Tag: copyright infringement

When Stealing is Not a Crime, or My Rough Guide Ordeal Continued

If Paul Simpson had been my student, I know just what I would have done: taken out a great big fat red marker and covered his title page with a blazing O-F. Then, depending on if he were a middle school or high school student, or a college freshman or upperclassman, or a graduate student, I would have stopped there, failed him for the course, sent him to the dean or VP for Academic Affairs, filed an Academic Misconduct notice with Student Judicial Affairs, or whatever other route was appropriate. Our little talk would have been the first in a long line of unpleasantries for Paul.

But he’s not my student or anyone else’s. He is a professional writer and I have yet to find a direct route to the man. “Paul Simpson” is a fairly common name, and for all I know could be a pseudonym. He’s quite the Renaissance man; his other Rough Guides include titles on Cult Pop, Kids’ Movies, Westerns, Elvis, Muhammed Ali, and Superheroes.

Publishers are the ones who usually deal with this, anyway. First I started with Elements’ publisher and was unsurprised to find that Fell Press wouldn’t pursue it. It is tiny. Rough Guides is a division of Penguin, and in the US Penguin is a division of Pearson. In other words,  if you don’t have a stable of idle lawyers and very deep pockets, forget it. I thought I might fare better with Scholastic UK, but there were some other problems there. Scholastic UK published The Definitive Guide a few months after The Rough Guide to His Dark Materials. Although the passages Simpson weakly paraphrased from Elements are also in The Definitive Guide, Elements is the one Simpson used. Scholastic UK didn’t consider the case strong enough to pursue.

I consulted Jonathan Bailey, who runs a very informative site called plagiarismtoday.com.

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What do you mean? I rearranged the words…

 I would love to have a little talk with Paul Simpson, author of The Rough Guide to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, a title in the Rough Guides Reference Series, published in 2007 by Rough Guides, a division of Penguin in the UK and of Penguin Putnam in the US.  First I’d sit him down and we would visit How to Recognize Plagiarism, a service of the School of Education, Indiana University where we would look at its fine collection of examples of plagiarized passages, paying particular attention to what is and isn’t a paraphrase.

Then we would open my book, The Elements of His Dark Materials (Niles, IL: Fell, 2006), and the US edition of his and compare a few passages. I’d take three highlighters and mark exact copying in blue, near exact in green, and close substitutions in pink. Look how colorful the passages become! Unfortunately, this doesn’t allow me to mark the similarities in sentence structure, but it will do.

Elements 255: Mrs Coulter reaches for Metatron’s hand as she leads him toward the abyss, but there is nothing for her to grasp, even though the angel seems to yearn for physical contact with a woman. Moments later,Metatron delivers skull crushing blows and experiences great pain when Coulter stabs her fingers into his eyes.

Rough Guide 54: When Mrs Coulter reaches for Metatron’s hand near the abyss, there is nothing to grasp. Yet the dusty regent is soon delivering a few skullcrushing blows and cries out in pain when Mrs. Coulter stabs his eyes with her fingers.

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