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Chris Anderson’s Free Contains Apparent Plagiarism

By Waldo Jaquith

June 23rd, 2009

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FreeIn the course of reading Chris Anderson’s new book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price (Hyperion, $26.99), for a review in an upcoming issue of VQR, we have discovered almost a dozen passages that are reproduced nearly verbatim from uncredited sources. These instances were identified after a cursory investigation, after I checked by hand several dozen suspect passages in the whole of the 274-page book. This was not an exhaustive search, since I don’t have access to an electronic version of the book. Most of the passages, but not all, come from Wikipedia. Anderson is the author of the best-selling 2006 book The Long Tail and is the editor-in-chief of Wired magazine. The official publication date for Free is July 7.

Examples of the passages in question follow. The words and phrases that are found in both Free and the apparent original source are highlighted. Note that narrowest possible criteria are employed here, with only identical words highlighted; Anderson’s substitution of the word “on” for “about,” for instance, would result in no highlighting of that word. (Click on an image thumbnail to see the full-sized version.)

“Free Lunch”

Comparative Graphic

Occupying the bulk of pages 41–42, Anderson here explains the origin of the phrase “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” writing about the nineteenth- century phenomenon of saloons offering free lunches with the purchase of alcohol. The great majority of this text exists phrase for phrase on the Wikipedia entry “Free Lunch,” including a block quote and several quotes from contemporary newspaper accounts.

Much of the text in question—though not all of it—was originally written by Wikipedia contributor Dpbsmith (Dan Smith) between November 19 and November 26, 2006.

Transcription errors are present in most of the quotes and citations within this Wikipedia entry, a result of contributors making mistakes while entering information from nineteenth-century newspaper articles. Those errors have been reproduced verbatim in Free. That includes citing an 1875 New York Times article as having been published in 1872 and omitting words and phrases from quotations. (Disclosure: I contributed to this Wikipedia entry two years ago, but my tiny modification is not included within Free.)

“Usury”

Comparative Graphic

On page 37 Anderson explains the Catholic Church’s historical stance on usury, with 65 consecutive words—the great majority of the description—that are identical to the Wikipedia entry titled “Usury.” The passage in question was originally written by Wikipedia contributor “Ewawer” on March 24, 2008.

“Benjamin T. Babbitt”

Comparative Graphic

Little-known soap marketer Benjamin Babbitt is described on pages 42–43 in language that is nearly identical to that contained within the “Benjamin T. Babbitt” Wikipedia entry. This passage was written by Wikipedia contributor “Josette” (Josette Pieniazek) on September 9, 2008.

“Learning Curve”

Comparative Graphic

Anderson explains the concept of a learning curve on page 82, using language substantially identical to that in the “Experience curve effects” Wikipedia entry. Much of this text was originally written by “MyDogAteGodsHat” (Paul Gallienne) on September 19, 2003, though it has undergone significant revision in the past six years at the hands of many different contributors.

“There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch”

Comparative Graphic

Here Anderson explains the economic concept that there is no such thing as a free lunch, using phrases that are virtually identical to those that appear on the “TANSTAAFL” Wikipedia entry.

This passage was written by a series of different Wikipedia contributors over the course of several years, including “Stormwriter” on November 6, 2002, an anonymous individual on September 19, 2004, “Smallbones” on May 28, 2006, and an anonymous individual on July 22, 2006.

“Salt as Currency”

This is an instance of text within Free that is strikingly similar to already-published text from a source other than Wikipedia. This explanation of salt (on pages 50-51) as a once-valuable commodity is found in a work originally published on Professor Petr Beckmann’s “Access to Energy” bulletin board system, and now archived on a website dedicated to his work. This essay is undated, with no author noted, but the BBS ceased to exist in 1993, so the work is certainly from prior to that date and probably written by Beckmann.

“Bakelite Logo”

Comparative Graphic

Another example of text that appears in a non-Wikipedia source, this brief passage is also found in Heather Rogers’s Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage (New Press, $23.95), published in 2005. The book was excerpted by The Brooklyn Rail the same year with the title “A Brief History of Plastic.” It is found on page 51 of Free.

Though reproducing words or original ideas from any uncredited source is widely defined as plagiarism, using text from Wikipedia presents an even more significant problem than reproducing traditional copyrighted text. Under Wikipedia’s Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license, Anderson would be required to credit all contributors to the quoted passages, license his modifications under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, note that the original work has been modified, and provide the text of or a link to the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. Anderson has not done any of these things in Free.

Anderson responded personally to a request for comments about how this unattributed text came to appear in his book, providing the following remarks by e-mail:

All those are my screwups after we decided not to run notes as planned, due to my inability to find a good citation format for web sources…

This all came about once we collapsed the notes into the copy. I had the original sources footnoted, but once we lost the footnotes at the 11th hour, I went through the document and redid all the attributions, in three groups:

  • Long passages of direct quotes (indent, with source)
  • Intellectual debts, phrases and other credit due (author credited inline, as with Michael Pollan)
  • In the case of source material without an individual author to credit (as in the case of Wikipedia), do a write-through.

Obviously in my rush at the end I missed a few of that last category, which is bad. As you’ll note, these are mostly on the margins of the book’s focus, mostly on historical asides, but that’s no excuse. I should have had a better process to make sure the write-through covered all the text that was not directly sourced.

I think what we’ll do is publish those notes after all, online as they should have been to begin with. That way the links are live and we don’t have to wrestle with how to freeze them in time, which is what threw me in the first place.

Look for a full review of Free in the Fall issue of VQR.

5:15 p.m. update: Hyperion has provided us with the following statement.

We are completely satisfied with Chris Anderson’s response. It was an unfortunate mistake, and we are working with the author to correct these errors both in the electronic edition before it posts, and in all future editions of the book.

Hyperion says that they intend to have the notes online by the time that the book is published.

197 Responses to “Chris Anderson’s Free Contains Apparent Plagiarism”

  1. Jacob Silverman Says:

    Waldo,

    Is your copy an advance copy, or is it the same as what is expected to appear in stores?

  2. Waldo Jaquith Says:

    Good question. Though I’d started off reading an advance copy, Hyperion was kind enough to provide us with a final copy of the book, which I compared against the advance copy to ensure that the quotes here reflect the published edition.

  3. Joshua Alawin Says:

    At least Anderson took it like a man and owned up quickly. Given his long record of support for open-source communities of all types, I’m even finding it hard to fault him for relying on Wikipedia as a source—though I agree (with him) that he should have given credit.

    If you think about it, the guy has let the Internet write his material for a long time. Check what he did with The Long Tail: basically let his community do his reporting. Every time I try to get pissed about that, I just end up thinking, “don’t hate the player, hate the game.” The man is smart enough to stand on the shoulders of the Web; we could all take a note from that.

  4. Jacob Silverman Says:

    Joshua, I think you’re far too forgiving. He plagiarized from multiple Wikipedia pages and more than one book. He wasn’t using brief quotations or summarizing ideas in order to comment upon them — he copied large chunks of pages nearly verbatim and without attribution. Just because the material came from the web (and not all of it did, apparently) or from a collaborative forum like Wikipedia doesn’t make the act acceptable. Calling Wikipedia “open-source” is misleading; it has clear licenses associated with it that, as Waldo outlines above, have guidelines for how material may be used and attributed. And despite its usefulness, Wikipedia wouldn’t suffice as a source for a high-school English paper, so why would the veiled use of the site be acceptable for a nonfiction book by a prominent commentator?

    Those who are at the vanguard of online media, who are trying to fashion new ways of assessing intellectual property, like Anderson, have a special responsibility to act ethically and responsibly. It seems he did not. It’s nice that he’s “owned up,” but he only did so when he got caught. Saying he couldn’t settle on a citation method is a sad excuse. Does Hyperion not have the resources to help with that?

  5. Chris Anderson Lifted Wikipedia Passages for "Free" | Design Website Says:

    [...] Virginia Quarterly Review took a close look at Wired editor Chris Anderson’s upcoming book Free, and discovered that [...]

  6. Nima Says:

    While it’s clear you found passages that were plagiarized — which is never acceptable — I think you’ve also grossly over exaggerated what was done. Basically, you went nuts with the highlighter.

    For example, in the “Learning Curve” section you mark:

    “In the late 1960s … the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) … curve” as plagiarism. What? You’re saying he plagiarized the date, the name of the people involved, and the name of the topic he’s talking about from another paragraph dealing with that same date, same group, and same topic?

    Clearly, the middle paragraph in the “Learning Curve” section was appropriated without proper attribution, but the first and last highlighted sections are pretty flimsy (given that you’re claiming the name of the topic, in quotes, and the word “was” constitutes plagiarism in the first paragraph, I think “flimsy” is a generous description). This seems to be the case in many of the sections you cited as plagiarized.

    I think it’s important to bring plagiarism to light, but it’s also important to be honest about what the problem passages are. Using the name of a guy that discovered something is not plagiarism, and it’s unfair to claim that it is.

  7. Edward Champion Says:

    For anyone who wishes to do additional investigation, there are chapter drafts of Chris Anderson’s FREE (along with reference docs) that can be found here:

    http://www.docstoc.com/docs/1735086/techfree_old

    (Click on the “Other Docs By This User” to see more.)

  8. JQP Says:

    Did anyone bother to check if the original contributors to Wikipedia plagiarized themselves??

  9. Links for 6.23.09: Gay Warcraft, free prose, Bogan’s poetry, sexy execs… « the listenerd Says:

    [...] a comment » *Books: Just how free? The Virginia Quarterly finds that Wired’s Chris Anderson pulled a bunch of his verbiage from Wikipedia and other sources [...]

  10. Un problema di note a piè pagina Says:

    [...] suo nuovo libro Free ha avuto la non fortunata sorte  di non mettere note a piè pagin. Peccato che l’incidente gli abbia creato problemi gravi già prima dell’uscita del [...]

  11. Waldo Jaquith Says:

    While it’s clear you found passages that were plagiarized — which is never acceptable — I think you’ve also grossly over exaggerated what was done. Basically, you went nuts with the highlighter.

    I never claimed—and would not claim—that the highlighted passages are all plagiarized, but instead pointedly wrote: The words and phrases that are found in both Free and the apparent original source are highlighted. It’s not within my knowledge or abilities to ascertain how many of these words qualify as “plagiarism”—VQR is simply providing the passages with the identical portions highlighted. You are no doubt correct that the use of the word “Babbitt” when writing about Benjamin T. Babbitt is inevitable, not plagiarism, but it is a word that appears in the same context in both texts nonetheless.

    For example, in the “Learning Curve” section you mark:

    “In the late 1960s … the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) … curve” as plagiarism. What? You’re saying he plagiarized the date, the name of the people involved, and the name of the topic he’s talking about from another paragraph dealing with that same date, same group, and same topic?

    That is a case of the plagiarism of ideas, a different sort of plagiarism (and some would say more serious) than plagiarizing words. Wikipedia contributors came up with the idea of juxtaposing the concept of the “learning curve” and a management consulting group who applied that concept to business, connecting the dots between a concept and the who furthered it. Another good example of that is the Babbitt entry. Author Josette Pieniazek’s research allowed her to connect several seemingly unrelated topics: Benjamin Babbitt, street cars, the etymology of a popular phrase, and the name of a character in a book. That’s a set of four facts that it would likely take a fair bit of research to connect. God bless Josette Pieniazek, she did the legwork necessary to connect those dots. Those might only be four basic facts, but anybody using those owes its author a credit for doing the work to assemble them into a meaningful collection that serves to illuminate the otherwise dry character of Benjamin Babbitt.

    While we’re on the topic of plagiarism in the form of ideas, I must note that I did not find any evidence that Chris Anderson’s thesis contained any plagiarized ideas. That’s an important point. All ideas that form of the core the book are credited, and his own thesis that he builds upon that showed no signs of being anybody’s but his own.

    Did anyone bother to check if the original contributors to Wikipedia plagiarized themselves??

    I did not find any evidence that the Wikipedia passages were plagiarized, though that search was tangential to what I was looking for, which was evidence that the passages in question had been published prior to the Free. Many of these passages have been modified in small ways, gradually, over the course of months or years, so it can be difficult to verify that sort of thing.

  12. junior Says:

    You got your 15 min of fame, now go back to your irrelevance.

  13. Free as in Copied from Wikipedia | The Noisy Channel Says:

    [...] have to love the irony: Waldo Jaquith of the Virgina Quarterly Review discovered that Free: The Future of a Radical Price, the latest book by Wired Editor-in-chief Chris Anderson, [...]

  14. Chris Anderson, Plagiarist? : Edward Champion’s Reluctant Habits Says:

    [...] Virginia Quarterly Review’s Waldo Jaquith has uncovered several instances of apparent plagiarism within Chris Anderson’s forthcoming book, Free. Unfortunately, I have learned that the [...]

  15. John Says:

    I don’t find it surprising. Someone once told me that the Long Tail article Chris wrote, which turned into his book, was part of a conversation that person brought to Anderson. You never know how true that kind of stuff is, but not crediting sources, stealing people’s work, etc. is not cool, period, and it speaks volumes for anybody who does it.

  16. Edward Champion Says:

    Incidentally, I’ve just discovered that Anderson’s textual liberties here are hardly limited to Wikipedia.

    http://www.edrants.com/chris-anderson-plagiarist/

  17. JK Says:

    Regardless of the textual copying, I’m somewhat more concerned that Chris Anderson used Wikipedia as a primary source. Sounds like something an undergraduate pulls the night before a paper’s due…

  18. Breakfast briefing: Hospital confirms Steve Jobs transplant news @ Technology News Says:

    [...] taking the title a little too literally, after the Virginia Review Quarterly found that he’d lifted large sections from Wikipedia entries. Anderson has responded, saying it the citations were removed in an editing [...]

  19. Nima Says:

    I never claimed—and would not claim—that the highlighted passages are all plagiarized, but instead pointedly wrote: The words and phrases that are found in both Free and the apparent original source are highlighted. It’s not within my knowledge or abilities to ascertain how many of these words qualify as “plagiarism”—VQR is simply providing the passages with the identical portions highlighted.

    In an article about plagiarism in which you characterize plagiarism as the use of the same words and language you’re saying we shouldn’t take your highlighting of the words as anything more than you just highlighting words? That’s B.S., and I think you know that.

    The correct thing to do is only highlight and show the areas that you think are actually plagiarized, otherwise don’t accuse Anderson of plagiarism. You can’t have it both ways. Either allege plagiarism and correctly note what you believe to be lifted, or do not.

  20. D Says:

    Don’t care. Don’t care. Don’t care. This is more of the same garbage from academics discovering plagiarism and making a big stink where it isn’t due. Take a fine-tooth comb to any recent publication and start googling. I bet you find a lot more than this.

    Furthermore, how can you be so sure the wikipedia entries weren’t lifted from a prior source?

    His response was more than enough to convince me of his honest intentions.

    Please find something else to do with your blog besides starting witch hunts for harmless stuff like this.

    -D

  21. D Says:

    One more thing: Did you ever consider that this may have been the result of his publisher’s wish to not include Wikipedia citations?

  22. Chris Anderson, Famous Tech Writer, Accused of Plagiarism by Local Blogger | cVillain Says:

    [...] Waldo Jaquith was reading a promotional copy of Chris’ new book, Free, in which he found many instances of copied text from, you guessed it, the free *cough*online encyclopedia, wikipedia and several other sources. Waldo emailed Chris and his publisher alerting them to this fact.  Chris responded: All those are my screwups after we decided not to run notes as planned, due to my inability to find a good citation format for web sources… [...]

  23. ChrEliz Says:

    It’s interesting to see some people getting emotional and ticked off about this. When I see posts that are so defensive and upset with the people who are pointing out this kind of infraction, I generally dismiss the comments and halfheartedly wonder if those commenters are just friends or family of the book author in question. Not that it matters, and not that I care, but folks should realize that when they come to a blog like this and write snippy or defensive or insulting posts, they don’t come across as credible to casual readers like myself.

    That’s a lot of plagiarizing that he may have committed. Wow. Maybe to make amends, he could just donate all or at least most of his after-tax earnings on the book to Wikipedia. ; ) That would be an interesting twist and would add to the irony of the whole story, but in a positive way. Hee!

  24. Chris Anderson: pardon, si è sbagliato - Faccio Cose Vedo Gente Says:

    [...] Oltre oceano fanno presente che Free: The Future of a Radical Price , l’ultimo libro di Chris Anderson, contiene un certo numero di “citazioni” non attribuite e non indicate come citazioni nel testo; Wikipedia è una delle, uhm, inconsapevoli fonti usate. Chris Anderson spiega in maniera esaustiva l’accaduto: ho avuto qualche problema con le note.. Scritto: Mercoledì, Giugno 24th, 2009 alle 08:27 in: Copyright, wiki, riflessioni da Frieda. Partecipa: commento o trackback. Comment Feed (RSS 2.0). Condividi: [...]

  25. Nadav Says:

    At the time the book was written, Wikipedia was probably licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, not the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike license. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Licensing_update

  26. Set them Free - manteblog Says:

    [...] uscire in USA e UK Free, il nuovo atteso libro di Chris Anderson. Qualcuno leggendolo si e’ accorto di un certo numero di “citazioni” non dichiarate (molte delle quali da Wikipedia). A [...]

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  28. Chris Anderson’s Free! Borrows From Wikipedia | The Blog Herald Says:

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  29. - First Drafts - The Prospect magazine blog Says:

    [...] Parts of Chris Anderson’s new book Free appear to have been plagiarised from Wikipedia [...]

  30. Roundup: Charles River hires F**kedCompany’s Kaplan, NYT to charge for mobile news and more | TechDozer.Com Says:

    [...] Chris Anderson: Plagiarizer — Wired editor Chris Anderson has been accused of lifting about a dozen passages verbatim from uncredited sources in his new book “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” by the Virginia Quarterly Review. Here’s the publication’s case. [...]

  31. Web Media Daily – Wed. June 24, 2009 | Reinventing Yourself... Says:

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  32. Sam Deeks Says:

    Copying chunks of Wikipedia into text that you present as your own intellectual thought process is completely different from forgetting a citation or two.

    It seems that Anderson is either unwilling to admit he’s plagiarising or (more depressingly) unable to see it as a problem in the first place.

    I was a university lecturer between 1994 – 2004. In that time, I witnessed a cultural change that went along with the explosion of the internet from students knowing that copy from books was plagiarism to students not seeming to know that cutting and pasting (or even buying!) from the internet was.

    Why would they? Kids in UK junior schools are taught that ‘research’ is going online and typing a word in Google. ‘Presenting a research project’ is simply printing that out and carrying it to school.

    I quit lecturing in 2004 because the University I worked for was systematically reducing the intellectual demands on its’ students. I found numerous students plagiarising in exactly the same way as Chris Anderson has done. Guess what the University did? That’s right – nothing. Because to do anything would risk losing the student and their funding or – worse – increasing their demands on the system. Lose. Lose.

    Maybe Chris Anderson is simply writing for that generation?

  33. Finance Geek » Twitter Users Buy 77% More Music Says:

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  34. Edward Champion Says:

    Don’t care. Don’t care. Don’t care. This is more of the same garbage from academics discovering plagiarism and making a big stink where it isn’t due. Take a fine-tooth comb to any recent publication and start googling. I bet you find a lot more than this.

    Okay, to look at this from another perspective, remember how upset people were when e Baum’s World took funny Flash videos from other websites — little animations and the like that people made with passion and love — and profited from sharing these videos? The geeks went after Eric Bauman with pitchforks. What makes Chris Anderson’s appropriation of content — with the intention of profiting off of it through book sales and related speaker fees — any different? The fact remains that both here, and with the findings at my site, Anderson hoped to pass other peoples’ ideas as his own. He didn’t go to the trouble of rephrasing the content — in some cases he lifted whole paragraphs. He simply changed a few words here, but it was not enough for a proper paraphrase.

    This is hardly garbage. Other people have sacrificed time and money to do the research. And Anderson thinks nothing of it.

  35. Major Loon Says:

    Wikipedia, as any researcher worth their salt knows, has unique URL’s for every edit in every article. Anyone can reference the unique URL for the specific page that they use as their source and it will not change.

    Even when the article is subsequently edited, the citation will bring up the original page. If the citation line is missing from the left side column, the researchers can invoke the history tab at the top of the page and cite the top entry for a unique URL.

    In other words, excuses about failing to include proper citations because of Wikipedia constant changes is poppycock. It only works for plagiarists who don’t understand the basics or for blowhards who are trying to obscure their own lack of integrity.

    The excuses that the dog ate my homework or I lost the citations before the book was published are equally incredible.

  36. Chris Anderson, “Free”, Plagiarism and the power of the Net Says:

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  37. Wired Editor Lifts From Wiki? | Black & Right Says:

    [...] understand how this could happen. Real paid media people are responsible and never take credit for things they didn't originally produce. Nah… only blogs do that. (Sorry, can't let it go….) In the course of reading [...]

  38. Twitter Users Buy 77% More Music | Design Website Easy Says:

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  39. Jackson Landers Says:

    To those who are trying to characterize the amount of plagarized text in this book as just a few incidental paragraphs, that is not the case.

    Also note that the plagarism was not restricted to Wikipedia entries. The ‘author’ also lifted material directly from other sources.

    This is scarier than most examples of plagarism that have come to light in recent years. Chris Anderson worked as an editor at Science magazine and as a reporter for Nature before becoming editor of Wired. This guy was responsible for the content of serious, respected scientific journals and he claims that he has no idea how to use footnotes. To have had someone on their staff who is so cavalier in his use and attribution of sources and ideas calls into question the legitimacy of every article he wrote and every scientific paper that he edited.

    In short, Anderson’s reckless behavior is an affront not only to journalistic ethics but also damaging to our faith all of the science that he was involved in either conducting or representing. Everything that he has presented as scientific fact in the past must now be reviewed or discarded.

  40. Does Chris Anderson think we're all fucking stupid? Says:

    This is complete bullshit and Anderson is going to get a pass because he’s a cool ‘futurist,’ the editor of Wired, and every wanna-be, hanger-on in the world new-media, publishing, web 2.0, etc is going to obsequiously apologize for him to ride his nuts.

    This book is a **product** whose core assertion that the future price of other products will be zero, or near zero, and producers will make money in another way.

    Why isn’t the fucking book free, Chris? Why isn’t Wired free?
    Because you don’t believe your bullshit (in this case someone elses that you pass off as yours)

    Let’s also consider that this **product** which bears Anderson’s name and for which he was and will be compensated is taking words directly from Wikipedia w/o citation, as well as other sources

    We’re seriously supposed to fucking pay for this? …I mean, I thought the future was free ?!?!

    I’ve simply had it with ’social media experts’ and internet charlatans.
    With this stunt, I count Anderson as cheif among them.

  41. Waldo Jaquith Says:

    In an article about plagiarism in which you characterize plagiarism as the use of the same words and language you’re saying we shouldn’t take your highlighting of the words as anything more than you just highlighting words? That’s B.S., and I think you know that.

    The correct thing to do is only highlight and show the areas that you think are actually plagiarized, otherwise don’t accuse Anderson of plagiarism. You can’t have it both ways. Either allege plagiarism and correctly note what you believe to be lifted, or do not.

    Perhaps I’m not making myself clear, so here’s another example. Your response to me is hostile and a bit angry. If I were writing an article about “hostile and a little bit angry” comments I’ve received on this blog recently, this one would be included. But what words specifically qualify as hostile and a little bit angry? Well, “B.S.,” though that’s clearly context-dependent. Other than that, it’s tough to cite individual words…and yet your comment is quite clearly hostile and a bit angry, when taken as a whole. For instance, writing “that’s B.S., and I think you know that” implies bad intention on my part, which is a terrible thing to accuse me of. But none of those words, individually, are freighted with that. I’d have a tough time knowing which words to highlight, and yet here we are.

    Is writing the name” Sinclair Lewis” inherently, in all circumstances, plagiarism? Of course not. Is it plagiarism in this instance? Maybe, for the reasons that I’ve explained. But VQR’s self-assigned role here is simply to illustrate which words and phrases appear in both sources in the same context.

    Finally, note that “plagiarism” is an existential matter, after a point. When two dozen consecutive words appear in a work that have appeared in a prior work, then those words have almost certainly been plagiarized. Given that Mr. Anderson has said that’s what happened here, the fact that plagiarism occurred is not up for debate. (Given that no sane person would do such a thing willingly—and Chris Anderson is clearly a sane man—I cannot see that intent is up for debate, either.) The only question, then, is the academic one of which words and phrases are plagiarized. You feel that less words than those highlighted are plagiarized, and that’s absolutely a reasonable opinion. There’s no doubt that some of these words would have appeared no matter what; which ones, however, are up for debate.

  42. Ouch! ‘Free’ author Chris Anderson accused of ripping off passages from Wikipedia | TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home Says:

    [...] discovered almost a dozen passages that are reproduced nearly verbatim from uncredited sources,” reports the Virginia Quarterly Review after working from an advance reading [...]

  43. Matthew Gabriele Says:

    Tell you what, his excuse wouldn’t fly in my classroom. That’s plagiarism.

  44. Trevor Says:

    At first the writer in me cringed at Anderson’s plagiarism. How crude! But after some reflection my general feeling is ‘who cares!’ Plagiarizing a few hundred words doesn’t matter to me. Copying isn’t what it used to be. The whole world is a mashup and I think we’re better off for it.

    He definitely should have acknowledged the sources, but lifting words means nothing to me now.

    If Anderson stole the idea or nucleus for his work . . . well that’s a different story. I don’t believe that’s the case here. This is a tempest in a teapot.

    And Sam, while I never lifted a sentence in university, I don’t blame the students who do. Instead I blame schools and professors that foist redundant and decades-old writing assignments on bored undergrads. If you wanted your students to submit original thinking, you should have asked them for papers that required originality. Universities are about as innovative as GM.

  45. Chris Anderson Says:

    Chris Anderson here. It’s been very interesting reading these comments, especially those on how properly to deal with Wikipedia citation. As I mentioned, I had intended to atttribute them with a footnote, as per Creative Commons, but my editors were concerned about the moving nature of the entries and wanted a time stamp. That just seemed archaic, so at the minute we killed the notes altogether and set out to do a write-through instead. Obviously I did a poor job of that in those final days of editing, and I’m really sick about my omissions.

    As mentioned above, the ebook will be corrected before publication and we’ll also have those original notes online by pub date.

    And for those who are wondering how I can charge for a book called Free, I won’t be, at least not for the bit forms. The digital editions will all be free in one way or another, either for a limited period of time (ebooks) or unlimited for certain versions (unabridged audiobook).

  46. Edward Champion Says:

    Not good enough, Chris. If notes were such an issue, and you were paraphrasing Wikipedia, why then didn’t you indicate that in your book? Even accounting for the fool’s weight that Wikipedia has in even the most generalized research situation, surely an “according to Wikipedia” would have solved the problem. Except that if you actually copped to the fact that you cadged from Wikipedia, you’d be a laughing stock, wouldn’t you? Your “expertise” — that country bumpkin approach to slinging conceptual generalizations around — would be called into question, wouldn’t it?

    And let’s also consider the way in which you openly reproduced paragraphs from Kevin Kelly and Derek Sivers, among others, with scant modifications. Avoiding plagiarism doesn’t just mean proper citation of the sources. It also means properly paraphrasing the ideas. A proper paraphrase means that you don’t quote whole phrases (or even whole paragraphs) and claim them to be yours (even with a citation). The fact is that you often “paraphrase” the source long BEFORE you even acknowledge the source. And it misleads the reader into thinking that YOU’RE the one who came up with these ideas.

    This is an outrage. With so many years of journalistic experience, you should no better than to pull so many amateurish moves. The editorial team at Hyperion should have possessed enough scrutiny to discover all this while the book was in production. You see, Chris, if you were to pull this in a freshman comp class, you would be disciplined. But you clearly think nothing of this. Time stamps or proper attribution is “archaic” by your standards. Well, if it’s so archaic, why then did your sorry ass mess with the “archaic” dead tree format? There are standards here, Chris, that you have violated.

    And you will go on to collect your lucrative advance and speaking fees, while GOOD AND HONEST journalists who ACTUALLY KNOW HOW TO CITE AND PARAPHRASE sit on Skid Row.

  47. Finance Geek » Wired Editor Caught Copying And Pasting Wikipedia Into His New Book Says:

    [...] VQR says Wired editor Chris Anderson copied passages from Wikipedia into his soon-to-be released book [...]

  48. Kate Malay Says:

    Waldo, we didn’t meet from my cvillain.com days, shame. Tangential way I came to this piece, but glad for it–sounds like you devoted a lot of your time to researching this, and as always, it’s a very well written piece. I also want to congratulate you for cvillenews.com being a C-VILLE top 25 indicator of being a local in Charlottesville. I agree. What does junior know…

  49. Chris Anderson Says:

    Edward,

    I have no problem citing Wikipedia. As you will know from my many tributes to it, both in the Long Tail and elsewhere, I think it’s a very valid reference source (not the only one, to be sure, and one should always look to the original material as well if it’s available) and fully worth being cited and quoted. Are you actually arguing that nobody should ever cite Wikipedia, even quoting it?

    Indeed, I was so okay with it that we were going to blockquote the Wikipedia exceprts, but sadly couldn’t agree on a citation form. So we left the internal quotes, where Wikipedia citied a NYT article, for instance, because those were correctly attributed, and then I endeavored to write through the rest in my own words. I clearly did a crappy job of that second part in a few instances, and I’m very sorry about that.

    In the corrected ebooks you’ll see that we just cite Wikipeda as we
    should have all along, and the notes give URLs, etc. Where I don’t rewrite in my own words, we quote.

    This is my fault, but it does raise a question about what the right
    form for citing Wikipedia in a book is. I think what we eventually
    settled on–a reference in the text, and a URL in online notes, seems
    okay for now, but it doesn’t solve the changing source material
    problem. It will be interesting to see how the mainstream book
    industry (as opposed to the academic press) figures this out.

    BTW, Edward, I see you went into my online hard drive backup, which was accidentally left unsecured, and posted some files. Did you enjoy reading my private letters to my wife and children? Did it ever feel wrong?

  50. Chris Anderson copia il suo ultimo libro da Wikipedia? » Orientalia4All Says:

    [...] è ancora uscito e già è famoso. Waldo Jaquith accusa Chris Anderson di aver copiato interi, lunghi passaggi verbatim, incluso citazioni ed errori, nel suo ultimo libro Free: The Future of a [...]

  51. David Gerard Says:

    As a general note on the topic, here’s a page on how to cite Wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Citing_Wikipedia

    The [[Special:Cite]] page lets you cite any article – go to

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Cite

    and entering “Chris Anderson (writer)”. This will then generate citation text for the latest revision of the article on Chris Anderson, with a stable URL for that particular revision.

    We spend our time nerdily writing an encyclopedia so people will use it, and quoting with correct attribution is absolutely encouraged. With due caution :-)

  52. Joe Says:

    Weaksauce, Mr. Anderson. Wikipedia, Creative Commons and basic editing techinques were too confusing for you? What were your areas of expertise again?

    Books have been recalled for much less than this.

  53. Sam Deeks Says:

    “If you wanted your students to submit original thinking, you should have asked them for papers that required originality. Universities are about as innovative as GM.” Citation – Trevor :-)

    I did.

    The argument that mashup and plagiarism are ok because kids aren’t comfortable with the previous generations’ concept of the discipline of reading or study isn’t a strong one – but I guess I am old school, which of course makes me bad. :-)

  54. Sam Deeks Says:

    And Chris,

    “it does raise a question about what the right form for citing Wikipedia in a book is. ”

    I’d suggest the right form is to use a convention that clearly indicates to the reader “Those aren’t my words, they were copied and pasted from Wikipedia”

  55. Siva Vaidhyanathan Says:

    Anderson’s excuse is flimsy. He was in a hurry, yeah. Who isn’t?

    He relied on Wikipedia for historical background that he hoped (but forgot) to revise? Please. It only takes a few hours to follow Wikipedia bibliographies to the sources and cite them.

    He could not figure out how to cite Web sources because they change? Scholars and other writers have been dealing with that problem for 15 years.

    Plus, Anderson violated Wikipedia’s CC license:

    * Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work.)

    * Share Alike — If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same, similar or a compatible license.

    Basically, Wikipedia’s value as a reference tool — a place to start learning big, general concepts and where to go for deeper knowledge — is indisputable. We should all begin our research there. I do all the time.

    However, as I tell my students, citing a Wikipedia page is fraught because it is highly unstable. New knowledge, challenges, edits, etc. mean that footnotes should refer readers to the more stable sources on which Wikipedians rely. There is a reason why Wikipedia demands citation to reliable published sources. If that standard is good enough for Wikipedia, why isn’t it good enough for Anderson?

    Remember, notes and references are a favor to readers. Too often editors and publishers forget that.

    The very omission of notes treats readers dishonestly.

    And the copy-paste-rewrite method of writing is simply poor judgment. It’s all too common now that so much text is available electronically. But writers should really question whether such a shortcut is worth the time saved.

  56. 3 Count: Dueling Plagiarists | PlagiarismToday Says:

    [...] Chris Anderson’s Free Contains Apparent Plagiarism and TV’s Hasselbeck accused of plagiarizing diet [...]

  57. Free nicks words from Wikipedia. Lots of them. | Design Website Easy Says:

    [...] Waldo Jaquith of The Virginia Quarterly has discovered considerable evidence of plagiarism in Chris … Anderson, editor of Wired magazine and writer of The Long Tail, has a new book coming out, called Free. In a lengthy article previewing the book in Wired, Anderson argues that as the costs of broadband and storage dive ever lower, the value of many kinds of information plummets to zero, prompting the development of entirely new business and service models and spurring creativity. He lists Wikipedia among the strange new fauna of the zero bound — calling it an example of a "Gift economy." It sure seems to have been a gift to Anderson — Jaquith found "almost a dozen passages that are reproduced nearly verbatim from uncredited sources," including plenty from Wikipedia. Anderson says the apparent plagiarism occurred when passages formally included as footnotes were sloppy incorporated into the main body of the text. He has in the past been a bit of a stickler on media laziness (creating a blacklist of publicists who send him inappropriate pitches) and a defender of print, being quoted recently in the New York Times as saying (of Wired), “We need to do something that doesn’t exist online, and do it in a superior way. Otherwise we should just do it online.” [...]

  58. Edward Champion Says:

    Chris Anderson: That’s hilarious. Not only have you failed to respond to ANY of the charges in my post and my comment, but you then accuse me of something that any IP address search will demonstrate is patently false.

    Uh, Chris, I didn’t post ANY files at all in your hard drive. I don’t even think I have the technical chops, and I certainly don’t have the interest in inflating your ego further. It was very simple. In the course of attempting to locate the many textual phrases that you, ahem, BORROWED, I located through a simple Google search what was apparently your unsecured public hard drive. Which was a surprise, given that you’re the purported editorial genius who heads WIRED.

    So not only do you come across as a thieving hack who bandies about fallacious charges with UNPROVEN examples (contrary to my post and this post, which shows your mistakes writ large and supports them with evidence), you clearly need to go to a remedial computer training course to secure your hard drive.

  59. Mark Byrne Says:

    I know it’s a little strange to quote Malcolm Gladwell in defense of Chris Anderson, but this whole topic reminds me of an article Gladwell wrote some years ago, after finding out that parts of an article he’d published had been copied, word-for-word, in a broadway play. I’ve copied the salient passages below.

    “And this is the second problem with plagiarism. It is not merely extremist. It has also become disconnected from the broader question of what does and does not inhibit creativity. We accept the right of one writer to engage in a full-scale knockoff of another—think how many serial-killer novels have been cloned from “The Silence of the Lambs.” Yet, when Kathy Acker incorporated parts of a Harold Robbins sex scene verbatim in a satiric novel, she was denounced as a plagiarist (and threatened with a lawsuit). When I worked at a newspaper, we were routinely dispatched to “match” a story from the Times: to do a new version of someone else’s idea. But had we “matched” any of the Times’ words—even the most banal of phrases—it could have been a firing offense. The ethics of plagiarism have turned into the narcissism of small differences: because journalism cannot own up to its heavily derivative nature, it must enforce originality on the level of the sentence.”

    And:

    “The final dishonesty of the plagiarism fundamentalists is to encourage us to pretend that these chains of influence and evolution do not exist, and that a writer’s words have a virgin birth and an eternal life. I suppose that I could get upset about what happened to my words. I could also simply acknowledge that I had a good, long ride with that line—and let it go.”

    What Chris Anderson copied was basic, historical data, which he used as part of a much larger project, to supplement his own ideas. So who cares that it’s verbatim?

    An aside: I considered posting these paragraphs without attribution–you know, in the spirit of things–but maybe that would have been too meta.

  60. Sam Deeks Says:

    So the cost of plagiarism is seriously, seriously bad online reputation. Fact.

    (Amusingly, some of you may know that FACT stands for the Federation Against Copyright Theft. “You wouldn’t steal a handbag… You wouldn’t steal a car..” etc. (Quoted without permission from memory of the tiresome FACT ad before movies).

    :-0

  61. David Gerard Says:

    @Siva – er, I hope you also point out to them that you can reference (and link to) particular revisions of any given page, which are stable.

    @Edward – yes, you have a massive hate-on for Chris, we get that now, dear. Thank you. Thanks.

  62. Garrett Fitzgerald Says:

    You know, “unable to decide on a citation format” is a really, _really_ terrible excuse when every page he ripped off has a “Cite this page” link in the toolbar on the left, with 9 different citation formats given.

  63. Gregory Kohs Says:

    Anderson compounds his blunders with the tripe in the LA Times, “Wikipedia makes no money at all…”

    Take a look at the current, or next year’s, Form 990 filed by the Wikimedia Foundation. There are a sizable and growing number of leeches who are making their salaried living off of Wikipedia. Not to mention the spin-off reputation capital that powers Jimmy Wales’ lecture circuit income.

    Why is it that everyone who associates themselves strongly with Wikipedia ends up looking like a big fool eventually?

  64. michel Says:

    it’s fascinating to me that the community that wants to be able to rip off creators by suppressing copyright laws gets so upset when someone uses material that’s _intended_ to be freely available. And it’s infuriating when the blogger who complains about it says, with a straight face, “using text from Wikipedia presents an even more significant problem than reproducing traditional copyrighted text.”

    moral fail.

  65. kevin Says:

    (linkback) Funny or Foul? Chris Anderson’s New Book Contains Apparent WikiPlagiarism [VOTE] – http://www.pikk.com/69975

  66. Siva Vaidhyanathan Says:

    This is all within the context of what is clearly a mania about plagiarism. Anderson’s sins are particularly grave because they betray a laziness, not a malicious intent. It’s an offense to his readers and the craft of writing — not to the sources. I think that is widely misunderstood in the “gotcha” culture of plagiarism revelation.

    So I understand Anderson’s initial reaction that this is just another silly accusation of indelicate lifting (see that ridiculous NYTimes story about Dylan relying on other songs for influence — duh).

    Nonfiction writing is a distinct form of expression that implies a contract with the reader. The reader must be able to challenge and certify the various claims the author makes.

    Anderson writes about some of the most pressing and interesting issues of our time. He does so lucidly and loudly. I assign his book in my classes for just this reason. He is easy, fun, and rewarding to argue with.

    When a publisher strips notes from a book and a writer takes grave shortcuts in the composition process, they violate the trust of the readers.

    That is the sin here. It is not a crime. But it is not a mere mistake. It’s the result of two systematic flaws in the composition and publishing process. And it leaves readers like me and my students betrayed.

  67. ASilver Says:

    Chris,

    As an editor, I find your explanation to be lacking. I personally have had to kill more than one book when I found the author doing exactly what you did: mining Wikipedia for material. Why? The Wikipedia CCL *only* effectively covers non-commercial electronic publications. Moreover, the actual authors of the material posted to Wikipedia (and let’s be honest here for a second; most if it comes from still other sources originally, as any simple Google search can effectively illustrate) are not credited; consequently, if they wanted to, they could sue both you and Hyperion, and they would win. Also, for the benefit of all readers, whenever you get a response such as “the edtior’s feel…”, what this actually means is that the acquiring editor has told the production editor that they feel that their company’s legalese boilerplate will protect against any and all possible prosecution, so the book shouldn’t be delayed to perform due dilligence. Effectively, it’s a meaningless response.

  68. Free nicks words from Wikipedia. Lots of them. | dv8-designs Says:

    [...] Waldo Jaquith of The Virginia Quarterly has discovered considerable evidence of plagiarism in Chris … Anderson, editor of Wired magazine and writer of The Long Tail, has a new book coming out, called Free. In a lengthy article previewing the book in Wired, Anderson argues that as the costs of broadband and storage dive ever lower, the value of many kinds of information plummets to zero, prompting the development of entirely new business and service models and spurring creativity. He lists Wikipedia among the strange new fauna of the zero bound — calling it an example of a "Gift economy." It sure seems to have been a gift to Anderson — Jaquith found "almost a dozen passages that are reproduced nearly verbatim from uncredited sources," including plenty from Wikipedia. Anderson says the apparent plagiarism occurred when passages formally included as footnotes were sloppy incorporated into the main body of the text. He has in the past been a bit of a stickler on media laziness (creating a blacklist of publicists who send him inappropriate pitches) and a defender of print, being quoted recently in the New York Times as saying (of Wired), “We need to do something that doesn’t exist online, and do it in a superior way. Otherwise we should just do it online.” [...]

  69. RAO Says:

    When you see the world through lenses that favor mash-ups and open access and content that “wants to be free,” then the value you place on the concept of “intellectual property” and the work that it took to create it declines precipitously. Mining published material without attribution or permission is in this perspective perfectly reasonable. But in my Boston neighborhood, if you attempt to park in the winter in a spot someone just spent three hours shoveling out–and you do it without asking or offering something of value in exchange– you had better be prepared for the consequences.

  70. Jacob Silverman Says:

    The issue of copying from more than one book has also been glossed over in these comments.

    As a previous commenter mentioned, since when is it acceptable to copy, paste, and “write through”? Unless it’s a quotation with attribution, a writer should never copy and paste someone else’s material. It’s asking for trouble, even if you leave a reminder for yourself.

    The Gladwell remarks presented above are actually quite astute and worth talking about, but Anderson did something far more lazy and transparently wrong here.

  71. Phil I Buster Says:

    Who’s to say the content on Wikipdia was not “stolen” in the first place?

    Could’ve been a great thing, and maybe someday it will be, but Wikipedia is currently a mess of plagiarism, veiled interests and hidden hands. Slice, dice or puree… however you cut it, it’s largely stolen property. Wikipedia does not consistently site the sources from which it’s unnamed special interest editors steal copy. That does not mean that, because Wikipedia theives ground off the serial numbers, they gained rightful ownership of someone else’s intellectual property.

    Don’t get me wrong — information is moving from the private domain to the public domain. But what’s going on at Wikipedia is essentially what went on in Baghdad in the days after the U.S. “liberated” the country — rule of law has been suspended, replaced with a hybrid of martial law and mob rule, depending on who dominates the “street” where a particular conflict erupts. Looting and the creation of alliances by intimidation became the norm.

    Old college textbooks were scanned, hastily rewritten — or not — and posted without reference to the scholars that built a foundation, somewhere else, for a system of informational quality control that his now riddled with systematic error. Check out Daniel Brandt’s review of plagiarism on Wikipedia — in a random sample of content. Using automated copyright checking he developed, he found a significant portion had been plagiarized.

    Of course, newspapers and other old school media rode in to hastily nail shut the coffin of Wikipedia — a hasty effort to cover up media’s complicity in Wikipedia’s early failure. They ridiculed and exposed errors, some of which were downright libelous, in an effort to discredit the new crowd source. Where old media failed was in refusing to take the lead — to develop, support and nurture credible alternatives to Wikipedia where responsible editors and scholars lead laypeople and experts in the creation of reliable content to be shared in the public commons.

    Before we hand Chris Anderson, lets first examine crimes of the hangman, lest this lynching be used as a cover up for the greater crime — theft of a larger corpus of intellectual property which Anderson pilfered a few lines.

  72. milowent Says:

    Hey, I somehow stumbled across this story, and I have to say, why are there so many apologists for Mr. Anderson above? Its plagiarism. Sloppy plagiarism, and certainly of the type that could have been avoided, but plagiarism nonetheless. Plagiarism always comes in degrees. This isn’t the wholesale copying of a commencement speech, but its far more than just one inadvertantly uncited quote.

    Its always how someone reacts that exacerbates these things, and claiming you couldn’t come up with a good citation format for wikipedia, so you deleted the cites, is an excuse that only the Iranian Government might use.

    Hyperion sounds like they will take some good steps to rectify the issue – I suggest that the all first edition books in print need to be get a sticker smacked on them on the inside cover with a sentence about some attributions that didn’t make the final edit, with URL to get them. Letting the book so on the shelves as-is for sale is problematic. Will putting the stickers on the books potentially erase the profit margin for this book? It might, but it is FREE, you know.

  73. milowent Says:

    ugh bad proofreading of my comment and no edit function.

    ‘Ere long done do does did

  74. Nima Says:

    Perhaps I’m not making myself clear, so here’s another example. Your response to me is hostile and a bit angry.

    I’m going to stop you right there.

    First, my response was neither hostile nor angry, but rather direct and to the point. Your article about an inappropriate behavior engages in appropriate behavior, and of the similar kind (deception) that you’re writing about. You have done something wrong that you should correct, but seem to refuse to.

    Second, the fact that you can’t actually point out what was hostile or angry in what I wrote means you cannot call it hostile or angry. It’s unfortunate that you imagined hostility, but there is a difference between reality and things you imagine.

    Third, this has nothing to do with anything I said. If you feel as though highlighting words is insufficient to point out Anderson’s plagiarism (it isn’t, but nevertheless) then don’t. Or, just leave the actually plagiarized sectioned highlighted and remove the nonsense.

    For example, the section on “Usury” is clearly plagiarized by any standard that you apply. The sections I mentioned previously are equally clearly not what anyone, other than a person desperately looking for plagiarism, would call plagiarism. I used the term “B.S.” because I find it incredulous that someone like you wouldn’t know all of this.

    The reason I am concerned about what you’ve done — implying things that no one would consider plagiarism to be plagiarism — is that you could make a charge like this about any writer who’s written anything. Yes, Anderson’s guilty, but what if that section on “Usury” wasn’t there and the section on “Babbitt” wasn’t there and you only had “every meal”s and “In 1872 the New York Times”s and things of the like? Would you be highlighting those words and claiming they’re plagiarized? If the answer is yes, then that is terrifying. If the answer is no, then what are they doing highlighted in an article about plagiarism?

  75. Jackson Landers Says:

    Edward,

    There is no reason why you cannot be both a critic and a gentleman.

  76. Bunny FOO-FOO Says:

    @Chris, cool story bro.

  77. unverifiable pseudonym Says:

    Nima,

    The phrases you refer to (”every day” and “In 1872 the New York Times”) are clear examples of plagiarism, not because the words in question — which could reasonably appear coincidentally in any article independently written on the subject — are identical, but because in context they provide evidence that the writer simply lifted ideas without applying any independent thought (especially, in this case, as the article wasn’t published in 1872 at all!)

    As I can teach college freshmen how and why not to do this in a matter of weeks, it’s very disappointing to see a press like Hyperion apparently rewarding this sort of behavior.

    Further, your comments, I would agree, are “hostile and a bit angry” because of your combativeness and assumption of bad faith on the part of this blog’s author. Statements like “I used the term “B.S.” because I find it incredulous [sic] that someone like you wouldn’t know all of this”, etc. are hardly indicative of someone open to disinterested debate on the matter.

  78. Jackson Landers Says:

    Ok, here is what I would do right away if I was in Chris Anderson’s shoes.

    Since Anderson did not attribute the authors that he lifted from, it seems like justice to me that he should contact each of those authors in order to personally apologize and offer some small but real percentage of royalties to them.

    This would be a smart move on several counts. First, it could make those authors less likely to file lawsuits. Secondly, it is they who could now make or break the success of this book and possibly ruin Anderson’s career. By sharing book royalties (and maybe a similar proportion of the advance) with them, Anderson would be creating an incentive for those authors to see the book succeed. Perhaps they would then be less likely to publicly vent any anger.

    Since it is only natural and sensible to share book royalties with someone who could be construed as a co-author, I don’t think that this would look like he was ‘buying them off.’ This approach would probably be the most elegant way of making the problem disappear.

  79. MarkSense Says:

    Was the barcode on the top created for the cover art, or was it copied from an product’s barcode? If it is the barcode from another product, a cash register scanner might read the bottom of the barcode and process the book as being whatever object that barcode identifies.

  80. Hank Chapot Says:

    Haven’t read the book yet, but putting the plagiarism issue aside for a moment, I did read Anderson’s Wired essay at; http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/16-03/ff_free – in preparation for a McNeil/Lehrer interview about giving away my work on wikipedia (now canceled) and couldn’t help but notice Anderson was looking for the slice of Free Culture where you could still make a buck.

    hc

  81. Nima Says:

    The phrases you refer to (”every day” and “In 1872 the New York Times”) are clear examples of plagiarism, not because the words in question — which could reasonably appear coincidentally in any article independently written on the subject — are identical, but because in context they provide evidence that the writer simply lifted ideas without applying any independent thought (especially, in this case, as the article wasn’t published in 1872 at all!)

    Well, stop, if the article wasn’t published in 1872 or not by the New York Times and isn’t a widely known error then that would be plagiarism, because he’d be lifting a specific mistake. But otherwise, no, you can’t just point to similar words on the same subject and go “Aha!”

    The issue here is proof. If I accuse you “unverifialbe pseudonym” of stealing $15 from me you would probably ask for proof. If I made a stronger accusation — that you’re a murderer — then you’re definitely going to want proof. “You just give off a killy vibe,” is not adequate.

    Waldo found passages that were clearly plagiarized. Clearly, as in without doubt or question. The “Usury” one is a good example. But some of the other portioned he highlighted are totally ridiculous, and that’s the problem.

    If you ask your students to write a paper on Abraham Lincoln’s assassination how many do you think would include “In 1865 Abraham Lincoln … Ford’s Theater … shot.” ? Would all of them be counted as plagiarism? No, of course not. Now, if one of these papers had other sections that were lifted word for word from Wikipedia, would that first line be plagiarism then? No, of course not.

    Anderson plagiarized, and has admitted as much, but that doesn’t mean any accusation of plagiarism can be thrown at him willy-nilly. Going back to the murder parallel, you might catch a man and accuse him of murder, but you then can’t toss in every murder that’s taken place in your home state without a strong justification for each case. If you’re going to say that “In 1872 the New York Times” is plagiarism I want to hear you make a credible argument to that effect, OR don’t make that accusation.

    It’s fairly remarkable that in an article about ethics, in which the target of the article has at least acknowledged a breach, that we’re still acting like Waldo’s excessive highlighting was kosher. It’s not, and the right thing to do would be to reissue the segments with only the clear plagiarism marked. This isn’t that difficult. Not doing so reducing Waldo’s credibility, and the credibility of his claim of plagiarism. Honestly, if you just glance at the very first segment posted on Free Lunch the ridiculousness of some of the highlighting jumps out, and many would be inclined to just call Waldo over zealous and leave. If Anderson hadn’t admitted to his mistake I wouldn’t be the only one taking issue with some of the passages marked.

    You caught him, Waldo. There’s no reason to try and pin things on him that he didn’t do.

  82. Sam Deeks Says:

    Funny. I went to your link, Hank, to read Anderson’s piece, got distracted by the video thinking ‘Let’s see the fellow talk’ – only to be hit by a sportscar ad. It’s so deliciously incongruent.

    I’m pleased that while nobody seems to have the energy to talk about plagiarism in education (it’s not sexy, there’s no money or stars involved and you’ll only get hated by parents if you do) Chris Anderson’s media status has at least brought out a hot debate on the issue. That’s a result.

  83. Jackson Landers Says:

    Nima,

    I think that the pages with the highlighted text merely demonstrate part of the method of searching for for potential plagiarism.

  84. Mark Byrne Says:

    Jacob Silverman: I accept that what Anderson did was lazy (he could have reread the entire manuscript and recognized the passages he didn’t craft himself, then changed them) but I challenge your assertion that it was inherently wrong. What if he had changed the offending passages by simply paraphrasing? If he had done that, no one would have called him out for copying Wikipedia—when in fact, Wikipedia would remain the source for his information. The words would be different, but the ideas would be the same. So why do the words matter so much?

    Put differently, why is it “wrong” to copy a sentence, but acceptable to steal an idea? And more to the point, why is it necessary to cite the exact text used in an encyclopedia when the idea the text is relating (be it a definition or a historical reference) is so commonly accepted that it made it there in the first place? To whit: the Wikipedia entry for the Declaration of Independence states, “After finalizing the text on July 4, Congress issued the Declaration of Independence in several forms.” What is the difference between using that sentence verbatim and stating that “Congress issued the Declaration of Independence in a few forms, shortly after finishing its text, which happened on July 4?” Does Wikipedia own the date on which our Declaration was finalized? Is it plagiarism for me to recite facts about the Declaration, facts that I learned on wikipedia and may be reciting verbatim? I don’t think it is.

    So why is Mr. Anderson’s use of text from Wikipedia wrong? Yes, lazy. Yes, probably illegal. But wrong? I’m not comfortable with that.

  85. Jacob Silverman Says:

    Nima,

    I think Waldo made it pretty clear that, in the interests of thoroughness and allowing people to come to their own conclusions, he highlighted all common words. For the same reason, the headline to the post states that the book contains “apparent plagiarism.” Waldo is interested, I believe, in presenting the facts as they are — i.e. the raw data — and allowing others to make final judgments, though of course he is entitled to express some ideas of his own.

    On the other hand, if he hadn’t highlighted everything in common, someone could have accused him of not being thorough enough or of highlighting selectively, so I don’t know how he can win. This was bound to be a pot-stirring post. But again, the sheer fact of highlighting is not an indication of guilt. As you and Waldo would probably agree, some thinking and analysis must follow, and such a process indicates that the textual and stylistic similarities between many passages in “Free” — culled from Wikipedia, a BBS, AND a published book — show clear evidence of plagiarism.

    As for the 1872 NYT bit and your Lincoln assassination hypotheticals, you are correct. Some phrases will inevitably recur. But please also note that Waldo clearly pointed out in his explanatory remarks that the 1872 date is wrong on both the Wikipedia page and in the book, indicating that the passage was likely lifted directly from Wikipedia, which, as you seem to affirm, is plagiarism. I don’t see why we need to go through any other hypotheticals or counterfactuals. Doing that just distracts from the real issue at hand.

    Unless a sentence is being quoted and attributed or a longer passage for a block quote, there’s no reason why a writer should ever copy-and-paste text from another writer’s work. It’s disturbing that so much material in this book — as Ed Champion posted, there are other questionable passages in “Free” — seems lazily copied, pasted, and “written-through” from other sources. And as this link to a post by Peter Norvig, Google’s Director of Research (which I found in a Gawker comment — see how easy it is to attribute something?), shows, Anderson has displayed similar tendencies towards inappropriate paraphrasing and attribution in the past.

    Finally, Anderson hasn’t admitted to plagiarism. He’s owned up to some mistakes but nothing more. I certainly appreciate that he’s commented here and hope that he can join in a more frank dialogue about what’s happened.

    What I think may come out of this situation is a necessary larger debate about how research may be done in the internet age. Sure, we may live in a “mash-up world” where open-source communities and derivative works (legal or otherwise) thrive. That’s a wonderful thing and Wikipedia can be a great starting point for research, but the changing digital landscape is not an excuse to throw out all basic journalistic and scholarly ethics, no matter your prominence in the field or position as an advocate for free culture. As Norvig wrote in closing his post, “Publications can and should have a higher standard for accuracy, and we readers should call them on it when they miss.” That’s what Waldo, as a reader, is trying to do here.

  86. Chris Anderson Says:

    Chris here again, impressed by the quality of the debate here. For what it’s worth, here’s my own blog post on the matter: http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2009/06/corrections-in-the-digital-editions-of-free.html

  87. Wired editor ’steals’ content for ‘free’ book – koobe def: Says:

    [...] editor Chris Anderson has been caught plagiarizing from Wikipedia for his new book: Free: The Future of a Radical Price. The book is sold for $26.99. Seems quite [...]

  88. milowent Says:

    who in their right mind blockquotes wikipedia anyway? i was always taught that you only blockquote when language is essential, because readers very often skip blockquotes. wikipedia language is very rarely so good that one cannot part with its mish mash of a 1000 authors’ phrasings. the text of wikipedia, even when it is informative and accurate, cries out for rewriting.

    thus, blockquoting of wikipedia should be a literary crime of its own.

    and anderson is guilty guilty guilty.

  89. Jacob Silverman Says:

    Thanks for your response, Chris. Can you address why you copy-and-paste material directly from Wikipedia, rather than taking notes (handwritten or otherwise) from it and other sources to provide historical background? (That seems to be one of your main uses for Wikipedia content.) Also, what about the work of Petr Beckmann, Heather Rogers, Derek Sivers, Charles Seife, and Kevin Kelly? As has been pointed out here and on edrants.com, passages in your book use anecdotes, phrasings, and structure that are similar to works by these other writers. The Wikipedia debate is a worthy concern, but these other issues have been lost in the discussion.

  90. Michael Says:

    Nice work Waldo! Whether or not Anderson is telling the truth, this whole debacle only further underscores the frailty of truth in the digital age. The idea that a journalist would quote from Wikipedia is sad. But it’s sadder still that Anderson’s editors are willing to sacrifice their integrity in the mad dash to get the book out the door.

  91. Wired Editor Apologizes For Copied Passages in Book - ArtsBeat Blog - NYTimes.com Says:

    [...] Future of a Radical Price” from Wikipedia, without attribution. The passages were discovered by a reviewer for the Virginia Quarterly Review, who was reading an advance galley of the book, which is being published by Hyperion Books early [...]

  92. kevin Says:

    (linkback) Funny or Foul? Chris Anderson’s New Book Contains Apparent WikiPlagiarism [VOTE] – http://www.pikk.com/69975

  93. The Case Against Chris Anderson | Tech-monkey.info Blogs Says:

    [...] Anderson has said that, in lifting material off Wikipedia for Free, he simply forgot to convert some footnotes to [...]

  94. Sassy Pandaz » Blog Archive » The Case Against Chris Anderson Says:

    [...] Anderson has said that, in lifting material off Wikipedia for Free, he simply forgot to convert some footnotes to [...]

  95. joey Says:

    Chris Anderson often says “give away the book, sell the celebrity.” Creating this controversy will help sell his hard copies and celebrity since the digital versions are being given away.

  96. The Chris Anderson Plagiarism Controversy | PlagiarismToday Says:

    [...] Quarterly Review (VGR), a literary review journal associated with the University of Virginia, noticed similarities between some passages in Anderson’s book and other sources. After putting some passages through Google, he found over a dozen instances where it appears [...]

  97. An ironic title - Need to know - Macleans.ca Says:

    [...] Virginia Quarterly Review Print Commentfunction fbs_click() {u=location.href;t=document.title;window.open('http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php?u='+encodeURIComponent(u)+'&t='+encodeURIComponent(t),'sharer','toolbar=0,status=0,width=626,height=436');return false;} AdSpot("macleans","featured",3,300,250); [...]

  98. Editor of Wired Apologizes for Copying from Wikipedia in New Book - Media Decoder Blog - NYTimes.com Says:

    [...] “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” from Wikipedia, without attribution. The passages were discovered by a reviewer for the Virginia Quarterly Review, who was reading an advance galley of the book, [...]

  99. Nima Says:

    On the other hand, if he hadn’t highlighted everything in common, someone could have accused him of not being thorough enough or of highlighting selectively, so I don’t know how he can win.

    This isn’t about winning, this is about doing what’s right. Yes, I’m sure there is someone who will look at this page in its current form and accuse Waldo of not being thorough. Some of the comment here have dismissed the accusation of plagiarism out of hand, even though it’s clearly demonstrated in several of the highlighted passages. You can’t please every idiot that walks in off the street, and Waldo shouldn’t concern himself with doing so.

    But what I’m pointing out it’s some thoughtless dismissive. Waldo admits that he was just highlighting words as they popped up. That is the problem. In a post about plagiarism Waldo has highlighted segments that don’t appear to be plagiarized (by any reasonable standard) which 1) makes it seem like more was plagiarized than may have been, 2) gives people who don’t really think about what constitutes plagiarism an inaccurate view of what constitutes plagiarism, and 3) weakens the credibility of the assertion of plagiarism for people that do know what constitutes it.

    At best, this article gives an inaccurate impression of what we’re dealing with here. Why? There are clear, indisputable cases of plagiarism (intentional or not, they were lifted without proper attribution from another source and made it into a published document), so the random same word highlighting doesn’t actually add substantively to the case against Anderson. What it does do is make it seem as though VQR is overzealous in asserting the charge of plagiarism, or is itself too lazy to correctly note what passages are or are not plagiarized.

    To be honest with you, I don’t really understand why VQR seems unable to just correct itself. You highlighted too much, inappropriately. Plagiarism is a serious issue, which is why (I think) you’re making a point of exposing it. So take it seriously, and don’t just carpet bomb a bunch of similar words in a manner that suggests plagiarism when it’s not the case. At a certain point, you’re wrongfully accusing a guilty man.

  100. Jacob Silverman Says:

    I respect your opinion, Nima, but we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. To me the highlighting doesn’t exist in a vacuum; there are words and sentences by Waldo explaining why he did what he did, and readers should be able to draw their own conclusions about the situation. Again, I see Waldo’s method as thorough and presenting information clearly and fairly. You strongly disagree with that assessment. Your commitment to integrity is admirable and you are free to continue this argument, but I’m going to move on.

  101. Customers Are Talking » Blog Archive » Standing on the shoulders of giants… and not acknowledging so Says:

    [...] from Wikipedia. Waldo Jacquith, an observant reviewer from the Virginia Quarterly Review, discovered the identical passages. The New York Times ArtsBeat blog wrtoe: [Anderson in a phone interview] said he originally wrote [...]

  102. Edward Champion Says:

    Jacob: For what it’s worth, Chris Anderson offered this response on my website to your question. It still doesn’t explain everything, but at least it’s a start.

    “Ed, I’ve owned up the the Wikipedia citation errors over at VQR, but you’re out of line here. I conducted several phone interviews with the Jell-O historian, for example (it is no surprise that the facts she gave me agree with what she wrote) and Kevin Kelly reviewed a draft and we worked out the attributions together.

    “In all these cases where it wasn’t my original research credit was properly given, as a fair-minded reading of the examples will show.”

  103. Chris Anderson Apologizes For Plagiarizing Wikipedia - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com Says:

    [...] “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” from Wikipedia, without attribution. The passages were discovered by a reviewer for the Virginia Quarterly Review, who was reading an advance galley of the book, [...]

  104. J.C. Says:

    I’m going to be completely blunt here. He used Wikipedia for research. He PLAGIARIZED from Wikipedia, which shows that he believes Wikipedia is a good tool for research. Therefore, this book is garbage.

  105. City Site Guide » Chris Anderson’s Mistake: Common or Careless? Says:

    [...] the literary world debates unattributed lines from Wikipedia in Chris Anderson’s new book, “Free: The [...]

  106. Matt Says:

    I don’t know if this has been mentioned before, but Wired is starting to have a pretty difficult history with plagiarism among its staffers. It seems just yesterday we had the Dahlia Lithwick fiasco there, to which I never felt they satisfactorily owned up.
    The magazine as a whole has really been sliding in quality, and it’s certainly no wonder. It’s fine to thumb your nose at “old” media, but you better have the academic rigor to back it up…

  107. Bookmarks: Wired's Chris Anderson plagiarism problem, Bookninja vs. the CBC, literary threesomes - The Afterword Says:

    [...] editor and the author of the forthcoming, Free, Chris Anderson has been drawing fire for lifting passages from Wikipedia and using them in his book. The Virginia Quarterly Review has the story:In the course of reading Chris Anderson’s new book, [...]

  108. peHUB » Anderson Accused of Cribbing from Wikipedia in New Book “Free” Says:

    [...] new book, “Free: The Future of a Radical Price.” Waldo Jaquith of the Virginia Quarterly Review blogs today that he found “almost a dozen passages that are reproduced nearly verbatim from uncredited [...]

  109. Jamie Says:

    Chris, I’d simply ask you: What would you do if one if one of your employees made such a mistake? Would you accept a convoluted explanation and apology?

    I’m actually asking sincerely, not rhetorically. I find that for better or for worse, people in positions of authority are generally treated more genially for such mistakes. In other words, the very people who should be held to a higher standard… are held to a lesser standard than the rank-and-file.

    I think you are a very fine editor and writer. Unless, however, you genuinely feel that you would accept such an explanation from one of your writers or editors (which I do not believe) then I think the only thing you can do is resign your position. Or give yourself the same punishment you would dole out to anyone else.

  110. Ruth Carver Says:

    Chris, the write-through explanation is still a bit problematic, as it indicates that many of the passages that are not copied verbatim are simply paraphrasing other (albeit collective) sources. This isn’t to say that an author’s every sentence must be forged from purely original steel — but there’s something to be said for doing your research and then synthesizing the materials yourself, rather than re-wording someone else’s efforts. It’s called, well, writing.

  111. Paul Says:

    “why are there so many apologists for Mr. Anderson above?”

    Because they want to believe what he says is true.

    Think of Web 2.0 as a a religious cult, and Anderson as one of the Apostles, preaching A New And Better Life. The numbers don’t add up, and his theories fall apart – but they are sustained by the Faith of the community.

  112. Chris Anderson responds to plagiarism allegations around "Free" Says:

    [...] Wired magazine editor-in-chief, responded on his blog to a web-tempest that blew up yesterday after Waldo Jaquith at the VQR rightly pointed out that some passages in his new book “Free” were improperly [...]

  113. Open content attribution (or how we talk about it) is still too complicated Says:

    [...] there is a certain amount of obvious irony to the revelation that Chris Anderson’s book Free contains significant unattributed copying from Wikipedia. The entire piece from Virginia Quarterly Review‘s Waldo Jaquith is worth a read (and I leave [...]

  114. Chris Anderson responds to plagiarism blog-storm over "Free" Says:

    [...] Wired magazine editor-in-chief, responded on his blog to a web-tempest that blew up yesterday after Waldo Jaquith at the VQR rightly pointed out that some passages in his new book “Free” were improperly [...]

  115. Chris Anderson responds to plagiarism blog-storm over "Free" | Design Website Says:

    [...] Wired magazine editor-in-chief, responded on his blog to a web-tempest that blew up yesterday after Waldo Jaquith at the VQR rightly pointed out that some passages in his new book “Free” were improperly [...]

  116. Chris Anderson responds to plagiarism blog-storm over "Free" | Design Website Easy Says:

    [...] Wired magazine editor-in-chief, responded on his blog to a web-tempest that blew up yesterday after Waldo Jaquith at the VQR rightly pointed out that some passages in his new book “Free” were improperly [...]

  117. Corrections in the digital editions of Free | eMediaOne Says:

    [...] some of you may have seen, VQR rightly spotted that I failed to cite Wikipedia in some passages in Free. This is entirely my own screwup, and will [...]

  118. Chris Anderson responds to plagiarism blog-storm over "Free" | dv8-designs Says:

    [...] Wired magazine editor-in-chief, responded on his blog to a web-tempest that blew up yesterday after Waldo Jaquith at the VQR rightly pointed out that some passages in his new book “Free” were improperly [...]

  119. pyrate Says:

    If the future of everything is free, I don’t understand how he expects me to pay for his book. Especially if large chunks of it are just lifted from Wikipedo. I’ve also not really heard him explain how how “Long Tail” assertion jibes with all the recent papers using internet sales analysis that demonstrate that the long tail is, in fact, short.

  120. Hank chapot Says:

    Nobody has addressed my larger concern; Mr. Anderson is lauding “Free” culture while he is actually searching out the sliver of capitalist money-making opportunity. This plagiarism debate says a lot. He will borrow from free culture. Probably had a set number of pages to fulfill the publisher’s contract.

  121. danny bloom Says:

    Are you screening these comments or reading them? Screening is a word i coined for reading on a screen. To replace reading on paper surfaces. Goodbye Mr Paper. See my blog for more info.

  122. Chris Anderson gör kunskapen mindre “free” | Kulturekonomi Says:

    [...] Anderson har tydligen slarvat rejält med referenserna i sin nya bok Free – och anklagas här för [...]

  123. An Eclectic Mind » Interesting Links, June 24, 2009 Says:

    [...] Chris Anderson’s Free Contains Apparent Plagiarism – More plagiarism in books — this time passages taken wholesale from Wikipedia without credit. On the Virginia Quarterly Review blog. [...]

  124. Brainless Text Culture and Mickey Mouse Science :: Society of the Query Says:

    [...] employment of the internet. A current example of plagiarism is Chris Anderson’s Free. Waldo Jaquith revealed in a blog that he discovered passages in the book that were nearly copied verbatimly, [...]

  125. Chris Anderson’s Free! Borrows From Wikipedia | BLOGCHINA Says:

    [...] Company found the Virginia Quarterly Review blog post detailing how Anderson copy-pasted an entry from the Free lunch entry on Wikipedia, and illustrates [...]

  126. Wired editor accused of plagiarizing Web sources for ‘free’ book | Design Website Says:

    [...] another, and then another. He eventually located several dozen passages in the 274-page book that appear to have been lifted directly and without attribution from Web sources — Wikipedia mostly, but there were [...]

  127. Fuck Tard Says:

    Hey Fuck-Tard try looking up the translation: paraphrasing

  128. Derek Sivers Says:

    Chris did attribute my blog and the exact article he quoted in his book. He definitely had my full permission.

    As I went to post this now as a comment I see the article has been updated to remove my blog as an example, so Waldo must have caught that.

    But still I just wanted to comment here for the record.

  129. A Photo Editor - Sad And Strange, Wired’s EIC Accused Of Plagiarism Says:

    [...] Price” for a review, The Virginia Quarterly Review discovers passages lifted from Wikipedia (here). The real irony here is that you wouldn’t be allowed to write for Wired if you ever used [...]

  130. David Dombrosky Says:

    Here are my questions?

    1. Are there really any repercussions for Anderson and Hyperion publishing a book that fails to attribute the source material as required by Wikipedia’s Creative Commons licensing?

    2. Is it simply enough to publish your attribution notes online rather than in the published text?

    3. Has anyone asked Wikipedia what they intend to do about this unattributed use of material covered by its CC license? Is there any recourse for the writers of the source material.

    While so many are running to Anderson’s defense for “manning up” and admitting his mistake, the point of fact is that this high-profile text violates the CC license agreement and could set an important precedent for determining what practical, legal protections (if any) a CC license provides.

  131. Corwin Says:

    Why has there been so little response to the fact that some of the parts that appear to be plagiarized contain erroneous information? I quite agree with Sida’s point about the injustice to readers, and I feel that what makes it worse is that, not only was there no effort made to cite sources, but there was a laxness with fact-checking. I value Wikipedia as a research tool, but the understanding is that what is stated in Wikipedia is a reference point, and as from any source, facts should always be checked before being presented as truth.

    By not only neglecting to cite his references (an honest mistake or no) but also neglecting to get his “facts” straight, I feel that Anderson sends the message to readers that he need not bear the same onus of responsibility and transparency that we expect of journalists, like the ones that write for his publications.

  132. Laura Says:

    Sloppy book; sloppy research; sloppy thinking. Who would even want to read this book when they can get most of it for free at Wiki? Not I.

  133. Harry Landers Says:

    In response to David Dombrosky’s first question (”Are there really any repercussions for Anderson and Hyperion publishing a book that fails to attribute the source material as required by Wikipedia’s Creative Commons licensing?”), it seems to be that the obvious repercussion would be that both Mr. Anderson and Hyperion would open themselves up to civil lawsuit for copyright infringement. Further, assuming that they have Media Liabiilty insurance to protect them against such suits, I expect that they’d have some serious difficulties with their insurer, once the insurer finds out that Hyperion released the book for publication, knowing of the substantiated claims of plagiarism.

    If they were smart, they’d pull the printed copies and fix it. Better to take the hit now than to walk into the potential minefield that awaits the publication of the version.

  134. Do we need celebrity authors? « Ask The Editor Says:

    [...] accused of borrowing passages from the web and from others’ books in his new book, Free.  Waldo Jaquith of the Virginia Quarterly originally discovered that Anderson had “re-purposed” some material from Wikipedia and [...]

  135. Steve Andrews Says:

    I wouldn’t normally be so hard on anyone, sure plagiarism is wrong however in Anderson’s case he’s never shied away from calling others out publicly and using WIRED as a bully pulpit to shred PR people who don’t conform to his narrow view of what is worthy of his time. Fair enough Chris but live by the zero tolerance rule, suffer and die by it, after all how can you hold to others to a level you clearly are unable to attain yourself.

    So does this mean we can put Chris on a public plagiarism list and out him to trade publications focused on the publishing industry in the same way he took it upon himself to become the judge, jury and executioner of PR people who upset him with pitches. by publishing their names and email addresses in his WIRED blog?

    And please, “I didn’t know how to cite online sources?” Chris, do really believe that anyone can believe that as an editor of WIRED Magazine you haven’t figured out how to cite an online source. It stretches credibility to the limit at best and is a blatant lie at worst.

    Her’s hoping Chris’ next book is titled something like, “How I lost all my money and job because I plagiarized my last book.”

  136. Larry Ville Says:

    “This is my fault, but it does raise a question about what the right form for citing Wikipedia in a book is.”
    Anderson deflects beautifully here, noting that the time-stamped URL citations were ugly. Wha? Cosmetics as reason for non-citation. That’s a first.

    “It will be interesting to see how the mainstream book industry (as opposed to the academic press) figures this out.”
    Apparently, they have figured out what to do. Try to get away with non-citation, then last minute scramble to put corrections online, and offer a limited “free” e-version of the book. It’s called covering your ass. Again, nice deflection.

    And where is Anderson’s response, here or on his blog, about the other allegations of non-Wiki plagiarism?

  137. seth simonds » Laziness Is Not An Excuse For Plagiarism: WIRED Editor-In-Chief Chris Anderson Fail Says:

    [...] a fascinating glimpse into Anderson’s copy-and-paste-without-attribution writing technique, Waldo Jaquith writes in The Virginia Quarterly Review [online]: In the course of reading Chris Anderson’s new book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price [...]

  138. Pam Says:

    Well done, UVA! We must keep all authors and publishers honest. They deserve the negative publicity that will come from this because they walked with open eyes right into it.

  139. Real Men Don't Plagiarize | The Cincinnati Man Says:

    [...] Wired Magazine’s Chris Anderson and his soon to-be published book, Free.  Check out the Virginia Quarterly Review’s blog with all the [...]

  140. spinchange Says:

    From one of Mr. Anderson’s other responses:

    “The digital editions will all be free in one way or another, either for a limited period of time (ebooks) or unlimited for certain versions (unabridged audiobook).”

    The ebook version will be available only for a ‘limited period of time.’ What does that mean? What kind of licence will the electronic work carry? CC like Wikipedia?? Will I be able to link to it? Will I be able to legally download it and share it with others? Will it really be *free?*

    I’m doubt that Hyperion is in this for free, but would applaud both them and Mr. Anderson for actually doing something as bold and futuristic as they ideas they are selling – and give this away – with links, citations, etc -online and for FREE.

  141. Waldo Jaquith Says:

    Chris did attribute my blog and the exact article he quoted in his book. He definitely had my full permission.

    As I went to post this now as a comment I see the article has been updated to remove my blog as an example, so Waldo must have caught that.

    Actually, Derek, I never listed you as an example—that was just a commenter here. If we make changes to a blog entry, we fully document it.

    BTW, when I converted this website from a mish-mash of character encodings to UTF-8 about six months ago, your guide to doing so was an absolute lifesaver. I’ve been meaning to thank you for providing that accounting of your own upgrade process.

  142. James A Woods Says:

    I call foul.

    Should Chris Anderson have been more careful with his footnotes? Absolutely. Is he guilty of theft? No.

    Waldo Jaquith, however, appears to be quilty of defaming another in order to draw attention. Way to ride Chris’ coat-tails!

  143. The Difficulties of Open Content Attribution « Open Education News Says:

    [...] of attributing open content. The post stems from the recent controversy surrounding the book Free and possible plagiarism. From the blog post: I don’t think “all contributors” implies that each editor to the [...]

  144. Danny Bloom Says:

    Repercussions, God no. Just think of all the free pre-publication publicity the book got in the past few days, with Amazon pre-orders going through the roof (which of course does not translate into actual SALES, just pre-orders, which can and WILL BE cancelled, smile; this is how publishers “game” the Amazon stats thing, it’s pure hype, used by marketing departements to “create” fake bestsellers which the New York Times reporters then report as real bestsellers when they never were, just ask David Kirkpatrick, he knows, re the Stephen Wolfram book a few years back) — but no repercussions, just amazing pre-pub PR before the national laydown. Hyperion is hyer happy! Chris, too. The book has already sold through its first printing just because of this brouhahahahahahaha (sic)….

    By the way, you are not “reading” this comment, you are “screening” it. See Alex Beam’s June 19 column in the Boston Globe and my blog over my name above….

    Screening is the new reading….

  145. Ziko van Dijk Says:

    Dear Waldo, this is true plagiarism you have found, congratulations for that. It is really a shame that this happens to Chris Anderson (”Wired” is not any journal), and that there are obviously many people who fail to see what he did wrong. I find his excuse the best possible in such a situation, but still lame (he couldn’t find a good citation format?!).

    By the way, quotes are supposed to be short. If a “taking over of words” is very long and substantial, wouldn’t that mean that Chris Anderson does not quote, but takes part in the Wiki writing process? According to GFDL, this makes his book to be copyleft, and everyone has the right to copy it freely?

  146. This is crazy! Says:

    Unfortunately, I’ve read other articles where he says he took the information. He should have not succumed to that point of view. He should have stepped back from the storm and then called up a good lawyer and started suing the people who said that he plagiarized. He’d be a rich man!

    Encyclopedias are supposed to be true information! True information is for everybody! If the information in the encyclopedia(s) is not true, then the publisher of the encylopdiea should be held accountable for publishing false information. You don’t need to quote that you got information out of an encyclopedia; you don’t have to give credit for information that’s true!

    Wikipedia is an encylopedia!

    And just because Wikipedia has ceratin rules and guidelines of what they expect, that doesn’t mean you have to adhere to them. There’s only one set of laws in America, and those laws only apply in a US court! And everybody knows when you get in a US court, anything could happen!

    Also, what some of these critics fail to tell readers, if things are in the general public, true information, you don’t have to cite it! To be or not to be, I’ve read that quote in over 100 books, and never seen it cited in 99% of them. Everybody knows Shakespeare wrote it. And just because some people’s scopes are more limited than others, well . . ., they might conceive it as plagiarism.

    First Amendment! Freedom of Speech! I have the right to speak and write things that are the truth! I don’t have to give a goddamn ounce of credit to anybody for speaking and writing the truth, even if my words are exactly the same! Aren’t encyclopedias in the United States supposed to be the truth!? If Wikipedia is not the truth take it down! If encyclopedias in the United States are not truth and for everybody to use as they please, get rid of them!

    What idiot out there would take stuff from any UNITED STATES DICTIONARIES and actually cite it? Not one damn person! You don’t have to cite the encylopedia! Any writer and editor, definitely uses the dictionary everyday, sometimes sees phrases in it, to cite the dictionary, you’d be an idiot!

    For the critics who called the Wire Editor a plagiarist, beaware! If he comes across a crafty lawyer, you could be sued for a large amount of money. The honus is on you to prove that he plagiarized those passages. It’s not as easy as it looks. I see a few people said he went to Wikipedia and just took it verbatim. Did it ever cross your mind where those guys got it from!? Did they find that information from sources that were outside the scope of the 75 year copyright law. I can tell you from first hand experience, I’ve seen quotes and passages in books that took place a few years ago, and I’ve also seen them haven tooken place 50 years ago, and I’ve seen them haven taken place 200 years ago. And if you pointed your finger at a guy a few years ago for taking information that you thought was plagiarized, I could show you where it was written verbatim 200 years ago, you’d be standing with egg on your face!

    Those people on Wikipedia must have come across their information somewhere, and if they did, I’m sure a lot of them just took it the way it was when they read it. And if that information is outside the 75 year or so copyright law, nobody’s going to fault anybody not for citing it. It’s not an editor or writers job to give up his sources or show how to give other people the direction of how they got their work done. Let people do their own goddamn work!

    And couldn’t it be said, that the editor for Wire, he was expanding the spirit of Wikipedia . . . Wikipedia is about information and growing. This guy took some of it and grew it in his story. He took little seeds and grew it into a larger plant or flower.

    When I read books on vampires, I don’t expect every person to quote or cite that they took their vampire idea from the first vampire story ever told. Isn’t it worse to just take the main character of a book than pieces of information?

    Encylopedias are the closet thing in writing that we have to the truth of things. Truth doesn’t have to be cited.

    And for the person who said there are certain laws of how you have to cite information, bs! Laws are to be questioned! Laws are to be challenged! To say that someone has to declare when they are changing someone else’s work, that’s the law, and he didn’t comply . . . if someone has been dead for over a 100 or 200 years, nobody tells me whether I have to declare that I changed their work. I challenge that view and I won’t adhere to it!

    Becareful when you point a finger, even when it might seem obvious, with the way courts are, the way lawyers act, depending on how much money you have, depending on what the judge ate for breakfast, depending on the jurors, you never know, you could be sued for a lot of money and headache.

  147. LL Says:

    He doesn’t have to cite it. No person in their right mind would cite the dictionary if they used a phrase out of it. Encylopedias are no different. They are longer defintions of items.

    Citing just gives other people an easy way to do their work. Let them do their own research.

    Just beacuse it’s law, doesn’t mean its right.

    Just because Wikipedia has its own guidelines doesn’t meant anything. You go into court, anything could happen.

    The stuff on Wikipedia, is all that stuff cited? And if its cited, is the cited stuff cited? And so forth . . .

    If you wanna do the reseacrh, you could disprove almost anything.

    That guy should have never admitted to anything. He should have sued everybody. True information is free to everybody to use as they please, and if the info. on Wikipedia isn’t true, the site should look into it.

    If anything, the guy should be condemned for not rephrasing the stuff, that’s all he had to do.

  148. Waldo Jaquith Says:

    “This is crazy!” / “LL,” please limit yourself to a single pseudonym for your comments. If you’d like to have a conversation with yourself, I suspect you can find a more efficient venue for that than via comments here.

  149. hank chapot Says:

    How can I unsubscribe from the check box “followup comments via e-mail”?

  150. Waldo Jaquith Says:

    How can I unsubscribe from the check box “followup comments via e-mail”?

    Since you’re not subscribed anymore, it looks like you found the link to unsubscribe. :)

  151. JM Says:

    Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encylopedia information should be public domain and not have to be cited.

  152. Dusty Shelves » Blog Archive » Friday links Says:

    [...] wikipedia in fact, and claims that there is no good citation system for web sites. You have to read it to believe [...]

  153. JM Says:

    I don’t see my comments, that’s why . . .

  154. Waldo Jaquith Says:

    JM, I assure you that all of your comments are appearing here.

  155. Digital Barbarians at the Gate « The Enterprise Blog Says:

    [...] breaks a story about Chris Anderson’s soon-to-be-released book containing multiple instances of plagiarism. The irony is obvious: The book is titled Free: The Future of a Radical Price and it’s about [...]

  156. Susie Arnott Says:

    We have this guide at Northumbria University:
    Cite them right: the essential referencing guide
    by Richard Pears and Graham Shields
    Published by Pear Tree Books

    ISBN 978-0-9551216-1-6

    http://www.citethemright.co.uk/index.html

    Gives details on how to cite all kinds of material from phone calls to websites….

  157. Susie Arnott Says:

    If you don’t cite your sources, how can anybody verify what you say? People could just be repeating a whole lot of hearsay or prejudice….

  158. Cory Says:

    Huh. So using your logic I could reprint verbatim an entire set of encyclopedias and issue said set for profit under my own name.

  159. Web Feet Integrated Marketing » Blog Archive » Wired Editor Chris Anderson Apologizes for Plagiarism, (Some) PR People Try To Hide Delight Says:

    [...] of his soon to be released book “Free” from Wikipedia. Virginia Quarterly Review first noticed the similarities, some of which were copied word for [...]

  160. Sam Deeks Says:

    If you can’t avoid being caught, create smoke-screen. Inadvertently, this blog becomes part of Chris Anderson’s smoke-screen.

    The issue here isn’t really copyright (we all know that in a world of bits its practically impossible to keep or enforce norms that were established in the days of ‘atoms’).

    The issue for me is incongruence: a product aimed at the cult of web 2.0+ which espouses a utopian ‘free’ culture at the same time as the current players – including the author – all seem to be hell-bent on, er… making money in a distinctly old-fashioned sort of way.

    I wouldn’t give a shit if Anderson copied my words for his profit after all, millions of affiliate marketing blogs and AdSense Google fisheries already do.

    What I care about is when he continues to pretend its original, critical thought and when we lose the capacity to recognize when – or why – it isn’t.

  161. Omni Writers & Artists » Chris Anderson Says Copied Wikipedia Passages Were Unintentional Mistake - Writing and Art Blog Says:

    [...] edition before it posts, and in all future editions of the book.” The copied passagers were revealed in a blog post by Waldo Jaquith in the Virginia Quarterly Review. A post here explains how Jaquith [...]

  162. Borrowing a Free Lunch - nonpretentious Says:

    [...] Anderson’s verbatim use of Wikipedia entries in his new book “Free.”  The story, scooped by those literary nerds over at the Virginia Quarterly Review, could not compete with the juicier pieces of the week and was left to cultural irrelevance.  No [...]

  163. FREE Comes at a Price for Anderson | EarlyWord: The Publisher | Librarian Connection Says:

    [...] charges against Anderson first emerged in a post by Waldo Jaquith on the Virginia Quarterly Review blog, and were seconded by Edward Champion, who posted examples of possible plagarism from other [...]

  164. Chris Anderson Responds to Plagiarism Allegations « FiledBy Blog Says:

    [...] Waldo Jaquith discovered the passages while reading the book to review it for VQR. Jaquith’s blog post on the VQR site includes images with markings that highlight the similarities in the [...]

  165. Genrewonk » Just because it’s Wikipedia don’t mean it’s not plagiarism Says:

    [...] new plagiarism story is afoot on the web seeing light in many [...]

  166. Polêmica no novo livro do Chris Anderson | HSM Says:

    [...] Surgiu na internet, uma discussão sobre um possível plágio no texto de Free com alguma passagens copiadas do Wikipedia. O autor confirmou o equívoco, pediu desculpas e comenta que irá corrigir  nas futuras versões impressas e digitais. [...]

  167. The Simple Dollar » Reader Mailbag #69 Says:

    [...] are your feelings on a writer that plagarizes? For example, Chris Anderson apparently plagiarized from Wikipedia for his latest book. – [...]

  168. Plagiarism in “Free” by Chris Anderson Says:

    [...] by Eric H. Doss on 29 June 2009 Welcome to Eric H. Doss.com. If you are interested in Nonprofits, Technology, and other geeky stuff, you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed for updates from my site.Powered by WP Greet BoxYou can check out the full story over at the Virginia Quarterly Review. [...]

  169. Reader Mailbag #69 | Rich Dad Poor Dad Blog Says:

    [...] are your feelings on a writer that plagarizes? For example, Chris Anderson apparently plagiarized from Wikipedia for his latest book. – [...]

  170. חורים ברשת » שנאת חינם (מלחמת המשובטים) Says:

    [...] וכבר הוא עומד, באופן משעשע מכדי להיות מקרי, במרכזה של שערורית פלגיאריזם – ציטוטים נרחבים מויקיפדיה מופיעים בו כאילו הם חלק [...]

  171. lintonpix Says:

    “I wouldn’t give a shit if Anderson copied my words for his profit after all, millions of affiliate marketing blogs and AdSense Google fisheries already do.”

    That’s a shame. Your words and effort should be valued and not exploited.

    This whole debate really centres around the massive problem of acceptance of exploitation we see around us.

    Ten years ago no one would have had a problem with describing this behaviour as plagiarism.

    To draw on a much overused piece of imagery, if you put a frog into a pan of boiling water it jumps out. If you put it in the pan with the cold water and heat it up the frog ends up boiled alive.

    How much have we accepted because we all like to justify our own use of cracked software and bittorrents to ourselves? Don’t forget that by creating ideological justifications for these small transgressions from the laws we live by – oh and don’t forget that we have handy laws that we like to see upheld, like people shouldnt kill you or be able to take your car keys out of your hand just because they’re used to getting a free lift off of their workmate – we also allow people in positions of power to cash in on the grey areas.

    I’m 100 percent in favour of this debate. Our futures are being decided just now. That is – the laws we live by and the way our economy operates. Anderson’s decision to cash in is cynical but tiny really. As the frog keeps sitting in the water, the temperature keeps getting hotter. When will we see the first book of photographs from Flickr, published without the consent of the creators? And what effect will that have on an organisation like, say, google, or facebook, if it realises it can charge money to print all the content the contributors put on its site. Right now it wouldnt happen because they’d be afraid of being sued. But boil the frog a bit and see where our laws end up. They arent written in stone, so we need to protect them.

    And how will the future shape up if individual artists can no longer make any cash and have to all get jobs as insurance salesmen? What’s that? Oh, you don’t care because you’re an insurance salesman already? Well I hope you enjoy the bland manufactured entertainment we have now, because it’s only going to get blander unless people stop letting these people break laws that were intended in the first place to protect integrity and right for people to create and share what they have put effort into making in our creative common culture.

    Does the argument that in a digital age it is impossible to maintain a system that involves intellectual property really have any basis or is it a smokescreen to allow opportunists to rip off whatever they like?

  172. The Copyright Alliance Blog » Blog Archive » Gladwell on Anderson’s “Free” Says:

    [...] recently about the upcoming book, Free, by Wired editor Chris Anderson, largely charges that he plagiarized Wikipedia and apparently much more. Like Jonathan Bailey, I wasn’t sent an advance copy of the book so [...]

  173. Is het plagiaat als het gratis, anoniem en vrij verkrijgbaar is? « Squiggles Says:

    [...] heeft hij inderdaad ruimschoots geput uit Wikipedia zonder zijn bronnen te noemen, aldus The Virginia Quarterly Review [en], die er bewijzen van heeft. We kunnen naar hartenlust discussiëren om erachter te komen of een [...]

  174. A Debate « New High Score Says:

    [...] started when Chris Anderson’s new book Free, was released. First, controversy erupted over ‘plagiarism’ from Wikipedia. Anderson responded on his blog with this. It’s big of him to admit the screw-up. Let’s [...]

  175. Cdr Blog: digital convergence, business strategy, innovation » Blog Archive » Discussion on Free by Chris Anderson Says:

    [...] first news was about the use of quotes from Wikipedia not expressely cited by the author. Chris answered in his blog with the post Corrections in the digital editions of [...]

  176. Wednesday Links: 7-1-09 | Chamber Four Says:

    [...] The Long Tail and Free, is the latest established writer to get flat busted for plagiarism, after a reviewer found long uncited passages from Wikipedia in his new book Free. Anderson quickly admitted the errors and apologized, with the usual line that [...]

  177. David Says:

    What a witchhunt! This debacle says more to me about the quality of VQR and the article’s author than it does about Chris Anderson. I’d say at least a third of the manuscripts that cross my desk–almost all of them from tenured professors–have significant plagiarism issues, often related to Wikipedia, that need to be dealt with prior to sending them off for publication. Obviously, the author ought to have documented his sources correctly, and failing that, Hyperion should have stepped in to resolve the problem before allowing the book to publish–but what more can we ask them to do to fix the problem than what they’ve already promised to do? The author is clearly sorry about what happened, so what else are we looking for out of him? This is an ENDEMIC problem in this industry, and the decision to harp on this one author for his mistakes is an unfortuante case of scapegoating. This author is getting trashed so thoroughly because he himself represents an interesting and challenging idea, not because his work gives us a particularly egregious example of plagiarism in relation to what else gets published.

  178. Waldo Jaquith Says:

    What a witchhunt! This debacle says more to me about the quality of VQR and the article’s author than it does about Chris Anderson.

    I cannot understand what your complaint is, David. It would seem to me that you’re suggesting that plagiarism is so commonplace that a book reviewer should simply ignore it, but that can’t possibly be true. And your use of the word “witchhunt” implies that VQR set out to read lots of books until we could find a plagiarist to accuse, but that’s facially ludicrous. So I must just be confused.

    Why don’t we take a step back and look at this from a more basic perspective? What words and points should not have been included in this article, or were presented unfairly? Please be specific.

  179. Ray Says:

    Every time someone says “Mr. Anderson” I can’t help but think of the Agents in the Matrix.

  180. Blain Hamon Says:

    Re JM, LL:

    Well, Webster’s defines cite as, “to quote by way of example, authority, or proof” and “to bring forward or call to another’s attention especially as an example, proof, or precedent”. See what I did there? It’s a citation of a dictionary. Citations are where you cite something, with an obvious link to the cited work. See what I did there? That was coming up with a new phrase instead of copy-paste. If you need more help in understanding the difference between copy-paste and what to do when you do copy-paste, see:

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/help/citing.htm

  181. David Says:

    Hi Waldo,

    Sorry if I’m missing the larger point you’re trying to make. Guess I just don’t see what purpose this passage-by-passage exposé is meant to serve, aside from embarrassing the author, when a sentence or two describing your discovery would have sufficed. To be fair, we still haven’t seen your full review. I’m hoping it focuses more on the author’s arguments than the plagiarism issues, since that’s what I, for one, am actually interested in hearing about when considering whether I want to purchase the book.

    Maybe you didn’t set out to try to make an example out of Chris Anderson, but that’s certainly the impression devoting the entire blog post to the plagiarism issue gave me. I don’t mean to defend his failure to adequately cite his sources, which he himself acknowledges to be a significant “screwup”. I just hope that with all of the attention he’s receiving for this, people realize these passages are relatively minor examples of plagiarized content in comparison to what you’ll find in many other books. He certainly doesn’t deserve to become “the guy who plagiarizes from Wikipedia” with so many worse culprits out there.

  182. Jacob Silverman Says:

    David,

    Speaking for myself, as a book reviewer I would call out any book assigned me in which I discovered plagiarized content. I think that’s what you’re seeing here. I’m sure if Waldo encountered plagiarism in another book he were reading he would do the same, though Chris Anderson’s high profile does mean that he must be held to an equally high standard (which I argued in more detail in a previous comment). If plagiarism in books is as widespread as you say, then we certainly have a much greater problem. Finally, as for why he went into such detail, it’s simply because it’s necessary. You can’t bring a serious accusation forth — isn’t this one? — without providing the evidence to back it up.

    Best,
    Jacob

  183. Waldo Jaquith Says:

    As Jacob says, David, it would have been recklessly irresponsible to write “a sentence or two ,” as you suggest, to accuse an author of plagiarism. Such a serious charge warrants serious evidence. Had I failed to provide such evidence, I would have been roundly—and rightly—criticized. The purpose served here is to call out an ethical violation by a major author, as is the duty of a publication like VQR upon encountering such a thing. We have an honor code here at the University of Virginia, pledging “not to lie, cheat, or steal, and must agree to report anyone doing so.” That explicitly includes plagiarism. There may be “many worse culprits out there,” as you write, but in the course of my job I have not been assigned a book by one of these culprits (at least that I have discovered), so that’s hardly relevant. Regardless, the fact that many people are guilty of a wrong does not make that wrong any less serious. (There are north of 10,000 murders in the United States every year. Yet articles continue to be written about them. Your logic would dictate that such coverage only serves to embarrass these murderers, because murder is so commonplace.) As you can see by the dozens of articles about this that are appearing in hundreds of publications across the world, a good number of people (the staff of the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Columbia Journalism Review included) disagree with you about seriousness or relevance of this matter.

    By omission, I assume you’re conceding that the charge you’ve leveled against me and VQR in describing this as a “witchhunt” was inappropriate?

  184. Siva Vaidhyanathan Says:

    Here is a column I wrote for Pubishers’ Weekly about this whole deal:

    http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6668308.html

  185. Successful Web 2.0 Business Models « The Scholarly Kitchen Says:

    [...] that blog into a book–feel free to copy large portions of Wikipedia directly into your [...]

  186. The Future is Free | fonografia collective Says:

    [...] of The New Yorker is skeptical in his piece; meanwhile, The Virginia Quarterly Review’s blog has discovered that Anderson himself has borrowed freely from other sources — by copying [...]

  187. snowbag Says:

    I am not sure making an accusation of plagiarism is really all that horribly “serious” given the clear lack of attribution above. When we don’t attribute what we didn’t write, we are plagiarizing. That is how it works. That doesn’t mean that plagiarism is criminal exactly, but it certainly is not the right thing to do.

    It does make a difference how and why such plagiarism occurs. Many of the responders pretend that the process of writing and publishing _Free_ takes place in a social space equivalent to that surrounding an undergraduate essay. This is in part because the college classroom is the only place in which regular folk find themselves both writing supposedly substantial things that other people read (apart from brief comments written on-line, for example) and dealing with issues of plagiarism explicitly, as faculty claim to enforce professional writing’s procedural norms. While undergraduate writing is probably not professional writing (which is why few of us want to read undergraduate essays and certainly do not wish to pay for the pleasure), it operates in a social space that says it will _act_ like professional writing.

    _Free_ is clearly professional writing. Anderson is a writer _for a living_. He is bound by some professional conventions, the requirement to attribute the work of others within one’s own work among them. He has apologized and will take steps to correct the issue, which is good. On the other hand, would he have done so if this VQR blog posting had not been written? The point of belonging to a profession is to work professionally. _Free_ in its current state is not particularly professional.

    So one question is why a nominally professional and clearly successful author might choose in his writing practice not to acknowledge the heavy lifting from wikipedia. Again, _Free_ is not a composition or term paper written one’s sophomore year, bound by an assignment and a semester schedule. The book no doubt required manuscript mark-up, a series of proofs, and editorial feedback of some kind. There were probably opportunities to rethink some of the “borrowing” noted above, and yet they occurred.

    This leads one to suspect either the party or parties involved did it knowingly. Was it a deliberate ruse to “fool” readers? I don’t know, and I don’t think readers were or will be fooled. (This blog and Gladwell’s review suggest this, actually.) Was it a lazy, careless way to pad a work without having to do the difficult work of actually writing, the service for which you are paid in one way or another (either for the actual works or for your resulting lecture fees)? Clearly yes. Again, professional writers who produce work that people really care about do not steal from wikipedia like a ignorant middle school student. But also professional writers who produce work of value do not produce work that is far too over-reliant on wikipedia, even once the needed attribution is provided. That is also the issue here, and in the long run will be the major one.

  188. VQR » Blog » Chris Anderson’s Free Contains Apparent Plagiarism | goudaille Says:

    [...] VQR » Blog » Chris Anderson’s Free Contains Apparent Plagiarism July 2nd In the course of reading Chris Anderson’s new book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price (Hyperion, $26.99), for a review in an upcoming issue of VQR, we have discovered almost a dozen passages that are reproduced nearly verbatim from uncredited sources. These instances were identified after a cursory investigation, after I checked by hand several dozen suspect passages in the whole of the 274-page book. This was not an exhaustive search, since I don’t have access to an electronic version of the book. Most of the passages, but not all, come from Wikipedia. Anderson is the author of the best-selling 2006 book The Long Tail and is the editor-in-chief of Wired magazine. The official publication date for Free is July 7. via vqronline.org [...]

  189. Malcolm is RIGHT | nostrum, inc. Says:

    [...] When people aren’t making any money for their efforts they start doing something else, when people aren’t making enough money the quality of their work goes down and ethically journalism goes by the wayside – as it apparently did in Anderson’s book when he lifted pages right out of Wikipedia. [...]

  190. Chris Anderson speaks for Free » Geek Entertainment TV Says:

    [...] Episode links: Chris Anderson, The Long Tail blog, Wired, BookTour, Free: The Future of the Radical Price, DIY Drones, Ning, VQR (criticism) [...]

  191. Jim Says:

    Not that it matters much, but in ancient times it was considered a good thing to skillfully incorporate other people’s material into your own with slight adjustments and changes. Not so in the time of lock-down copyright, I guess. I would think there would be a problem if the whole thing was a cut-and-paste job, but the amount cited in the article in relation to the full size of the book is insignificant. Chris, I look forward to reading your book.

  192. Dave Burke - Everyman Links for July 3, 2009 Says:

    [...] gets spanked big-time after plagiarizing wikipedia in bulk for his upcoming book, “Free.” This Virginia Quarterly Review post lists the copied excerpts.  The initial explanation for the omission was that neither Anderson [...]

  193. Update to the Tim’s Malcolm is Right -”Free” Post | nostrum, inc. Says:

    [...] of VQR’s findings about Anderson not sourcing Wikipedia correctly – a point that Tim so eloquently highlighted [...]

  194. This Week in Publishing | technology software gadget mobile blackberry Says:

    [...] Chris An&#100erson’s new book FREE (which ha&#100 previous&#108y been subjec&#116 &#116o some Wikipe&#100ia-pla&#103ia&#114ism claims). Gladwell n&#111tes that free d&#111esn’t really w&#111rk as a b&#117s&#105ness m&#111del. [...]

  195. cloridrato di sviluppina » Blog Archive » Uncredited sources. Says:

    [...] Scopiazzare da Wikipedia è un vezzo al quale, chi scriva per denaro anziché per altri e più nobili motivi (figa, edonismo, noia), difficilmente può sottrarsi. E’ la ragione principale per la quale non acquisto libri che trattino argomenti già coperti dall’enciclopedia online. Ciò dipende senza dubbio dalla mia inesistente profondità intellettuale, quella che mi spinge, di norma, ad acquistare per l’appunto solo testi vergati causa figa, edonismo o noia. Trovandomi eccezionalmente bene, fra l’altro. [...]

  196. David Comdico Says:

    The anger directed at Waldo Jaquith is almost entertaining, sort of like watching the fall of civilization blink across your computer. Anderson made a mistake. He admitted as much. It doesn’t mean he is a bad person or that it wasn’t an honest mistake, but a mistake it was. And thanks to Mr. Jaquith he’ll have the opportunity to fix that mistake sooner rather than later.

    The irony is that the larger ideas Mr. Anderson presents in his book Free may or may not be contradicted by this very episode. At the very least it presents a test case at least as interesting as anything in Anderson’s book.

    Instead of shooting the messenger it’s probably more productive to link this episode to the larger issues at stake, ideas that will continue to effect our culture, for better or worse, in the very near future.

  197. Walter Pike Says:

    The “plagiarism” appears to be at the periphery of the work, nothing to do with the core concepts, nothing to do with the idea. Clearly wrong – but the author gave a very plausible explanation of what happened and apologised for the mistake and is correcting it. If he had lifted the idea from someone and claimed it as his own thats a different thing.

    This is a total storm in a teacup.

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