January 13, 2008

Would That Power Called 'Plagiarism' Prevail?

Plagiarism has been the power phrase of the past week with several accusations on copyright infringement, defamation and plagiarism. Last Monday, Missy Chase Lapine, the author of The Sneaky Chef, a cookbook whose recipes camouflage puréed vegetables and fruits in comfort food for children, sued Jessica and Jerry Seinfeld last Monday, charging copyright infringement and defamation.

It was all over in the news...Gothamist, AHN, Monster and Critics, eFluxMedia, ITN, DollyMix, Reuters, North Country Gazette, just to mention a few. Some have criticized Lapine saying that she just wants to get some attention. Could it be? The biggest lawsuit on plagiarism is probably Dan Brown's bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code accused of plagiarism in 2004 which many thought was a plan to increase sales of the non-fiction work The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, co-written by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. Could that also be?

Another allegation came this week that Cassie Edwards, a popular romance novelist with more than 100 books to her name, inserted great amount of unattributed material into her work which has sparked up an ongoing controversy that has led Signet Books, one of her publishers, to announce last Friday that it was examining all of her work that it has published saying that "the situation deserves further review." Read more here and here.

The controversy began when smartbitchestrashybooks.com, a blog devoted to romance novels, posted excerpts from Ms. Edwards’s novels this week alongside passages from other sources to show the similarities, which the site’s authors (Candy Tan and Sarah Wendell) said they had discovered by Googling some of Ms. Edwards’s writing. Although, they feel she may not have infringed copyright law, they consider her actions unethical.

Nora Roberts, a big time romance novelist said that the controversy should force renewed attention to the issue of intellectual theft with ramifications well beyond the world of romance writers. On the other hand, Ms. Edwards told an Associated Press reporter earlier this week that she did not know she was supposed to credit her sources. “When you write historical romances, you’re not asked to do that,” she said.

So, is there any copyright law that exempts historical romances? If so, that means that bloggers too can practically lift off paragraphs, pictures, etc from other sites and claim that they don't know they should credit their sources.

Via (NY Times) Image: LGOS

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