Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Regarding the Cassie Edwards situation

Edited to add my inquiry: Apparently some are taking umbrage that I posted the Signet response but not my own email inquiry. I will say that I had permission to post the Signet response but I don’t mind adding my inquiry:

Dear Mr. [name redacted at the request of the responder]:

I was writing to inquire whether Penguin had any response to the allegations of copying asserted against NAL author, Cassie Edwards. If so, is there one we can share with our readership? Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

Jane Litte

http://dearauthor.com

***

The Response from Signet:

Date: January 9, 2008 11:12:46 AM CST

To: Jane Litte
Subject: RE: Regarding the Cassie Edwards situation

Dear Ms. Litte,

Please find attached – – –

Signet takes plagiarism seriously, and would act swiftly were there justification for such allegations against one of its authors. But in this case Ms. Edwards has done nothing wrong.

The copyright fair-use doctrine permits reasonable borrowing and paraphrasing of another author’s words, especially for the purpose of creating something new and original. Also, anyone may use facts, ideas and theories developed by another author, as well as any material in the public domain. Ms. Edwards’s researched historical novels are precisely the kinds of original, creative works that this copyright policy promotes.

Although it may be common in academic circles to meticulously footnote every source and provide citations or bibliographies, even though not required by copyright law, such a practice is virtually unheard of for a popular novel aimed at the consumer market.

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

77 Comments

  1. Mallory
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 14:36:58

    Signet doesn’t think it’s an issue? What the hell is up with publishers thinking plagiarism is A-OK? I’m confused.

    I’ll bet anything that if it was a Signet author’s work being ripped off, they would be screaming to the heavens about it. Lordy.

  2. Alexandra
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 14:46:25

    In my mind, as someone who is both a fiction writer (although only college published) and as a non-fiction writer (also only college published), this is still ethically wrong. Ms. Edwards may write fiction, and her “sources” may be in public domain, but she is still copying someone else’s work and claiming it as her own. If someone found an unpublished Jane Austen manuscript and claimed parts of it as their own to put in their own manuscript, and were found out, there would be an uproar.

    This response disgusts me, but I have no idea how the argument stands up legally.

  3. azteclady
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 14:52:49

    Just because something may not be illegal doesn’t mean that it’s not wrong–morally and ethically wrong.

    Just because plagiarism doesn’t always constitute copyright infringement doesn’t mean it’s not thievery, and morally and ethically wrong.

  4. Elise Logan
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 15:06:49

    Wow. I have just spun into cynicism overload. Obviously, I am unsurprised by the initial denial and attitude exhibited by Signet. It is an unfortunate attitude that I believe is exhibited by publishers – protect your assets without regard to ethical concern.

    The possibility that Ms. Edwards is not in violation of copyright law in no way mitigates the situation, it only limits the legal recourse available. If I quoted large chunks of, say, the Song of Solomon, in a story, but did not credit it as such, it is plagiarism. PERIOD. It doesn’t matter that, under copyright law I can’t be SUED. What kind of precedent does this set for authors?

    In short: plagiarism is bad. Signet’s stance on this is shady at the very least. Bad Signet.

    P.S.: What’s with the condescending tone?

  5. Trout
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 15:06:52

    Seriously? While I know in the public domain you can use ideas and even characters (hence the number of Jane Austen-based fiction, and Sherlockian mysteries that exist), outright copying of works in the public domain is still plagiarism.

    So can I go take Pride and Prejudice now, Copy/Paste the first two chapters into Word, write the rest, and submit it under the title “A Regency Romp”?

  6. Bev Stephans
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 15:07:31

    As a reader and a purchaser of books (a lot of books), I have some power in choosing the authors and publishers I wish to read. I will not purchase Cassie Edwards, Janet Dailey or any other author who engages in plagiarism. I will now have to find out just how many lines there are at Signet/NAL and keep all purchases to a minimum. This is going to mean I won’t be trying new authors from this publishing line and may cut down drastically on favorite authors writing for these lines. I don’t want to do this but I don’t like Signet’s attitude at all!

  7. Gwen
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 15:30:11

    We really can’t expect a publisher (and their lawyer) to say anything different. To do so would open them to liabilities to the authors of the academic texts.
    The ethics of this stink to high heaven and Signet is just protecting their ass.

    Since this was brought up, I have contended that this is a case of an author being inexcusably lazy. She should, at the very least, apologize to everyone.

  8. Holly
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 15:43:13

    Alright, let me play devil’s advocate for a second:

    Let’s suppose what Signet says is true, that CE didn’t steal the content, merely changed it for her own use. Haven’t we seen hundreds of authors do the same over the years? Such as any historical author who writes about the ton, or the war with Napoleon or any other number of things? They’re taking creative license with something that really happened, aren’t they? How is this different.

    Not only that, but taken out of context, I could cite quite a few passages in novels that seem eerily similar to passages in other novels. Before I’m willing to point a finger, or gasp and scream about the lack of ethics of the publisher, I’d want to read the entire book in question for myself (both of them, actually). How, exactly, was the content in question used, etc.

    I’ve never read CE, so I can’t really form an opinion, but it doesn’t sit quite right with me to see someone post a few pages of her books along side another book – especially someone who obviously has no love for CE – and just assume that’s the gospel of the thing.

  9. Julie Leto
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 15:43:39

    ::sigh::

    This is wrong, wrong, wrong…but why am I not surprised?

    It has been my experience, sadly, that publishers do not take plagiarism as seriously as authors do. I suppose it’s the same as Nissan not getting their knickers in a knot if my Pathfinder gets stolen. They only market and sell the car–they don’t own it. Of course, they did build it…oh, this isn’t a good metaphor at all.

    I guess I’m too disappointed to think.

  10. Robin
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 16:00:01

    I've never read CE, so I can't really form an opinion, but it doesn't sit quite right with me to see someone post a few pages of her books along side another book – especially someone who obviously has no love for CE – and just assume that's the gospel of the thing.

    The gospel of what, exactly? The difference between what you are talking about and what the SBs posted is that the sources they put up alongside Edwards’s own text are themselves ORIGINAL works of scholarship. It’s not like copying out of the encyclopedia (although even that constitutes plagiarism, at least in schools and higher education). So think of the writers behind those books listed as the Romance authors of academia — it’s basically the same thing. What the SBs posted were examples of similarities and in some cases word for word exactness. If that constitutes an accusation of anything, it’s not an accusation the SB’s have created — it existed for anyone who might recognize some of those secondary sources or had access to Google. It exists as something that just *is* in those Edwards books, regardless of what we all do or don’t want to call it.

    When it came to light that Ian McEwan borrowed from Lucilla Andrews’s autobiography, Romance readers were outraged, arguing that such a thing could happen because no one respects Romance. I’d suggest that saying that original academic scholarship that’s copied into Romance without objection is expressing the same lack of respect for that scholarship. And since Romance readers are so used to feeling disrespected, I guess I’m expecting more understanding of why some of us find this situation objectionable and not ‘no big deal.’

  11. Victoria
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 16:12:37

    Holly, she did NOT change it for her own use. She copied it. Please see the example about mice and their bean mounds on SBTB. Word for word copying, aside from adding “Running Fox said,” as if that makes it her own. Phrases like “The heel of her moccasin might cause a place to give way on the mound. She then settles down to rob the poor mice of the fruits of their labor.” are not common knowledge. The ton and the Napoleanic wars are not original ideas and writings. Um, they actually existed and therefore cannot be copyrighted or claimed as one’s own work.

  12. Meljean Brook
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 16:18:12

    Fair use, my big white ass. You cannot lift another person’s words into your text and claim it as your own, which is what those passages did, repeatedly. Especially in popular fiction, because it doesn’t have any established rules for quoting or using outside sources (unlike academics, journalism … hell, even most personal blogs have widely-understood rules about linking and citation) — and there is the expectation that everything within (even though outside sources might have been referenced in the writing of it) is original to the author.

    Am I completely wrong that Fair Use is designed to protect commentary? And that there are limits to the amount of directly quoted prose that can be used under it?

    In any case, it still comes down to words and words and words that are not hers, and that aren’t just similar, but the same. I think Jane asked in another thread how many instances it takes before it’s plagiarism. From a writing viewpoint, I say one. The first time you take someone’s words and plop them into your fiction without either reworking the information so that it fits voice, character, story, or somehow signals to the reader that these are someone else’s words, and then carry on as if you’d written it, you’ve crossed a line.

    From a legal viewpoint? I have no idea. Obviously you have to have a lot more than CE did for Signet to wring its hands over, and I find that incredibly disheartening.
    .

  13. Jenyfer Matthews
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 16:19:23

    Gwen:”We really can't expect a publisher (and their lawyer) to say anything different. To do so would open them to liabilities to the authors of the academic texts.
    The ethics of this stink to high heaven and Signet is just protecting their ass.”

    Ditto.

    They are wrong, it’s a huge mess they want to deny culpability in, there is no one to sue them so they are going to brush it off if they can.

    Wonder if they’ll continue to print her in future though?

  14. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 16:19:48

    Copying is copying.

    It doesn’t matter if it’s academia, IMO, or out there in genre fic. While I have absolutely no desire to write anything of the academic sort, those who do put time, hard work and research into it. More research than I even want to think about and they deserve to get credit and recognition if somebody uses their work.

    Personal opinions aside, I can’t say I’m surprised by the publisher’s response. I will, however, say that I disagree.

    I also feel the need to say it strikes me as unfair to authors who haven’t ever plagiarized, who never would, if they end up getting penalized by this, and avoiding the books across the line by the publisher would be doing just that.

    The author responsible is the one who should be held accountable, not others who just happen to write for the same publisher. But that’s just my personal opinion and how others choose to handle it is totally up to them.

  15. Ann Bruce
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 16:32:35

    Bev — I understand the sentiment. To continue to buy Penguin/Signet books would be like condoning their stance. However, after getting over my knee-jerk reaction of making my opinion known with my dollars, I calmed down and realized it would be unfair to the other Penguin/Signet authors (e.g. JAK…and I believe I saw Ms. Walker’s name on the Penguin website, as well) who didn’t commit the offense.

    BTW…

    copyright fair-use doctrine permits reasonable borrowing and paraphrasing of another author's words

    The amount of copying CE did is considered REASONABLE? WTF?!

    Is there a way to quantify “reasonable”?

  16. Holly
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 16:36:35

    Sorry if my comment wasn’t very clear. I wasn’t necessarily talking about the CE thing in particular, but the general consensus that she did in fact plagiarize, especially by people who’ve never read her work.

    What I mean is, without having read anything by her or the other author, that I can’t say with certainty if she did or not. Based on what was posted at SB, she did. But how do I know, having not read any of the books in question, that she didn’t acknowledge the original author some place, or that put in context of the novel, she wasn’t quoting (i.e. “he said in his novel: blah blah”). It certainly sounds as if that isn’t the case, but as I haven’t read it, I can’t say for sure.

    What I was meaning to say, and obviously didn’t say it well, is that it doesn’t sit well with me that 500 people have come forward, gasping and pointing and saying “OMG! Look at what she did” based on the word of someone else. Have all 500 of those people actually read both novels? Do they know for fact that the passages weren’t taken out of context?

    Again, my comment wasn’t meant so much towards SB or this particular situation with CE, but more in a general sense.

  17. Peyton
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 16:40:07

    I spent over $100 today at Amazon. When I read the response Candy got from Signet I went back and cancelled every book published by them. I will not buy another Penguin book until they remedy this situation.

  18. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 16:42:31

    To continue to buy Penguin/Signet books would be like condoning their stance

    I’m clueless~I didn’t realize they were owned by the same.

    Yes, Ann, I write for Penguin under the Berkley Sensation line.

    Pretty please don’t punish me… lol, being jokingly sincere here. However, everybody needs to do what is best for the individual.

  19. Kalen Hughes
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 16:45:12

    Alright, let me play devil's advocate for a second:

    Let's suppose what Signet says is true, that CE didn't steal the content, merely changed it for her own use. Haven't we seen hundreds of authors do the same over the years? Such as any historical author who writes about the ton, or the war with Napoleon or any other number of things? They're taking creative license with something that really happened, aren't they? How is this different.

    *insert sound of head hitting desk*

    The issue here is that she DIDN’T change it for her own use. She didn't adapt it, didn't alter it, etc. She lifted the quotes pretty much VERBATIM and presented them as her own writing. If you even glance at the examples this is OBVIOUS. She could easily have used the knowledge she gained from her research and incorporated it into her writing without committing plagiarism. The point is, she didn't.

    What CE's has done is ENTIRELY DIFFERENT from what real novelists do when they research a topic then write a novel about it. What she has done is tantamount to my typing out some other costume historian's research article and presenting it as my own.

  20. Marta Acosta
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 16:49:29

    As I frequently tell my spawn, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

  21. --E
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 16:56:05

    Meljean: Yes, Fair Use is intended for commentary.

    The US Copyright Office is very clear about it in paragraph 107 of US Copyright Law.

    The relevant passage, for those who don’t like to click links:

    “…the fair use of a copyrighted work…for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”

    And even that doesn’t give carte blanche to scholarly purposes. The four evaluatory factors listed after that paragraph have weight, too.

    ———-

    The only thing that keeps CE’s unethical behavior from being outright copyright infringement is that she ripped off something old enough to be public domain.

  22. Tracey
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 17:02:54

    Well, Holly, let me take a look at your argument.

    “Let's suppose what Signet says is true, that CE didn't steal the content, merely changed it for her own use.”

    She certainly used the content. But she didn’t change it for her own use–that much is clear from the comparison tables. There are dozens of passages where she’s copied other people’s work word for word. That does not constitute “change” whether the works from which she was copying were in the public domain or not.

    “Haven't we seen hundreds of authors do the same over the years? Such as any historical author who writes about the ton, or the war with Napoleon or any other number of things? They're taking creative license with something that really happened, aren't they? How is this different.”

    There’s a difference between researching an era using all of the resources available, synthesizing the information and condensing it into a form that’s entertaining and accurate and that lends something to the story…and doing a copy and paste job from someone else’s work into your manuscript, and then passing it off as all yours.

    “Not only that, but taken out of context, I could cite quite a few passages in novels that seem eerily similar to passages in other novels. Before I'm willing to point a finger, or gasp and scream about the lack of ethics of the publisher, I'd want to read the entire book in question for myself (both of them, actually). How, exactly, was the content in question used, etc.”

    This is called Appeal to Common Practice, and it’s a logical fallacy. Other people have undoubtedly plagiarized in the past. Still others may have plagiarized. Is this in any way relevant to Cassie Edwards? Not really. Whether or not she plagiarized–and I have to say that it looks very much as if she did–is the issue. Not whether third parties may have or definitely have plagiarized, and not whether this should be passed over simply because plagiarism happens frequently.

    “I've never read CE, so I can't really form an opinion, but it doesn't sit quite right with me to see someone post a few pages of her books along side another book – especially someone who obviously has no love for CE – and just assume that's the gospel of the thing.”

    It is perfectly clear that you HAVE formed an opinion, and the nature of the opinion makes me boggle. The comparison tables show fairly long passages which have not been substantially altered by Edwards. I think that’s relevant.

    And yet you argue that the person who is posting this information “obviously has no love for CE.” In other words, the poster is just saying this to be mean.

    I don’t think it’s mean to point out that in book after book by the same author, there are passages from other works which are substantially unchanged. It’s not mean to call it plagiarism, because that’s what plagiarism is–copying someone else’s work and taking credit for it. (There is nothing in the definition that says that the work must still be under copyright, or may not be in the public domain.)

    And this isn’t just one person saying that this is the case. Smart Bitches have said it. The women who run Dear Author have said it. Their readers have chimed in with other passages that they recognize.

    But even if it was only one person in the entire world who had a question about those books, she would still have a perfect right to raise that question in public.

    What we are talking about is the possibility–probability, I would say–of intellectual theft. I would much prefer that writers, publishers and reviewers have the integrity to stand up and say that something is wrong rather than passing over the information and letting it drown in a seaful of niceness.

  23. Bev Stephans
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 17:04:21

    Penguin Group, U.S.A. has at least 23 lines under their aegis. I believe that if they are going to acquire this many publishing houses, they should police them. Plagiarism, in any shape or form, should not be allowed. I think that Signet should be taken to task for brushing off the plagiarism issue.

    I also believe that the authors that write for any of the Penguin group should make their feelings known. Especially, authors with a lot of clout (Nora, are you listening?)!

    I have a lot of favorite authors that write for the Penguin group and I don’t want to give them up, but I will if this isn’t resolved in a straightforward manner.

  24. Robin
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 17:06:18

    Personal opinions aside, I can't say I'm surprised by the publisher's response. I will, however, say that I disagree.

    I’m surprised. As someone who has done damage control work for a long time, I can’t imagine ever advising, writing, or approving of that statement being issued at this time. I expected an aggressive CYA from Penguin/Signet, but this IMO is unwise, both factually and from a PR standpoint. I think it’s going to accomplish the exact opposite of what it’s intended to, which violates the rules outlined in Spin Control 101. How, for example, can they be so certain she hasn’t violated copyright? The invocation of fair use, the “nothing wrong” language, well, so much of that statement flabbergasts even the spin-doctor in me.

    And one piece of irony I keep replaying mentally is that this is coming from an imprint of Nora Roberts’s publisher. Hello . . .

  25. romblogreader
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 18:52:06

    “Paraphrasing”? I do not think this word means what the Signet letter writer seems to think it means.

  26. Jackie L.
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 19:32:13

    Hey, remember the writer who was up for an Eppie, but her work was so closely an homage to Jane Eyre that it was considered tantamount to plagiarism? Well, have we got a publisher for her! She should submit to Signet.

    What do you bet that at least of the books that CE apparently “borrowed” from (“I was gonna give it back, I swear!”) was published by one of Penguin’s other arms?

  27. azteclady
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 19:33:49

    romblogreader: brilliant.

  28. Lynne
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 19:34:08

    Penguin/Signet is full of shit. If any of this stuff is still protected by copyright, I hope the copyright owners sue.

  29. Jackie L.
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 19:34:24

    Er,teeth gnashing, at least ONE of the books.

  30. Julie Leto
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 19:53:10

    Bev -‘ I understand the sentiment. To continue to buy Penguin/Signet books would be like condoning their stance.

    Um…that seems a bit unfair to the authors who don’t steal from other sources, don’t you think?? I mean, not that I’m mentioning this because I have a book coming out from Signet in a few months or anything…

    Seriously, though…punishing other authors for the stance of the publisher is not the answer and I’d say that even if I wasn’t a Penguin author.

  31. Ann Bruce
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 20:05:29

    Pretty please don't punish me

    Shiloh–I would never boycott an author just for writing for Penguin. Now, if you supported CE’s actions, that would be an entirely different story.

    Ms. Leto–Please read the rest of my post, which begins with “However…”

  32. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 20:13:44

    Shiloh-I would never boycott an author just for writing for Penguin. Now, if you supported CE's actions, that would be an entirely different story.

    Ann, I gathered that from your original comment, but thank you. :)

    Support… nope. Not in a million years.

  33. Karmyn
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 20:36:33

    Can’t we just punish Dorchester instead? They hardly publish anything good lately. Even their horror line is getting really reptitive. They just seem to publish old Richard Laymon books and he’s been dead for years.

  34. Ann Bruce
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 20:48:45

    Karmyn — Letter-writing campaign! (Sorry, I’m Canadian. That’s what we do.)

  35. Mrs Giggles
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 21:17:59

    Can't we just punish Dorchester instead? They hardly publish anything good lately.

    I disagree. Love me some Shomi, Liz Maverick, Jennifer Ashley, Joy Nash, Elspeth McKendrick, et cetera.

    I believe we can always write to the charities she supports (there is one listed on her website) and anyone else you may think will take a stance when her publishers won’t, but I don’t think we should drag other authors into the mess.

    Publishers have a long history of defending their money making authors even when they are caught red-handed (I always believed that Cindi Louis, an author caught plagiarizing for her debut novel, was dropped while Janet Dailey wasn’t because Cindi Louis wasn’t a bestselling author for her publisher while Janet Dailey is a huge bestselling author). So, I am not really surprised by this response from Signet. As long as this incident remains on online matter and no one of greater significance than a bunch of online people complain about this, they won’t give a damn.

  36. Julie Leto
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 22:36:50

    Ann, I should have been clearer…I meant to respond to the second part of your post, then I was waylaid by Peyton’s post. My apologies! And my thanks!

  37. Karmyn
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 22:53:58

    I haven’t really checked out anything at Dorchester recently, but many of their historicals and horror seem to be the same thing over and over again. I do have many books from them, but have not bought anything recently. I also subscribe to some of their confession magazines and am surprised at people who take them serious.
    I have never read Cassie Edwards and don’t plan to. I’ve never been into Indian romance and quite frankly find them insulting and racist.

  38. Random
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 23:26:12

    I may be able to form a coherent post later, when I’m not so angry that I’m deleting explicatives every few words. But for now I’m curious if anyone has email/snail mail addresses, phone numbers, etc., where I can later express my extreme displeasure in Signet’s direction.

  39. Jane
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 23:34:50

    Random – I found some. Google “everyone in publishing”.

  40. Random
    Jan 09, 2008 @ 23:58:40

    Thanks much, Jane. Eventually I’ll try to gather my thoughts on the matter and make something coherent out of them. It’s just that I have very, very strong feelings about plagiarism, and can’t quite bring myself to believe that a publisher would say CE has “done nothing wrong” so blithely.

    Someone brought up that maybe Signet doesn’t think this’ll go beyond a cranky handful of people on the internet . . . I’m considering a newspaper article as well as a cranky blogpost, but worry about that rolling into the “bad publicity still being publicity” thing.

  41. Jane
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 00:00:02

    You did see that the AP picked it up right? So it’s not just a handful of peeps anymore. It is currently on the front of yahoo entertainment site.

  42. Jennifer McKenzie
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 00:00:52

    That’s great information from Signet…..and totally not applicable.
    I have three words for them.
    WORD FOR WORD.

  43. Random
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 00:29:53

    I didn’t see that. But now that I have, I can say that my urge to whack the woman with a cluebat has not lessened in the least bit.

    And now I’m back to deleting my bad words. Jesus. I just . . . I’m flummoxed. Between her and the publisher and the people defending her/attacking SBTB for the outing . . . I talked to a person today who said in one breath that SBTB needed to get lives for feeling the need to out CE, then in the next said that with today’s technology that plagiarism would out itself anyway. The lolgic, it burns!

  44. Nora Roberts
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 09:58:24

    ~also believe that the authors that write for any of the Penguin group should make their feelings known. Especially, authors with a lot of clout (Nora, are you listening?)!~

    I have made my feelings known–repeatedly, clearly and publically. I have also written a letter to my publisher.

    I agree with your anger, but I simply fail to see what more you expect from those of us who had NOTHING to do with this offense, NOTHING to do with the publisher’s statement. Those of us who happen to be in the same profession, the same genre, and who write for an imprint of the same publishing house.

    How many of you opted to stop buying from Harper–and all its imprints when Janet Dailey was outed for plagiarising me? I was the victim, and I didn’t.

    If this is a result of making such offenses public, it’s not a wonder many, many writers who are victimized prefer to handle it quietly, behind the scenes.

  45. Random
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 11:16:16

    I think I see what people are getting at, Nora–this is more an outpouring of frustration. What can we do? We could boycott Penguin . . . but some of our favorite authors or friends or co-posters are published through there, and some of us would end up boycotting/hurting ourselves. We could boycott Signet, but the above still applies and a handful single boycotts don’t feel grand and glorious and effective in any way, especially in the overarching scheme of things. We could boycott Cassie Edwards, but that isn’t gonna do a damned thing in light of the publicity she’s still gonna get and the customers who subsequently walk into my store and clear the shelf out. Then there’s people like me who don’t buy romance novels anyway; our threats of boycott mean next to nothing.

    Then negative publicity can still generate sales (see: the number of people who came in to buy the James Frey book after he’d been outed as a hack, the number of people who bought the Opal Metha book after she’d been outed as a plagiarist) so we wibble with letters to newspapers and frothing blogposts . . . There doesn’t seem to be any easy torch-to-straw solution.

    So yes, I see where frustrated posters may grab for possible options and search for someone with potentially more clout–in this case, you–who might be able to express their displeasure in a more effective way.

  46. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 11:25:12

    I think I see what people are getting at, Nora-this is more an outpouring of frustration. What can we do?

    Random, I think most of the authors here get that frustration~we’re feeling it ourselves. It’s pretty clear none of the authors posting here are supporting what’s happened.

    Yet some of us, or at least I do, have another frustration piled on top. We’ve done nothing wrong, yet it seems we’re going to pay for it. In the long run, will a few people not picking up Nora Roberts over this hurt her career? No. I imagine it will bother her, but it won’t affect her career. She’s Nora… she pretty much IS romance.

    But what about the newer people? Midlist people like me? With midlist authors who are trying to get out of the midlist, all those sales count. Word of mouth counts. How can we get that if people decide not to buy our books because of the publisher’s choices?

    What about new authors just putting out their very first book? If that doesn’t sell… they might not get another chance. New authors, midlist authors, those sells count a lot so seeing things like this isn’t just frustrating, it’s kind of scary.

  47. azteclady
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 11:32:54

    Shiloh, I am very aware of the risk midlist/newbie authors published by any arm/imprint of Penguin are running right now, and I’m doing my level best (as a reader who’s spreading the word on why and how plagiarism is BAD) to educate others on the consequences to innocents should people choose to boycott Penguin, or Signet. IMO, a letter writing campaign, and seeking media publicity, are far better avenues to pursue.

  48. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 12:08:47

    Shiloh, I am very aware of the risk midlist/newbie authors published by any arm/imprint of Penguin are running right now

    I don’t know if you have any idea how appreciated that is, aztec.

  49. Sara Dennis
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 12:14:23

    I have sort of willfully been hoping that the mention of some published authors poo-pooing the need to talk about this issue was false, despite the evidence posted. That’s the way I am, determinedly stubborn about seeing the good, happy outcome to most things.

    But I’ve now seen this issue get dismissed first-hand, so to speak (electronically) and I fully understand the frustration that Jane and others feel.

    I do understand, also, that no one wants to be *forced* to make a statement, but if one *is* made, it saddens when it’s dismissive or mocking rather that troubled, disappointed or angry.

  50. azteclady
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 13:02:57

    Shiloh, I hate to see the innocent pay for the asshol… erm, sinners. I only hope I can help.

  51. Christine Merrill
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 14:06:54

    I have sort of willfully been hoping that the mention of some published authors poo-pooing the need to talk about this issue was false, despite the evidence posted.

    I think, if writers are poo-pooing the need to talk, it’s not because we are afraid or dismissive, it’s because we know from experience that we can talk about it all we want, and will continue to talk about it, and we still won’t solve the problem.

    Let’s take something big like murder. We all know it’s wrong. And the majority of us haven’t done it, and won’t do it in the future. But it still happens. The same holds true of plagiarism. Most people aren’t guilty, but some people will never change, no matter what the world thinks of them.

    The majority of writers fight plagiarism every day, by not doing it. We worry about our own writing. We keep our eyes open. We watch our backs. We watch out for those around us. And we talk about it all the time. Because you don’t hear us, doesn’t mean we’re not talking.

    But writers are individuals. We are not a hive mind. Even when we band together, we are not all powerful. How many people are paying attention to the progress being made by the TV writers? Are you boycotting TV in solidarity because the writers are being cheated out of royalties by their production companies? Haven’t you seen any news about this? Why do people keep watching Leno? Scab!

    Yeah, it’s a different issue. But it’s an example of how much weight a large group of writers carries, when they go up against the people who pay them, and publicize the hell out of the issue.

    Even if a large organization like RWA goes up against Signet, it might take a long time to see a change, or nothing at all might happen. And since everything about writing and publishing moves at glacial speed, any guarded statements you might be seeing this week should not be taken as a sign of inaction or apathy by the powers that be, or proof that nothing will be done.

    Right now, the best statement we can make is to vote with our dollars and not buy the works of plagarists. And since the common voice seems to be saying “Never read her. Don’t know anyone who does,” we’ve got this covered.

  52. Sara Dennis
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 14:17:27

    How many people are paying attention to the progress being made by the TV writers? Are you boycotting TV in solidarity because the writers are being cheated out of royalties by their production companies? Haven't you seen any news about this? Why do people keep watching Leno? Scab!

    I actually haven’t watched anything but the Rose parade since the strike started. I don’t have a Nielsen box on my tv, so that’s not registering anywhere, but I do write teleplays and screenplays, so yeah, I’m boycotting.

    I know you were making an example, and my answer is my way of agreeing with you. Yes, writers are all individual. I’m not troubled by the people who don’t choose to say anything. Like I said in my first comment, no one wants to be forced to do so, and I don’t advocate that forcing should happen.

    But, when I have seen other authors put more focus on who’s doing the reporting of this story and whether they’re nice about it than on the fact that the story exists at all, I am disappointed.

    I don’t think we do have this covered, personally. A lot of people who’ve commented on the blogs have said “Don’t read her, don’t know anyone who does”, yes, but obviously someone does or she wouldn’t have sold 100 books. I think only by bringing it to people’s attention can we hope that the people who *do* read her books might hear about it and maybe think about voting with their dollars, as you say.

  53. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 14:44:34

    But, when I have seen other authors put more focus on who's doing the reporting of this story and whether they're nice about it than on the fact that the story exists at all, I am disappointed.

    This isn’t what I see happening. I see authors voice up their disappointment and also share their comments about whether or not they agree with the issue at hand.

    Are there some authors who are using the blogs (DA & SB) as a way to poke back at the bloggers? Yes. But they find a reason to do that anyway.

    bringing it to people's attention can we hope that the people who *do* read her books might hear about it and maybe think about voting with their dollars, as you say.

    This is yet another thing that has been discussed. Several people have asked what the stance of places like Ninc & RWA on this issue. Somebody mentioned a possible ‘outreach’ type of program aimed at teaching younger people what is and isn’t plagiarism. People discussed whether or not they’ve ever discussed plagiarism in writer circles. Quite a few writers have stepped out and vocally stated they do no agree with what was done, or how the publisher handled it. Some of us have posted our personal feelings on our own blogs. And (cringe) there are discussions of people boycotting the publisher in question.

    Are there authors out there acting like it’s no big deal? Yes. But there’s an equal percentage~ or from where I’m sitting, a larger one that agree with DA.

    There are always going to be people who use opportunities like this to jab at popular bloggers, just like some of the discussions that have come up, there have been commenters who use the discussion to poke at popular authors.

    But their voices in no way drown out the voices of others.

  54. Jessie Mathews
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 14:58:10

    can't help laughing at how the same people are going from website to website creating drama.

    Don't any of you have jobs or lives?

    Ms. Edwards is innocent unless she's found guilty in a court of law.

    Her publishers are standing behind her. Her fans are standing behind her. Her family and friends are standing behind her.

    Shame on each and every one of you for what you are doing. You have made yourselves prosecutor, Judge and jury.

    In a few weeks this will all die down and the only thing everyone will remember is the nasty things you have all written.

    I believe that you get back what you give out. I'm so glad I'm not any of you.

  55. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 15:03:17

    Ms. Edwards is innocent unless she's found guilty in a court of law

    There are many, many ways to act unethically that aren’t illegal. Unethical behavior may not be illegal, but that doesn’t change the fact that is still wrong.

  56. Emily
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 15:07:07

    Jessie, While rampant speculation might be rather out of proportion at this point–suggesting people don’t have a right to speculate is at the very least unpragmatic.

    And an any case going from discussing facts to insulting people by suggesting their actions are shameful, nasty or reflect a lack of other occupation is an ad hominem attack with no merit in any debate.

  57. Emily
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 15:09:15

    I would add that that is equally true for an ad homimans against Edwards.

  58. Emily
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 15:10:03

    [screw it, I was interrupted by my work at a crucial spelling moment]

  59. Jessie Mathews
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 15:15:33

    Speculate!

    I don’t see any speculating going on. I see downright slanderous statements being made.

    What the SB’s have done is downright disgusting. They have made it a habit of attacking Ms. Edwards and have now gone above and beyond to drag her name through the mud.

    I would like to know how associated press got involved and how they obtained Ms. Edwards’ private, unlisted home telephone number.

    What goes around comes around!

  60. Emily
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 15:20:21

    It is hard to criticise those who cast stones while holding a rock in one hand and a brick in the other.

  61. azteclady
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 15:24:56

    Jessie Mathews said,

    I would like to know how associated press got involved and how they obtained Ms. Edwards' private, unlisted home telephone number.

    Because, really, God forbid reporters actually report stuff.

    What goes around comes around!

    One can only hope.

  62. Random
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 22:22:48

    What goes around comes around!

    One can only hope.

    Imagine that! Dozens of nearly-identical novels, all of them featuring terrible wording, overall logical failure, and a white girl who gets kidnapped by natives and ends up screwing some gorgeous Gary Stu-rific warrior . . . Oh, wait.

  63. Cassie Edwards Plagiarism Recap | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Jan 11, 2008 @ 14:22:21

    […] to publicity department of Penguin asking if there is a public response to the allegations. Signet responds with a reply: Signet takes plagiarism seriously, and would act swiftly were there justification for such […]

  64. Deborah Smith
    Jan 11, 2008 @ 15:30:34

    Edwards’s work — as sampled so far — falls under “fair use” policy and Signet appears correct to issue the statement it did. No doubt, many, many other highly regarded authors have used research material the same way. There are considerable gray areas in the use of acknowledged facts and factual descriptions.

    The bigger question is what prompted such an ugly public attack on a 71-year-old author who, so far as we know at his point, has committed no illegal act and who, again so far as we know, never had any greedy or subversive intent whatsoever regarding the material she allegedly paraphrased.

    This incident reminds me why I admire Tiger Woods so much. Such graciousness and discretion combined with such power and money.

  65. azteclady
    Jan 11, 2008 @ 15:33:40

    *headdesk*

    (and why education on what is ‘fair use’ and what is ‘plagiarism’ is so necessary)

  66. JC Wilder
    Jan 11, 2008 @ 15:54:27

    Deborah wrote: No doubt, many, many other highly regarded authors have used research material the same way.

    I certainly hope not. It’s lazy, tacky and IMHO, just plain wrong.

    Deborah wrote: The bigger question is what prompted such an ugly public attack on a 71-year-old author who, so far as we know at his point, has committed no illegal act and who, again so far as we know, never had any greedy or subversive intent whatsoever regarding the material she allegedly paraphrased.

    No, I think you’re missing the bigger question – why is an author taking chunks of text from someone else’s work and sticking it into theirs? I’ve never met the lady but I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that she meant no harm and very possibly didn’t know it was wrong – though as I former English teacher I doubt that.

    Even if these incidents are judged to be ‘fair use’, it is still morally wrong to make money using the work of others. If I were one of the authors she ‘borrowed’ work from, you could bet I’d be pissed.

  67. Robin
    Jan 11, 2008 @ 17:29:20

    Edwards's work -‘ as sampled so far -‘ falls under “fair use” policy and Signet appears correct to issue the statement it did. No doubt, many, many other highly regarded authors have used research material the same way. There are considerable gray areas in the use of acknowledged facts and factual descriptions.

    Ms. Smith, as you may know, “fair use” is not part of the copyright statutes per se, but is a defense employed to allow the use of copyrighted material without *permission*. Plagiarism relates to the use of material without *attribution,* whether or not it is in the public domain. In this case, the allegations are that Edwards used material without *attribution*. Please, please read the explanatory comments on the difference made by “the rhetorician” on Ros’s livejournal: http://girlyswot.livejournal.com/83299.html

    If you are someone who, as an author, engages in any secondary research, I’m sure you are well aware of the differences between, say, the Encyclopedia Brittanica’s entry on the longhouse and Daniel K. Richter’s book The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League in the Era of European Colonization, published by the University of North Carolina Press and the academic equivalent of an original work of fiction. The sources cited on the SB site are not encyclopedic in nature, but are themselves works of scholarship, even if they *contain* factual information.

    Although it might not seem as pretty to those of you who write fiction, the prose in academic texts is not, as some would have it, mere factual representation, anymore than the text in Romance novels is mere formula. If a student or an academic copied unattributed sources into their own work and claimed it as their own, it would not be OK — it would not be anywhere near OK. It frankly scares me that any author would argue that such a thing is OK in fiction, as if the hard work and original scholarship and creative energy of researchers and academics is unimportant. Isn’t that dismissive attitude exactly what Romance authors and readers chastise when those outside the community make similar comments about Romance?

    The bigger question is what prompted such an ugly public attack on a 71-year-old author who, so far as we know at his point, has committed no illegal act and who, again so far as we know, never had any greedy or subversive intent whatsoever regarding the material she allegedly paraphrased.

    Do you believe this because you don’t think Edwards did anything wrong, or because you think it should have been handled differently?

    Signet’s initial response claimed they didn’t think Edwards did anything wrong, and IMO it was only the repeated attention and publicity to the matter that got them to revise that initial statement. If you believe Edwards did nothing wrong in copying that material into her own books, then I would argue that there is a BIG problem in this community in regard to accepted standards of intellectual honesty.

    If I wrote an academic text and copied pieces of Romance novels into that manuscript, putting them out there AS MY OWN WORDS, you can bet that every author used in such a way, and their publishers, would be trying to pursue that manuscript, legally, ethically, and in every other way.

    Neither the SBs or those of us at DA have attacked Cassie Edwards as a person. How is posting examples of UNATTRIBUTED copied material in her books an “ugly public attack”? I agree it’s an ugly state of affairs for Romance, and I thank goodness I don’t have to make any decision as to what happens to Edwards or her books after this, and I completely agree with you that any insults to her *as a person* are completely unwarranted and over the line of decency and propriety. But if you are arguing that Edwards is the one being victimized here, I would simply say that another author recently tried to argue the same thing when it was revealed that a MS she was trying to sell as her own work contained pages of copyrighted work by another, recently deceased, author. How is it, in these situations, that those whose work has been used without attribution are basically nonexistent, those who bring the issue to light are villains, and those who have used the unattributed work are innocent victims?

    If Edwards believed what she did is okay, I’d say that’s more an indictment of the relevant publishing and writing communities in general for not making it clear that it’s not acceptable. I have no interest in seeing Edwards strung up or anything else, although I don’t think her novels should continue to sell without attribution to the source work she uses. I have no bad feelings towards Edward as a person, because as someone who has had to turn student plagiarism cases in, it’s often heartbreaking to be in that position.

    But at the same time, I would think every author would be staring in horror at what the SBs have uncovered, afraid that their work could similarly find its way into someone else’s work under someone else’s name. I mean, would you be okay if I wrote a Romance novel comprised entirely of five or ten sentences from other Romance authors’ books, passing it all off as my own? Is that “fair use” in your view, too?

  68. Lynne
    Jan 11, 2008 @ 20:23:13

    If part of the language of a publishing contract states that the author guarantees that the manuscript in question is her own original work, isn’t it fraud if she has included chunks of someone else’s manuscript and passed it off as hers? It doesn’t matter if the stolen material comes from work long out of copyright. The fraud occurs when the author represents the manuscript as 100% her own creation.

    It is possible to express similar facts but use radically different words and word order. And if someone is to avoid stealing another writer’s hard work, it’s absolutely necessary. The passages are far too similar for coincidence, and to say that it’s completely fine to lift them wholesale is bullshit.

    Fair use. People keep using that term. In the words of our old friend Inigo, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  69. Truth and Consequence « Trivial Pursuits
    Jan 11, 2008 @ 21:35:44

    […] and flipping a word here, there, and then claiming it as your own is wrong. Over at Dear Author, Robin commented, I mean, would you be okay if I wrote a Romance novel comprised entirely of five or ten sentences […]

  70. Layne
    Jan 12, 2008 @ 00:57:15

    I posted this on another blog but I feel it applies here as well: I've always thought the romance community was very loyal, but lately it appears that some people on the blog want to ruin this woman's life and career (Nora Roberts included). Yes Edwards should be held accountable, but when you care about your authors (the way romance fans do), you don't just toss them under the train and then joke about it. As a life-long romance reader, I find all of this to be very embarassing – on both sides.

  71. Nora Roberts
    Jan 12, 2008 @ 08:28:49

    Deborah, I’d have to say you and I have different definitions of fair use. And imo any writer, regardless of her age, who lifts another’s work, employs bare minimum paraphrasing, then calls it her own, has plagiarized. Imo, there should be consequences.

    By and large, the discussion has centered on plagiarism, and not personality. I recall, clearly, having many other writers accuse me of publicly attacking Dailey when I took action against her lifting my work. I wish I could get a clear and logical explanation of why it’s wrong to speak out against what, on my scale, is the biggest offense in the profession.

    Layne, I certainly don’t want to ruin anyone’s life or career–and have made no jokes on the issue of plagiarism. I have no obligation to be loyal to anyone if I believe they’ve plagiarized. In fact, I feel obligated to speak out against appropriating another writer’s work.

    It appears there are multiple examples of copying–from work out of copyright, and work still copyrighted. A writer who does this puts her own career at risk.

  72. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 12, 2008 @ 08:45:56

    I posted this on another blog but I feel it applies here as well: I've always thought the romance community was very loyal, but lately it appears that some people on the blog want to ruin this woman's life and career

    Layne, you’re entitled to your opinion, but I think most people have enough going on in their own lives to worry about ruining the life of a historical romance author over plagiarism.

    Yeah, some of us… me included… are watching this closely, but since it’s something that could impact a lot of writers, writers are certainly entitled.

    Readers who put down their hard earned money for a book are entitled to see how this plays out because none of them probably want to think about using that hard earned money to buy a book that may or may not have plagiarized content.

    I have no desire to ruin any body’s life or career but if the author in question can’t even admit she made a mistake, then what’s to keep her from doing so again in the future?

    If there isn’t some measure of accountability, some sort of consequence, then there is little deterrent to others who may consider doing this in the future.

    If nothing else, this has probably enlightened some people that may not seem to realize the seriousness of plagiarism.

  73. Bernita
    Jan 12, 2008 @ 09:15:12

    Seems “loyalty” is applied in a selective fashion and appears to be blind.
    How about a degree of loyalty to those writers whose works have been plagiarized?

  74. Imani
    Jan 12, 2008 @ 18:25:53

    How about little to no loyalty at all? We’re readers not members of some kind of creepy sorority.

  75. Random
    Jan 13, 2008 @ 00:00:08

    Layne: Loyalty to what? The written word is all some of us have. It’s our child and livelihood and form of expression and monument to our existence, all rolled into one. I feel absolutely no “loyalty” to anyone who chops up someone else’s work and stitches still-recognizable chunks into a Frankenbaby-type collage.

    Unless you’re saying that our “loyalty” should involve us meekly and quietly waiting for Signet to do the right thing, when every implication is that Signet didn’t care to run Edwards’s books through plagiarism-detecting software to begin with and that they would’ve swept this entire deal under the rug if not for the massive outcry and media attention.

  76. Romance novel fans catch plagiarist black-footed ferret! « The Learned Fangirl
    Apr 15, 2008 @ 20:32:27

    […] posted on Smart Bitches , Dear Author, and MediaBistro’s GalleyCat, the attorney for Cassie Edwards conflates these two issues, by […]

  77. Signet/NAL Deserves a Round of Applause | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Apr 20, 2008 @ 04:00:47

    […] 9, 2008: Signet doesn’t respond very well to a query I made suggesting that whatever Edwards did was both legal and […]

%d bloggers like this: