As expected, some commenters agreed with my article/interview with Jon Padgett yesterday, and some disagreed. Some saw it as obvious that Nic Pizzolatto plagiarized Thomas Ligotti, others didn’t.
Well, when you compare phrase after phrase, it does seem obvious. But that’s not what I want to talk about right now. What I found particularly interesting were the folks who wrote, in so many words, that it wouldn’t stand up in court, therefore it wasn’t wrong.
Those people are missing the point.
I have no idea whether it would stand up in court. Frankly, I don’t care. What I do care about is right and wrong. And I care about how writers treat other writers.
What Pizzolatto did was wrong. He didn’t come up with those phrases and ideas on his own — he admitted that, when he was forced to do so. What Pizzolatto did that was worse than paraphrasing Ligotti’s words was refusing to acknowledge Ligotti for those words.
He could have acknowledged Ligotti any number of times — he didn’t. He only did it when an interviewer cornered him with evidence that he lifted directly from Ligotti’s book. He could have given Ligotti the credit on the DVD commentary — he didn’t. (Which completely negates his “I can’t talk about Ligotti until the series is over” excuse.)
Pizzolatto seems to want the TV-viewing public to think that he came up with those phrases and ideas.
The right thing to do would have been to credit Ligotti for them. And the right thing doesn’t always have anything to do the law.
I’m not a frequenter of Thomas Ligotti Online, and though I enjoy Ligotti’s work, I’ve discovered it relatively recently. I’m not doing this because I am defending him — that’s just a by-product. I wrote that article because if we allow Nic Pizzolatto to get away with pawning off those key Cohle statements as his own, then where does it end? Is it now okay for any writer to do the same? Is it now alright for any writer to read another author’s book, find some phrases that he likes, then move a word here and there and pass it off as his own?
That’s what I want to help prevent.
Nic Pizzolatto may or may not have done anything illegal. But what he did was certainly wrong. He went too far. It’s one thing to borrow someone’s ideas. It’s quite another thing to borrow someone’s ideas and their phrasing, their words, and to acknowledge that writer only when one is forced to do so.
Does he really deserve an Emmy for that?
(Below: video compares key phrases)