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20 February 2010 @ 09:00 am
The Hoard Potato: Hayden's Laws  
J.K. Rowling is getting sued by the clueless again. Yes, yet another plagiarism accusation. Making Light goes into great detail about the spuriousness of the claim, and the wretched quality of the claimant's allegedly-plagiarized work.

You don't really need to read all that. You'll find the meat of the whole issue before you even have to scroll down the page, when Ms. Hayden points out three things about such lawsuits. Her second point addresses something that comes up a lot in pop culture conversations:

“Non-writers think it’s the ideas, rather than the execution, that make a book. They’ve got that backward.”

I submit this as a Law of the Internet, on a par with Godwin's and Poe's: "Hayden's Second Law".

As I said, this comes up a lot. "Plagiarism", per se, is seldom invoked, but milder euphemisms abound: "derivative" is a popular epithet, and to many, "originality" seems the highest criterion for literary merit.

The career of the Gentleman from Avon indicates otherwise.

I should note that I'm guilty of this, myself; I've repeatedly tabled my own flailing attempts at writing because my characters, settings, or plot seem "derivative".

Addendum: just a few hours before I made this post, foofers provided a technological example of "it's not the ideas, it's the execution" -- in this instance, whether the ideas got executed at all.
(Deleted comment)
Helvetica 'Foofers' Boldfoofers on February 20th, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
I think it might've been Earl Nightingale who said, "Ideas are the cheapest commodity in the universe."
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on February 20th, 2010 07:59 pm (UTC)
Alexander Dumas was accused of plagiarism and he said, "I take old stories and breath new life into them. And for this you want to call me a plagiarist?" Though the 19th century plagiarism laws were much different than today (it was usually not a crime to plagiarize; as you said, Shakespeare wrote basically nothing "original")

And Hayden's law is . . . I mean, I say of art all the time "execution is everything". But in a legal sense, whether or not an artistic idea is protected or not really depends on the power of the organization claiming it. So if I were to claim that, y'know, so-and-so plagiarized me because they wrote a book about an urban kid in an anarcho-capitalist high school who rebels against the absurd system as an allegory condemning capitalism, I'd be laughed at. If a huge corporation brought up the same point, it is quite possible they would win under a number of established legal precedents, like takings or brand protection.
leonard_arlotteleonard_arlotte on February 21st, 2010 02:11 am (UTC)
So can I make this same argument with all the people who keep screaming that Eragon is a ripoff of Star Wars?
ArchTeryxarchteryx on February 21st, 2010 04:00 am (UTC)
Why do you think Avatar was so damn popular? It certainly wasn't originality.

My own First Law of Fiction states, "The most derivative plot executed entertainingly will always beat the most original plot executed poorly."