“The Little Book of Plagiarism” is inspired by several recent literary scandals, starting with the Kaavya Viswanathan affair. At 17, Viswanathan was paid a $500,000 advance for a deal that included a “chick-lit novel,” but when that novel was published, attentive readers noticed that she had copied at least 13 passages from a novel by Megan McCafferty. Posner’s eye also falls on Doris Kearns Goodwin, Laurence Tribe, Alan Dershowitz and Stephen Ambrose — all celebrated scholars who have been accused of plagiarism — as well as on J. K. Rowling and Dan Brown, whose stratospheric bestsellers were the targets of infringement claims.
But Posner also reminds us that the roster of accused plagiarists also includes William Shakespeare, Martin Luther King Jr. and Vladimir Putin. Both Jonathan Swift and Laurence Sterne, he points out, “denounced plagiarism in words plagiarized from earlier writers.” Only recently has plagiarism been elevated to its current high visibility, and only because the availability of search engines such as Google and the mass digitization of books “[have] made it at once easier to commit and easier to detect.” —Jonathan Kirsch —‘The Little Book of Plagiarism’ by Richard A. Posner: Theft or imitation? A respected judge considers the possibilities. (CalendarLive [LA Times])