Friday, November 1, 2013

Five infamous plagiarists

1. Q. R. Markham

He made a splash with his debut novel, Assassin of Secrets, but it turned out the book was a patchwork of plagiarism, with sentences stolen from multiple other authors.

Seems like it would have been easier to write your own book than to try to cobble dozens of snippets from other people into one coherent whole, but then again, the New Yorker described Markham as an “addict” to plagiarism. Even a blog post he wrote wasn’t entirely original.

2. Kaavya Viswanathan

Half a million dollars for a two-book deal before she had graduated from college. Too bad the first book contained so many passages similar to another author’s work.

The plagiarism, Visvanathan said, was “unintentional and unconscious." Hope she checked her term papers carefully for any other innocent, automatic instances of copying.

3. Janet Dailey

Janet Dailey, who plagiarized Nora Roberts, bounced back from the lawsuit that followed. The two books which she admitted contained stolen material were pulled, but she has dozens more published. She blamed a psychological disorder for her crime.

4. Cassie Edwards

This is the one I think of as “Savage Plagiarism”.

In 2008, Cassie Edwards, author of multiple Native American romances with titles like Savage Joy and Savage Devotion, was found to have plagiarized multiple authors—she was pretty indiscriminate, since she copied fiction, non-fiction and poetry. All in complete innocence, of course.

In a January interview, Edwards admitted that she "takes" material from other works, but said she didn't know she was supposed to credit her sources.

Signet severed its relationship with her and if she's had any other novels published after that year, it hasn't been under her name.

5. Shey Stahl

Plagiarising a Twilight fanfic may not land you in legal trouble, because fanfic authors doesn’t hold any copyrights on their work, but it can still make your name mud. As of today, Shey Stahl’s books are unavailable on Amazon. I checked one to be on the safe side, and a one-star review claimed that book had copied the reviewer’s fanfic, a different one than the Twilight fic (then again, most plagiarizers don’t limit themselves to just the one host source). Her website is down for maintenance, her Facebook page is gone, her Twitter feed is private.

I’m sure she can and will try again under a pseudonym, but again it makes me wonder why anyone would go through all this. Especially when they’re reaching an audience of millions who read widely and who can use software to check words in seconds.

Oh, plagiarizers can get away with it for a little while. All these authors did. But the house of cards inevitably comes down in the end—and the longer they’ve done it and the more successful they are by then, the harder they’re going to fall.


Randall said...

What do you think of the concept of using or some equivalent service created for publishing to search new publications for plagiarism? This was suggested on the Smart Bitches site during the last round of the Plagiarism Tango.

Loren said...

That makes US Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) seem like a rank amateur with his plagiarizing Wikipedia in his speeches. He also plagiarized an article by a certain Dan Stewart.

He got very sore when his plagiarism came up. He stated that he wished that he could challenge his accusers to duels.

Marian Perera said...

Randall - I like that idea, though it's a sorry day when publishers have to resort to checking for plagiarism as a matter of course. And given that novels are so much longer than term papers/articles, I hope services like Turnitin would be able to check larger quantities of text.

Loren - Really, he wished he could challenge people to duels? Well, at least that was an original response. If someone plagiarized me, I might not turn down a duel either.

Loren said...

Here's the Rand Paul interview where he wishes he could make that challenge: Sen. Rand Paul Wishes He Could Challenge Plagiarism Critics to a ‘Duel’; Calls Them ‘Hacks and Haters’ - ABC News

It's about 8 minutes into the 9 1/2 minutes of that video clip.

There were two big-name US politicians who once had a duel to settle their gripes against each other: Alexander Hamilton (George Washington's Treasury Secretary) and Aaron Burr (Thomas Jefferson's Vice President) in 1804.

gypsyscarlett said...

This is always so weird to me. I can't imagine flipping through books trying to find passages that flow together.

Not only is it unethical, of course, it seems such a ridiculous waste of time when you could be you know...writing your own stuff.

Marian Perera said...

People who do that probably get a thrill out of the plagiarism itself. It's not a waste of time to them when it satisfies a need of theirs that writing their own material would not.

Just like a shoplifter can have more than enough money to pay for a stick of gum, but that wouldn't be as exciting as stealing the gum.

Becky Mushko said...

Cassie Edwards' plagiarism is kind of funny—like the hot love scene with the hunky Indian and his blonde captive followed by a plagiarized passage that tells the readers more than they ever wanted to know about black-footed ferrets. Can't remember offhand which of the "Savage" books that was in.