Featured Post


I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Bad art friend

 Two women are locked into a legal battle. The first, Dawn Dorland, donates a kidney, not to a family member but to the general pool of recipients. She documents this process on a private group on facebook. She asks the second woman, Sonya Larson, why she (second woman) doesn't "like" her posts. DD wants to not only be this heroic person, but also to receive adulation for it, which is not forthcoming from her Facebook friend SL. Dawn thinks that they are friends, but they are really not, according to Sonya. 

Both women are writers, though Dawn hasn't published much of anything. Sonya L, who has a Chinese father, writes a story satirizing Dawn D as a "white savior." In doing so, she takes a letter from the kidney donor to the donee, posted on the Facebook group. In later drafts of the story, the letter would be altered so it is no longer plagiarized, but in easier drafts she simply used the letter. In later drafts she also changes the name "Dawn" to something else. Clearly, Dawn is the inspiration for the story, and not in a good way. 

Dawn gets increasingly angry, and starts to interfere with Sonya's career by writing letters to people about being plagiarized. They sue each other, for the plagiarism and for the career interference. In the discovery process, Sonya's mean group texts about Dawn come out. 


How you view this story will depend on the framework with which you come to it. Do you see it as a matter of intellectual property? (plagiarism).  As the white woman "Karen" wreaking havoc? As what any artist would do, take real life and making it into something else? As the betrayal of a friendship? 

Viewing it purely from the plagiarism angle, the status of the original letter comes into play. If it has no literary value in and of itself, then is Sonya free to use it? If you alter it enough, then is it no longer plagiarized? I guess if earlier drafts had not circulated, then the plagiarism would be harder to prove. Is changing the wording of the letter evidence of innocence or guilt?  I'm posing these ideas as questions because, while I have opinions, I cannot see the answers very clearly.  


Leslie B. said...

If I were going to use a letter like that, I would get permission.

If I could not get permission, I would paraphrase, and obliquely at that. Like in the Tale of Genji, "He sent her a letter in which he said snow was falling." Or I would say, "I received a letter I understood to mean . . . " or " . . . that made me feel . . . " so that the paraphrase will not generate a libel suit.

I am paranoid or very cautious, yes.

Leslie B. said...

Someone turned me onto a good video about plagiarism and citation. I hope this link works.


Jonathan said...

It does work. Thanks.