From The Atlantic Wire:
Kate Losse, the author of last year’s Boy Kings, which outlined the early culture at Facebook from her experiences as employee #51, has accused Dave Eggers of stealing her book idea for his novel The Circle. “Dave Eggers decided to rewrite my book as his own novel about a young woman working her way up through Facebook,” she writes on Medium today. “From all appearances, it is the same book, and I wrote it first (and I imagine mine is more authentic and better written, because I actually lived in this world and am also a good writer),” she adds. Losse, in an email to The Atlantic Wire, admits she has not read his book. “But if you look at the description/plot arc/main character name it is disturbingly similar,” she said.
Both books center around the the life of a woman working at a tech company. Losse’s book is about her experience at Facebook, where she worked for five years; Eggers’s is about the fictional experiences of Mae Holland, who works for a fictional tech company called The Circle, which The Wall Street Journal’s Dennis K. Berman describes as a “mashup of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and PayPal.” The names aren’t exactly the same, but Losse argues: “If you say ‘Mae Holland; out loud it sounds like the same phonetic structure as my name,” she told The Atlantic Wire. “Just similar enough to echo my name without using the same letters.”
Link to the rest at The Atlantic Wire
We had a recent post about another instance of claimed plagiarism, but, for those who may have missed the discussion, here’s a refresher on copyright infringement vs. plagiarism from The University of Connecticut:
Copyright infringement is a violation of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder and may carry legal consequences. Copyright infringement can take many forms. Examples of copyright infringement may include borrowing significant portions of another’s work in the creation of a new work, making and distributing unauthorized copies of a sound recording or video, or publicly performing another’s work without permission from the copyright holder, even if the original work is cited.
The law identifies several exceptions and limitations to copyright that do not constitute infringement.
Plagiarism involves using another’s work without attribution, as if it were one’s own original work. It is considered an ethical offense and can be detrimental to one’s academic reputation and integrity.
It is possible to plagiarize without violating copyright, and it is possible to infringe on another’s copyright without plagiarizing. It is also possible to both plagiarize and violate copyright at the same time.
PG has no knowledge of the contents of either book, so he can’t comment about whether either copyright infringement or plagiarism has occurred. He would note that Ms. Losse told The Atlantic Wire that she had not read the book about which she was complaining.
PG would suggest making public claims implying plagiarism or copyright infringement without having read and carefully analyzed the offending work first is not a good idea.
Plots are not a protected expression. PG seems to remember that Shakespeare borrowed the plot for Romeo and Juliet. The plot of R&J has in turn been borrowed a zillion times since then. Jane Austen’s plots have been used over and over again. Every genre utilizes standard plots and plot devices. It’s the fresh twists on the old formulas that many genre readers appreciate.
Character archetypes are similarly not a protected expression. How many fantasies have old wizards? How many science fiction stories have robots like Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation? Nobody makes serious claims that use of these archetypes is plagiarism or copyright infringement.
Absent a trademark, character names are not protected.