Saturday, August 19, 2017

She Plagiarized My Idea

A woman who dubs herself “Sad over Lost Friendship” recounts a problem with a now-former friend:

A few years ago one of my closest friends accused me of plagiarism. It was weird because I’m a professional writer and she’s in another field, writing for publicity, and I’d never even read the article she had written. Perhaps we’d discussed some of the ideas in our regular friendship, but I have no need to copy her.

She cut off all ties with me saying (via email) that unless I apologize, we can’t be friends. I’m certainly not the first friend she’s cut off or accused of copying her ideas.

At the time I was trying to have a baby and had gone through my gazillionth miscarriage and then a very tense pregnancy. I was kind of shocked that she didn’t contact me when she found out I was finally pregnant or even when I had a baby. I invited her to the baby shower but she didn’t come. I was thinking of reaching out to her again, but she told my sister that unless I gave her a full apology we can’t be friends.

We have been friends for over 40 years and I find it sad that she doesn’t even know my child. My husband thinks this is actually about her being single and me being married and moving forward in life. (Interestingly, she accused me of being jealous of her.)

Let’s see, they have been friends for over forty years and SOLF is having her first child. One might ask how old they were when they met and became friends, but one’s knowledge of arithmetic is inadequate.

Two questions arise here. This time therapist Lori Gottlieb is largely correct. But, then again, SOLF’s husband is also right. The lost friend seems consumed by envy over the fact that SOLF has gotten married and had a child. One might mention, as a point of ethics, that a friend who cannot participate in the good things in your life is not a friend. Said friend should be thrown off of the island. As Gresham’s law says: don’t throw good money after bad.

Gottlieb seems to believe that SOLF should write and send a letter to her lost friend. On that point I disagree. Best to get over it and to forget her entirely.

As for the plagiarism issue, I would fain point out that you cannot plagiarize an idea. You can plagiarize someone’s words but you cannot be sued for plagiarizing an idea. In this case, as in many others that arrive at us from advice columns, we do not know enough about the situation to know whether the friend is right or wrong.

In some circumstances one can convoque the parties to the dispute and to lay the texts on the table. Reality will do a better at resolving such disputes than will mental gymnastics. If the two together cannot resolve the dispute, perhaps a mediator will help out.

Also, one assumes that when two people have been friends for forty years they have more than a few friends in common. If SOLF really wants to get back together, how about sending an emissary, an intermediary.  

Since the one woman writes publicity while the other writes, one assumes, in the media, I do not see any injury as especially grievous. Extorting an apology never works, because even if it offered, one can never know whether or not it's sincere. But, we do not know the details that produced the dispute. Thus, we cannot really offer an opinion… beyond the general opinion that this friendship is a lost cause. TTMO-- that is, time to move on.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

One cannot make a good decision with inadequate data.