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Penguin Going to Court on Plagiarism Charges

The long and grinding wheels of justice are finally about to find fruition in court, as literary editor Sam Leith reports on his blog for the Daily Telegraph. Back in 1994, Stu Silverstein decided to put together a miscellany of Dorothy Parker‘s uncollected verse. He selects and edits the book himself, gives untitled poems titles and does all the other things associated with editing a volume of poetry. After a round of submission to publishers, Penguin‘s offer comes in at $2000 and unsatisfied, Silverstein goes with Scribner. The book is published as NOT MUCH FUN.

Which is an apt descriptor of what happens next, for when Penguin’s Complete Poems of Dorothy Parker appears, the Uncollected section is essentially a verbatim copy of Silverstein’s book – down to editing errors and the titles he gave untitled poems. There’s not a whisper of attribution, either, says Leith, even though one of Penguin’s editors later tells the court she, quite literally, photocopied NOT MUCH FUN in preparing Penguin’s edition. A lawsuit is filed, and there’s much back and forth over the next 13 years, with Silverstein winning most of the battles but losing the most recent in the Court of Appeals.

And so, on July 17 at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse here in Manhattan, Silverstein will indeed have his day in court as his lawyers and Penguin’s face off in front of Judge John F. Keenan.

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