Journalists and bloggers seem to be at the forefront of the fight against literary plagiarism it seems. With the recent exposure of several high profile and respected authors and the shock felt about this in the literary world, a watershed has been reached. Hodder & Stoughton’s statement on one notorious case involving Q.R. Markham (the pen name of bookseller Quentin Rowan) set a benchmark for others in the publishing industry:
"We deeply regret having acquired a book for our list that we can no longer accept as an original work, and in partnership with Little, Brown we have acted immediately to recall the book from distributors and retailers."
They promptly pulped Q.R. Markam’s novel Assassin of Secrets that had been exposed as a shameless stitching together of several different spy novels by eagle-eyed Bond fans. Large publishers such as Hodder & Stoughton can perhaps afford to take financial hits like this. It is not the first time Little, Brown, their US arm, have been embroiled in a plagiarism scandal.
Smaller publishers are less able to act so robustly. Some have simply ignored other cases of literary plagiarism brought to their attention. The matter must be urgently addressed by the industry, through the use of plagiarizing software by editors at the beginning of the manuscript submission process.
Although the exposure of plagiarism is always a brutal and unforgiving process, it appears that the practice by bloggers, journalists and readers is forcing publishers and authors to operate in a new climate of vigilance. This can only be a good thing for writers in the long term. If there is an demand for originality, previously a tacit expectation, and the tools are available with which to check for it, things can only improve for writers. It is they who will ultimately be protected from copyright infringement by others. People are watching and for some observers spotting plagiarism has become something of a personal challenge, with an undoubted ‘thrill of the chase’ element involved. And why not? Taking the work of others and profiting from it is illegal.
The onus is now firmly on publishers to make automatic checking of manuscripts for plagiarism an industry standard practice, to ensure the confidence of their readers and the protection of their writers.
-- Izzy A. Woods is a professional writer who is no stranger to having her work plagiarized. She regularly writes about best practices pertaining to freelancing, personal growth, and being eco-friendly, e.g. using organic latex mattresses and green building materials.
Flood, Alison. "James Bond's words live twice in plagiarised novel." The Guardian. November 9, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/nov/09/james-bond-plagiarised-novel-qr-markham
The opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author and not in connection with iThenticate.