September 14, 2001

Can We Call a Truc On This Issue?
Steve L.

Sophie, your response to my article is far more emotional than mine was to Cicily's!

I don't think there is any point continuing this line of discussion, as no communication seems to be happening. My response to Cicily was NOT vicious, insulting, irrational, and uncalled-for as you say, and I can't believe you have given much thought at all to what has been written here.

To recap: Cicily raised the issue whether Jackson can be considered to be plagiarising Tolkien. I responded briefly with a simple statement that interpetation is not plagiarism and Jackson is obviously not claiming credit for Tolkien's ideas. So, as far as plagiarism is concerned, there is no issue to discuss. Cicily then seemed to ignore my response completely, claiming that she did NOT accuse Jackson of plagiarism and I misunderstood her. You are now being vicious in criticizing me for trying to remind Cicily of exactly what she said and why my original response was appropriate--which was never addressed, but just dismissed offhandedly by both of you.

What are we arguing about here?!

I wrote about this the first time only to clarify the meaning of "plagiarism" (which Cicily explicitly ASKED people to do!) and to answer her question by saying Jackson isn't guilty of it. Your responses still don't make clear whether we even agree on what "plagiarism" means!

Yes, Jackson has the film rights to the story as you say, and therefore the right to "do what he wants" with it--at least to a certain extent. It still does NOT give him the right to claim the story as his own, which would be plagiarism.

You say "as far as [you] are concerned" a writer's ideas can never become public property. When I wrote about that, I was referring to the LAW, not what I think is right. Classics of literature such as Shakespeare are IN FACT public property, and that's why people can quote from them and write adaptations so freely (as in Stoppard's play Guildenstern and Rosencrantz are Dead). Would you accuse Tom Stoppard of having "no originality as an artist and no artistic identity"? Is he "only a second-rate copycat with no talent or imagination of [his] own"?

According to the LAW, intellectual property rights EXPIRE after a fixed period of time. If you don't believe me, check into it yourself. Like the definition of "plagiarism," the law itself is not a matter of opinion.

As to whether Jackson is making too many changes to the story, I expressed my views about that in two articles a long time ago. At first I felt very saddened to hear about the changes, but then I accepted that obviously some changes are inevitable; and, based on what I've seen, it looks to me like the films will be fantastic!

Is Jackson stealing Tolkien's ideas? No, of course not. He's making a film adaptation of Tolkien's story, and it requires a lot of creativity from a lot of people. Are Jackson and others ONLY motivated by greed and therefore perfectly willing to sacrifice the integrity of Tolkien's work to make a box-office hit? No, of course not. I think many people involved in this project are clearly great fans of Tolkien's story; and, as I said before, the great attention that has been given to depicting many details of the story faithfully shows the care that people have put into this adaptation. But OF COURSE they are also not taking on this huge project solely out of a love of LOTR; and it would be silly to blame them for hoping to make money from it! That's the way of the world, y'know!

I think it is YOUR response here that has failed to clarify anything and only consisted of an attack. However, as Richard H. wrote earlier, I cannot believe this topic is even being debated at all! Like him, I sincerely hope that we can move on to more productive discussion and put all this behind us. I would like to hear your views on favorite scenes of the story--if you think that's interesting. Peace.