Re: [RDA-L] Dead man writing: spirit, fictitious person or

Posting to RDA-L

On 6/24/2014 4:46 PM, Moore, Richard wrote:

No. The work is not *written* by another bibliographic identity with the name of Walter Benjamin. It is *fictitiously attributed* to the real historical identity with that name.

It’s not about pseudonyms.

I have been a little busy and could not respond. I am sure everyone is getting as tired of this as I am, so this is my last word, and as always, I don’t expect any changes from RDA.

Of course it’s a different bibliographic entity and all about pseudonyms. We can hedge it by saying there are relationships, but certain facts remain. There are various types of authorship. I can:

1) write something original and distribute under my own name (that’s fine)

2) write something original and distribute it without any name at all (anonymous works–not so bad either)

3) take some other person’s writing and distribute under my own name, this leads to:

a) person is alive — plagiarism and possible fraud charges
b) person is (long) dead — plagiarism

4) write something original but distribute it under another name, i.e. falsely allege that someone else wrote it:

a) A real person’s name: I can remain quiet and insist that the other person wrote it
i) if the person is alive — plagiarism and possible libel charges (e.g. identity theft)
ii) if the person is (long) dead — possible fraud charges (e.g. publishing the fake Hitler diaries)

b) I can use a pseudonym by:
i) an obvious pseudonym (e.g. Mr. X, an [ankh] symbol, etc.)
ii) another name that is impossible (e.g. Pitt the Younger, Cato, The Apostle Paul, Walter Benjamin–i.e. one of the dead Walter Benjamins)
iii) a real name that is general. If I use a well-known specific name, I may run into libel or plagiarism charges such as 4,a,i and 4,a,ii but it can be a “general” name (e.g. Mr. Smith, Barbara Rich)

5) Cataloging has made a special practice for spirits (beside the point here)

Concerning Benjamin, I do not see any choice except this is a case of 4, b, ii of a type of pseudonym that everyone knows is impossible since the  person has been dead for decades. The group using this pseudonym apparently did it in a good-natured way and openly said that they were not the same Walter Benjamin but they took his name. If they claimed that it really was the writing of Walter Benjamin, (i.e. alleged it) they would have been guilty of fraud, but in their case, they made an open statement that it is written not by Benjamin but by others.

Therefore, they were writing under a name that is not their own. Consequently, it is a different bibliographic identity and a pseudonym.

The cataloging can either reflect this, or not. If not, we can add

“Benjamin, Walter, 1892-1940” (although it is clearly incorrect, as the group itself says)

and add a relator code:

“alleged author” (which they specifically did not allege, otherwise there would be a possibility of fraud, such as with the Hitler diaries, therefore, it is also incorrect)

I realize this is a very small issue compared with many of the large issues of RDA (which I will not repeat). I can only hope this will not happen more often, but we never know.

I would hate to have to defend this practice before a group of senior faculty. I know they would make mincemeat of me. We can only hope nobody cares, but what a thing to hope for.

As I said earlier, if adding information that everyone knows is incorrect is to be the future of information retrieval and library cataloging, it is highly ominous for the field.