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Posner, Kouwe, and Hegemann: old-school vs. new-school attitudes about plagiarism

In the Wikipedia age, Gen Y writers are comfortable remixing content. But bright lines on plagiarism are essential.

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From allegations against “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling to demonstrable wrongdoing by reporters at The New York Times and The Daily Beast, February might as well be “National Plagiarism Month.” 

It would thus be easy to view the case of 17-year-old German novelist Helene Hegemann as the exclamation point to this series of copying controversies. 

What separates Ms. Hegemann, though, isn’t simply her young age, but her response to allegations that she lifted almost an entire page from the little-known novel “Strobo.” 

Whereas New York Times reporter Zachery Kouwe and The Daily Beast’s Gerald Posner both professed shock at the accusations against them, admitted the seriousness of their offenses, and then resigned, Hegemann stands firmly by her techniques. 

She insists that by incorporating her own fresh take on others’ writings, she’s simply engaging in a new kind of Generation-Y literary remixing. 

“There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,” Hegemann said in a statement. That view is hardly an outlier. Expect to see more of this approach to intellectual property as Millennials (sometimes called Generation Y) come to dominate culture. 

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