Cassie Edwards

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Cassie Edwards is "the world's most successful author of American Indian historical romance novels" (Leonards, Telegraph), and published her 100th book in August 2007.

Edwards also recently celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary, and resides in Mattoon, Illinois.

Contents

Allegations of Plagiarism

In January 2008, Edwards became embroiled in a plagiarism scandal when a romance blog noticed some similarities between her works and uncredited nonfiction passages.

A fully up-to-date list of ALL instances found can be downloaded here (Warning - PDF).

Initial Allegation

On Monday 7 January 2008 the romance review and comment blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books reported that they had found passages in a number of Cassie Edwards's novels which bore striking similarities to passages in published works of non-fiction. 1.

The owners of the site contacted two of Edwards' Publishers, and received a canned response from Penguin, and the following from the Signet:

Signet takes plagiarism seriously, and would act swiftly were there justification for such allegations against one of its authors. But in this case Ms. Edwards has done nothing wrong. The copyright fair-use doctrine permits reasonable borrowing and paraphrasing of another author’s words, especially for the purpose of creating something new and original. Also, anyone may use facts, ideas and theories developed by another author, as well as any material in the public domain. Ms. Edwards’s researched historical novels are precisely the kinds of original, creative works that this copyright policy promotes. Although it may be common in academic circles to meticulously footnote every source and provide citations or bibliographies, even though not required by copyright law, such a practice is virtually unheard of for a popular novel aimed at the consumer market.2

This statement was later retracted (see below).

The news was also picked up by Hillel Italie, of the Associated Press, who spoke to Edwards:

"A popular U.S. romance novelist alleged to have lifted work from other texts acknowledged she sometimes "takes" her material "from reference books" but added she didn't know she was supposed to credit her sources." (9 January 2008)

Further investigation

Italie followed this up with further reports on the 10th of January (which includes comments from Nora Roberts) and the 11th of January as further details emerged and as Signet, one of Cassie Edwards's publishers, reviewed its position, stating "Our original comments were based on Signet’s review of a limited selection of passages. We believe the situation deserves further review. Therefore we will be examining all of Ms. Edwards’ books that we publish, and based on the outcome of that review we will take action to handle the matter accordingly. We want to make it known that Signet takes any and all allegations of plagiarism very seriously." [1]


On the 12th of January reports about the allegations appeared in the New York Times and the Telegraph.

While many of Edwards' sources, most notably texts by Luther Standing Bear, were old enough to be public domain, further investigation revealed copying from documents still under copyright, such as an article by Paul Tolmé about black-footed ferrets.

Tolmé wrote an article for Newsweek on the 15th of January 2008, and described the context in which his text makes its appearance in Edwards' novel, and took the opportunity to give the reader further information about black-footed ferrets. This eventually spawned fundraising in the Romance Community for the cause.[2]

Copying Fictional Works

On Jan 13, prose in Edwards' novel Savage Dream was found to have some statistically improbable similarities to the 1929 Pulitzer Prizewinning novel, Laughing Boy - a work both fictional and still protected under copyright law.

Resolution

In April 2008 publisher Signet broke with the author. CBC.ca News, April 19, 2008

Awards

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