In "Something Borrowed," Gladwell questions plagiarism by giving many examples of questionable acts of "borrowing" or taking ideas from others. The main example he gives is about how play writer, Lavery, took ideas and even some phrases directly from both Gladwell's work on a psychiatrist named Lewis and her own book itself. He discusses how he was unsure of whether he should side with Lewis, who was very upset, and help win a lawsuit against Lavery. Then, he felt that it was exactly stealing. He compares this with copying artists in music; he doesn't really think that using someone else's ideas is stealing. He thinks there are many other factors when considering if something is stealing someone's property. In the end, he let Lavery come talk to him about her mistakes and somewhat feels for her and understands that she just made a mistake.
I found this article to be pretty interesting. I agree with your past students, in that keeping track of all of the different people was a little confusing, but I really liked Gladwell's thoughts. I often question how someone can "own" a simple phrase. I agree that its not really fair to make an idea someone's property. I really liked that he showed professor Lawrence Lessig's idea of a comparison between a picnic table and someone's ideas. I agree that words and ideas can't necessarily be considered someone's property. I think Gladwell is a little confused about what he believes is right, and after reading this, I too am still confused on whether I think plagiarism is stealing or not.