Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Spiegel "borrows" from Atlantic Monthly

I was looking forward to the current issue of the German newsweekly Der Spiegel to see the article for which they had contacted me for a comment about plagiarism in schools. The plagiarism topic usually comes up in August when there is nothing else to report on, something I always find amusing.

Looking at the title page, however, I was not amused. I had so enjoyed Nicholas Carr's article in the July Atlantic Monthly called "Is Google making us stupid?", and Atlantic had had a great cover for this. Here Google was using the same cover for its August 11, 2008 issue - just translated into German!

Der Spiegel,
August 11, 2008

Atlantic Monthly,
July/August 2008

Ouch. Deep down in the article, Spiegel does refer to Carr's article in the Atlantic. But I can't find an explanation for why they lifted the design of the cover. I wrote a letter to the editor - we'll see if there is an answer next week.


  1. I'd like to disagree. I've read neither of the two stories. Just judging the similarity of titles the only thing they have in common is using Google's typeface for writing 'stupid'.
    The titles are different ("Is Google making us stupid" vs. "Is the Internet making us stupid").
    The text layout is different.
    The design is different. "Spiegel" added a search form while "Atlantic Monthly" just uses plain text.

    Article and cover page were probably inspired by "Atlantic Monthly". However, "Spiegel" only borrowed an idea.
    I believe that an idea or concept does not deserve as much protection as a finished work. Of course, the correct, scientific way is to cite sources for ideas as well. However, plagiarizing a work (text, image, implementation) means a standstill for innovation. Plagiarizing an idea - and improving upon its execution - leads to innovation.
    I think "Spiegel" has done this - taking a good idea for a cover page and extending it.

    BTW: Nice discussion about who first wrote "Die Welt ist eine Google" (in German) at http://blog.stuttgarter-zeitung.de/?p=108 in the comments.

  2. You're right - in detail, it is different. So it is more of a pastiche, to be found funny by those in the know. Still, at first glance the covers scream out at you "Same!". Would have been nice for them to acknowledge the Atlantic as the basis for the cover, though.


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