In last week's New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell defends a playwright's right to plagiarize Malcolm Gladwell. From the piece:
We accept the right of one writer to engage in a full-scale knockoff of another -- think how many serial-killer novels have been cloned from "The Silence of the Lambs." Yet, when Kathy Acker incorporated parts of a Harold Robbins sex scene verbatim in a satiric novel, she was denounced as a plagiarist (and threatened with a lawsuit). When I worked at a newspaper, we were routinely dispatched to "match" a story from the Times: to do a new version of someone else's idea. But had we "matched" any of the Times' words -- even the most banal of phrases -- it could have been a firing offense. The ethics of plagiarism have turned into the narcissism of small differences: because journalism cannot own up to its heavily derivative nature, it must enforce originality on the level of the sentence.
In the same issue: David Denby's interesting appreciation of Pedro Almodovar.