Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cassie Edwards Accused of Plagiarism.

An article in the local newspaper recently caught my eye. Headlined :"Romance Novelist Accused of Plagiarism," the article - where popular romance novelist Cassie Edwards was criticised for allegedly using other writers' material in her books without attribution - actually stunned me.

Apparently, Cassie Edwards, the author of more than 100 novels with about 10 million copies in print, had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar after a romance novel website, SmartBitchesTrashyBooks, compared numerous excerpts from her novels with passages from magazines and non-fiction books found through Google's search engine.

Getting it right
One of the examples juxtaposed text from Edwards 1997 novel, Savage Longings, with a passage from George Bird Grinell's The Cheyenne Indians, an ethnography published in 1928. The plagiarism was startling with the stolen passages and words standing out like an ocean beacon shining in the dark of the night.

Worse, she has now angered the biggest name in the romance genre : Nora Roberts, the bestselling romance novelist whose works has sold hundreds of millions of copies. "Given the side-by-side comparisons I've read, it seems clear Ms Edwards copied considerably portions of previously published work and used them in her books without attribution to the original source. By my definition, copying another's work and passing it as your own equals plagiarism. As a writer, a reader and a victim of plagiarism, I feel very strongly on this issue," she told The Associated Press.

Plagiarism guide
And the accusations of plagiarism seems to be growing. In an interview with Newsweek, nature writer Paul Tolme, accused Cassie Edwards of copying his work on the endangered black-footed ferrets in her romance novel Shadow Bear.

What took the cake was Edwards defence. In an interview with Associated Press, she acknowledged that she sometimes "takes" material from reference books but did not know she was supposed to credit her sources. Come on! A writer with at least 25 years experience not knowing basic protocol and etiquette? Even much lesser mortals like me know the need to first ask permission and attribute accordingly any borrowed content, notwithstanding the doctrine of fair-use.

Having been a victim of content theft myself, I can certainly understand the anger felt by those whose works have been stolen by Cassie Edwards, but while plagiarism - something that is very common and happening with increasingly regularity in the Web - is a nasty habit that lesser mortals like me have to live with, it has never occurred to me that it can happen in the hallowed halls of established and published authors.

If the accusations are true, it just goes to prove that nothing is sacred anymore, not ethics or hard work - just instant gratification, money and fame. The joy and pride in the efforts that are needed for any success seem to be traits that are fast disappearing in modern society where the incessant need for instant success without wanting to put in the efforts required has led to an erosion of values like ethics, hard work and integrity. That it is happening in the hallowed halls of the literary world just makes it so much harder to accept.

*Further reading :
- Romance Novelist Accused of Copying - The New York Times.
- Paul Tolme Amused by Cassie Edwards - Newsweek.
- Plagiarism by BeboAuthor

* Other interesting literary news :
- The World's Most Published Author.
- Robert Ludlum & The Business of Ghost Writing.


clairec23 said...

That's scary. I wonder how many other published authors have done the same? I can't believe that she got away with it for so long, then again, it's hard to believe that somebody was able to spot it too. I can't believe that she didn't know what she was doing either. Plagiarism sickens me, I probably over-react about it but it feels horrible to have somebody steal your hard work.

My Den said...

You most definitely did not over-react and you are a terrible feeling when someone steal your hard work.

In fact, I had a torrid time last year when 4 of my posts from 3rd Rock and Freebies & Stuff were 100% copied and I can relate to how bad it felt.

But this case stunned me as it involved an established writer of 25 years standing with millions of copies in print. A scenario that never occurred to me would happen. Wonder what her fans would say?

From what I gathered, the whole sorry affair started when someone started sending anonymous e-mails to books review sites, accusing Edwards of plagiarism. Like I say, nothing is sacred anymore.

Great to have you here and thank you very much for dropping-by.

Les Becker said...

Unreal. The thing that gets me most is that I don't understand how an "author" that would do such a thing (even if they never got caught) could actually look at herself in the mirror without thinking, "Well, you don't amount to much, do you, if you have to pass off someone else's work as your own to make your living..."

You'd think "pride of self" would be enough to prevent crap like that.

My Den said...

Hi les becker,
Times seem to have changed and looking at society in general, there seems to be a dearth of values in recent years. Values like honesty, integrity and hard work are fast becoming...extinct.

The funny thing abt this episode is that attributing borrowed content is not uncommon and is not difficult as many authors, fiction and non-fiction, do borrow content and attribute them accordingly. So, one wonders why Edwards chose not to do so.

Thank you very much for visiting and hope to hear from you again.

cardiogirl said...

I wonder the same thing everyone else has wondered: how can someone do that in good conscience? You can't. But some people think it's okay.

It has crossed my mind about my own stuff and I suppose if that happens it happens. My thoughts are that my voice/style is unique enough that continued work should be impossible. Meaning someone can steal with I put on the net, but what I put in a published book is still safe inside my head and will be protected via copyright law.

And then the perpetrator will be like Miss Cassie and the proof will be in the printed pages, rather than on my web page.

It's still amazing to me, however, that anyone would do that, published author or newbie on the web.

It's shameful, is what it is.

My Den said...

Hi cardiogirl,
Maybe for Edwards, she has got away with it for so long that it becomes something normal. So comfortable that she forgot abt what is ethical and what is not.

This issue also reminded me of a very pertinent comment made by a forum member, on a discussion abt plagiarism that I had took part in sometime back :

"..Look, I am not that highly educated but even I can come up with a few sentences for a post without having to steal. It is all abt instant gratification and plain laziness..."

Thank you for visiting and hope to hear from you again. Take care.