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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

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