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All week, I've been watching the news unfold about the Cassie Edwards plagiarism scandal. For those of you who haven't heard of it, you can get the details by going HERE and HERE. Long story short, she's an author who was first accused of copying passages from various research texts, and pasting them slightly paraphrased but uncredited into her novels. Then most recently, it seems she may have copied whole passages from a 1930 Pulitzer-winning novel into one of her books.
 
My reaction, as a reader and a writer, is to be both sad and angry. I'm sad for Mrs. Edward's fans, who must be feeling pretty disillusioned, and for her friends/family, who must be having a hard time as well.
 
As a writer, however, I'm angry. Our words belong to us, good or bad, so for them to be hijacked and sold by another author is just wrong. Furthermore, this hasn't only damaged Mrs. Edward's career. There was talk from readers about boycotting all Signet/Penguin authors in protest over the publishers admittedly lame initial response to the plagiarism accusations, when they called Mrs. Edwards novels "researched." Signet/Penguin has since amended their position to state that the Edwards situation "deserves further review", but who knows how much damage has already been done to other Signet/Penguin authors? (Note: I'm not a Signet/Penguin author, so this doesn't affect me, but it upsets me just the same).
 
I know in the fan-fiction world, parts and passages are sometimes copied from books. That's not what I'm talking about here, though. Whether or not copying things from novels for the purpose of unsold entertainment is wrong is another issue. This is the case of a multi-published author taking other people's printed words and selling them under her own name. There doesn't seem to be any wiggle room on whether that's right or wrong, in my opinion.
 
I'm curious about your opinions: Is plagiarism by an author an unforgivable crime? Would you ever buy a book from an author proved to be a plagiarist? Why or why not?
 

Comments

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dragonmyst
Jan. 14th, 2008 01:24 am (UTC)
Is plagiarism by an author an unforgivable crime? Would you ever buy a book from an author proved to be a plagiarist? Why or why not?

Yes. It breaks the trust that the reader has with that author. I trust that when I buy a book by someone that that someone is the one who wrote it. Not cut n pasted from another source.

Nope. See the trust issue.
dracschick
Jan. 14th, 2008 01:33 am (UTC)
I agree with you. I think it's terrible:(
psynde
Jan. 14th, 2008 01:34 am (UTC)
buy a book?
I would not buy a plagiarist's book. I do think they should lose the ability to publish and have to pay back their advances. As a fledgling novelist(if it EVER gets done)I work hard for my words. I think and type for hours as I am sure all authors do. Stealing someones elses work is nasty and unforgivable. Do your own damn work don't steal someone elses..ok rant off...sorry..I am er a pit passionate on the subject I guess.
synde
robinellen
Jan. 14th, 2008 01:53 am (UTC)
I wouldn't buy books by such an author. It's like buying stolen property. It's a yucky situation all around.
wedschilde
Jan. 14th, 2008 02:42 am (UTC)
plagarism is an unforgiveable crime. it's like stealing someone else's child and claiming it as her own. it's kidnapping intellectual property.

passionate about this a bit but you know how it is.... words! my words! :::growls::: because it's a picture that was painted. no stealing. bad.

wedschilde
Jan. 14th, 2008 02:42 am (UTC)
oh...and no, no buying from that author again. s/he is dead to me.
i_amsherlocked
Jan. 14th, 2008 02:54 am (UTC)
I wouldn't be buying a book by a plagiarist. We all work hard for our words, we sweat and cry and bleed over our words and if some one stole words from any one of us it would feel like they'd stolen a child we'd given birth to.
lab_mistress
Jan. 14th, 2008 03:15 am (UTC)
I'm curious about your opinions: Is plagiarism by an author an unforgivable crime? Would you ever buy a book from an author proved to be a plagiarist? Why or why not?

I would say that, yes, it is unforgivable, especially when someone copies entire passages. If you see a snippet in someone else's book that you think is incredibly clever or insightful, it's easy enough to contact that person and request permission to use that line - and to credit it. But if you have to lift entire passages nearly verbatim in order to make your novel work, what the hell sort of wordsmith are you? A person doesn't have any grasp of their craft if they need to steal from others to impress readers, and I'll be damned if I'll support such a shoddy author by buying his/her books.
blackaire
Jan. 14th, 2008 03:36 am (UTC)
Yes, unforgivable.

No, never.

If you can't write a saleable work on your own, you have no business being an author. It just cheapens it for the rest of us.
myjaxon
Jan. 14th, 2008 03:52 am (UTC)
I tend to agree...it's unforgivable that an author would steal someone else's words. I can't understand how, as an author, she could use someone else's hard work and try to pass it off as her own. She knows how hard it can be to produce a successful novel.

If I found out an author I read plagiarize any part of a novel, I wouldn't buy any of her work. If she did it on one, how do I know she hasn't done it with another one. Knowing something is plagiarized kind of cheapens it for me.
java_fiend
Jan. 14th, 2008 06:20 am (UTC)
Is plagiarism by an author an unforgivable crime?

In a word... yes.

Would you ever buy a book from an author proved to be a plagiarist?

In a word... no.

Plagiarism is one of the lowest things a writer can do. Plagiarists are scum of the earth. To steal somebody else's work, their labor, their heart and soul is just unforgivable. They are stealing somebody else's blood, sweat and tears and that is just wrong on so many levels. If you can't make it on your own merits, using your own words, by pouring your own heart and soul out on a page, you don't deserve to make it. Stealing somebody else's is just unacceptable. I personally hope that if the allegations are true, that her career is forever damaged beyond all repair. If it's true, she's scum.
tybalt_quin
Jan. 14th, 2008 11:00 am (UTC)
Is plagiarism by an author an unforgivable crime? Would you ever buy a book from an author proved to be a plagiarist? Why or why not?

I read through the Cassie Edwards thing and it reminded me a great deal of a plagiarism accusation leveled at Ian McEwan last year. Basically he was alleged to have plagiarised parts of another author's memoir for those sections in Atonement that focused on WWII hospitals and nurse's duties. The difference there was that he had actually cited the woman's work as having been used as part of his research (whereas I believe Cassie Edwards is saying that this was never required of her for her work). However, they both related to the extent to which non-fiction work could be incorporated into a work of fiction and whether it crossed the plagiarism line.

I think that if you have a situation where an author has taken a chunk of text from another author's work of fiction (see the Opal Metha plagiarism case from last year), then that is absolutely unacceptable and it would certainly mean that I would never buy a book written by the offending author.

If an author has taken a chunk of text from a work of non-fiction however, I think the line is a finer one. I would certainly want to see an acknowledgement from the author of which texts had been used as part of their research in the first instance if those texts had exerted a significant influence over the shape of the work (just as McEwan did in Atonement). However, I think there comes a point when the expression used in a non-fiction work is merely a repetition of facts and if there's nothing particularly distinctive about that expression, then I don't see how you can claim plagiarism because you're trying to make the same claim that the Da Vinci Code plaintiffs brought against Dan Brown (i.e. that you "own" certain facts or theories).

In the Cassie Edwards situation, I think the original work had a sufficiently distinctive expression for it to constitute plagiarism. But I'm not sure that this would hold true in other cases.

Does that make sense?
alanajoli
Jan. 16th, 2008 02:53 am (UTC)
I'm falling pretty closely into your camp. For example, in the comic I write for, I do prose passages from the voices of the characters as "bonus content" on off days. Sometimes, when I've only got one source to work with (as I try to work in a lot of history), I actually paraphrase from the voice of the character, but often use the examples used in my source instead of changing them. I always, *always* cite these sources.

Also, now that I've noticed the tendency, I've tried to relate the history with more original words and examples, because I honestly think it's a little sloppy to stick too closely to your source material.

Oh, and it's the Holy Blood, Holy Grail guys v. Dan Brown, by the way. They claimed that he stole the "architecture" of their book (but I think they were basically upset that they'd get fewer movie rights deals for documentaries after The DaVinci Code was purchased. This is silly on many levels, as their book started selling *so much more* after Brown's novel came out... but I digress).
(no subject) - tybalt_quin - Jan. 16th, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alanajoli - Jan. 16th, 2008 06:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
david_bridger
Jan. 14th, 2008 12:57 pm (UTC)
Nothing is unforgivable. I'm sad for Cassie Edwards, whose career is probably about to crumble in disgrace, and I pray that I never find myself in the position where I can't cope with my personal pressures to the extent that I would feel I had to steal someone else's work. The victims can recover damages through courts of law. Cassie Edwards has probably damaged herself for worse than she has damaged them.
phoenixangel444
Jan. 14th, 2008 02:40 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't buy a book from a plagiarist, the words are not their own. I wouldn't be interested in seeing what they thought was good enough to steal.
awelkin
Jan. 14th, 2008 05:51 pm (UTC)
Coherence is low due to drugs, but in a nutshell, I think plagiarism is the unforgiveable sin for writers.

I am also a professor and have strong feelings about it in that venue as well.

Sometimes I am just plain ole disgusted by what people will do for recognition.

Catherine
(Anonymous)
Jan. 14th, 2008 06:42 pm (UTC)
Is plagiarism by an author an unforgivable crime?
Good question. I think if the author admitted they were wrong, apologized, made amends to whomever they copied from (if possible), and promised never ever to do it again, then yes I might give them another chance.

-Shanna
alanajoli
Jan. 16th, 2008 02:54 am (UTC)
Re: Is plagiarism by an author an unforgivable crime?
I'd probably go along with this to a certain degree, also. If it was a "minor" case of plagiarism (a few paragraphs) and the author recognized their mistake/apologized, I might be willing to pick them up again.
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