Finally heard back from Signet…

Part of a series: Cassie Edwards 1: The First Post | Cassie Edwards 2: Savage Longings | Cassie Edwards Part 3: Running Fox | Cassie Edwards Part 4: Savage Moon | Cassie Edwards Part 5: Savage Beloved | Follow-up: Penguin (Part 1?) | Official Statement from Signet | AP Article Contains Response from Edwards  | RWA Responds to Allegations  | A centralized document for the Cassie Edwards situation


…and, well, read it yourself.

Signet takes plagiarism seriously, and would act swiftly were there justification for such allegations against one of its authors.  But in this case Ms. Edwards has done nothing wrong.

The copyright fair-use doctrine permits reasonable borrowing and paraphrasing of another author's words, especially for the purpose of creating something new and original. Also, anyone may use facts, ideas and theories developed by another author, as well as any material in the public domain. Ms. Edwards' researched historical novels are precisely the kinds of original, creative works that this copyright policy promotes.

Although it may be common in academic circles to meticulously footnote every source and provide citations or bibliographies, even though not required by copyright law, such a practice is virtually unheard of for a popular novel aimed at the consumer market.

All credit due to Jane of Dear Author for ferreting out (black-footed or otherwise) the appropriate Signet representative to write to and forwarding the statement to us when she got a response.

Candy says: Here’s a refresher on what constitutes plagiarism and what constitutes copyright infringement. Here it is again in brief:

Plagiarism and copyright infringement sometimes intersect, but not always. The most famous cases we’ve seen—Janet Dailey’s plagiarism of Nora Roberts’ work, for example—do. But it’s entirely possible to plagiarize without infringing on a copyright; all that’s required is copying huge chunks of a work without attribution and passing it off as your own original efforts. If the work has passed into the public domain, or if it isn’t copyrighted, there’s no copyright infringement. It’s also possible to infringe on somebody’s copyright without plagiarizing—if somebody making a movie decides to use a piece of copyrighted music without clearing the rights with the publisher first but acknowledge the musician in the credits, they’ve infringed on a copyright but they haven’t plagiarized.

In short: plagiarism is an ethical issue. It’s concerned with what’s right and what’s not. Copyright infringement is a legal action, and is a way for somebody whose works have been infringed to say “Bitch where my money?” It’s concerned with what’s legal and what’s not.

And that’s all I’m going to say for now.

Sarah says: I’m not qualified or even interested in the legality of the situation, or whether something is within fair-use doctrines. Not a lawyer. Not even in law school.

But I do want to make it explicitly clear that on terms of ethical use, I disagree with Signet and the idea that she’s done nothing wrong.

I’m certainly not a copyright lawyer, and questions of law are not my point. My issue is the ethics of it. Further, I think the ethics of the question are much more important than the legalities. There are a lot of things that can get you failed in English class or fired from a newspaper that are not against the law.

And the idea that she’s done nothing wrong from an ethical stance? Horsepucky. She’s done plenty wrong in my book.

I don’t buy Janet Dailey’s books past or present for that reason. I don’t check them out of the library or read them used. It’s an ethical distinction on my part: as a consumer, I can vote with my wallet. As a reader I can vote with my choices. As a blogger, I can write my opinion. In my opinion, Cassie Edwards’ use of at least 6 documented sources verbatim without attribution or acknowledgment is ethically wrong. It would have been so simple and appropriate to place an acknowledgment at the back of her book. “For more information about the Lakota Indians, I heartily recommend….”

So, let me ask you your opinion, if you haven’t already stated it. From an ethical standpoint, where do you draw the line? Are the usage of passages in Edwards’ books acceptable from an ethical standpoint or not?  If you’re a reader or a writer, what do you think?



Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Bravewolf says:

    I think that Signet is batshit insane if they think that Edwards “has done nothing wrong”.  She has stolen massive amounts of information and prose to use them in a work that she passes off as entirely her own.  How is that NOT plagiarism? 

    On the plus side, I have a substantial amount of books on my shelf; apparently all I have to do to become an author for Signet is to copy massive amounts of prose from them and string them together like an Add-a-Bead necklace. 

    I guess I’ll have to change all the names to kinda match up but otherwise… Instant riches!  Instant fan base!

  2. 2
    Teddy Pig says:

    Cut and paste is not ethical or legal at all last time I checked.

    This is blatant cut and paste and the fact she selectively chose to use only works that were out of copyright proves she did it all on purpose.

    Hope none of those works or the works we have not discovered yet have an estate and attorneys involved with their legal status because she might be up that old creek without a paddle and with Signet making blanket statements like that they are going with her on that trip.

  3. 3
    willa says:




    I do not believe this nonsense.

  4. 4
    azteclady says:

    To re iterate:

    Not actionable/not illegal DOES NOT EQUATE “ethical”

    Copying, pretty much verbatim, other people’s work to pass off as your own IS outright thievery, immoral and unethical.

    As a reader and consumer, I do the same as SBSarah. Since I’m not a blogger or writer or whatever, I express my opinion and try to educate others by spreading information in real life and in those online forums that I belong to.

    Education on these issues is essential—and I can only hope that educated readers will bring on the deserved consequences to unethical behaviour.

  5. 5
    Mads says:

    What I think is that that is absolute rubbish.
    In the Harry Potter world right now J.K Rowling is suing Harry Potter website, The HP Lexicon on the grounds of copyright infringing in a print version of the website. Okay, so she’s allowed to sue this site for writing an encyclopaedia of her books even though there have been countless other Potter related books … Okay so the case is slightly different but I think it’s ironic that this site is being sued when Cassie Edwards is allowed to get away with this.
    Cassie Edwards clear plagiarism of SIX (and she’s written a shit load of books so there is bound to be more) sources is considered okay? That’s absolute donkey shit.

  6. 6
    Marta Acosta says:

    Well, that Signet lawyer is going to hell for sure.  But despite what Signet is saying publicly, I bet they are scared out of their diapers and taking frantic measures to save this sinking ship.

    I’ve had my work plagiarized, but it was done by bloggers who just took my newspaper columns and stuck their names on them.  (And, yeah, they would take the entire column and the copyright was mine.) That irked me, but I accepted it as part of the internet age.  It is appalling for a highly successful writer to lift sentences and paragraphs without giving credit to the remarkable man who wrote and lived this stuff.

    In summary:  Cassie Edwards, Lawyers, Hell, Diapers, Sinking Ship.

  7. 7

    This makes me think Signet doesn’t have complete grasp of what Edwards has done. If they do and still contend she’s done nothing wrong, then they’re trying to establish a new precident for what plagiarism means, and in that case, we should all stand up and take serious note—then rant until our throats are raw from screaming.

  8. 8

    precedent not precident

    Why do I never see errors until they’re published?

  9. 9
    papertiger says:

    *SMACK* (sound of jaw hitting my desk)

    “Borrowing and paraphrasing”???! My god, the gall of… well, whatever lacky-suit-demonic corporate type who wrote that reply is simply unbeleivable! The woman lifted, word for word in many cases, entire paragraphs from others’ works!

    As far as the ethics of plagiarism, logically speaking, we live in a society based on the sanctity of personal, private capital/property. Whether that property is physical or more abstract, that property is supposed to be personal and private. If you believe people can take someone’s intellectual labor and use it (to make money, no less!) then you must also advocate breaking into people’s homes and stealing their electronic goods, or jacking cars, or, you know, *whatever*!

    The thing that really gets me is that this probably isn’t going to go anywhere – Edwards is going to keep making money for herself and her publisher by stealing. This in the same country where people who lost everything trying to get diapers and food in Hurricane Katrina were treated like criminals.

  10. 10
    Keri Ford says:

    Hmm. I can’t help but wonder if their response would be similar if one of their authors had gotten ripped off instead of done the ripping….

  11. 11
    Teddy Pig says:

    I keep looking at this and wondering if it might not be fun to have when doing book reviews…

  12. 12
    Sandra D says:

    As a reader I’m disappointed and disgusted by Signet’s reply. As has been shown here CE has done something wrong, a whole lot of wrong. And as a reader I’ll be showing my feelings by no longer buying Signet published books. Damn, now I’m wondering if authors I like publish with Signet and if I can hold myself to this.

  13. 13
    Leslie Kelly says:

    >Are the usage of passages in Edwards’ books acceptable from an ethical standpoint or not?<

    No. Not in any way, shape or form.

    Legal? Perhaps in the most technical of terms. But ethical, absolutely not.

  14. 14

    Really, why couldn’t she have just listed the sources in the back of the book like you mentioned?  I’m fairly certain her loyal readers would have forgiven her for not writing every line of prose in the book.

    It’s as easy even saying “some passages were taken from XXX in and effort to bring deeper historical reality…” or some shit like that.


  15. 15
    rebyj says:

    The thing is, bloggers brought the issue to Signet, not an author who felt his/her work was used illegally and who had legal representation, so their response of course is to deny that their company or their client has done anything wrong.

    So I am not surprised by the response at all.

  16. 16
    Rachel says:

    Jesus wept. Let me whip on my fashionable English teacher hat for just a sec: Every semester, I catch kids plagiarizing in exactly the same way that others have caught CE- Google. That’s usually all it takes. When that happens, I print out the portions I found online, highlight the identical passages in the student’s work, and then I GIVE THEIR CHEATING ASSES A ZERO. End of story. And when I do this, do I go over the finer points of copyright law? Um… nope. Plagiarizing is wrong, plain and simple. It’s unethical, and, as La Nora said, it’s mind rape.
    For a really interesting case on the matter, I suggest Googling Brad Vice, a professor at Mississippi State who had his doctorate revoked after it turned out he plagiarized a short story (allegedly. He claims his story was meant as an “homage” and everyone was too dumb to see it.)

  17. 17
    Charlene says:

    I’m not surprised, but on the other hand I’m boycotting Signet from this moment on.

  18. 18
    Nora Roberts says:

    ~Legal? Perhaps in the most technical of terms. But ethical, absolutely not.~

    This is precisely what I was going to say.

    I think the word ‘wrong’ in the Signet statement is a poor choice. I would have accepted the word ‘illegal’.

    I think it’s a very bad message to send to readers, to writers. 

    And it confuses me as my publisher demands (and I agree with that demand) that I attribute the quotes (always fair use) that I habitually use in the front of my books.

  19. 19
    SB Sarah says:

    I am sad to say, I agree with rebyj. I didn’t expect a different response than the one we received. The idea that we’re bloggers has been called upon as basis to question the claim all along. Bloggers on the whole have dubious reps to begin with, and we’re not a threat to Signet. We didn’t write any of the content that we cited with the entries on Edwards’ books.

    I’ve never been one to say, “So and so author behaved like a shitcake online so I am never buying her books again!” I frequently make a cake of myself; I can give folks the benefit of the doubt for having a bad moment.

    But if you don’t do what I’m paying for you to do, e.g. write the book I’m paying for with your name on it as the author then I am taking my hard earned pennies elsewhere.

  20. 20
    Anon76 says:


    Did you really expect any different kind of response?

    100 novels equals “cash cow”.

    I liked CE books long ago, but grew out of them. And I did not take a huge dislike to her because of this plagiarism issue. But in no way would I defend her for such blatant stealing of other’s words. I felt it a serious issue that needed to be addressed once found, and perhaps things could be somehow rectified. (Okay, I write romance fiction, I pray for HEA’s. LOL)

    However…with the response from her publisher, I am now truly appalled.

    Yes, I voiced the question, “well what did you expect?”. But deep inside, I hoped it wouldn’t be an almost blatant “FU all. We do what we want. Get over it.”

    I need to go regroup a bit, because for a long time, the whole publishing industry has left me with a foul taste in my mouth. From some fangirls to some owners of houses, and all the people in between, well…damn.

    Sometimes I wish I’d just stuck to buying books without ever having to see the underbelly of this biz.

  21. 21
    Lorelie says:

    fair-use doctrine permits reasonable borrowing and paraphrasing

    But she didn’t.  Paraphrase, that is.

    Although it may be common in academic circles to meticulously footnote every source and provide citations or bibliographies, even though not required by copyright law, such a practice is virtually unheard of for a popular novel aimed at the consumer market.

    Does anyone else feel that statement reads as incredibly patronizing or is it just me?

  22. 22
    cmfletcher says:

    If, as Signet asserts, “copyright fair-use doctrine permits reasonable borrowing and paraphrasing of another author’s words,” and then why did Kaavya Viswanathan’s publisher yank her novel “Opal Mehta” off the shelves in ‘06? After all, Viswanathan only “borrowed and paraphrased” about a dozen samplings from Megan McCafferty’s books, and most of them weren’t even word-for-word.

    Signet, be ashamed. Be very ashamed.

    SB’s, you rock.

  23. 23
    SB Sarah says:

    I agree, Lorelie, it was read by yours truly and patronizing.

    And as for “virtually unheard of for a
    popular novel aimed at the consumer market.”

    There are plenty of authors who have done so.

  24. 24
    Chrissy says:

    Well I won’t buy another Signet book til they reverse that bullshit position.  And you know… I spend 50 bucks a week at Barnes and Noble.  It’s one of my only real indulgences—that and Starbucks.


    Won’t hurt me but it will hurt their sales.

    (wow, real65—that’s the year I was born!)

  25. 25
    Rosemary says:

    HA!  Y’all expected a lawyer representing a large corporation to be


    ?!?  You poor, naive, delusional people.  They are paid over half a million dollars a year to NOT be ethical.

    Silly silly people. 

    (Yes, I am bitter and jaded after having worked for and been laid off from one of the 50 largest law firms in the nation.  They would rather lay off 10 people than stop feeding 100 attorneys lunch on Fridays.)

  26. 26
    Liz says:

    Damn. It seems that from Signet’s position all plagiarizing is ok. Good to know. 

    Whatever Signet wants to call it, she plagiarized. She used someone else’s work, verbatim, and passed it off as her own original work. I’m really not sure how Signet can dither around and say that it’s all in the name of research.

    So what if it’s not illegal? It’s dishonest and unethical and so easily rectified. I don’t expect her to footnote, but an acknowledgment would help. Of course, NOT QUOTING SOMEONE ELSE’S WORK VERBATIM ALSO HELPS.

  27. 27
    jmc says:

    Call me a cynic, but I’m not particularly surprised that the letter of the law is Signet’s concern, rather than ethics.

  28. 28
    Anon76 says:


    I sent Candy an email earlier today. It had a link to a site where an opinion expressed about CE was hugely ironic.

    I still won’t post it myself, but I do hope she will. Though at the moment I feel snark all through my body.

    (Note to self: do try to beat back the snark beasty.)


  29. 29
    Kalen Hughes says:

    Perhaps Signet is unclear on the definition of paraphrase?

    I can’t say I won’t buy any books published by them though. That would so be the pot calling the kettle black, considering I write for the same publisher that currently peddles Janet Daily. *sigh* I certainly don’t want people to not buy my books out of protest against JD.

  30. 30
    Sarah Frantz says:

    “facts, ideas, and theories” does not equal paragraphs of actual words.

    And they yanked Viswanathan’s books because that was both unethical (like Edwards) AND illegal, because McCafferty’s books were still under copyright.

    What needs to happen (note passive tense—*I* can’t do it) is someone needs to find an instance of plagiarism in Edwards’ books that is both unethical AND illegal.  What about that black-footed ferret article?  Is that more recent than the other stuff.  Can we contact the author(s) of that article and alert them to the issue?  Standing Bear’s book is also still under copyright (1933).

    So, yes, definitely unethical.  As I said somewhere else, research is supposed to provide authors with a critical mass of information that they then put into their own words as it fits the story/characters, not cut and pasting wholesale like Edwards has.

  31. 31
    fshk says:

    I’ve done time as an assistant in a big publishing house, where I did all manner of things relating to contracts and copyrights. A boilerplate clause about plagiarism in author contracts is pretty standard, (usually worded something like “The Author agrees that The Work is wholly original…” and so forth) so if CE is copying passages wholesale from other sources and calling it her own work, it may be illegal, in that it would violate that clause of the contract. (In my experience, publishers are usually careful about these things, as they are hyper paranoid about getting sued. It’s interesting that Signet blew you off.) The stealing of someone else’s text is not really the issue here—you can quote Shakespeare to your heart’s content, and there can be no legal recourse if you start spouting, “Alas poor Yorick!” without crediting Shakespeare. Such is the nature of copyright law.

    I do, however, agree that it is unethical to copy from other sources and call it your own work. I guess we could argue over the consequences. I don’t think anything will come of it; it looked like a lot of CE’s sources were older, probably public domain, by authors who are dead or otherwise unlikely to sue.

    But as a writer and an editor, I’m appalled that Signet let her get away with this and I will not be buying her books.

  32. 32
    Kimberly Anne says:

    I wish I could say I was surprised.  I wish I could say that I had faith Signet would do the right thing, and were just covering their legal asses with this email.  But that would require living in a world of rainbows and unicorns.

    I have to agree that I’ll be very leery about purchasing a Signet book again. But, saying so in the comments thread of a blog – even one as cool as Smart Bitches – accomplishes little besides making me feel a trifle less squidgy.

    Publishing houses are in it to make money – period.  If they can keep a cash cow going through legal loopholes and dodgy tactics, they will.

    “needed18” – yeah, I needed a better response from Signet, too

  33. 33
    Anon76 says:


    I guess the whole issue argued over the net about the use of “champagne flutes” all seems sort of silly now.

    Perhaps said author should have just copied text instead so the issue was a non-issue?

    Gads. Back you beasty snark, back.

    (Teehee. Confirmation: nuclear64)

  34. 34
    Meezergrrrl says:

    Wow.  I’ve worked for a publishing company for the last 4.5 years.  I used to date a copyright attorney (a LONG time ago).  I’m the daughter of one lawyer, and the niece of another one.  I went to college.  I’m pretty clear on the definition of plagiarism.

    For Signet to deny that SB’s findings are not plagiarism is just not right.  Unfortunately, based on my observations of the different plagiarism/it’s “non-fiction” fiction
    scandals in the industry in the last few years, not unsurprising, either.

    Signet’s response shows a basic lack of integrity and respect, and I think they will hear from enough readers and bloggers that they may come to regret their quick defense of Cassie Edwards as someone who produces “historically researched novels.”

    FWIW, a quick google of “Novels with Footnotes” revealed the following website:

    Virtually unheard of?  WTF?

  35. 35

    Just as I was trying to claw out of my vortex of cold cynicism. Thanks a lot, Signet!

    Do you think I’d get sued if I stole, oh, I mean “paraphrased” their response and came up with “Signet… permits… plagiarism” and posted it everywhere? Well, the three words *are* there.

    Hey, if it works one way…

    And I agree with the lady who mentioned that they must be doing the duck thing, calm and cool up top but pedaling like mad under the surface.

  36. 36
    Sarah Frantz says:

    Looking back, not all the discovered sources are out of copyright by any means, and I’ll bet if you go back through the rest of her books, the sources for THOSE (potential) plagiarized passages wouldn’t be all in public domain either.  It’s getting one of the injured parties with enough legal and financial clout behind them to care about the theft that’s the issue.  Otherwise, Signet can say what the hell they want and continue to rake in the bucks with CE’s next book.  And the one after that…

  37. 37
    Ros says:

    Inspired by Cassie Edwards, but certainly not plagiarised, oh no!

  38. 38
    TracyS says:

    Okay, if it’s not illegal it is certainly an ethical issue.

    How hard would it be to at the very least put an acknowledgment at the beginning or end of the books stating where she got her factual information from. I’ve seen that in enough fiction (romance!!) books to know that it is done and done frequently.

    So, Signet’s response doesn’t jive with me. I agree with Nora that if they had used the world “illegal” instead of “wrong” it would have been better.

  39. 39
    Angelina says:

    As my first year Tortes professor once told me Legal does not always equal ethical and if you are going to walk the grey line, you should prepare yourself for the possible consequences. I just keep sadly shaking my head.

    Did I think they would answer differently. Hell no! If I were their counsel I would have probably answered similarly. But I agree with Marta Acosta, there is probably some serious damage control going on behind closed doors right now.

    What’s really sad about this whole hot mess is that even though everyone’s statements here have been intelligent, thoughtful responses to what’s going on, they will all be painted with the “Those mean bitches are picking on CE again” brush and disregarded.

  40. 40
    Sara Mitchelll says:

    I agree with Signet.  Mrs. Edwards used research material to explain and show the Native American way of life.

    She did NOT steal anyone’s story.  The story is hers.  She “paraphrased” the information.

    Authors who write historical romances need to get as much of the cultural information correct as possible.

    Research books are published to be used as reference material. George Bird Grinell lived with the Native Americans, learned their language and culture and wrote about it. 

    Cassie is honoring the Native American Indians of our country by writing these books about them.

    She feels strongly about what she does because she is honoring her own people with her books…she is in part Cheyenne!

    This site has dumped on Mrs. Edwards for years.  They have gone out of their way to try to disgrace her. 

    If you put as much energy into important life altering matters as you do in talking down about people and causing drama, you could actually make a difference.

    Unfortunately there are people who are so miserable with their own lives that the highlight of the day is causing drama for other people.

    As for you being sued…I hope it happens.  Maybe then you’ll stop your senseless slandering and defaming of authors because you don’t like them.

    Get a life!

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