re-visit the movie for our sake :)

 
At 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

filbert, 've fwd-ed your comment to vasanth...will let u know when he replies to my e-mail...yes, the srividya-gowthami scenes were the best part of the movie...even the last time i met up with vasanth i told him that one of my fav lines from their conversations is srividya saying, "Pulla Porandha Udaney Marandhurnam, Ponnu Dhaavani Poatta Udaney Marandhurnam-nu enge Amma adikkadi solluvaange." Their scenes were absolutely brilliant! Feel happy that someone, other than me, remembers this uneven, yet sporadically Brilliant movie.

 
At 6:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sri, how can anyone check for plagiarism before publishing a book?.. My god, do you know how many books are being published on a daily basis and how many of them are about teenagers.. We'll probably have at least 3 warehouses full of books and just imagine checking through each of them to see if Kaavya swiped it from someone else!..

Just go to one of those Scholastic Book Fairs that happen in one of these warehouses, you'll know what I am talking about!..

I hate to say it, this plagiarism ellaam indha ooru-la dhaan.. How many plagiarism cases do you see filed in other countries?.. People either don't have the time or could care less about creative expression (whether it is real, lifted or all out fake!).. Except for us educated folks, do you think paamaran folks care about Nerukku Ner being a straight lift from Agni Natchatram?.. Or even about that awesome film called "Nee Paathi Naan Paathi" that died a silent death at the box office within days of release?

Back to the matter at hand....

I only have a few words for Kaavya (and these are my daughter's and Dora's! :-)..

Swiper, no swiping.. Swiper, no swiping.. Swiper.. no swiping..

(Kaavya's response): Oh Man!..

 
At 7:26 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

sri, sandya's right. i cant think of any way somebody can check for plagiarism in a book. when we did our mba project, there was a website where we had to upload our document. that site then checked our doc and told us about the sections that could've potentially been plagiarized. but would be a tall order doing the same for the dozens of books being published everyday :)

ram, that 'internalization' argument was what caught my eye too. they've come down pretty hard on that in other news reports. and made me think too. while i make sure that i never plagiarize, i'm guessing that if someone went thro every review of berardinelli and every review of mine, there might be a few lines that are constructed similarly. i like his writing style and english a lot and so i may have 'internalized' some lines. but 40 passages is too much :)

filbert, her 2nd book hasn't been published yet. i'm sure she's going thro it with a fine-tooth comb to find out any 'internalizations' :)

but based on the outcome of these accusations and maybe lawsuits, i'm not sure what its result will be :)

sandya, thank god i have a daughter too. or that last dialog would've gone straight over my head :)

i don't remember a single thing about NPNP, except ofcourse the 'nivedha' song. so no comments :)

 
At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

bb, talking of reviews, yes, i do agree...ungalukku epdi berardinelli-yo, adha madhiri i think my style is a mix of yours and roger ebert's...so, copy adithurundhaal mannikkavum :)

sandya, innum konjam pearls of wisdom abt NPNP, please?! (even if Off topic, the temptation to ask is too high, esp. my being a crazy fan of vasanth's character studies)

 
At 9:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what is this swiper swiping thingy all about?!! i dont have a daughter and it has indeed gone over my head!

 
At 9:33 PM, Blogger Prasanna said...

balaji, this news is making waves. So many sites and blogs ve been discussing this news.Poor kaavya. Wld she have ever thought that she wld be involved in such an issue.

 
At 10:42 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

ram, there's a cartoon character called 'dora the explorer'. quite the craze among li'l girls. The 'villain' in the stories is a fox called swiper and the dialog that sandya wrote is the dialog that is uttered whenever swiper steals something :)

 
At 11:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

elaam ipodichu kathukaren....pirkaalathukku udhavumey;)

graamamaa nagaramaa indhiyaa thaandiyaa
engu thaan vaazhgiraall solladi...
vittu vittu adikkirathey...
idhayam sattendru sudugirathey...!

 
At 6:25 AM, Blogger Me too said...

Some years back when learning of an Indian movie as a copy from some foreign language movie used to bring a shocked response. These days it has become a game as to who guesses the original first!!! :)

In Vasanth's movies, the characterisation is so natural that we can identify in real life. Though I didn't like 'Nerukku Ner', I often relate to the relationship of couples in real life to the way he portrayed the husband-wife relationship of Karan(otherwise bad character)-Raghasudha(?) and Raghuvaran(otherwise good character)-ShantiKrishna.

 
At 10:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

me too, that is precisely the reason why I like his works...even in his lesser efforts, there is a sense of verisimilitude in his characterizations...but the best of his works-- Rhythm, Keladi Kanmani, Aasai and Nee Paathi Naan Paathi (in that order) -- have some wonderfully realized characters and nice interactions between them...Rhythm is the best in this respect-nu feel pannaren...be it the quick but beautifully written romance of Ramesh Aravind and Meena or the gradual thawing of the ice between Arjun and Meena, the sensitive relationship between Meena and Lakshmi, the scenes between Arjun and his parents...every relationship had a beauty of its own...

 
At 7:16 PM, Blogger Me too said...

ram, it's been a long time since I watched 'Rhythm' and every time this movie is discussed here, I tell myself that I should watch it again someday to participate in the discussions! Guess, the characterisations of his proves whose 'sishyan' he is!
BTW, after Rhythm, was it Appu, Poovellam un vaasam and HNRAI?

 
At 8:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

me too, ille...though he started work on rhythm much earlier, he managed to realize appu b4 rhythm...after rhythm (2000), he made YNRAI which was released in jul 2002...ipo, he's making Saththam Podaathey...hoping to realize it by end of the year...
Rhythm - DEFINITE a (re)visit pannunge...it's a lovely movie...has its share of small flaws but a wonderful effort...

 
At 1:11 PM, Blogger Me too said...

That makes my theory right! I always thought Vasanth's alternate(rather odd numbered released movies)movies were superior and successful!!
Rhythm is surely in my list. I do want to watch 'Keladi Kanmani' too again.

 
At 2:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

me too, kalappi thalliteenge...great minds think alike! see what i wrote in my aasai review:
http://www.geocities.com/ram_aishoo/Aasai.htm

 
At 7:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

megan Mccaffentry is not such a high fundu writer himself.if you leave out his commercial worth and concentrate on critical worth he is a zilch.
what kavya has done is pardonable.she moonily copied the extracts from th above writer and wrote "her" novel.everyone is forgetting to ask mr.megan himself what does he think abt kavyagate?.
i think if he himself doesnt have any grudge about theft,then there is no problem et all.
after all he might be a self-aware writer who does not place that much of IPR on his works.he might be aware that plagiarism is such a rampant activity in writing field.

 
At 11:37 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

isac, first of all, megan mccafferty is a woman :) also, megan has said that she refuses to accept kaavya's apology. this tells us that she is not too happy with kaavyagate :) and just because plagiarism is rampant doesnt mean it should be condoned. kaavya deserves all that she's getting for what she has done :)

 
At 1:34 PM, Blogger Indefinitely Looped Within Finite Space said...

I ought to admit that I do not know the specific details of the alleged plagiarism.

However, for a couple of reasons, I feel that this should be considered as a diluted version of plagiarism.

1. Plagiarism is an ambiguous term, especially in arts and literature. When you write a story, poem, song, compose music or draw, your mind is likely to exhibit prior influence to some degree.

2. What actual damage did these allegedly plagiarised 40 lines result in? If anything, it brought some attention to Megan McCafferty. As a person with borderline interest in books, I don't mind a few lines from another book.

 
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