Thursday, January 10, 2008

Plagiarism and the Ripple Effect

If you have been reading all the blogs and online sites such as Smart Bitches and Dear Author, you probably know by now the whole controversy with Cassie Edwards.
The idea that an author such as Ms. Edwards has "allegedly" plagiarized some of her novels sickens me. To be honest, I am not sure when the last time I even read one of her books, but these acts she is being accused is will send a ripple effect, or should through the literary world, regardless even if it is the romance genre

If this is true, FOR SHAME because her reputation is in shatters and those of her faithful readers and even myself who is a loyal reader and buyer in this genre.

I decided to do a little research on what is "plagiarism" and why it is such a dirty word.

From wikipedia:
"Plagiarism is the practice of claiming or implying original authorship of (or incorporating material from) someone else's written or creative work, in whole or in part, into one's own without adequate acknowledgement. Generally, although plagiarism is often loosely referred to as theft or stealing, it has not been set as a criminal matter in the courts. Likewise, plagiarism has no standing as a criminal offense in the common law. Instead, claims of plagiarism are a civil law matter, which an aggrieved person can resolve by launching a lawsuit. "

Example of plagiarism from well known authors:
A young
Helen Keller was accused in 1892 of plagiarizing Margaret T. Canby's story The Frost Fairies in her short story The Frost King. She was brought before a tribunal of the Perkins Institute for the Blind, where she was acquitted by a single vote.

Janet Dailey was sued in 1997 by fellow novelist Nora Roberts, who accused Dailey of copying her work for over seven years. The practice came to light after a reader read Roberts' Sweet Revenge and Dailey's Notorious back-to-back; she noticed several similarities and posted the comparable passages on the internet. Calling the plagiarism "mind rape," Roberts sued Dailey. Dailey acknowledged the theft and blamed it on a psychological disorder. She admitted that both Aspen Gold and Notorious lifted heavily from Roberts's work. In a settlement, Dailey paid Roberts an undisclosed sum, which Roberts donated to the Literacy Volunteers of America. In 2001, Dailey returned to publishing with a four-book deal with Kensington Books. - THAT IS SOME PUNISHMENT SHE RECEIVED. SNORT.
And why am I discussing this topic today?
The romance novel review blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books accused Cassie Edwards of widespread
plagiarism after finding multiple passages in her novels that appeared to be directly taken from reference works about Native American history and culture. Her publisher, Signet, stated that they believed the passages were used under fair use and would not be considered copyright infringement. Cassie Edwards is a best-selling American author of over 100 historical romance novels. She has been published by Dorchester Publishing, Signet Books, and Harlequin.

The Associate Press had even picked this up!
Now if this is true, what happens next? Nothing seemed to happen to Janet Dailey, so I really don't think anything will happen to Cassie Edwards.


MaryKate said...

Well, I can tell you that I am employed by Defenders of Wildlife and I know that the editor of our magazine is aware of the situation and has contacted our General Counsel to see what if anything may be done.

It does sounds like the situation is "non-actionable" but man, it just leaves such a bitter taste in my mouth. I'm angered at Ms. Edwards, but more than that, I'm completely OUTRAGED at the response from her publishing house that she's done nothing wrong. It's reprehensible.

I don't care how many books she's written, I don't care how much money she brings to them. The act of taking someone else's words and saying they're your own (without citing the source) is STEALING. That's the end of the story. There's no grey area here as far as I'm concerned.

While I haven't read Cassie Edwards since I was about 13, I certainly won't ever again. I can barely contain my physical response to walking by Janet Dailey books, so I can only expect that I'll need to take a Benedryl before going to the bookstore and walking by a Cassie Edwards display.

Sheesh. Why is it I always rant here??? I'm normally a pretty even keeled person, and yet Katie you some how end up blogging about stuff that gets me all fired up! LOL! Sorry 'bout that.

Holly said...

I think that's the question everyone should be asking themselves. Not "why was this done" but "what are we going to do about now that it has". I, too, am baffled at her publishers response to this. Are we really so corrupt as a society that making money trumps doing the ethical thing?

It sickens me. But even worse, I wonder how many other authors have done this and gotten away with it. And that's just depressing, when I look at a book by my favorite author and wonder...


Kristie (J) said...

I am as appalled as many others at this situation, but as nasty as the plagiarism that started it is, what I think is just almost as bad is the response of both the publishing company and the president of RWA. Whether this whole thing has blown up so fast they haven't had time to respong with something better I don't know. But I do believe one thing. I don't think as some posters have suggested, that the answer is to boycott the publisher. That will only hurt other authors who haven't sold over 100 books. Selfishly maybe, but why would I punish another author - and one I might like (thus punishing myself and the selfishness) by boycotting?
Rather I think a more sensible approach would be to send an email letting them know that this is a big deal and not something that can just be blown off, that you have legitimate concerns if this is the stance they are going to stay with.
Jane at DA for example wrote an excellent letter. I would rather see something like that than a broad sweeping 'let's punish everyone' approach

Stacy~ said...

I was disgusted when I first read it at DA, for all of the above reasons. For someone who's been around for so long to have done something like this, and really, who knows how long it's been going on. What really burned me was her response that she had no idea she was supposed to acknowledge the sources she uses. Hello?? Where has she been? I just have a hard time believing she's ignorant of something like that.

Kristie, I agree with your idea about sending a letter to the publisher and letting them know we are not willing to let this drop. I will have to work on that after I calm down.

Teddy Pig said...

I thought you said Nipple Effect?

It was that mantitty.

Teddy Pig said...

perky nipples!

sula said...

Blame it on the mantitty, huh teddy? lol.

S'riously tho? I've read all of the "similar" passages in question and had to pick up my jaw on a few occasions. Word for word phrases and sentences dropped in entirely? If I'd known it was this easy to be a "writer" I would have made a stab at it. I always thought that a major part of what made it challenging was figuring out a way to weave historical and factual details into your story in an interesting and coherent manner and in your own words. Who knew that cut and paste was an option? eep!

I remember being taught about plagiarism as early as 4th grade. It's not rocket science, people!!! What annoys me is the condescending tone of that initial response from Signet that insinuates that mere romance novels aren't held to the same standards as other literature. Hey, quit disrespecting my genre!

Katie(babs) said...

OMG Teddy, I had to double check that I didn't put Nipple Effect. LMAO!
Much more has come out over this. MSNBC, CNN and Fox News are on this like melting butter on a baked potato. *groan*
I have been reading the blogs and other opinions from the other on-line peeps and some think Edwards should be left alone because she is so old. Well, if she is so old she should retire from writing then, like most people of her age do.
Plus there are some grumblings, and I don't agree, but some think that DA and SB are on a witch hunt and just started this whole thing to be petty and bitchy. But even if this is true, the proof is there.
Plus, they have Nora Roberts as their back up and she came out to all the media organizations and said Edwards has done wrong.

Teddy Pig said...

Yeah, and they say it is all about the book the SBs are doing.

I don't know, when it comes down to it if you dislike an author because she writes horribly then provides you with something juicy like out right plagiarism to backhand her bad writing ass self with.

Is it really that terrible a thing to lay it out publicly? Especially when more and more people have access to software that can tell you in five minutes or less what was used and how close it is to the original documents.

It's not like the SBs were ever her fans but it's not like they forced poor poor Cassie to cut and paste crap into her books from the very beginning either. I think people are sweating the fact that this stuff is really easy to find out about now.

From small tidbits being said on other boards it now sounds like fingers are pointing to more examples that have not been unearthed yet. That should not take long to prove if the accusations are correct.

Katie(babs) said...

Another concern I have is that critics who bash the romance industry will have a field day with this. I was reading the article on and someone posted: "Who cares, it's not like those books are literature."
But I have to give credit to SB because they have back themselves us with evidence and if some people are jealous because the have a book deal, that is their problem.

Bev(BB) said...

Leaving aside the plagarism discussion for a moment. Personally, I'm not sure why everyone is acting so surprised. I mean everyone has been saying for years how "bad" her books are and now they have PROOF of bad writing, i.e. she apparently doesn't even know how to paraphrase from sources that could most likely be considered general if one found enough of them.

Isn't that basic writing 101? Seems to me the issue here really isn't the plagarism. That's a secondary, though significant concern. The major eye-opener is on the writing incompentence being ALLOWED and even, gasp, possibly encouraged by the publishers.

And here's a thought, if she's getting away with it, a mere romance author because of sales, how many other authors out there both romance and NOT might also be?

Literary giants. Who really wouldn't want their 'masterpieces' scrutinized by said computer programs.

Double gasp.

Or are we up to triple now?

Teddy Pig said...

Yep Bev,

And what I notice most is that the people defending Cassie are all about the well "what if I did it like this" argument. Makes me wonder WHO is next on the hall of shame list.

Kristie (J) said...

The age thing kind of bothers me too. Are we being fair picking on an old lady? Part of me says it does smack of picking on her, but the other part of me says wrong is wrong no matter the age. As for SB on a witch hunt, it was someone else who picked up on it. They have lambasted her in the past but while I know she has her fans, her writing, to this reader anyway, is laughably bad. For example those passages they quoted that were 'lifted' from other sources - can you imagine Anyone talking like that????
And I haven't noticed that DA have 'picked' on her like they are being accused of.

Bev(BB) said...

KristieJ, would it make you feel better if I said I believed her (Edwards) when she was quoted as saying essentially that that's the way she'd been told to do things in the past?

Da-dum-dum. ;)

I mean I really believe her. I bet that's exactly how she's always done it and been patted on the back in the process while doing so. OTOH, is it picking on someone if they just happen to be the one who's books cause a "suspicious practice" to come to light because quite a few people always looked at said books oddly in the first place?

If we allow ourselves to feel guilty because it happened to "her" instead of anyone else, then we're falling into the trap of raising a single author to level of celebrity rather than craftsperson. Once we do that, publishers can push their other little brainwashing gems on us like all those other "little insignificant details" don't matter.

And then where does it stop?

I've said it before and I'll keep saying it. As a reader, I'm a fan of the books, not the authors. It's either all about the books or it's not.