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Chris Anderson Case Highlights Plagiarism Paranoia

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Sep 25, 2012 5:16:00 AM

plagiarism chris anderson bookChris Anderson’s new book “Makers” may not have been released yet, but some are already raising accusations that the book contained, at least at one point, plagiarized content.

On Friday, Jim Romensesko detailed how a tipster, who had received a review copy of the book, had noticed that several passages in the book were taken directly from an earlier article on Wired by Erin Biba.

Photos of the book provided by the tipster, when placed side-by-side with the text of the article, show that the book used at least eight passages from the article verbatim. However, the passages have been removed from the final copy.

Anderson, who is the editor-in-chief at Wired, could not be reached for comment but the book’s publisher, Crown Publishing Group, responded strongly saying the information about the book, “Is based upon an advance, uncorrected proof of his book that is not intended for publication and is labeled as such on the cover. Any insinuation of plagiarism is entirely baseless and without merit.”

The spokesperson went on to say that advanced copies often do not include footnotes and other citations and that, if the passages had been used, proper attribution would have been provided. However, the statement continues, Anderson “Decided it flowed better without the adaptation and removed it.”

Unfortunately for Anderson, this isn’t the first time that he has faced questions over his citations. When he published his second book, entitled “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” Anderson was accused of copying, without attribution from various sources including Wikipedia.

Anderson claimed that there were “screwups” made in the citations after he and his editors radically changed how they provided attribution in the book. In that case the publisher of the book, Hyperion, stood by Anderson but also added citations for the electronic edition.

However, what both of these cases show is that the publishing industry will have to be extremely vigilant about plagiarism for a long time to come. This is not just because of the recent Jonah Lehrer scandal, but because with more tools available to detect copied content the public is better equipped to find unattributed duplication and make a scandal out of it.

This is especially true for people like Chris Anderson who is not only high-profile, but also somewhat controversial. Many will comb through his work, hoping to find some kind of mistake or unethical act that they can cause a scandal over.

What this means is that publishers need to start integrating originality checking and begin thinking about citation earlier in the editing process. Even though, for many publishers, it is normal to wait until the last minute (when the absolute final draft of a book is complete) to deal with citation issues, having any text version of a book released publicly before such a check is completed is risky.

While the allegations Anderson faced have been, at worst, minor mistakes, they’ve been distractions from the books and caused questions to be raised that could have been avoided.

If publishers want to avoid such issues, they need to realize that the expectations of the public aren’t always realistic and that they need to revisit how they handle citation and originality checking.



The Aftermatch of Plagiarism (Johah Lehrer)

Bad Journalism Promotes Bad Science