The copy and paste generation

I am a member of the copy and paste generation, both by age(-ish) but also, hey, look at this blog--it is almost all commentary on what others have written. This puts me in the same generation as Helene Hegemann, Germany's 17 year old bestselling author who is accused of plagiarism. Alas, by payment standards we are leagues apart, and she has done way more than I did by her age. But I digress.

Hegemann lifted a page from a novel by another writer without attribution, in addition to other unattributed bits and pieces. However, she doesn't see this as stealing, but rather "mixing," and others agree with this:
“Obviously, it isn’t completely clean but, for me, it doesn’t change my appraisal of the text,” said Volker Weidermann, the jury member [for the Leipzig Book Fair fiction prize] and a book critic for the Sunday edition of the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine, a strong supporter. “I believe it’s part of the concept of the book.”
Robert McCrum at the Guardian writes that Hegemann doesn't understand what plagiarism means because of her age and "the Internet age." And yea, maybe it is part of her shtick, because her novel is all about remixing, and here she's remixing other texts. But I take offense to the idea that because people in their late teens and early 20s grew up with the internet they (we) don't understand what is and is not stealing.

We aren't stupid, and we're no more unethical than those who grew up with the telegraph (although that already ruined journalistic integrity). This smacks of the nastiness toward Tavi Gevinson, the 14 year old fashion blogger, in which her every mistake is because of her youth, and her successes aren't credited.


  1. It's stealing when hip-hop songs do it with base lines and it's stealing when writers do it with other people's words. If somebody else came up with it, acknowledge it.

  2. I get this a lot with new media. "Oh, you have a blog. That's not real writing." Or parents scoff at my friend Kyle who has been exceedingly successful with his online marketing company--mainly Twitter marketing. The generation of teens to 20-somethings certainly is judged based on the mediums we use.

    That being said, I think that internet use should keep us more ethically in-check. You put something on the internet, it's there for the world to see; so you better make sure that you know the difference between right and wrong.

  3. I'm careful not to plagiarize but I do understand when artists/writers overstep that line. It's a very gray area sometimes, especially when the plagiarism ends up enhancing awareness (and sometimes sales) of the original author, as seems to have happened in the Hegemann case.

    BTW I'm OLD (possibly older than your mom if you're in your 20s!) but I don't think the young should either be reviled or excused on the basis of youth. If you put your material out there you're responsible for it. And I love Tavi Gevinson's blog! She's a good writer for any age.