Friday, February 20, 2015

Unintentional plagiarism, again

Melissa Dahl in NYMag talks about accidental plagiarism

In a recent blog post, Grant breaks down a study suggesting how common it is to plagiarize accidentally:

In a classic demonstration, psychologists Alan Brown and Dana Murphy invited people to brainstorm in groups of four. They took turns generating lists of sports, musical instruments, clothes, or four-legged animals. Each participant generated four ideas from each category. Next, the participants were asked to write down the four ideas that they personally generated for each category.
Alarmingly, a full 75 percent of participants unintentionally plagiarized, claiming they generated an idea that was in fact offered by another member of their group. And later, the participants wrote down four new ideas for each category. The majority wrote down at least one idea tht had already been generated by another group member -- usually the group member who'd generated ideas immediately before them.
Perhaps not surprising, Grant says, we're most likely to unintentionally plagiarize when we're trying to multitask; doing one thing at a time might help keep us from stealing without realizing. And there are other ways to avoid kleptomnesia, too. "Some creators have gone so far as avoiding work that they might accidentally steal — Simpsons writer George Meyer refused to watch Seinfeld to make sure that a joke didn't slip into his work," Grant said. "The most important step, though, is to do a better job keeping track of the sources of the ideas that we hear."


The allusion to Meyer invokes the "clean room" concept in copyright, wherein independent creation is a defense
to copyright infringement.

In the realm of patent, of course, there is no independent creation defense. If one falls within
the scope of a claim, one infringes, whether or not one knows about the claim.
In theory, that encourages people to know the prior art and not waste time re-inventing the wheel.
And recall the South Park episode relating to "the Simpsons already did it."

As to the classic demonstration, patent law rewards people for writing down their inventions
in timely fashion, so one does not have fuzziness of who invented what when. And, did that
classic experiment prove the unintentional character? Does it comment on the Poshard matter?


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