Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Annals of Plagiarism: Heaving Ferrets

This story of a wildlife writer's article on black-footed ferrets being plagiarised to produce pillow talk for a romance novel was amusing, until you realize how chronic the novelist's little habit of plagiarism was.

Who found all this? Bloggers on a romance blog armed with a stack of books and a search engine. What tipped them off? "Change of voice." Not satisfied to just check the data dumps, they started running the well-written passages through as well, which is how they found this Pulitzer prize winner from 1930.

Bad enough the publisher thought lifting whole passages from all those dry scholarly works in public domain without attribution was fair use. I think possibly publishers should rehire their fact checkers and have them google manuscripts all day. It might save them some embarrassment.

Like the Opal Mehta could you (an agent, editor, publishing house) be familiar with YA chicklit market and not catch it before the readers on the street did?

And I know I'm getting old...and I know our schools are turning out kids who don't know the difference...but when is plagiarism ever the right thing to do?

As I told a friend of mine, I may be a hack, but I come by it honestly.

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