Friday, September 7, 2007

Is it plagiarism?

In this morning's DeSoto Sun newspaper, editor Kim Cool writes a nice review ("Let's Go," p. 23) of the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, apparently relying on press releases. I have a few quibbles with the opening paragraphs, but it's in the second part, carrying the sub-hed "Dali," where my antenna begin quivering.

Ms. Cool writes: "Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali I Domenech was born May 11, 1904 in the farming village of Figueres, Spain, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, 16 miles from the French Border." The museum's Web site on Dali's life kicks off with a nearly identical sentence.

Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali I Domenech was born at 8:45 on the morning of May 11, 1904 in the small agricultural town of Figueres, Spain. Figueres is located in the foothills of the Pyrenees, only sixteen miles from the French border in the principality of Catalonia.

OK, the facts of his birth and the geography of his village are considered common knowledge (they appear in five or more recognized sources). But it's the sentence structure and the order of ideas that seem so much the same to me.

Here's the second sentence Ms. Cool produces under her byline: "His father was a prosperous notary who sent the young man to the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid and built a studio for him at home." Compare this with subsequent sentences from the Dali Museum's writeup:

The son of a prosperous notary, Dali spent his boyhood in Figueres and at the family's summer home in the coastal fishing village of Cadaques where his parents built his first studio.

Ms. Cool goes on to write: "In 1929 he held his first one-man show in Paris, where he met Gala Eluard and her husband Paul. Gala became Dali's lover, muse, business manager, inspiration and wife."

Proceeding at about the same pace through Dali's life, the Museum staff wrote:

...That year, Dali met Gala Eluard when she visited him in Cadaques with her husband, poet Paul Eluard. She became Dali's lover, muse, business manager, and chief inspiration.

People don't realize they can plagiarize more than just words. Ideas and organization are plagiarizable elements, too. That's what seems to have happened here.


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