John Green and Accidental Plagiarism

If you hate John Green, you might want to skip this short post. I have an opinion. It is mine, and it is true. If you do not agree, I will allow discussion in the comments section, but only if you’re respectful of myself and others.

I do not partake in or condone plagiarism. I tried it once when I was six and grew bored after copying down the first two lines of a Hardy Boy’s book. From that point on, I wrote my own stories because I’m too lazy to succeed as a human Xerox machine. But, accidental plagiarism happens. This is true. This is fact.

Point in fact. I was talking to a good friend of mine (many of you know Gregor Xane, and he is the good friend of whom I speak) and, during a discussion about how I’d been burning the candle at both ends while holding the rest of said candle over a pool of lava, I said, “Sleep’s eluding me like it owes me money.” While this is not an exact quote, it is damn close. I wrote this to Gregor in a chat window. I put it out there, and, while only Gregor read it, I did, technically, plagiarize one of my favorite authors, a brilliant and kind man named James Newman. I had no idea what I’d done. I honestly believed that I came up with the line on the spot. Luckily, Gregor had read the book from which that line was taken (Ugly as Sin), and mentioned it to me. I was taken aback. You see, I might have actually used that line one day. In my own writing. Then what? I would have been labeled one of the most vile creatures to exist in the literary world: a plagiarist.

So, if you’re an author, what do you do if you screw up and use someone else’s line in your work, and it is, in fact, an accident? (Green didn’t use the quote in a book, but a company he owns did put the quote on posters and shirts that were then sold for a profit). What do you do in that case? Well, you apologize and pay the person their dues. All of which John Green did. This fan is now receiving all proceeds and retropay from sales of the artwork featuring their quote.

I have no idea if Green used this fan’s quote unknowingly, but I have seen post after post suggesting that accidental plagiarism doesn’t happen, that every author since the beginning of time who wrote words down for the world to read knew exactly where those words came from. I’m here to tell you that it does happen. I know, because it happened to me. I was just luckier than Green.

In summation: In the literary world, there is nothing worse than a plagiarist. They are the lowest of the low. I do not know if John Green is one, but his story is at least in the realm of possibility.

Author’s note: This blog was written in the hopes of spreading awareness, and I am not attacking anyone. Think of me what you will, but all that I have said in this post is the truth.

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2 thoughts on “John Green and Accidental Plagiarism

  1. I say that shit happens, E. I recall Robert Heinlein talking about this very subject. Writers file off the serial numbers and re-use the work. There are only so many ways to arrange words in a row.

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