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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

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).
tybalt_quin
Jan. 16th, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC)
I always, *always* cite these sources.

:nods:

That's best practice.

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).

:nods again:

If you read the judgment of the case (which is fascinating reading, not least because of the information on how Dan Brown writes) then the judge made a comment about how allowing a claim relating to the "architecture" of a book or theory would be tantamount to claiming ownership in those particular facts, which could never be protected under copyright law.

Being a sad old legal geek, I got really caught up in the case and its press coverage. There were allegations that the whole case was actually a conspiracy by the publishers to boost sales of both books by starting a high-profile legal case, which I think is a little silly (especially when you know how much legal costs can rise to in this country).
alanajoli
Jan. 16th, 2008 06:39 pm (UTC)
You've definitely done more research than I have on that case! The judge seems to have nailed it, though, in my humble opinion. I did see an article during the process about how much is was costing the HBHG authors, and it definitely wasn't cheap! I can't imagine they sold more books because of it.