After questions regarding passages in the romance novels of Cassie Edwards that contain strong echoes of books published earlier began circulating through the book-blog’s romance circles earlier this week, Signet has issued an official response, invoking a combination of what I like to think of as “the Ian McEwan defense” and “the Dan Brown defense.” That is: We all draw inspiration from books we’ve read, and you can’t copyright an idea. “Signet takes plagiarism seriously, and would act swiftly were there justification for such allegations against one of its authors,” says a Signet spokesperson in response to a query from another blogger (which I didn’t see posted there yet, otherwise I’d link to it).
“But in this case Ms. Edwards has done nothing wrong,” the letter continues. “The copyright fair-use doctrine permits reasonable borrowing and paraphrasing of another author’s words, especially for the purpose of creating something new and original. Also, anyone may use facts, ideas and theories developed by another author, as well as any material in the public domain. Ms. Edwards’s researched historical novels are precisely the kinds of original, creative works that this copyright policy promotes.”
Then there’s the “it’s only a novel” line of reasoning: “Although it may be common in academic circles to meticulously footnote every source and provide citations or bibliographies, even though not required by copyright law,” the statement concludes, “such a practice is virtually unheard of for a popular novel aimed at the consumer market.” True, but one might observe that most authors take advantage of the opportunity an acknowledgments section offers to give props to inspirational source material.