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Cross Blog Post: State of Plagiarism Today

Isn’t it enough that you people set out to destroy her career and almost caused her death?

In case you don’t know, which I know for a fact you have been told, Cassie Edwards suffered a massive stroke due to the stress you idiots put on her.

I hope you can live with yourselves knowing what you did almost cost this woman her life. You have deprived her grandchildren of their grandmother. You have caused a lot of innocent people much heartache by your actions.

Everyone is blaming you and your cronies for what happened. Not just her fans, fan club members, etc. I’m talking publishers, authors, editors, and more. I hope almost killing someone was worth the 15 minutes of fame.

If you have any reason to think this is a lie, contact Carol Stacy at Romantic Times and I’m sure she’ll verify the information for you.

A lot of Cassie’s fans plan on being at the RT convention in Orlando just so they can attend your blogging seminar. Instead of it being about the art of blogging maybe it should be about the art of how to destroy a person’s life.

A few weeks ago, when Sarah realized that January 2009 would mark a year since the  plagiarism  scandal that rocked the ferret world, as well as the romance world, she asked Jane to examine the issue and do a “State of  Plagiarism” analysis, so to speak. After much back and forth dialogue, we’ve come to the following conclusions about the way the issue of plagiarism is treated by our community.

On the positive side: the issue is being discussed, in the romance community, and in the larger publishing world as well. Fans, authors, and even publishers are being educated as to what plagiarism is, what enforcement mechanisms there are, and why it’s important for the entirety of the literary community to not be complacent or unsupportive.   Even if some, or even much, of the discussion is about how horribly mean we were to speak up and speak in the manner that we did, it was dialogue about an important topic that we hadn’t had before.   

The Edwards scandal was important not because of who was involved, but because it led to the further education. There was a session at RWA and one at RT.   There were mentions in the newspapers and on blogs.   There was support for the victim of plagiarism in a way that there wasn’t ten years prior, making it easier for one who is plagiarised to come forward. Plagiarism became newsworthy, and the increased attention meant that victims of prior incidents had room to speak up and share their stories, the costs both financial and emotional they endured to protect their copyright.      

Even the absence of discussion was noticeable.    

But the negatives are related to the positives: the session at RWA was poorly attended, and there was a backlash to those who spoke out, not so much here at Smart Bitches or Dear Author, but against others who took a stand. With the revelation of  
plagiarism  at the hand of Neale Donald Walsch, the same old themes are played out with a full orchestra.

Those who raise the issue and cry foul, whether it’s a blogger or the writer herself, take the blame. We’re told to hush up, keep quiet, and stop being mean.  

It was one year ago this week that we broke the Cassie Edwards story.   This entry isn’t in the least about her. Instead, it’s about where the writing community stands in regard to  plagiarism  within the genre. Based on our analysis, we haven’t made much progress. Lip service is paid to the idea that its bad, but when the excrement hits the air circulating device, there’s navel gazing and thumb twiddling and fretting and calls for forgiveness, bygones, and stop being mean already.  


Little has changed in attitude and practice.  
Plagiarism  remains an issue tried in the court of public opinion, and the more famous or published the thief is, the more likely they are to be reassured and forgiven by their eager fanbase.   Plagiarism is not an issue that can always be validated in a court case; it’s a community issue. Do we, as a community, believe in the need for intellectual honesty and creativity?      

Why is there not more of a reaction to sympathize with the person whose work, inspiration, and words were stolen from them? Why is there instead pressure for the victim to shut up about it and a general attitude that the whole mess should just disappear so people can get back to reading?

  

  

  

In our opinion,  plagiarism  isn’t taken seriously enough by some readers or by some writers. The defense of the plagiarist and the ease with which forgiveness is offered by readers is so stupid as to be mindboggling. What, because they cried and said they were sorry it should be over? Remorse is enough? To quote the wizened literary scholar Rhianna: “You’re only sorry you got caught.”  


Until every reader and every writer refuses to tolerate  
plagiarism  and the thieves that commit it, it will be a problem that continues to grow. But that intolerance needs to extend to every genre. When  plagiarism  hit romance, the response was, “Oh, but it’s only romance novels, and they’re all the same anyway.” With the spiritual writing community, the response is, “Oh, it’s just crazy religious people who think they talk to God, so whatever.” With fanfic, it’s “Oh, it’s just fanfic.”      

Plagiarism  should not be tolerated anywhere by anyone, and that includes romance, spiritual writing, literary fiction, academic publication, and fanfic. It shouldn’t be tolerated, it shouldn’t be excused, and it shouldn’t be something that is kept quiet. The lack of support for those who suffer from it is appalling:  from insane court costs to accusations of being a whiner, the person who has been robbed is singled out as a troublemaker who ought to pipe down. From warnings of bad publicity to being called an outright liar, the victim is again a victim.  

Yet again plagiarism shows up in the news this week, and yet again the same song is played. Everyone should be vocal in making a stand and making plagiarism unacceptable within our community. The song needs to change.

  

  

  

  

  

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

103 Comments

  1. library addict
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 04:26:48

    I agree the public and all writers should take plagiarism seriously. And I truly believe many do.

    I asked a librarian the other day why they continued to order Janet Dailey books even though she admitted she plagiarized. She told me that she didn’t know anything about the plagiarism, but it wouldn’t matter because her books are popular.

    I confess I’ve been known to rearrange the books at my local Wal-Mart, because they always seem to shelve the Dailey books next to the Nora ones. Grr!

    So, until publishers take it more seriously, authors who plagiarize have no reason to stop. They get caught, they cry, and some people, apparently many people, still buy their books.

  2. Ann Somerville
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 04:41:12

    Is there *any* serious issue that the reading public – and writers – take to heart enough to give an actual damn about? To the point of it making a difference to anyone’s income or career?

    Look at what’s blown up in Romance Land over the last twelve months, and how utterly trivial the consequences have been, never mind how trivial and stupid the discussion was as well. Victoria Laurie, still cooking with gas. MacGillivray, still publishing and published. Edwards – dropped by one publisher, not by the other, when it’s hard to imagine a more egregious example of plagiarism and copyright violation short of actually stealing someone’s MS whole.

    Blogs host discussions of mind-boggling stupidity a lot of the time, and generate a lot of heat and very little light over issues like islamophobia, tokenism, homophobia, sexism and the like. It’s frustrating how little real intellectual analysis is ever brought to bear on these serious matters. But the blogosphere is only a tiny, tiny part of the audience reach. Edwards got more attention in the mainstream press because of the ferrets than anything else. No other big issue ever causes a ripple outside blogland.

    And that’s the problem for raising consciousness about plagiarism and all the other ‘isms’ – most readers don’t hang out in groups, any more than any other consumer does. They don’t read blogs, they read newspapers and magazines, and those venues just don’t care about the things that the blogs do unless it’s about Paris Hilton.

    Publishers know that. So they’re not going to take it seriously unless a big name causes a stink, and they will sweep it under the carpet as fast as they can, with the willing collusion of the book-buying public. You see how fast people jump in to try and stop heated discussions in blog land. They *prefer* not to know, just like the librarian mentioned in the previous comment.

    From warnings of bad publicity to being called an outright liar, the victim is again a victim.

    Happens to everyone who makes a stink. Just ask my friend Paul :( The bad guy is always the one disturbing the peaceful ignorance of the masses.

  3. Jessica
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 05:42:33

    Jane write:

    But the negatives are related to the positives: the session at RWA was poorly attended, and there was a backlash to those who spoke out, not so much here at Smart Bitches or Dear Author, but against others who took a stand.

    Copious amounts of data on whistleblowing suggest that this is the predictable result: the whistleblower suffers more than the wrongdoer, across industries.

    This is why sites like DA and SB are so important: you have something to gain and nothing to lose by whistleblowing.

    On the issue Ann raises, that nobody cares, I have to agree that it’s harder and harder to get people to see plagiarism as wrong, in fiction writing, academic writing, everywhere.

  4. katiebabs
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 07:54:10

    I don’t understand why there should be backlash against you, Sarah and others. You have the facts and the facts don’t lie. People need to get their heads out of the sand.

  5. Anon76
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 08:01:11

    What boggles my mind is the way people look at different aspects of theivery.

    Many people who turn a blind eye to plagarism are the same individuals who would adamantly attest that stealing a book is wrong. The physical book or ebook file is sacred, but not the content within.

    I don’t get that at all.

  6. jmc
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 08:04:47

    Who is posting as Grasping at the Wind? I’ve noticed the same message four or five times here at DA. Spam bot?

    Semi-related to the plagiarism discussion: I noticed that my library kept admittedly or allegedly plagiarised books in circulation (the Viswanathan book, James Frey, etc.), and asked them outright why, especially for the books that were pulled from stores by the publisher. Their response: they have no formal policy about pulling plagiarised books. In the Viswanathan case, they kept it on the shelf because demand for it was greater after the Big Brouhaha.

    So plagiarism isn’t enough to get an author booted from the library either.

    Depressing.

  7. Lori
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 08:08:57

    Forgive my ignorance but are there legal aspects to consider also? I remember when NR was plagarized years ago because the national news media covered the story and the plagarist was condemned (as my faulty memory recalls).

    But isn’t it illegal to steal? And plagarism is stealing. Or am I being woefully ignorant?

  8. Jane
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 08:25:20

    @Lori A civil case for theft (called conversion) rests upon the interference with the property owner’s possession. It’s not well suited to an IP claim because the intellectual property ownership, even in the case of plagiarism, rests with the original content creator. It’s not really a legal theft. The fact is that there are few legal means to prevent plagiarism. The only real mechanism is probably copyright infringement but one can plagiarize and not be in violation of the copyright act depending on the extent of the copying and so forth.

    Plagiarism is really a community enforced (or not) issue.

  9. Plagiarism Is Unacceptable « My Thoughts On Nothing Much At All
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 08:50:53

    [...] I read the cross-posts about the state of plagiarism over at Smart Bitches, Trashy  Books and Dear Author, . . One sentence in particular made me wince: “In our opinion, plagiarism isn't taken [...]

  10. Jane O
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 08:52:54

    Excuse me, my mind is being boggled here.

    People are upset by the revelation of plagiarism, but not by the plagiarism itself?

    The plagiarist steals the creation of the original author. The author’s words, the author’s ideas and inventions are not something that anyone could have produced had they bothered to do so. The quality of the words and the profundity of the ideas do not matter. For good or ill, they are unique to the author.

    Plagiarists and their defenders, “have you no shame?”

  11. KatieB
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 08:55:30

    One of the LJ communities I belong to had a plagiarism scandal last week. A young fanfic writer copied a popular book word for word, changing only the character names and a few minor details. When she got called on it, she couldn’t understand why it was wrong. She thought she was showing her love to the author by doing it, and she thought that since she was going to change the ending of the book that it was alright. A moderator kept arguing with her until she got it.

    As sad as that was, the reactions of some of the community members was even sadder. Some asked the girl to continue anyway just off the community because they wanted to know the end. Someone told them to go buy the book. But by then the girl understood that what she was doing was wrong and refused.

    The community moderators posted a zero-tolerance post about plagiarism with examples and while a lot of the comments supported them for doing this, some people just argued about why some examples weren’t plagiarism when it was obvious that it was. Others were asking, is this or that plagiarism? A lot of people just don’t seem to understand what plagiarism is.

    It was at least good to see many community members speak up against plagiarism, but it felt like there was still a lot of education needed. Why is it that difficult a concept? I don’t understand what’s so hard to figure out. When you take something that’s not yours and claim it is, that’s stealing. Maybe being in a fanfic community with its fuzzy morality makes it harder for some people to tell the difference between right and wrong.

  12. Jane
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 08:57:19

    @Jane O Dear Author really did not suffer a huge blowback from this. It was really the SmartBitches. Big time authors who I had a lot of respect for accused SBs of mishandling it. One author asked whether Cassie Edwards had run over the SB’s dog. One author called them dishonorable, I think the term was. Another prominent blogger criticized them in a way that I thought wasn’t appropriate.

    Nora Roberts was accused of being an attention seeker, trying to diminish her rivals, by seeking out the press. She never actually sought out the press.

    There was recently a comment over at the SBs by a Cassie Edwards fan that the SBs better watch out at RT because a bunch of fans, editors, and authors were going to be after them.

    I felt that the criticism of the SBs was so wrong because it diluted the importance of the discovery and the discussion and allowed people to say – Oh, yeah, plagiarism is wrong but what is really wrong is how the SBs did it.

  13. mia madwyn
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 09:07:23

    Does anybody remember a case fifteen years ago or so where another Big Name Romance Writer was caught using a plot, characters and even passages from a novel published in the 40s about Scotland? Something historically-based about someone known as “the Hepburn?” As I recall she admitted/claimed her books were being ghost-written and she had no idea the story was stolen, and although her publisher dropped her, another one took her in.

    I hope somebody else remembers this because it’s been driving me crazy for several months, ever since I read about this new scandal. At that time people were scandalized and not defending her, to the best of my knowledge, but money talks and she did find a new house.

  14. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 09:45:35

    I’ll just say the same thing I said at the SB blog…

    Plagiarism should not be tolerated anywhere by anyone, and that includes romance, spiritual writing, literary fiction, academic publication, and fanfic.

    Well said.

    I sympathize Ms. Edwards' health, and regardless of the plagiarism, I wouldn't wish any ill on her-there's no need. Doing wrong will always catch up with a person.

    However, regardless of whether or not stress from work induced the stroke (and sorry, that can't be proven-too many things play into a stroke, and stress is only part of it), nobody made her plagiarize.

    She made the choice and if she suffered consequences after, then she has to deal with them.

    ~*~

    And it just now occurs to me, I didn’t address the main issue…yes, publishers/editors/writers/readers all of us need to step up and say plagiarism is wrong, make it clear it isn’t acceptable.

    We all work hard. It doesn’t matter if we’re writing recipe books, material for greeting cards, blogs about whether or not the state of the world will ever improve, fiction, nonfiction, published, unpublished, nobody has the right to take somebody else’s hard work and pass it off as their own. Nobody.

  15. roslynholcomb
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 09:46:51

    Yanno, I’m wondering if some of this isn’t part of the ‘be nice’ code that women in general struggle with? (I realize that all the perps aren’t women, but I’m focusing on the romance community.) Is it possible that the whistleblowers are getting blowback because they are perceived to have violated the ‘be nice’ code?

  16. Emmy
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 09:50:51

    Oh wow. I thought plagiarism was illegal. I guess that explains why everyone who got ripped off by Edwards over the last 100 books didn’t come out of the woodworks to sue.

    I wonder if people who bought the books can try to get a refund, because they purchased what was sold as an original work, but wasn’t entirely?

  17. Jane
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 09:55:56

    @Emmy The reader could sue but the cost of the suit (many thousands of dollars) v the recovery (the cost of the book) doesn’t make it economically feasible.

  18. joanne
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 10:13:57

    Am I the only one getting dizzy from the cross-blog reading?
    Probably.
    Anyway:

    Some of the ‘be nice’ responses to the work that Edwards stole reminds me of the old stories about Willie Sutton. He robbed banks. Everyone (in that day & age) knew that banks had plenty of money and wouldn’t miss the little bit Willie stole for himself. The public liked him. He was a bank robber but, oh well. He was a nice guy so no big.

    Times and some attitudes don’t change that much, I’m sad to say.

  19. Lori
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 10:40:00

    I am truly gobsmacked because I thought I understood plagarism but apparently I only understood the moral/ethical standpoint of thou shalt not steal (uh, sorry God for using your words) (j/k).

    But then what does copyright protect if not the work? I was under the impression (I really am ignorant) that copyright was like a patent: these are my words, my put-together sentences and they belong to me. I realize one can’t patent an idea so one Harry Potter creates 10 Harry Potter rip-offs but the words within Harry Potter are copyrighted/patented to JK Rowling. Or are they not? Can anybody write Hogwarts and Muggles and it’s legal, not an infringement?

    Sorry if these questions seem really simplistic but I thought I understood and now I realize I don’t.

  20. Sheryl Nantus
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 10:47:13

    anybody need personal bodyguard protection at RT, drop me a line.

    I’ll work for a space on the floor to sleep.

    and I *LOVE* dealing with idiots. Especially the ones who don’t seem to understand reality.

    heh, heh…

  21. Anion
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 11:06:48

    Semi-related to the plagiarism discussion: I noticed that my library kept admittedly or allegedly plagiarised books in circulation (the Viswanathan book, James Frey, etc.), and asked them outright why, especially for the books that were pulled from stores by the publisher.

    James Frey didn’t plagiarize. He lied in his “memoir” but the words were his own.

    This Cassie Edwards business just makes me sick. If you commit a crime, you pay for it. Period. There are no mitigating circumstances to justify plagiarism, and I’d like to see what her response would have been had the tables been turned and someone was stealing from her.

    All these people threatening the SBs? How would they feel if someone stole something from them and pretended it was theirs? A painting they made, a story they wrote, a letter to the editor, a piece of knitting, a recipe, an anecdote? How would they feel if another kid in their child’s class copied their kid’s homework and passed it off as his or her own? Do they like it when their bosses or PTA leaders or whatever steal their ideas and pass them off as their own, and take credit for them from the higher-ups?

    It’s tempting to follow those people around RT and repeat everything they say, and then claim when they call you on it, “No, you didn’t say that. I did.” If they tell a story about their husbands, tell it right beside them and pretend it really happened to you, not them.

    Think they’d still think it wasn’t a big deal? That we should all just be nice? That those who were stolen from should be grateful and flattered?

    Stealing is stealing. Stealing is wrong. It doesn’t matter what it is you stole, it’s just freaking WRONG. What the hell is the matter with those people?

  22. Lissa
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 11:09:07

    The bottom line here is that plagerism in any form is wrong. The person who plagerizes should be punished. Not the whistleblower.

    Of course I am being idealistic. whenever I read about the Cassie Edwards issue, I am reminded of the following story:

    Several years ago, in a small KS community there was a HS English teacher who handed out a syllibus at the beginning of the year that outlined the writing projects the students would be expected to produce over the course. On the syllibus she clearly stated that she would be checking sources and that anyone found to have plagerised IN ANY FORM would be given a failing grade. Along those lines, she also has several class discussion on plagerism, including the use of internet sources. Towards the end of the year, she had a group of 6 students who turned in almost identical papers. Upon further investigation, she found that 1 student had written the paper, and the other 5 had copied it with few changes; the original student had copied source material almost word for word. She flunked all 6 students.

    The parents and community were up in arms. How dare she! Didn’t she understand that they were just children. Didn’t she know that flunking them would mean that some of the students would have to attend summer school? Didn’t she realize that a failing grade meant that some of them couldn’t play sports?

    The parents formed a committee, they got other parents involved, they went to the school board- end result? The teacher was fired, the students were given the opportunity to turn in new papers and they all passed.

    The teacher hired an attorney; she sued the School Board and the District. Eventually she was found to be in the right and the district had to compensate her for her contract and other damages. However, she is no longer teaching – the damage to her reputation and the stress of the entire incident was overwhelming. Even being justified in the end was not worth it, and the district lost a great teacher.

    Plagerism is wrong. It is harmful. Whether it is a student working on a paper, an office worker doing a report, an author publishing a romance novel or some other genre, it is wrong. And we as a reading community need to be vocal in our support of punishing those who perpertrate it.

    Blaming the SB’s for calling out Cassie Edwards is ridiculous. Cassie Edwards was doing something illegal – and she knew it. Whatever happened was of her own doing. When plagerism comes to our attention it needs to be pointed out, whether on a blog, by a letter to the publisher or whatever means you choose. If you don’t want to deal with the consequences of being caught – don’t do the crime. And if you do get caught, suck it up and deal with it. Don’t blame the messenger.

  23. Shannon
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 11:14:37

    Maybe I’m simplifying this way too much but I remember from day one in school, it was drilled in — you don’t cheat. You don’t look at your neighbor’s answers, and you don’t copy from them. If you did cheat and were caught, then there were consequences from getting a zero to getting punished and if you were like me and went to Catholic school, the last thing you wanted was to get punished by a nun.

    Why is plagerism so hard to understand as an adult? It’s something you learned in primary school — don’t cheat and if you do, be preapred for the consequences when you’re caught.

  24. Anon76
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 11:38:27

    The whole threatening tone to the much later posted comment on the SB site involving CE is insanity at its best. (The one that is now headline to the site post.)

    It reeks of, “you are bad, you are ebil, we will be out in force at RT to disrupt you and your ebil selves”. And the way that Carol Stacey’s name is mentioned in it is horrid. Almost as if CS didn’t just report on CE’s medical emergency, but that she herself is a backer of taking the SB’s to task and will allow such disruption at the conference. I’d bet big bucks that is no where near the reality of it. But then zealots aren’t known for their grasp on the rest of the world’s reality, are they.

    Sigh.

    Sadly, this is not the first time RT staff has had to deal with “stalkerish” comments before the event.

  25. TerryS
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 11:56:02

    I feel betrayal, not empathy, for an author who is guilty of plagerism. My reaction whenever a much loved author has plagerized is to destroy any and all of their books I own and not ever again buy (or read) any books “supposedly” authored by them.

    SB and DJ are not to be vilified, but rather thanked wholeheartedly, for reporting the Cassie Edwards situation. I feel sympathy for health issues that she may have suffered; however, trying to lay the blame for those health issues elsewhere is just further self-justification for her own wrongful actions.

  26. K. Z. Snow
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 12:04:26

    I’m very sorry to hear Ms. Edwards fell ill, but I find it difficult to believe that bad press alone can trigger a massive stroke — I mean, sans any preexisting physical condition(s).

    I wonder what arcane medical knowledge Carol Stacy at Romantic Times is privy to that doctors aren’t.

    Sorry, I don’t mean to be flip, but the guilt-trip laid down in that letter struck me as very bizarre. The conveniently overlooked plagiarism issue made it even more bizarre.

  27. Cara
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 12:05:03

    As a reader, I vote with my money. I used to like Dailey but I haven’t read/bought another book of hers since she was unmasked. I never like Edwards, but the rule would apply if I did.
    Unfortunately, some people like a voice and don’t care if it is a stolen one.

  28. theo
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 12:52:22

    In case you don't know, which I know for a fact you have been told, Cassie Edwards suffered a massive stroke due to the stress you idiots put on her.

    I would never wish ill health on anyone. And Shiloh is right, there are many contributing factors to a stroke and most often, one single factor can’t be named.

    Perhaps in this case though, her zealots should rethink that statement and realize that possibly, the stress of trying to hide her plagiarism and then her continuing effort to justify her stupidity and sense of entitlement is one of the contributing factors.

    I realize that probably sounds terrible. I don’t mean it to. I’m just saying…

    We are becoming an entitlement society where there is no wrong in what someone does. They’re entitled to their actions and only see the error of their thought process when it affects them negatively when someone burns them. If readers, other authors and especially publishers (and I do blame them for not dropping the plagiarizer) turn the other way, it will continue.

    I applaud SBTB and DA for their very vocal stand regarding the issue.

  29. Jessa Slade
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 13:02:43

    nobody has the right to take somebody else's hard work and pass it off as their own

    That’s all, folks.

    I missed the original dust-up and when I got caught up, I have to admit, I didn’t see how anyone could say anything except what Shiloh just said: Taking someone else’s words + pretending those words are yours = no.

    There had to be workshops on this?!?

  30. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 13:04:37

    Cross posting, bah!
    Anyway, I’ll repeat a suggestion here from a real life case in the music world, especially since one of the Janes is pretty hot in the legal arena.

    A few years ago, The Verve had a huge hit with “Bittersweet Symphony.” Not only did they pay a “homage” to Massive Attack in the video, they sampled a piece of Rolling Stones music without asking. The Stones sued, and they won, or rather, their manager who owned the songs, Allan Klein did. As a result, all the royalties from the song went to the Stones, and not to The Verve.

    Seems a good idea to me, that the person plagiarised gets the profits, not the perpetrator. Can’t it be done in the writing arena, too?

    So Fred Smith (apologies to any real life Fred Smiths) steals a page of Ann Somerville’s work (apologies to any real life Ann Somervilles), Ann sues and gets awarded the past and present royalties from Fred’s book.

  31. Kathryn Smith
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 13:10:28

    Wait. Everyone is blaming Sarah and SB’s for the fact that Cassie Edwards couldn’t be bothered to paraphrase research rather than lifting it straight from the source? What did you do, hold a gun to her head?

    I’m sorry she has health issues,. but as someone already said, strokes can be caused by any number of factors. That doesn’t change that anyone who makes their living at this job knows it’s wrong to steal words. And we all know how we’d feel having someone steal from us. It’s the Golden Rule, and CE broke it.

  32. MaryK
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 13:12:57

    @Jane: “One author called them dishonorable, I think the term was.”

    That’s sickening.

  33. Cathy
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 13:17:01

    At the university I work at, we have a very strict honor system and a single-sanction policy for plagiarism. If a student is caught and convicted, they’re expelled.

    I’m actually not a fan of this policy, not because I support someone’s right to plagiarize (far from it) but because the punishment is so extreme that the Honor Board (made up of students) is incredibly reluctant to convict – and therefore expell- anyone. The result of this is that many faculty are reluctant to bring up a student on plagiarism charges, and those that do know they’re wasting their time because the odds of a conviction are incredibly low. The whole system has become a farce, and in a perverted way it encourages students to plagiarize because they know nothing will happen. Every year we graduate another 1,000 students who have been taught that stealing someone else’s words just isn’t that bad.

    Personally, I’m horrified that published authors are getting away with this, and that their accusers are bearing the brunt of the anger. The blind fandom that keeps people from looking objectively at evidence is just incomprehensible to me. I applaud the Smart Bitches and the Ja(y)ne(s) for continuing to bring these issues into the light.

  34. GrowlyCub
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 13:47:59

    Yup, it’s sickening. I added several big names and several not so big names to my ‘never-to-be-bought-again’ list, most prominently, Deborah Smith, who told us we were evil mean folks who pile onto an old lady who plays the violin, Diana Gabaldon who claimed authoritatively that it’s not plagiarism if the work is out of copyright and Jennifer Crusie who totally and utterly disqualified herself on her blog by claiming that only morally suspect folks out to vilify could have possibly been interested in outing a case of decades-long plagiarism.

    I hate that Crusie’s associated with romance and in a semi-authority position too, as an erstwhile academic. Shame on all of them for defending a thief and for contributing to the idea that plagiarism is okay.

  35. Theresa Sand
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 13:54:35

    @ library addict

    I don’t know if I’ll ever recover from Dailey’s notion that her plagiarism of Nora Roberts was because of a “psychological disorder.”

    Plagiarism is just awful–awful for the original author whose work has been stolen, as well as fans of the author. They have been misled into thinking they are reading an original work (and of course, falling in love with a story, and/or characters, that are not the author’s creation).
    Unfortunately some people just don’t like to believe that their beloved author could be so deceitful. I guess it’s just always easier to take the anger out on the whistle-blower?

  36. Anion
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 14:10:14

    Thaks for the list GrowlyClub. I remembered Deb Smith and I was sure Crusie was involved somehow, but then Crusie lost my respect well before that for just generally treating people like garbage. I’ve never read one of her books and I never, ever will.

  37. Sunita
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 14:20:24

    I was pretty dumbfounded at first by the blowback SB and to a lesser extent DA experienced because of their work on the Edwards plagiarism. They did a superb job of pulling all the information together and making it publicly available, and some people responded by blaming the messenger. But as I thought longer about it, I realized that I’d seen similar reactions in academics; not so much blaming the person that uncovered it, but trying to sweep it under the rug, or find justifications for the perpetrator, etc. I think that’s why SB and DA were attacked, because they wouldn’t just let it go. I think they were extremely courageous, because whistleblowers are loved about as much as prophets in their own countries.

    Even now people make disparaging remarks about the SB’s actions. Someone who criticized them at the time brought it up again in a negative aside on a widely read and popular review site a few weeks ago.

    The part of the whole mess that I still find the most bizarre is the criticism of Nora Roberts, who was nothing but professional, honest, and even-keeled in her comments. I’d have been a lot less articulate and a lot angrier, and of course a lot less effective as a result.

  38. WandaSue
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 15:19:52

    Just a couple of quick thoughts …

    If you steal something from someone and are caught, you pay the price — either by a fine, jail time, both, or some other just penalty. Then you move on, hopefully never stealing again.

    When you “steal” material from another author, pass it off as your own, and are caught — what is an adequate penalty? Or this author destined to be scorned for the rest of her writing days — to the point of having her books reshuffled and hidden by consumers at bookstores years afterward?

    Don’t get me wrong! I never read a Cassie Edwards book I liked, and I thought her sin was grievous.

    But when is enough … enough?

  39. veinglory
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 15:23:57

    I think the idiots who want everyone to speak only about rainbows and kittens are one thing. The other is what exactly is it we are meant to be doing exactly? Over and over I hear, no one went to the talk on plagiarism, nobody is doing anything. Well, what are we meant to be doing? I told my friends about it, blogged about it, donated to the ferrets, wrote to Signet with a meaured statement of disapproval–I didn’t notify anyone else about what I did as I am not aware of this being a centralised effort, but a grassroots one. I didn’t do it to please anyone but myself.

    I don’t go to ‘plagiarism is bad’ events and more than ‘piracy is bad’ or ‘not paying your authors is bad’ events, just to hold hands and sing kumbaya. I do what I can, send my letters, my enforcement notices, share the facts as I know them. I go to events that look like they might teach me something I don’t already know or initiate an action that might actually help. I don’t think a few dingbat letters mean more than the conciencious and largely private actions of the community as a whole.

    Instead what I tend to see is repetition of the idea that noisy idiots represent us all–and that saying there is a problem is meant to stand in the place of suggesting how to be part of the solution. And I think ranting about the lunatic fringe that wouldn’t recognise what stealing is if their favorite author actually mugged them is the most constructive option.

    And I agree with the author above, Edward’s publishers ultimate took some action. Pursuing that specific case seems less helpful than instituting a way to educating to avoid and/or detecting (or something) future cases.

  40. veinglory
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 15:31:31

    That should be: “and I *don’t* think…”

  41. Ann Somerville
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 15:33:16

    @veinglory:

    It’s been mentioned that publishers are changing their contracts. Authors are now more aware than they were of what is wrong about the practice. I don’t think you will ever change public perception because coming between a couple in love is never going to work, and that’s the relationship people have with their books and the authors.

    But you know what hasn’t changed?

    No one can spell ‘plagiarism’. It’s not ‘plagerism’. Not ‘plajerism’ either.

    P L A G I A R I S M

    Learn to spell it, recognise it and condemn it. Otherwise the terrorists win and baby Jesus will make a black-footed ferret cry.

  42. MaryK
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 15:34:06

    @WandaSue: “what is an adequate penalty? Or this author destined to be scorned for the rest of her writing days -’ to the point of having her books reshuffled and hidden by consumers at bookstores years afterward?

    . . . But when is enough … enough?”

    When she admits she was wrong and stops profiting from the wrong, it’s enough.

    What’s the point of scorning, blaming, shaming? It’s not a one off to warn the masses. It’s to pressure the culprit into admitting guilt, and the pressure has to continue to be effective. It’s heavy stuff and not to be done lightly, but sometimes it’s the only way to stop a culprit.

  43. XandraG
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 15:41:16

    I’ve been reading Lawrence Lessig lately. “Free Culture” has a very fascinating history of the public domain, and how and why works pass from copyright into the public domain, what exactly copyright is, and why and how it originated. It’s fascinating and a lot more convoluted than I knew. It’s only very recently that artistic works have stayed so long outside of the public domain. I wonder if the confusion around copyright, plagiarism, and source citation is influenced by a cultural understanding that hasn’t caught up with the legal realities.

    I wouldn’t be saddened to see a new standard in historical romance (at least, if not in all romance) develop wherein authors list sources and references aiding in the development of the story (any story, really). Because sometimes I wouldn’t mind knowing where the author got her info on medieval privies or Danish Pastry Secrets.

  44. Keishon
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 15:48:11

    Hey, I just recently had somebody on my blog tell me to hush up about it re Nora Roberts/ Janet Dailey plagiarism case (a post I did oh so long ago). Like Jane, I don’t respond to idiot commentary but for the record, that just blew me the f. away.

  45. Laura Vivanco
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 16:00:47

    Jennifer Crusie who totally and utterly disqualified herself on her blog by claiming that only morally suspect folks out to vilify could have possibly been interested in outing a case of decades-long plagiarism.

    She did? I’ve only seen this post on her blog about the Cassie Edwards plagiarism scandal.

  46. Keishon
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 16:52:58

    To expound further, as everyone else has said, plagiarism is a ethical issue and it is wrong. It still puzzles me that the practice isn’t vehemently condemned or tolerated in the publishing world. Of course, you all know my theory and that is some people probably feel guilty because they’ve probably done it themselves and not known it. Just a harmless one time thing, ya know. Why else the lack of concern or vehemence? Maybe plagiarism is a more common practice than we know about, a hush, hush secret in the writing community. Anyway, that’s my opinion and I stand by that because nothing else makes sense. Agree or disagree, that’s what I think. Edited to add that on top of that, the public just doesn’t care b/c it’s not their livelihood and it seems so small scale compared to other crimes of fraud.

  47. DS
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 17:12:32

    @ mia madwyn: That was the late Sylvia Sommerfield. It was my first romance scandal and I read about it in RT. She claimed her researcher had done it. Really stupid because the other book was very popular– hard cover, loads of mmpb printings and book club editions.

  48. mia madwyn
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 17:20:52

    Thank you. Oddly, I’m not pulling up much about that incident. I’m surprised it’s not a wiki entry somewhere, at least. And it was SylviE, not Sylvia.

    Again, thank you!

  49. library addict
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 18:07:23

    I was a lurker at this time last year, but I have to say, the post Jane put together on The Many Faces of Plagiarism was a link I sent to just about everyone I know. It’s in the Related Posts list at the top, but for anyone who hasn’t read it
    http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2008/01/16/the-many-faces-of-plagiarism/

  50. Janine
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 19:20:25

    I missed most of the plaigarism scandal because I was out of the country at the time. By the time I got back to the U.S., so many posts had accumulated that it was impossible to catch up on all of them. But I did try to catch up on some.

    I was very impressed by the posts on the subject at the Teach Me Tonight blog, but one of the things that disheartened me a bit was that even the academics on that blog could not entirely agree on a clear defnition of plagiarism. Obviously copying a paragraph world for word is plagiarism and therefore wrong, wrong, wrong, while common expressions like “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” are in the public domain.

    But I think there’s a gray area in the middle, and I wish it were more clear *excatly* when one crosses the border from literary influence or allusion and enters the terrain of plagiarism. It would make me feel a lot better if I had a clearer sense of it.

  51. mia madwyn
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 19:23:29

    My mother once told me, “If you ever find yourself wondering, would Mom be upset if she knew this?” the answer is yes and you know it already or you wouldn’t have to stop and wonder.

    I suspect that’s a good gauge for plagiarism. If you even have to wonder, “Is this in my own words or is it too similar to my source…?” I think you may have answered your own question.

  52. Janine
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 20:42:47

    I’m not sure I agree, Mia. For example, William Faulkner frequently used sentence structures that mimicked the Bible, as well as storylines that were allusive to the Bible (for example, Absalom Absalom), and it helped lend his books an epic scope and feel that they would not have had otherwise. Likewise, Shakespeare borrowed from all sorts of sources, for example, Romeo and Juliet was an updating of Pyramus and Thisbe. I don’t believe there is a writer on earth whose words are wholly original, since we all begin life without words, and learn them from other people.

    None of this is meant to justify plagiarism, just to say that balance has to be found between stealing others’ words, which is clearly wrong, and riffing on others’ stories and/or using them as launching points for a new idea, which IMO is something that enriches all of literature immeasurabley.

    Would Judith Ivory have written Beast if there hadn’t first been a “Beauty and the Beast”? And where would we be if she hadn’t?

    Your test of “Would so and so be upset?” sounds great in theory, but the thing is, it doesn’t even occur to some people to wonder whether others would be upset by their actions, while others err on the side of questioning themselves constantly. So while I think it is a possible guideline, it doesn’t entirely solve the problem.

  53. kirsten saell
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 21:41:48

    I was pretty dumbfounded at first by the blowback SB and to a lesser extent DA experienced because of their work on the Edwards plagiarism.

    I think the backlash might have been less extreme if the SBs didn’t already have an anti-Cassie Edwards bias–doesn’t she have her own sub-F review category on the Bitch’s site? It was really easy for people to dismiss their legitimate concerns with a “Well, you never liked her anyway, you’re just looking for reasons to diss her.” It really is just an unfortunate happenstance that this happened with an author they’d singled out so often for ridicule.

    Now if the author had been, say, Laura Kinsale, and the SBs outed her the way they did Edwards, I think they might have gotten a lot of, “OMG, it must be terrible to discover such an awful thing about an author you adore!” and people might have given their revelations more weight. It would have been way harder for those who love Laura Kinsale to little itty bitty bits to justify her behavior, or minimize it by saying “Well, you all were just out to get her.”

    And I have to agree with Emily. There’s no debate or meaningful discussion here, if all we’re going to do is get together and say “plagiarism is bad.” We all know it’s bad, it’s not like we’re changing any minds or getting anything accomplished. Although…

    But you know what hasn't changed?

    No one can spell ‘plagiarism'. It's not ‘plagerism'. Not ‘plajerism' either.

    P L A G I A R I S M

    If we only get one thing accomplished here today, and it’s that people finally learn to spell the word correctly, I’ll be forever grateful. Because that bugs the everloving crap out of me, too. Course, I’m not holding my breath, or anything…

  54. Shelley
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 22:58:22

    @WandaSue: Or this author destined to be scorned for the rest of her writing days -’ to the point of having her books reshuffled and hidden by consumers at bookstores years afterward?

    The problem as I see it is the books that have plagiarism in them are still being sold. So I may not be moving her books on the shelf but everytime I see one for sale in Wal-Mart, CVS, Borders, etc. it bothers me. The publishers, CE, and retailers are still making money on these books because they have never been pulled off the market. So if they were to pull these books maybe the rest of us would be less scornful of her.

  55. West
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 02:30:03

    So let me see if I understood that letter? I’m pissed that an author ripped off other authors, so it’s my fault she had a stroke? Yeah, because strokes are *always* caused by the stress-inducing outraged public, and not by any other preexisting medical conditions.

    What’s really getting me here, in the overall plagiarism issue, is that some people, other authors even, don’t seem to understand what the “big deal” is. Plagiarism is stealing, stealing is wrong. How hard is it to connect the two? I just don’t understand these people. Would they justify it if she’d walked out of someone’s house with their television or radio? No. Just because writing might not be seen as a tangible possession doesn’t change the fact that it belongs to someone.

    So now Cassie Edwards joins Janet Dailey on my “books that fell off the back of a truck” list.

  56. May B.
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 02:40:02

    I can’t believe they blamed you/Sarah for the stoke. It’s just BS.

    The first thing I was told when attended graduated study in the US was Plagiarism. The attitudes toward plagiarism (in academic field) was different in some country (at least in my country). I didn’t mean that you can plagiarize anyway you wanted but it is not strictly that we must give credit to any idea that was not our own when writing class paper. When I arrived in the US, I was told that it is not acceptable to used other word or idea and pass it as my own. I must give credit in every single thing I used from other people.

    I do not see any differences from academic to fiction writing. And I am not tolerant to plagiarism.

    As for the accusation, it is rubbish. Sarah is not forcing anyone to commit the wrong. She do it herself. Sarah is just the one who discover. And it is the kindness of her to share with us so we would know the truth.

    And if there are any link between the stoke and plagiarism (which I do not think it is), it is her karma.

    As for the RT revenge, I am going to attend RT and prepare to stand by you/Sarah and I think a lot of people also will.

  57. Anion
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 04:37:23

    @Janine:

    I'm not sure I agree, Mia. For example, William Faulkner frequently used sentence structures that mimicked the Bible, as well as storylines that were allusive to the Bible (for example, Absalom Absalom), and it helped lend his books an epic scope and feel that they would not have had otherwise. Likewise, Shakespeare borrowed from all sorts of sources, for example, Romeo and Juliet was an updating of Pyramus and Thisbe. I don't believe there is a writer on earth whose words are wholly original, since we all begin life without words, and learn them from other people.

    None of this is meant to justify plagiarism, just to say that balance has to be found between stealing others' words, which is clearly wrong, and riffing on others' stories and/or using them as launching points for a new idea, which IMO is something that enriches all of literature immeasurabley.

    Would Judith Ivory have written Beast if there hadn't first been a “Beauty and the Beast”? And where would we be if she hadn't?

    Your test of “Would so and so be upset?” sounds great in theory… So while I think it is a possible guideline, it doesn't entirely solve the problem.

    To me the line is, “Can my readers be reasonably expected to recognize this?”

    In one of my books I use a throwaway object from a movie. It’s barely mentioned in the text, but the movie was popular enough and was related so closely to my book–they both have to do with the same subject but of course the plots are very different, as are the tones. characters etc.–but I expect that people reading my book will recognize it.

    To me (and my editors etc) that expectation makes it allusion rather than theft.

    It’s not a copyright issue; we’re talking three words from an entire film. My use of it would be similar to, say, mentioning in a California-set novel that a few towns away is a place called Sunnyvale (although Sunnyvale might be TM’d, not sure. You get the idea though). A throwaway; a wink and nod to the readers. It’s not plagiarism, it’s an homage.

    I could be totally wrong here, of course. But to me the difference between plagiarism and homage, outside of the gray areas like following-too-closely or whatever, is that Faulkner expected his readers to get the allusion and reference. I expect my readers to get my little allusion. Helen Fielding expected readers to get the Bridget-Jones-Pride-and-Prejudice thing, even naming her hero Mark Darcy.

    That’s an oversmiplified explanation, and of course plagiarism still can be committed even if someone is bold as brass about it, like that EPPIE entry last year.

    But I do think a large part of the difference between plagiarism and allusion or homage is whether you’re being open about it and making it your own, or whether you’re hiding it, snipping from obscure sources, or simply being too lazy to do the actual work of writing and so just changing the names but leaving the words.

    Could be just me though. :-)

  58. Laura Vivanco
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 05:03:24

    I was very impressed by the posts on the subject at the Teach Me Tonight blog, but one of the things that disheartened me a bit was that even the academics on that blog could not entirely agree on a clear defnition of plagiarism. Obviously copying a paragraph world for word is plagiarism and therefore wrong, wrong, wrong, while common expressions like “You can't teach an old dog new tricks” are in the public domain.

    But I think there's a gray area in the middle, and I wish it were more clear *excatly* when one crosses the border from literary influence or allusion and enters the terrain of plagiarism. It would make me feel a lot better if I had a clearer sense of it.

    I’m pleased you were impressed by the posts Sarah and I wrote for TMT on this topic. [In case any one else wants to know which posts we're referring to, they're here and here.] I’d like to have a clear definition too and eliminate the grey area, but as there are grey areas in many areas of ethics and law I suspect it’s a problem that one has to live with to some extent. And just to be clear, the grey area really only exists for authors writing fiction. As Sarah made clear in her post, for authors of non-fiction there are much firmer rules on how to acknowledge other authors’ ideas and words.

    Clearly Cassie Edwards’ case did not fall into that “gray area in the middle.” She made extensive use of other people’s words and there was no reasonable way one could ascribe that use to allusion or homage. In her case, the Smart Bitches compiled a dossier of what were mostly very clear examples, and even if some people might quibble about a small number of the examples, there was an overall pattern which was quite unmistakable.

    However, as you yourself say, in general, when writing fiction “balance has to be found between stealing others’ words, which is clearly wrong, and riffing on others’ stories and/or using them as launching points for a new idea, which IMO is something that enriches all of literature immeasurabley.” The key test, as far as I’m concerned, is whether the text being used as a source is well-enough known that readers could reasonably be expected to recognise the source material. So, for example, one can assume that the author of a novel who includes words verbatim from the Ten Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer has no intention of passing those words off as his or her own. There’s no intent to deceive if the author expected the readers to know the source. The source may have gone unacknowledged, but that was because the author assumed that nearly everyone would already know it. So that’s not in the grey area. Another example would be someone who started a novel with a character saying something like “To be or not to be was not the question as far as I was concerned. I was determined to survive.” That’s not plagiarism (in my opinion) because most readers could be expected to recognise the quotation from Hamlet. And as you say, writing a novel which plays on the “Beauty and the Beast” fairytale is also not plagiarism, because readers could reasonably be expected to recognise the source of the material.

    Where things get grey, and unfortunately they do sometimes get grey, is in the less clear-cut cases. Examples might be when the text quoted from isn’t so well-known (Shakespeare, the Bible and fairytales are, obviously, very, very well known), or when the author borrows a less-well-known sequence of words from a well-known text (not every word of Shakespeare or the Bible are as well-known as others). If the author genuinely thought that it was well-known but readers generally don’t know it, that would make things a bit grey. Another problematic situation that can arise is when the author acknowledges some debt, but doesn’t spell out in detail the full extent of the debt. So an author of fiction who writes in an endnote that they found a particular diary really helpful isn’t (in my opinion) going far enough if what they mean by “helpful” includes having included chunks of the diary verbatim. A reader couldn’t be expected to know that’s what had happened. I think that’s misleading and therefore wrong, but some people would disagree.

    As long as authors of fiction (a) keep away from the clearly wrong area, (b) think through what they’re doing when they include quotations and (c) when they do have to enter the grey area related to less-well-known texts/bits of text they err on the side of caution not by stifling their creativity but by taking reasonable precautions, such as writing a clear author’s note at the end, explaining fully what they’ve done and/or making sure that in interviews/on their blog and in the blurb the book is clearly labelled as “a homage to Obscure Writer X which incorporates short fragments of text from his work but, by placing them in startling new contexts, produces shocking and innovative results” etc, then they should be OK. Well, in that second case, the author would have to be sure that Obscure Writer X’s works were also out of copyright, but that’s another question.

    The way Jennifer Crusie (and I’m not trying to be provocative by bringing her up, given that she’s deeply offended some people, it’s just a good example) used quotations in Welcome to Temptation is a good case study. Right from the start, the reader is made aware that these characters often quote from movies, and sometimes reference is made to the title of the movie but sometimes it isn’t. In the latter cases, sometimes a reader might not be entirely sure where the text had come from. In fact, some readers might not even realise that some of them are quotes. The context (we know these characters quote from movies) would probably be enough on its own to take Crusie out of the grey area in those later cases, but Crusie takes herself well out of the grey area by including a list of quotes on her website. That makes it really clear that there’s no intention of passing off other people’s work as her own.

    I won’t comment on fair use or copyright issues, because they’re legal questions and I’m not qualified to deal with them.

    I don’t know if that’s at all helpful, Janine. It probably isn’t, but I felt I should respond and do my best to briefly map out the grey area and possible ways of crossing it. And now I see that while I was busy writing this monster-length comment, Anion had managed to say much the same thing in a much more concise and clearer fashion.

  59. Barb Ferrer
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 05:55:54

    There's no debate or meaningful discussion here, if all we're going to do is get together and say “plagiarism is bad.” We all know it's bad, it's not like we're changing any minds or getting anything accomplished.

    I don’t know. Perhaps not as much here, but at other places I’ve seen the issue discussed there are still people genuinely wondering what the big deal is and a lot of their question has to do with the fact that the majority of the material CE lifted came from academic texts or informative magazine articles. As if that lessens the offense somehow because it’s not another work of fiction.

    There seem to be a lot of gray areas where plagiarism is concerned– the “when is it okay?” I mean, never, obviously, but clearly, not everyone feels that way. As a whole we (collective, royal, societal we) don’t place an important enough premium on thought and research and the creative process otherwise, this issue wouldn’t provoke such debate.

    So yeah, I think we do have to keep saying it and keep explaining exactly why. Maybe, nine times out of ten we’re preachin’ to the choir, but if we can get through to that tenth person, then we’re accomplishing something.

  60. Cindy
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 07:28:45

    CE never owned what she did, so I can’t imagine how she was so stressed it caused a stroke. She thought she did nothing wrong. Ugh.

    I was ripped to shreds by her fan club president over on RT and there were several people that stood by CE. Why for heaven’s sakes?

    I don’t understand why she’s still being published (shame on you Dorchester) or why Janet Dailey is. If I were a publisher, I’d be running the other way from either one of them.

    All of that aside, I realized last year why I never liked CE’s work. Now I know why. It read like a reference book.

  61. GrowlyCub
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 09:28:01

    The context (we know these characters quote from movies) would probably be enough on its own to take Crusie out of the grey area in those later cases, but Crusie takes herself well out of the grey area by including a list of quotes on her website.

    You’ll think I bring this up because of my dislike for Crusie’s actions, but I’ve pondered this situation for a while with regard to other authors/books and didn’t even know about this Crusie because I don’t read her any longer.

    I absolutely agree that providing further information/bibliography/foot notes is an excellent way to take situations as described out of the gray area.

    I’m just not sure that putting these items on a website is sufficient. There are still millions and millions of readers in the U.S. alone who do not have regular computer, not to talk about internet, access and if you go to many other countries that are full of readers there’s even less penetration/availability of the internet (content) for regular readers.

    I think as more and more people are online this will become less of an issue over all, but currently I have to admit, I think these pieces of supplemental information ought to be included directly in the book rather than on some website readers may or may not stumble across.

    But aside from the question of whether readers will be able to find this information, my personal preference is to have this information directly in the book. A book should be a finished product and to my mind that includes necessary information the author wants readers to have about the creation and inspiration of the book. If it’s important enough to be on a website, it ought to be in the paper book as well

    Some of the most fun parts of historical romance novels are the author notes at the end or beginning that put the stories into historical context. I’ve often searched out titles mentioned there for my history reading and I *loved* Johnson’s footnotes and always wanted other authors to include similar information.

    I don’t read Ward (but love her Bird books :), but I have to admit I was really surprised to hear that she puts so much context for her paranormal novels on her website and to see folks mentioning that things in her published works didn’t make a whole lot of sense unless one had followed all the forum information. I think that’s a very slippery slope and could lead to a lot of bad will by those readers who do not have access or time to follow a forum/author’s internet presence that closely.

    I think we (folks who are online a lot) sometimes forget that we represent a minuscule portion of the readers out there and what might work for us, really does not apply to the majority of romance readers out there.

  62. Sunita
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:05:29

    I think the backlash might have been less extreme if the SBs didn't already have an anti-Cassie Edwards bias-doesn't she have her own sub-F review category on the Bitch's site? It was really easy for people to dismiss their legitimate concerns with a “Well, you never liked her anyway, you're just looking for reasons to diss her.” It really is just an unfortunate happenstance that this happened with an author they'd singled out so often for ridicule.

    But the ridicule wasn’t ad hominem, it sprang from SB’s reviews of her work. Yes, Edwards became a shorthand there and elsewhere for a range of things that are wrong in the romance genre, but it didn’t come out of left field as unthinking and inexplicable. If you disagreed, you could read the reviews and take issue with them. And the snark on Edwards was in keeping with the general tone of the website.

    It is not unreasonable to expect people to be able to hold two related thoughts about a topic in their heads without making a causal connection between them. Thought 1: the SBs think that Cassie Edwards is a terrible romance novelist, as they argue in their reviews. Thought 2: Cassie Edwards is a plagiarist, as demonstrated by the evidence presented on the SB’s and several other websites. If someone can’t separate these points, that’s not anyone’s else’s fault or responsibility to overcome.

    And frankly, even *if* the SBs were motivated by personal bias to dig up stuff on Edwards (which I clearly don’t believe they were), they couldn’t dig it up if it weren’t there. The fact that others’ trangressions may go undiscovered hardly excuses pointing out the ones we do find. And I think the scope and substance of Edwards’ plagiarism does matter, since she sells books by persuading people that she has a special empathy with American Indians, etc. She STOLE from the people she claimed to be championing, which is about as low as you can go.

  63. Sunita
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:26:09

    absolutely agree that providing further information/bibliography/foot notes is an excellent way to take situations as described out of the gray area.

    I'm just not sure that putting these items on a website is sufficient. There are still millions and millions of readers in the U.S. alone who do not have regular computer, not to talk about internet, access and if you go to many other countries that are full of readers there's even less penetration/availability of the internet (content) for regular readers.

    I think as more and more people are online this will become less of an issue over all, but currently I have to admit, I think these pieces of supplemental information ought to be included directly in the book rather than on some website readers may or may not stumble across.

    It’s true that people who aren’t familiar with the sources won’t know that it’s not plagiarism, but that not the test. Lots of people read things that have allusions, etc. that they don’t get. The fact that they don’t get it doesn’t put something in a gray area. In cases where her written work is building on or riffing off someone else’s words, the author has the responsibility to demonstrate that she is not just copying, but transforming in some way if there’s no attribution, or citing properly if there is. But it’s not her responsibility to ensure that every potential reader understands every allusion. And as long as the website is accessible, it doesn’t really matter how many people actually access it.

    But aside from the question of whether readers will be able to find this information, my personal preference is to have this information directly in the book. A book should be a finished product and to my mind that includes necessary information the author wants readers to have about the creation and inspiration of the book. If it's important enough to be on a website, it ought to be in the paper book as well

    Some of the most fun parts of historical romance novels are the author notes at the end or beginning that put the stories into historical context. I've often searched out titles mentioned there for my history reading and I *loved* Johnson's footnotes and always wanted other authors to include similar information.

    Yes, but many people don’t like to read footnotes and bibliographies, even in nonfiction let alone fiction. And every page dedicated to supporting material is a page taken away from the story, given the costs of publishing. Even in academic publishing many presses discourage or outright prohibit bottom-of-the-page footnotes because they are more expensive to produce.

    I think the idea of what constitutes a “finished product” is changing. People put important information on websites. And while it’s true that not everyone has access, most of the relevant people, i.e., people who need to know or whose own work will be improved, can find a way to get to it.

  64. theo
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 10:52:26

    People put important information on websites. And while it’s true that not everyone has access, most of the relevant people, i.e., people who need to know or whose own work will be improved, can find a way to get to it.

    I’m sorry, but I disagree with this. Taking Ward, who was mentioned earlier as an example (though this isn’t bibliographic) in her latest novel, mention was made of a character and was written in such a way that many, many people were left scratching their heads wondering where he came from, who he was and what he had to do with anything. Nowhere in the book were readers informed that this character has a huge following on Ward’s message board or, if the reader wanted to know more about him they should visit her board to check him out.

    Readers were very surprised to learn that they had to go to her board for clarification. And they weren’t happy about it.

    There is no justification for that. An author can’t take it for granted that her readers know everything the writer puts in his/her novel. And the reader shouldn’t be forced to go to a message board to find the answers. In this case, the character should have been fleshed out in the novel, or left out and introduced in a far better way.

    Likewise, I don’t think I should be forced to look on a website or message board to find out where quotes came from or where historical or contemporary facts came from, or any number of other things the author may have written. It should all be listed at the back of the book. Period.

    When an author such as CE (or any other) is taking entire scenes from someone else’s work though, and using it as their own, that goes far beyond any citing is concerned into the area of plagiarism and the author should be outed for their laziness and frankly, ineptitude at writing. Beyond that, unfortunately since the publisher chooses not to drop her, it’s up to the readers to no longer buy his or her work, telling them with their money that plagiarism will not be tolerated.

    My two cents.

  65. GrowlyCub
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 11:07:08

    Sunita, just to clarify, Johnson’s footnotes were not at the bottom of the page, but collected at the end.

    I understand the point you are making about cost, I just happen to disagree that that’s a good enough point. I’m sure publishers think differently, but they also think that serving fewer words for a higher price, or in trade-size or putting out three books in a series in paper back to back and the 4th in HC are good ideas, which from my standpoint as reader they most certainly aren’t.

    Do I think it’s a writer’s responsibility to make sure very reader gets an allusion? That sounds very all encompassing and I hesitate to require something like that (and I know stuff goes over my head *all* the time), but if you recognize as a writer that there’s a chance your quoted material could be misconstrued as your own and you do want to make sure that doesn’t happen, then I think addressing it inside the paper book would be a better way to do it than on a website. Personal preference.

  66. Laura Vivanco
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 11:12:25

    I'm just not sure that putting these items on a website is sufficient. There are still millions and millions of readers in the U.S. alone who do not have regular computer, not to talk about internet, access

    Sunita’s made some good points already in response to this, but as I’ve already spent lots of time writing yet another really long comment, I’ll post it anyway. I was also responding from a slightly different angle than Sunita was, so I think this is still different enough not to be repetitive.

    Yes, it’s true that many people don’t have access to the internet. In the case of what Crusie did with Welcome to Temptation, though, I think she took a “belt and braces” approach (I think what we call “braces” in the UK are called “suspenders” in the US – thought I should explain that in case the metaphor doesn’t work for some people).

    Putting the quotes up on a website at the same time that the novel was published would indicate that the author had no intention of plagiarising and did want to fully acknowledge her debt to other writers, but it wouldn’t help readers without web access, or who didn’t see the need to check (and very understandably many readers don’t go online to talk about the books they read or look for extra information about them). So in this case the website is the set of braces.

    Given that some of the quotes used in Welcome to Temptationare really quite famous, it could be argued that readers could be expected to recognise them anyway. But some are perhaps not so famous, and using them without some kind of contextual acknowledgement might place the author in the grey area. The first line of defence against the trousers sagging down into the grey area is the belt of textual references. In the case of Crusie’s in the novel itself, the characters say that it’s common in their family for one or other of them to suddenly quote lines from movies and for the others to try to guess the source. On quite a few occasions in the novel, someone quotes in this way and someone else cites the source. I think (but haven’t gone back to check) that are some quotes which aren’t explicitly acknowledged in this way. However, in the existing context, where the reader knows that the characters often quote from movies, the reader is (a) alerted to the game of spot-the-quote and (b) even if the reader fails to recognise a quote, it’s clear from the context that the author’s intention was not to plagiarise but to make intertextual allusions.

    The braces (webpage) do add extra protection for the author and extra detail for the reader, but they’re not absolutely required in this case. I brought this up because I get the impression that there are some very conscientious authors who are also very worried they might have written something that’s in the “grey area.” If they’re worried, and they can’t (to avoid infodumping) give enough details in the text of the novel itself, they can perhaps add an author’s note (although as Sunita says, the publisher may not be allow them to add extra material to the printed book), and if that isn’t possible or still doesn’t give them enough space to go into lots of detail, they can put something up on a website.

    Having said that, if an author’s confident that her trousers will stand up to accusations of plagiarism even if she doesn’t use a belt and braces, because they’re well-made trousers which include all the necessary information/the sources used are ones that she thinks her readers will instantly recognise and will never be assumed to be her own work, then I’m not saying that author must be forced to wear the added protection. I’m just offering some suggestions to help those who’re worried and/or whose trousers might require a little extra assistance. Why did I start off with that metaphor? It’s beginning to sound really, really silly.

  67. GrowlyCub
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 11:31:21

    Laura, I’m really glad you clarified the ‘braces’, cause I’ve got a mouthful of them, and even knowing you were referring to suspenders made me giggle, not because the metaphor was bad, but because I haven’t spoken British English in so long and braces are most definitely something else in every day use here.

    I see your point in the particular Crusie example, since as you said the context already makes the reader aware that there will be quoted material, but I was trying to take it beyond that example to the value of information that is only disseminated online as opposed to included in the book even though it’s considered important clarification to the book’s creation/inspiration.

    Also, while many quotes may immediately be recognizable to folks who grew up in English speaking countries, they will not so easily be recognizable to folks who didn’t. So, where to draw the line?

    I’ve lived in the U.S. for 10 years and for one in the U.K. People still boggle at the fact that I have not seen ‘The Wizard of Oz’ or that I had to look up Tinkerbelle the other day, or that I didn’t know the reference to car washing from some kind of iconic U.S. Kung Fu movie.

    Certainly, no author can make sure every reader will be familiar with every ever so small bit of cultural background, especially since more often than not, it doesn’t even occur to them that X reader might never have heard of Y phenomenon since it’s something they themselves have always known. How could they? And I wouldn’t demand that, since it’s unreasonable.

    But if they have a recognition that words by others could possibly be mis-attributed to themselves, I think putting at least a reference to the website in the book would be a good idea, if you can’t convince the publisher to let you put it outright in the book.

  68. Sunita
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 11:40:20

    I'm sorry, but I disagree with this. Taking Ward, who was mentioned earlier as an example (though this isn't bibliographic) in her latest novel, mention was made of a character and was written in such a way that many, many people were left scratching their heads wondering where he came from, who he was and what he had to do with anything. Nowhere in the book were readers informed that this character has a huge following on Ward's message board or, if the reader wanted to know more about him they should visit her board to check him out.

    Readers were very surprised to learn that they had to go to her board for clarification. And they weren't happy about it.

    There is no justification for that. An author can't take it for granted that her readers know everything the writer puts in his/her novel. And the reader shouldn't be forced to go to a message board to find the answers. In this case, the character should have been fleshed out in the novel, or left out and introduced in a far better way.

    Theo, I completely agree with this. The website should not provide an excuse for the author to do a lousy job of conveying important information in the book itself. I don’t read Ward, but in general I dislike novels that you have to join a club to understand. But I think we would agree that the author is at fault for using the website to reinforce the in-group aspect of the work.

    I understand the point you are making about cost, I just happen to disagree that that's a good enough point. I'm sure publishers think differently, but they also think that serving fewer words for a higher price, or in trade-size or putting out three books in a series in paper back to back and the 4th in HC are good ideas, which from my standpoint as reader they most certainly aren't.

    I think that as long as we are trapped by the current print-driven model, it will be a tradeoff between more story and more supporting material, and each of us will have our own preferences about how to make that tradeoff. I’m very sympathetic to what you are saying, I just don’t think we’re going to get it. I still hate having to think about justifying every footnote in my current manuscript.

    if you recognize as a writer that there's a chance your quoted material could be misconstrued as your own and you do want to make sure that doesn't happen, then I think addressing it inside the paper book would be a better way to do it than on a website. Personal preference.

    Laura covered a lot of what I would say about this in her excellent post. I will only add that I think we don’t want to force the author to deconstruct and account for all the intertextual allusions, because you can take away her ability to tell her story in a compelling way. It’s one thing to look up references in non-fiction to figure out where something comes from, but in fiction it can really pull you out of the story. After all, story telling is an interactive process, in that all stories build consciously or unconsciously on what the author has learned from others. That said, I’d love a paragraph at the end of a book that tells us where an author got her inspiration, not just her facts.

  69. Laura Vivanco
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 11:50:12

    Laura, I'm really glad you clarified the ‘braces', cause I've got a mouthful of them, and even knowing you were referring to suspenders made me giggle, not because the metaphor was bad, but because I haven't spoken British English in so long and braces are most definitely something else in every day use here.

    I’m now wondering if I needed to clarify that the phrase “belt and braces” is a common phrase in the UK, and not a metaphor I invented myself. I just elaborated on it, and it somehow grew into something that seemed like a new version of the Emperor’s New Clothes which could be titled “Are the Author’s Trousers round Her Ankles (Plagiarism), or are they Well Fitting/Held Up with a Belt/Held up by Braces?”

    On the topic of the giggles and how they can occur even if one knows precisely what the author intended the word to mean in her version of English, I tend to giggle internally every time I read about heroes walking around the streets in their pants (and vests) because in UK English that means underpants (and undershirts). For some reason I find it particularly amusing if the hero in question is wandering around Regency London.

  70. kirsten saell
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 11:56:50

    But the ridicule wasn't ad hominem, it sprang from SB's reviews of her work. Yes, Edwards became a shorthand there and elsewhere for a range of things that are wrong in the romance genre, but it didn't come out of left field as unthinking and inexplicable.

    True, but that doesn’t mean their very public feelings about her work weren’t held up as a “You’re all just being mean because you haaaaate her!!”

    I don't know. Perhaps not as much here, but at other places I've seen the issue discussed there are still people genuinely wondering what the big deal is

    So why doesn’t everyone here do a brief blog post on their own blogs about what plagiarism is, how it can but does not necessarily coincide with copyright violation, and why it’s should be condemned. Then stick a “pass it on” at the bottom of the post, so all your readers do a post (they could even C&P yours, with permission, if they don’t want to write up their own), and so on, and so on. Keep it non-judgmental, not too specific, so you don’t attract flamewars. How many people could be reached that way?

  71. Julia Sullivan
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 12:06:44


    I'm now wondering if I needed to clarify that the phrase “belt and braces” is a common phrase in the UK, and not a metaphor I invented myself.

    Not to worry: “suspenders and a belt” is a fairly common phrase for “extra-careful backup planning” in the US.

    Note to non-trans-Atlantic bilingual readers: “braces” UK = “suspenders” US; “suspenders” UK = “garters” US; “braces” US = “brackets” or “dental braces” UK.

  72. Jane
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 13:33:44

    @Julia Sullivan Braces in the men’s world of dressing where I come from are the things that hold men’s pants up but that are buttoned into the pants. Suspenders are the one’s with clips. But also braces = teeth things.

  73. MaryK
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 13:41:00

    @kirsten saell: “There's no debate or meaningful discussion here, if all we're going to do is get together and say “plagiarism is bad.” We all know it's bad, it's not like we're changing any minds or getting anything accomplished. ”

    But we are accomplishing something. We’re keeping it in the public eye – educating people who don’t know any better and telling those who don’t care that somebody will hold them accountable. Keeping the topic fresh is about the only thing that can be done. It’s not like you can prevent people from plagiarizing any more than you can climb in their cars and prevent them from speeding. But you can make it damn expensive when they get caught so it becomes not worth doing.

    Hushing up particular instances only reassures those who haven’t been caught that they’ll have support. The solution, IMO, is education and a hostile environment for offenders.

  74. Karen Scott
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 13:54:06

    It still puzzles me that the practice isn't vehemently condemned or tolerated in the publishing world.

    Doesn’t surprise me one bit, after all, we still have authors etc who believe that if you can’t say something nice, then you shouldn’t say anything at all.

    Look at all the fucktards who don’t believe that authors should go public, if they are being screwed over by their publisher, because it’s ‘unprofessional’.

    With that kind of mindset, plagiarism will never really be taken seriously by the majority of authors, unless some of these people become victims themselves.

    A lot of readers outside Romanceland probably don’t give a crap either, which doesn’t help.

  75. kirsten saell
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:24:14

    But we are accomplishing something. We're keeping it in the public eye – educating people who don't know any better and telling those who don't care that somebody will hold them accountable.

    What I was saying is that if all we do is get together and preach to the choir, we’re not going to get many converts. And the way to get converts is to do missionary work–get out there and talk to people who don’t know.

    I’m all for penalties, I’m all for saying it’s wrong, but to be effective, we need to be approaching those who don’t agree or don’t care and show them why they should agree and care. Gimme a plan of action, please! :)

  76. Barb Ferrer
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:32:37

    Well, it needs to be spoken about. And the perpetrators need to be outed. And the wrongness, ethically and morally needs to be hammered into people’s heads over and over and for example, over, until the automatic response to plagiarism is horror and disgust that someone who makes their living via words would steal that precious commodity from a colleague and claim it as their own.

    And then readers need to vote with their wallets.

    Maybe then, the publishers will take notice, because they don’t tend to renew contracts for authors whose books aren’t selling.

    But it does have to start with talking about it. Loudly and repeatedly, because judging by the whackjob letter that SB Sarah received and some of the comments on the issue, there are still plenty of people who simply don’t see anything wrong with the practice.

    Is it simplistic? Sure. But baby steps. Gotta start somewhere.

  77. Laura Vivanco
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 16:06:23

    Thanks for the clarifications about suspenders, braces etc, Julia and Jane. I’m now giggling as I imagine a rakish hero wandering around London in pants, suspenders and a vest over his shirt, despite (or perhaps because of) all this clarification.

    I apologise in advance for my silliness ;-)

  78. Janine
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 17:46:05

    But I do think a large part of the difference between plagiarism and allusion or homage is whether you're being open about it and making it your own, or whether you're hiding it, snipping from obscure sources, or simply being too lazy to do the actual work of writing and so just changing the names but leaving the words.

    Could be just me though. :-)

    But if they have a recognition that words by others could possibly be mis-attributed to themselves, I think putting at least a reference to the website in the book would be a good idea, if you can't convince the publisher to let you put it outright in the book.

    I agree with you both, but what troubles me are other kinds of gray areas.

    For example, author A writes:

    “The sun shone bright and dew drops glistened in the grass the day the prince came courting.”

    Author B likes that image, and writes:

    “It was a sunny day, peaceful and happy. The scent of the freshly-mown lawn lingered in the air, and when she glanced down, she saw that it glittered with dew drops.”

    Plagiarism, or new writing?

    Another example:

    Author A writes:

    “They let themselves be carefree as children, and did not question what might befall them.”

    Author B likes the rhythm and sound of those words, and writes:

    “He let himself float on the water, let it carry him downstream, and did not think of waterfalls.”

    Plagiarism, or new writing?

  79. Persephone Green
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 00:24:15

    @Janine:

    My blood sugar is really low, and I tend to post fuzzy thoughts when that happens, so I hope my explanation is clear.

    Images, ideas, motifs, themes, rhythms, plots – none are subject to intellectual property laws. Yes, I know we’re talking about plagiarism, but hear me out. Only the expressions of such concepts represent the author’s original work.

    Ideas, themes and styles are all free to anyone to use at will. Plagiarism is about stealing words or mirroring (not resembling or even having the same over-arching themes as) sub-plots down to minute details.

    Neither of those examples are plagiarism. Furthermore, even if I had read one phrase in one of myfavorite books and the next in a new book, I wouldn’t have even connected them. Their only similarities are vague thematic or stylistic elements, and when I say vague, I mean REALLY vague.

  80. Emmy
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 01:39:51

    I think the most interesting thing I learned out of all this is that people who don’t actually pay the fee to register their work with the US Copyright office have no legal protection to being ripped off.

    This fascinates me because very few epubbed authors have bothered to copyright their books. One author told me that the fee would take up most, if not all, of any profits they would get from the book.

    So when I purchase an ebook and it says copyright [author's name], it’s not actually copywritten, and they’re just lying to dissuade people from stealing? No unnerstand! *flails*

  81. Anion
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 03:48:49

    @Emmy:

    So when I purchase an ebook and it says copyright [author's name], it's not actually copywritten, and they're just lying to dissuade people from stealing? No unnerstand! *flails*

    No, it is copywritten.

    Copyright takes effect the minute the work is set down in concrete form; i.e the minute you write it down or type it in. If someone copies your work, it is plagiarism and it *is* a violation of copyright.

    BUT.

    If you haven’t registered the copyright, you can’t claim damages, or there is a limit as to the amount of damages you can claim. You can still sue someone for violating copyright (I believe anyway), but your chances of getting a settlement for it if you haven’t registered your copyright are very slim, so there’s little point in doing so. In other words, your work is copyrighted, and you can sue and raise a stink, but in order to collect actual monetary damages you must have registered copyright. At least that is how I understand it.

    Does that make it clearer? :)

  82. Anion
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 03:50:21

    BTW, am I the only one who’s noticed, in this discussion, how silly the word “copyright” sounds if you say it a few times in a row?

    Copyright. COPPYrite. COPPYrite.

  83. Laura Vivanco
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 04:47:51

    BTW, am I the only one who's noticed, in this discussion, how silly the word “copyright” sounds if you say it a few times in a row?

    I suspect that most words could sound silly if you say them often enough, particularly words with more than one syllable, because there’s more scope for changing where the emphasis falls, and that can make them sound quite different. I remember one day at school when “London” suddenly became the most ridiculous word I’d ever heard. I find it annoying when that happens to a word, because for a long time after it remains associated with a feeling of silliness.

    author A writes:

    “The sun shone bright and dew drops glistened in the grass the day the prince came courting.”

    Author B likes that image, and writes:

    “It was a sunny day, peaceful and happy. The scent of the freshly-mown lawn lingered in the air, and when she glanced down, she saw that it glittered with dew drops.”

    I really don’t see much similarity at all. In the first sentence the details of the setting seem to be given in order to create a particular mood: the sunlight and the grass are bright/glisten as a suitable backdrop to the arrival of a prince (who presumably also glistens/sparkles if he’s wearing jewels, a sword etc). In the second sentence, I have the impression of a protagonist who’s experiencing her surroundings with all her senses. So the focus isn’t so much on the protagonist (who isn’t even named) but on the sensations to be felt on a sunny day. The suggestion is that the smell of mown grass, the warmth of the day, the glitter of the drew drops all combine to make the protagonist feel “peaceful and happy.” The only words that are present in both sentences are “dew drops” and that’s a set phrase to describe those drops. I therefore wouldn’t consider this plagiarism. It wouldn’t have even occurred to me to think of it as plagiarism.

    Author A writes:

    “They let themselves be carefree as children, and did not question what might befall them.”

    Author B likes the rhythm and sound of those words, and writes:

    “He let himself float on the water, let it carry him downstream, and did not think of waterfalls.”

    Plagiarism, or new writing?

    Both sentences describe people who are deliberately not thinking about risk or future danger but the danger in one case is not described or hinted at, whereas in the second it’s a concrete, named danger. In terms of the actual words used, one has “They let themselves” where the other has “He let himself.” That’s a really quite common turn of phrase, and the rest of those sentences are quite different apart from “did not,” which again is a very common pairing. The rhythm of the second feels different to me anyway, because it’s got three clauses, with the repetition creating a sense of the ebb and flow of the water. So if Author B was inspired by the use of the word “let” and the idea of characters who don’t think about future danger, it’s remained at the level of inspiration and, in my opinion, goes nowhere near plagiarism.

  84. Nora Roberts
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 06:55:29

    The two examples don’t use the same words. In fact they’re markedly different.

    An example of copying would be:

    The sun shone bright, and dewdrops glistened in the grass the day the prince came courting.

    The sun shone brightly, and dewdrops glistened in the grass when the prince came courting.

    And even then, I’d need more than one sentence to get my dander up.

  85. flower
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 09:43:04

    Thanks for that clarification NR…I was curious as to how the line was drawn.
    *Coming out of hibernation here….*
    It is always amazing to me the excuses, justifications, et al that are given for behaving badly…when something is wrong, it’s wrong!! Burying your head in the sand, writing vicious letters with excuses and blame….does not negate the wrongdoing, or explain it away.
    Bloglandia serves a vital purpose in outing the arrogance and hypocrisy of those who commit plagiarism, copyright infringement, etc., including ABBS (authors behaving badly syndrome) and I for one am grateful to be educated by this site and others in such matters.
    The blaming of the stroke/health problems *eye rolling here* on Bloglandia sounds so much like a two year olds’ fit of temper: When my little brother accidentally ran over his pet frog back in the 60′s when moving the lawn mower on the patio….the lawnmower nor the patio were to be blamed (although he tried!).
    I have great sympathy for Ms. Edwards in regards to the difficult recovery she faces, but place the blame strictly on the facts of her health. I have screwed up in countless ways in my adult life…and have tried really hard to be honest (with myself and others) and own up to them. But I digress….
    Blame is so much easier a road to take than owning up to ones own foolish mistake/s isn’t it?
    I often wonder if the backlash from this and other whistle blowing episodes is caused by the fact that we are taught at a young age that we aren’t to “rat out” our classmates, friends, fellow cell mates? LOL
    Totally forgetting that the others could turn on us in a dime should the pendulum swing the other way. One wonders what Ms. Edwards camp would be saying if it had been her work that was lifted?

  86. Julia Sullivan
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 10:51:18

    So when I purchase an ebook and it says copyright [author's name], it's not actually copywritten, and they're just lying to dissuade people from stealing? No unnerstand! *flails*

    No, it is copyrighted. (An ad is copywritten, intellectual property is copyrighted.) And the person holding an unregistered copyright may legally require the person violating it to cease and desist.

    But in US law, the only people who may bring a civil action (i.e., sue someone in court) and recover financial damages are people who have registered their copyrights, either in the US or in the country in which they were residing.

  87. Doreen
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 11:12:08

    Plagiarism must not be tolerated in any way, shape or form. Looks like I’m late to the discussion, but wanted to get this story out there.

    Before my husband retired he had spent 30 plus years as an English teacher in a state university system. They had strict policies on paper about plagiarism. He received a paper from someone who needed to pass his class to student teach. When he read this paper, he found it sounded familiar and went to the library to jog his memory.

    The words on the person’s paper were indeed familiar. They were from one of his personal books he put on reserve in the library. The student was the only one to check out the book. She actually highlighted the passages she stole. Since the professor doesn’t write in the books he puts on reserve, it wasn’t difficult to prove the student’s plagiarism. He flunked the paper, and she couldn’t student teach since her other grades weren’t good enough to pass the class.

    Her parents appealed to the college and he had to go to court to uphold his grade on the paper. In the end, the college didn’t uphold its own policy and forced him to let her write another paper, when she should have been kicked out of school.

    This student went on to be a high school English teacher. That’s the scariest thing about this story.

  88. Janine
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 12:06:38

    Neither of those examples are plagiarism. Furthermore, even if I had read one phrase in one of myfavorite books and the next in a new book, I wouldn't have even connected them. Their only similarities are vague thematic or stylistic elements, and when I say vague, I mean REALLY vague.

    I really don't see much similarity at all.

    The two examples don't use the same words. In fact they're markedly different.

    An example of copying would be:

    The sun shone bright, and dewdrops glistened in the grass the day the prince came courting.

    The sun shone brightly, and dewdrops glistened in the grass when the prince came courting.

    And even then, I'd need more than one sentence to get my dander up.

    Thanks Persephone, Laura, and Nora. I don’t consider those examples I gave to be plagiarism either, but the reason I asked is because in my writing, I’m often inspired by other authors’ imagery, word choices, and sentence rhythms. I make a conscious effort NOT to plagiarize, but I have moments where I worry that some combination of a few words lodged in my memory will end up in my document, and I won’t recognize it as having another source. So it is something I worry about a little, which is why I asked my question.

    I wonder if everyone understands the distinction between inspiration / influence (IMO all writers have literary influences, even if they’re not conscious of what those are) and plagiarism. I think maybe not everyone does. I recall that when I tried to catch up on the Cassie Edwards scandal, Laura Kinsale said something on the SB board about not being able to get up in arms about what Edwards did because all fiction writing plays off other sources in some way (This is not a direct quote, just my vague memory of the gist of what she said).

    Now, I think she was wrong to not take what Edwards did more seriously, but I think she had a point about fiction writing being inspired or influenced by some other source (though IMO sometimes that source isn’t other writing — it can be the speech patterns of friends, or a painting, or a piece of music).

    I think the tension in the writing community over how to respond to plagiarism may be related to this aspect of writing fiction. That is, if people aren’t clear on exaclty what the defnition of plagiarism is, maybe some of them aren’t clear on whether or not they are plagiarizing.

    Or maybe they start feeling that they are being told that even being inspired and influenced even when creating something new and different is wrong — and then they become very defensive and protective of something that is a natural part of their writing process.

    I think it’s very unfortunate that there is so little support for those who have been plagiarized and so much condemnation of those who have revealed the plagiarizm.

    Though I know it isn’t possible at this time, I wish we could nail plagiarism down to a more exact definition — if as you say, Nora, you’d need more than one sentence to get your dander up, exactly how much it would have to be to qualify as plagiarism.

    Because I think if there were a precise defnition nailed down, that it would put most writers on the altert for what NOT to do. And it might also settle down the defensive ones since they would realize that they are not the ones being condemned.

  89. Sunita
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:10:19

    @Janine:
    For the record, your examples would never have struck me as plagiarism, precisely because all work is influenced by work that has preceded it, plus the reader brings her own previous reading experience to every new book.

    I think the tension in the writing community over how to respond to plagiarism may be related to this aspect of writing fiction. That is, if people aren't clear on exaclty what the defnition of plagiarism is, maybe some of them aren't clear on whether or not they are plagiarizing.

    Or maybe they start feeling that they are being told that even being inspired and influenced even when creating something new and different is wrong -’ and then they become very defensive and protective of something that is a natural part of their writing process.

    I think that nailing down plagiarism is much more difficult in fictional writing than in non-fiction, and it’s difficult enough in non-fiction. But while I think we have trouble nailing down work in the gray areas, e.g. when people copy a plot, or copy a writing style, there are plenty of really easy cases. Over on the SB comment thread, someone (Hope?) said that the CE case wasn’t worth pursuing because it was so easy, we should be working on the hard cases. I completely disagree. If we can’t have a consensus on Edwards, not just that it was plagiarism but how to respond to it. then there is no hope for the more ambiguous cases.

    The debate over Edwards is disheartening to me precisely because I really can’t understand how anyone can call for minimizing the negative reaction. She copied. From people she claimed to respect and be representing. She never admitted it. And we’re supposed to stop talking about it.

    On a happier note, here’s an example of a university that took plagiarism by a tenured professor seriously:

    http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/01/15/plagiarism

  90. NKKingston
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 14:12:48

    To join in the silly underwear doiscussion, is no one else getting “things that hold up your stockings” every time someone says “suspenders”? The phrase “his belt and suspenders” puts me in a distinctly Rocky Horror place.

    I’m very much on the No Tolerance side of the debate, especially in commercial areas. I can’t remember if it was here or on the SB post that someone pointed out Zero Tolerance/One Strike And Your Out in Academia actually makes it harder to get a conviction, because no one wants to be accused of overreacting to an honest mistake. Having to resubmit is the most common penalty, and there’s a large problem with professors stealing from their students (it’s really annoying that I can’t find the BBC link, since I know that’s where I originally learned about it). People who think that simply having been told that it’s wrong at some point in their life ought to deter people seem a little naive, especially when many of those institutions that tell you so ignore their own rules. Without widespread social condemnation, I can’t see how we can get the message across.

  91. Janine
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 14:24:06

    The debate over Edwards is disheartening to me precisely because I really can't understand how anyone can call for minimizing the negative reaction. She copied. From people she claimed to respect and be representing. She never admitted it. And we're supposed to stop talking about it.

    I also hate that reaction, but I think I understand where it comes from. The romance community has had a tight-knit “circle the wagons” response to much of the criticism in receives, and I think this is because the genre can almost never catch a break in the mainstream media. Many people harsh on it. I think some readers have become used to jumping to the defense of their favorite authors and criticizing sites like this one and the SBs because they miss our enthusiasm for the genre and see us as ragging on its authors.

    And as for authors, I also think many of them are so sensitive to criticism that when they see it coming, they don’t always stop to think about whether or not it’s legitimate. There’s a perception in some circles that sites like DA and SB are out to get hardworking, unfairly maligned authors. And so, when SB or DA breaks a plagiarism story, that perception colors the response.

    IMO it comes down to lack of trust, and not giving us the benefit of the doubt that we are not acting out of malice, but out of wanting fairness and wanting to protect readers’ and authors’ interests. I think that response is a shame, but I do understand what motivates it.

  92. Diane/Anonym2857
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 00:04:54

    Regarding CE, my pastor has a very succinct phrase which pretty much states the way I feel:

    “Sin sets things in motion that repentance can’t stop.”

    Not that there’s been any repentance on her part, at least that I’ve noticed, but still…

    Even if CE is a very nice woman and a fine grandmother, even if she plays a mean violin, even if she didn’t mean anything by it, didn’t know any better, blah blah, it doesn’t change one key fact: She was still caught — repeatedly and flagrantly — stealing the work of others. Countless times, over decades. That’s unequivocally, flat-out wrong. Always ethically/morally, and often (tho not often enough, IMO) legally. Along with those other descriptive titles, one more needs to be permanently etched beside her name: Plagiarist.

    Even if she owned up to it and she’s really, really, REALLY sorry, there should still be consequences. She still stole the property and goodwill of countess people. Just as I wouldn’t hire an accountant who’d been convicted of embezzlement, I wouldn’t pay to read the (alleged) new writings of a known plagiarist. There are laws which prohibit felons from profiting from their crimes. Too bad it doesn’t apply here.

    As for CE, may she have a full recovery and live to enjoy those grandchildren for a very long time. Truly. I would have no problem forgiving her (not that my forgiveness matters) if she was sincerely sorry for her actions. Everyone is entitled to at least one act of grace, IMO. That said, while I’d have no problem forgiving, it certainly doesn’t mean I’d forget her actions. I wasn’t inclined to read her stuff anyway, but even had I been Her Biggest Fan, I’d cease to buy any of her books the minute I found out she was a fraud and a thief. She not only stole from the other authors, but she lied to all of her fans, and that sort of betrayal shouldn't be tolerated.

    However, this goes way beyond CE. She may be the ultimate poster child, but she, personally is not the main issue here. Plagiarism is.

    It's still out there. It's still wrong. And it still needs to be discussed/addressed/confronted and shouted from the rooftops until it becomes extinct. If reason and fairness won't work, then perhaps, as many said above, intolerance and public shaming might serve as a deterrent.

    I attended some stress management seminars decades ago by a very wise man, and I still repeat and live by most of his lessons today. According to the late great Roger Mellott (may he RIP), there are three rules of dealing with difficult people:

    Rule one: You cannot enlighten the unconscious.
    Rule two: Communication guarantees nothing.
    Rule three: You can't get someone to solve a problem that they don't think they have.

    So I would respectfully submit that those who sincerely ‘don't get it' or worse, ‘think it's no big deal,' are unconscious. Reasoning won't always work, because communication guarantees nothing. Besides, they don't think it's a problem, so there's no problem to solve. At least, not yet.

    So why press on? Because while these obliviots may remain unconscious, there are plenty of others who still have ears to hear. And there are many who need to say it, whether or not it sinks in at that particular moment. And who knows… maybe, like water on stone, if enough people are saying it, even the unconscious will eventually absorb some of it. Or erode away, problem solved. LOL And if that doesn't work, then eventually, once it becomes a problem for them (not just someone else's, but THEIRS), then their consciousness might just be raised and they'll finally ‘get it.'

    Call it Divine Justice, Karma, payback, whatever – but at some point their time will come, and it WILL become their problem too.

    Until then, press on and fight the good fight.

    Diane

  93. Diane/Anonym2857
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 00:18:20

    Sigh. Why do I never see typos until after the editing period has elapsed?

    It’s COUNTLESS people, not countess. No class distinctions here.

    And I should mention one more thing, since I’m posting again anyway — consciousness changes. We’re all unconscious about some things sometime. Maybe our attention is diverted by other things at a particular moment, but it’s not always a permanent condition. So there is always hope that even tho the unconscious can’t hear you today, that doesn’t mean that it won’t sink in tomorrow.

    That’s another reason to continue to press on.

    Diane
    shutting up now

  94. Anion
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 04:57:36

    @Diane/Anonym2857:

    “Sin sets things in motion that repentance can't stop.”

    Wow, Diane. I’m not Christian, but knowing there’s a pastor out there saying things like that–which is indeed succinct, and wise, and thoughtful–almost makes me wish I was.

    Your entire comment was lovely and true. I agree; being sorry is all well and good, and nice to hear. But as I try to explain to my children, being sorry doesn’t mean you don’t still have to face up to the consequences of your actions.

  95. Catherine
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 17:15:39

    Plagiarism should not be tolerated anywhere by anyone, and that includes romance, spiritual writing, literary fiction, academic publication, and fanfic.

    Thank you.

    I discovered my love of writing through fanfiction and now I am able to apply the skills I learned there to the original works I write now. Yes, we used other people’s characters and worlds, but the words were our own. Or at least, they should have been.

    Although I only watch fandom now, it still stings whenever I come across the attitude of “it’s just fanfiction, who cares if they plagiarised”.

  96. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 17:44:24

    @Diane/Anonym2857:

    Rule one: You cannot enlighten the unconscious.
    Rule two: Communication guarantees nothing.
    Rule three: You can't get someone to solve a problem that they don't think they have.

    and

    “Sin sets things in motion that repentance can't stop.”

    Man, I ♥ Diane/Anonym2857. Well said, very well said.

  97. JC
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 14:00:19

    @GrowlyCub:

    Where did you find those comments? I’d like to read them.

  98. JC
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 14:10:16

    @Laura Vivanco:

    Thanks for giving that link of Crusie’s comments.

  99. GrowlyCub
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 15:23:09

    JC,

    Crusie’s were in comments on the SBTB posts, on her blog that Laura mentioned and in the comments there. I also saw something somewhere else, but I can’t recall where, another author’s blog I think. I extremely disliked her superior attitude and her whole demeanor throughout this situation. I had long had doubts about her genuineness and this put the final nail in the coffin.

    Smith’s comments were on her website. I think I found them through comments on one of the several CE threads on SBTB. Smith also wrote something nasty on Amazon which she later deleted saying that Nora Roberts was jealous and that’s why she spoke out against CE (or something to that extent).

    Gabaldon’s comments on plagiarism only being possible if the work is under copyright was in her forum, if I recall correctly.

    I didn’t keep any of the links, sorry to be of so little help, but while it’s a bit daunting, you may want to check out the posts at SBTB about the CE situation.

    There are hundreds of comments, so you may want to reserve a few days. The reaction of some authors (beyond Crusie, Smith and Gabaldon) was extremely eye-opening and if I hadn’t seen it myself I would have never believed any of them could be so unprofessional and/or ignorant about their own craft.

  100. C.H. Scarlett
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 21:15:32

    In our opinion, plagiarism isn't taken seriously enough by some readers or by some writers.

    Thats exactly right. Take this past Stephanie Meyers plagiarism thing. Yes it was a hoax but I was shocked to see so many people gang up on the fake Staunton woman without knowing the facts. While researching it, I learned that all kinds of writers who are caught doing this, still sell books and still get contracts. Its insane!

  101. Top 100 Blogs about Plagiarism |
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 06:25:07

    [...] Dear Author – A very shocking account of the stress that is put on authors who have their work plagiarized.  [...]

  102. Mary
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 06:37:08

    I agree. Plagiarizing can be really annoying especially when you have put so much hard work in to it. In this technological age it’s happen very often. This leads to the original website owner losing page rankings, traffic and revenue. Theft of website content is a rapidly growing problem and owners should check their content frequently to find out whether it is being used somewhere else. I use this plagiarism checking service http://www.plagtracker.com/ Their service uses a vast amount of resources in plagiarism checking and offers up to 10 papers check for free.

  103. Ashley
    Mar 05, 2012 @ 10:54:41

    @Mary: great service. i agree, Mary

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