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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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sydgill
Jan. 14th, 2008 06:49 pm (UTC)
Plagiarizing is unacceptable. I'm not sure about unforgivable because there's nothing to be gained by not forgiving the woman. Would I read her books? Umm...no, not after this -- because the trust has been lost. And that would be the real punishment in all of this.

I actually feel sorry for her. This is kind of like the Martha Stewart situation. Stewart went to jail over a couple hundred thousand -- admittedly horrible for the average citizen, but compared to what she had and what she lost (after the jail time) the crime was just stupid -- on her part. Same thing for Ms Edward's -- as a writer she could have just as easily rewritten what she wanted to use -- I mean, by God, she's a writer -- that's what she does for a living! How hard would it have been to read her research material and then come up with a creative way to put it into her own words? It's a shame that after her success (getting published -- you'd think that once you achieved this you would never do anything to lose the new status) she would make such a gigantic mistake.

I feel sorry for her fans (like you said Jeaniene) and I feel sorry for her.

Although her comment HERE makes me wonder what the publisher/editor's responsibility is in this. On the other hand her and her husband's response is also disturbing -- I'm not sure why exactly...but I don't feel comfortable with their answer.

I didn't totally follow the James Fry scandal with Oprah and his memoir A Million Little Pieces, but I believe his defense was that the publisher wanted to sell his story as a memoir...even though some of the scenes were fictional. So does that mean as readers we should be aware that a memoir can be part fiction? And thus, historical romance novels can contain lifted passages without reference?

If that is the case, is it really the author's fault? If she is doing what is acceptable in her genre then is she to blame? If the passages were referenced would you still be bothered by them? If the answer is no, and the rules of published historical romances truly do dictate that passages do not need to be referenced, then should readers be angry with her??

But in all honesty, as a writer, I strive to make my writing original and captivating. Why would you even bother with all the complications of inserting someone else's work in your own? When you're writing FICTION??!! It just doesn't make sense.

Edited at 2008-01-14 06:53 pm (UTC)
p_sunshine
Jan. 14th, 2008 07:51 pm (UTC)
Nope, I'd never buy from a plagiarist. And god forbid I stumbled across another book later and found that person using a pseudonym to get published. The uproar would be mighty.
selenya
Jan. 14th, 2008 11:02 pm (UTC)
As a reader, I'd never buy a book by a plagiarist. They're conmen, repackaging and selling what isn't theirs. Hell, it's like a guy selling TVs out of the back of a van, only worse cause he's pretty much claiming he made the TVs.

As a writer, I'm totally disgusted. If you can't write your own words, get out of the damned business. *sigh*
sylent_violet
Jan. 14th, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC)
Okay so I just wrote this nice long comment in response and of course there was an error posting it and it is now lost in cyber space hell.


Anyways, now I'm going to sum this up.

Plagiarism is plagiarism is plagiarism.

One passage out of a hundred books could be a mistake. I'm not saying it is, but it could be. Yet the book count of eerie similarities is rising. I don't believe in coincidences and I don't believe that CE is that naive.

When you find multiple passages in multiple books we've gone from the 'whoops' stage, to the, 'known habit' stage.

So, no I don't condone it, I wouldn't buy the books of a known plagiarist, and CE will hopefully get everything she deserves for stealing from other writers to make a career of her own.

On that note, I don't think it's fair for people to go around bashing the SBTB website. They did not commit the crime, yet they are getting bashed quite a bit. They are simply the messengers, the truth bearers, and I think it's complete and utter crap that people are blaming them for the whole CE situation.
ljuser_zero
Jan. 15th, 2008 01:07 am (UTC)
I just saw the chart on that other blog. OMG! I read the thing about paraphrasing research without citations before. Even though I do research for a living, I could almost excuse that one. But I just saw the comparision to the other fiction sections. Wow. I just can't imagine the thought process that goes into a decision like that. Is it lazy? Or is fear? Denial? I just don't get it.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 15th, 2008 03:20 pm (UTC)
Why would it detract from the allegations? That is something I've never understood, especially since the whole 'Did she run over your dog?' snark from Crusie. The evidence is in plain sight; the passage comparisons are there for anyone to see. Why does not liking Cassie Edwards' writing mean that the evidence is somehow compromised? The evidence doesn't care who likes whom, or who paid how much to whom -- that's why collecting evidence is so important in any kind of investigation: Evidence has no opinion. It just is.

If I point my finger at someone and say that he was the one who killed my father and the evidence shows that a) his fingerprints are on the murder weapon, b) his blood and skin are under my father's fingernails because my father fought him, and c) there is a security video that shows him entering my father's apartment and then leaving half an hour later with blood all over his clothes, what does it matter if I've always disliked the man? What does it matter that I thought and said before that he had horrible taste in clothes? Does it detract from the allegations somehow that I don't like him? Does it make the evidence less compelling?
(Anonymous)
Jan. 15th, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC)
So sad
This whole plagiarism controversy is sad and disgusting. I remember when Janet Dailey admitted she plagiarizes from Nora Roberts and from that day forward I won't even look at a Dailey book. It is stealing plain and simple and regardless if you are caught or punished, you have to live with the guilt knowing you didn't achieve anything in your life but just the nickname of being a thief.

Katiebabs
(Anonymous)
Jan. 15th, 2008 07:32 pm (UTC)
Stealing Another's Work is Wrong
Maybe you could not set forth on how you feel about lifting a character from another's work and making it the centerpiece of you own work. I was searching on the web for any inforation on your wholesale theft of Josh Whedon's creation, Spike, and found this ironic posting in which you hold forth of the evil's of lifting passages from another's work. Have you tried reading your own work? Everything, from the appearance, to the pattern of speech, to the personality of Bones is so obviously lifted wholesale from the work of Whedon that all questions of legality aside, it is clearly an unethical use of his creation. And to answer your question, plagiarism from a published author is unforgivable and I for one plan on avoiding reading anything with your name on it ever again.
frost_light
Jan. 15th, 2008 09:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Stealing Another's Work is Wrong
"Everything, from the appearance, to the pattern of speech, to the personality of Bones is so obviously lifted wholesale from the work of Whedon that all questions of legality aside, it is clearly an unethical use of his creation."

Hmm, let's see. Appearance: I'd say Bones looked at lot like Billy Idol. You know, the bleach-blond English singer who was popular more than a DECADE before Spike? Pattern of speech: Bones is English. He uses common English and Australian colloquialisms. The day "blimey, bloke, bloody, wanker, bugger, sod, chap, rooting, luv, etc" are solely credited to Joss Whedon, I'll be glad to apologize. Personality: Spike was evil for 99% of his undead life because, according to Buffy mythology, which you should know, vampires lost their souls and turned into demons once they crossed over. But Bones (a) was never evil, (b) never lost his soul (my vamps were created by God, not demons like in Buffy), (c) could walk in the daylight (unlike Buffy's vamps), (d) had no aversion to crosses (unlike Buffy's vamps), and (e) were completely immune to wood through the heart (whoops, nothing like Buffy's vamps either). I could go on listing the differences (Bones's childhood, human adulthood, vampire adulthood? Nothing like Spike's!) and the list could go on…but it’s not a productive use of time.
alanajoli
Jan. 16th, 2008 02:59 am (UTC)
Re: Stealing Another's Work is Wrong
I find it vaguely ironic that the anonymous person defending Joss Whedon's work here did not spell Whedon's first name correctly.
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