A couple of people have asked me if I have anything to say about the plagiarism accusations surrounding romance writer Cassie Edwards, which have been exhaustively documented at Smart Bitches, and the answer is no, not really. Ms. Edwards pretty clearly cut and pasted chunks of text from other peoples’ work, and that’s also pretty clearly plagiarism. The examples I’ve seen to be largely out of texts that are in the public domain, which is interesting, since if they are, even if it is plagiarism it wouldn’t be copyright infringement; it’s not a legal problem to plagiarize work not under copyright. But no one likes a plagiarist, even if they just stick to plundering the public domain.
What does get me is that Ms. Edwards’ excuse for her plagiarism is that she didn’t know she was supposed to credit sources: “When you write historical romances, you’re not asked to do that,” she told a reporter. This comment was no doubt followed by the the sound of all the other romance writers in the world groaning and smacking their heads in frustration, because Ms. Edwards, in an effort to rationalize her own bad behavior, just rather explicitly stated that romance writing is the warm, shallow, yellow-tinged end of the publishing pool. That’s going to make her popular at the next RWA shindig.
Also: Really? The woman writes 100 books over 25 years and is somehow unclear on the concept of plagiarism and attributing sources? That’s kind of like a long-haul trucker claiming after a couple of decades that he didn’t know he was supposed to use his turn signal when he changes lanes on the interstate. Yes, it’s that fundamental. Irony: at the moment, Ms. Edwards’ Wikipedia entry states that she “is known for her meticulous research.”
Really, it’s not hard: Attribute sources. If your publisher won’t let you have an acknowledgments page because paper is too dear, put up a Web site and do it there. And then you’re covered. Easy.