A fellow classmate of mine (wacrant2011) made an intriguing post a few days ago. He was shining some light on plagiarism, the dreaded enemy of academia it seems. We in academia have preached about plagiarism for years. “You will fail if you plagiarize”, “Do not copy others works without citing”, and “Plagiarism will result in an immediate ‘F’ or a ‘0’ ” are all common things heard on campuses. Here’s the problem though: most great poets are plagiarists. For example, many of Shakespeare’s plays are based on other authors works or older legends For example, have a look at the plot sections of these articles on Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and King Leer. They’re all based on someone’s work. That’s right people. If William Shakespeare were in college today, he would fail Creative Writing for plagiarizing.
However, we don’t discredit Shakespeare for this. We herald him for the way he took older texts and revamped them; he made them true masterpieces. So, if Shakespeare took older works and added to them, he remixed them. Much the way music artists today remix music. Though I don’t think any of the Italian poets Shakespeare copied would have been ready to sue him into submission. You see, traditional poetry has a history of copying, adding to, and recycling texts. Traditional poets were expected to write their own version of classical stories. How well the poet remixed it displayed his skill. We’ve lost that kind of sharing in our culture today. We make a song and it is ours. No one elses. Not even the song notes. RiP: A Remix Manifesto discusses this issue of copyrighting and legal rights among the movie/music industry. Have a look at the film (you can watch it for free) and see what you think. I think Shakespeare had the right idea. If William Shakespeare can remix a story into a time-honored masterpiece then why can’t musicians. It’s the same thing. I’m going to leave you all with some songs to listen to and consider if it’s plagiarism or creating anew from old.
Plagiarism? Reinvention? Rock and Hiphop!?