Rynhardt van Blerk
Plagiarism amid South-African writers: The analysis Stephan Watson accusations against South- African author Andjie Krog.
In civil society one pays homage to a successful endeavour through acknowledgement. In the world of literature, which forms an integral part of this society, one should surely acknowledge good research or writing if one was to exploit it. In a 2006 article in the journal New Contrast award-winningSouth-African author Stephen Watson accused fellow South-African writer Antjie Krog of erring in the act of acknowledgement in her title the stars say ‘tsau’ as well as other works. Referring to numerous literatures Watson saw similarities beyond coincidence, one of which being a title Return of the Moon: Versions from the /Xam, authored by Watson himself. This essay will assess Watson’s accusations and Krog’s denial of transgression by analysing both articles along with media and scholarly responses in the wake of these allegations. “In the house of plagiarism there are...many mansions.” (Watson, 2006:50), a metaphor which Watson uses to refer to the vast district of Plagiarism.This metaphor is all the more appropriate when one considers the immense amount of guidelines and instructions published so that its user may evade the fraudulent act of plagiarism. According to Tobie van Dyk and Marisca Coetzee’s Make Sense of Referencing the lifting of intellectual property, that being literature in Krog’s case, makes one guilty of plagiarism (Coetzee & van Dyk: 4). Literature within the South-African Copyright law system is treated differently from other intellectual property such as trademarks, patents and registered designs, as copyright is bestowed once the literature is presented in material form. In other words, if one were to source South-African literature, the failure to acknowledge this would be illegal (Smit& Van Wyk, 2010). However, according to the copyright act of South-Africa, there are exceptions. One is exempted from acknowledging sourced literature when the content of the text is considered common knowledge or general historical facts, when the information can be found in the majority of general information sources and when the copyright term of the text has expired. The copyright term for literature exists for the duration of the author’s life and an additional fifty years posthumously. Once copyright expires without transference the content of the text falls within public domain. If one were to use information within public domain one does not commit plagiarism, even if one fails to acknowledge the original source (Smit& Van Wyk, 2010). In 2004 renowned South-African author Antjie Krog released the title the stars say ‘tsau’, containing songs and stories from Bushman tradition which Krog had translated into verses. This anthology was mainly sourced from German linguist Wilhelm Bleek and co-author Lucy Lloyd’s Archive of /xam text, most of which was published in their title Specimens of Bushman Folklore. Following the release of Krog’s novel was an article, titled Annals of Plagiarism: Antjie Krog and the Bleek and Lloyd Collection, by fellow South-African poet and scholar Stephan Watson in the journal New Contrast, published in 2006. The Watson article enthused deliberation amongst fellow authors, journalists and academics with its controversial accusations that Krog’s title comprised a significant amount of plagiarism. What is more is that Watson avows that this was not a first time offence for Krog, as it is in his opinion that in a previous title by Krog, Country of my Skull, she had lifted, without acknowledgement, from the 1976 essay Myth and Education by Ted Hughes (Wessels, 2007: 24)(Watson, 2006:48-49). Watson commences his claims by arguing evidence of a too strong correspondence between Krog’s the stars say ‘tsau’ and Return of the Moon: Versions from the /Xam, a title he had authored in 1991.The first of Watson’s accusations are aimed at Krog’s...
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