The Debate Continues

The story is in the AP and therefore in USA Today, the New York Times, and various local newspapers from Oklahoma City, OK, to Morris County, NJ.

Hi there, newspaper readers. Hayadoin?

My point is, this isn’t a blog story anymore, and it’s not just a concern for the romance community, either. It’s a national story about what is and what isn’t plagiarism. Candy, myself, Jane at Dear Author, Nora Roberts and other readers say it is. Signet Publishing and Cassie Edwards say it is not.

Some of the comments I’ve seen on our site and in my inbox sent to me personally ask in irate tones how dare we, why didn’t we pursue it privately, and how can we BE so MEAN!?

Accusations as to Candy’s and my morality notwithstanding, this isn’t really about Cassie Edwards so much as it is a debate of ethics. The entries we’ve posted as to the passages that match her novels speak for themselves. This became about plagiarism and the ethical debate surrounding fair use the minute Signet said she’d “done nothing wrong.” I personally, as a reader, consumer, and writer, think there is something very wrong when sections of dialogue in a fictional novel match a previously published source identically and without attribution, particularly when the novel in question is published by a bestselling, nationally recognized author and thus she and her publisher presumably profit from the contents therein.

In my opinion, the debate here isn’t about reputation and HOW we should handle information on this site. The question for me at this point is HOW the romance writing community, including writers, readers and publishers, responds to plagiarism, and so far, I’m deeply amazed and cheering on the readers who say, “That is NOT right and I’m writing to Signet, and Penguin/Putnam to say so.”

As a wise friend of mine, RB, just said: “In the modern age, everyone’s a writer.” All our blogs and journals and published and digitally published works all constitute writing. A good writer cites their sources, acknowledges them, and in my opinion does not drop identical passages without attribution to the original writer.

Moreover, for every hate email I have in my inbox, I have readers who grabbed an Edwards novel and did their own research by not only searching online but taking a trek to the library to consult additional sources.

(Want to move on to other Smart Bitch topics? I’ve got a Friday video today that will make you snort liquid up your nose. I recommend you put down the beverage before you watch it. It’s like whoa, merde, and mon dieu.)

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  1. 1
    Bronwyn says:

    Well said Sarah. Keep up the good writing!

  2. 2
    KCfla says:

    AMEN!

  3. 3
    rebyj says:

    Keep writing and post that video..
    how do you think i impress my friends on fridays?

  4. 4
    alia says:

    I want a t-shirt that says “I read SBTB before they were famous…”

  5. 5
    Walt says:

    Congrats on surviving the Noradotting!
    Give the server gerbils an extra peanut from me!

    And for my contribution to your Friday videos, this will calm your mind.

    Duckies! 
    (To the tune of “Rawhide”)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idNiuIGpasU

  6. 6
    Ruth says:

    Keep on keepin’ on SBs. I think the majority of us are proud to be a part of this community.

  7. 7
    azteclady says:

    A heartfelt THANK YOU to the Smart Ladies for starting the ball rolling, and to all the authors who speak against plagiarism (either on the net or live), and much applause to Nora Roberts for speaking out and presenting a sane, calm, reasonable face for romance writers and readers to the ‘outside’ world.

    To all of you, BRAVO for having the cojones to stick to your guns regardless of threats or potential backlash directed your way.

    Thank you.

  8. 8
    Gwendy says:

    Do you think Cassie Edwards let herself engage in this kind of behavior because she felt no one would notice or care because – it was ONLY a Romance novel, after all? I don’t think she can have much pride in her writing or this genre. I also think the industry big wigs who are apologists for this kind of shoddy work don’t have great respect for this genre, either.
    There are so many authors out there who labor mightily with little fanfare or respect and who do the hard work necessary to create their own original work. Because they love this genre and regard it as equal to any other.
    That said, I do think that apart from this kind of obvious theft, writers do partake of each others ideas all the time. Plots, storylines, characters and ideas are all passed along, improved on and made their own by each sucession and generation of writers. Thats creative and normal. And not plagiarism.

  9. 9
    Liz C. says:

    I can’t help but that think if she’d lifted passages from other works of fiction there would be no debate on if it was plagiarism or not, but because it’s non-fiction it’s all in the name of “research” which is just galling.

    As someone who has written numerous research papers based on primary research that required hours of sitting in archives, staring at microfilm, trying to decipher someone’s illegible handwriting, etc, if I found out someone had just copy and pasted portions of those papers into a romance novel without acknowledging that I did the legwork I’d be pissed.

    I think an apology is warranted and if she must continue to be unoriginal and use the copy and paste method in all her subsequent books I expect an acknowledgments page or an author’s note where she points out her sources. I would let the complete b.s. that is the “I didn’t know I couldn’t do that” excuse that is beneath even the dumbest college freshman slide if she and her publishers demonstrated they learned something from this experience.

  10. 10
    Sharyn says:

    I’d eventually love to hear what your non-romance reading friend thought of Lord of Scoundrels (which I just finished last night!), Dark Lover and the CE novel.  Can she see the appeal, would she pick up another one?

  11. 11
    fiveandfour says:

    I wanted to chime in with my thanks for all of the work everyone’s put in on this project plus send along kudos to Kate and her Google-fu powers which kicked this whole thing off.  I’ve followed this issue with great interest (plus astonishment, dismay, admiration and a whole host of other reactions) and appreciate what you’ve done with this project, which I’ve taken to be in the spirit of promoting excellence and professionalism within the romance genre in particular and publishing in general.

    There’ve been some, shall we say, emotionally charged moments and I think it’s been handled with admirable aplomb, always circling back to the main issue of the ethics, or more to the point, lack thereof, surrounding plagiarism – right where the focus should be.

  12. 12

    I’m behind you guys 100%.  I’m really bewildered by the allegations being made by some that you “attacked” Cassie Edwards just to be mean, because you don’t like her.  If someone is doing wrong, are you only allowed to point it out if you’ve never said anything unkind about them ever?  The fact is that Cassie Edwards DID plagiarize, and any heat she gets is deserved.  Unless you broke into her house, held a gun to her head and forced her to plagiarize, I’m failing to see how you all are the ones in the wrong.

  13. 13
    Kate says:

    Kudos for you for bringing this out and sticking to your guns. Ignorance is no excuse of the law, and it seems pretty clear that Ms. Edwards plagiarized, whether she realized it or not. As someone with an academic background who also dabbles in fiction, I’m appalled that someone can not realize that lifting passages is plagiarism – seems like common sense if nothing else.

  14. 14

    I’m with you Alia.  Sarah and Candy,  now that your famous can we have t-shirts that said we were reading you before you got mentioned in every national newspaper for doing something smart?

    Rock on bitches!  Thanks for keeping up with all the traffic.  We appreciate it.

    Now bring on the video!

  15. 15
    Erin says:

    You gals are fantastic for doing this, and I’m just shocked that Penguin said she did nothing wrong. I agree – it’s completely, 100% plagiarism. I think someone should start ripping stuff from her novels and publishing them. Let’s see how she likes it then.

    In any case, when I was in high school we had to submit papers to TurnItIn.com, which compared your work to already published work to make sure everything was cited properly. I think you have to pay for it, and I’m not quite sure how much fiction would be in it or if you have to be a school, but it definitely might help the effort.

  16. 16
    Eeyore9990 says:

    ~~I think someone should start ripping stuff from her novels and publishing them. ~~

    Umm, lol, is there anyone that WANTS to put their name on writing done by Cassie Edwards?  *listens to crickets chirp*

  17. 17
    jessica says:

    I agree that this issue isn’t about wheather or not CE is liked. The fact that she obviously took other author’s work without any notification is a problem. The fact that she doesn’t think she did anything wrong-that’s the issue.

  18. 18
    Anna says:

    Candy and Sarah, I just wanted to mention that not only have you guys made newspapers across the nation, you’ve crossed the border.  I’m Canadian, and the Cassie Edwards issue got an article in my local newspaper today, with kudos to you ladies.  They even mentioned the black-footed ferrets.  My poor husband couldn’t figure out what I was getting so excited about.

    And I want a t-shirt, too.

  19. 19

    Sarah, I hope you delete those hatemails. You pointed out wrongdoing and you showed proof to back it up. That’s not mean. It’s rather SMART.

  20. 20
    Anon says:

    I don’t know if any of y’all have spotted this over at Fandom Wank, but one of their members found a very much not public domain example:

    http://www.journalfen.net/community/fandom_wank/1132678.html?thread=169587078#t169587078

    Among other things, copying the description of dingos right out of the Encyclopedia Britanica

  21. 21
    Anna says:

    I don’t feel as if you were inappropriate or harsh at any point during this conversation.  You were made aware of the issue, and you posted information about it.  Most of the first posts don’t even have your opinion, and those that do are well-written and seem fair. 

    If I felt as if you’d attacked her, I’d have called you on it… even though I abhor plagiarism and I’m not so found of CE’s work, either.  Attacking? Not so good.  Pointing out plagiarism?  Works for me.  Rock on, Smart Bitches.

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