I Swore I Wouldn't Post About This But...
...I can't help myself. I swore I'd leave the Cassie Edwards plagiarism quagmire alone. I swore that I wouldn't jump back onto my unheeded soapbox and shout my disguat to the uncaring crowds on the sidewalks of cyberland but I can't help it.
Smart Bitches (God, I love that site) broke this news last week. Now it's all over the web and the AP and various other news agencies. Cassie Edwards, Queen of the Savage Whatever Indian romance novels, plagiarized her research material. Although almost all writers research, very few that I'm aware of lift research word for word from an academic tome and insert it, with a few comma changes or maybe a word or two, wholesale into their fiction. I'm not going to rehash all of that here; head over to the Smart Bitches for the full 100% lowdown on the allegations surrounding Ms. Edwards. What I am going to talk about evolves from a post I had at Absolute Write.
So how exactly does the industry punish plagiarists? This isn't the first name author whose world has collapsed under this allegations; there was a notable case of Janet Dailey plagiarizing from Nora Roberts a few years ago. I'm not talking about the legal actions one author can take against another, I'm talking about the publishing industry at large.
Do authors get asterisks? Do they get their awards pulled? Are they blackballed from the Writers' Hall of Fame? How will the industry penalize Cassie Edwards, a woman who's had more books published than I care to think about? Will they pull all of her books from the shelves? Nooooooo....that would cost them money.
So you tell me: what will happen to Edwards and all the other uncaught plagiarists out there? What is the societal penalty for the wholsesale theft of intellectual property? Anyone? Any thoughts?
Yeah, I heard the crickets too. You see, what makes it so easy for plagiarists to get by in this day and age is that it is an unpunishable crime. Ever hear of someone going to jail for plagiarism? Nope; me either. Janet Dailey is still writing and still making money despite the settlement of the lawsuit in which she admitted she stole from Nora Roberts. Think Cassie Edwards will have a book come out later this year? Although Signet , a division of Penguin, is 'reviewing' the situation, will their review encompass true penalties? Or, will the overwhelming pull of the all mighty dollar keep Cassie Edwards, Plagiarist Extraordinaire, on the bookshelves of stores across the world? Will her agent drop her? Will her readers drop her?
I think I know the answer. I'm sure you know it too. At every level of this business, I have encountered one plagiarist after another. I've seen the victims of plagiarism barred from sites while the plagiarist remained. I've seen plagiarists whine about their various ills and ghost writers who 'screwed' them after their stolen 'book' has been published. And now, this?
Don't you think it's time to lay some of the responsibility for plagiarism squarely where it belongs? How about an industry where, as best I can figure, the criminal is rewarded and the victim unheard?
Nah. A pipe dream. Hand me another syringe, Jose Canseco; I think there's someone needing a fix over there.