Apparent plagiarism in Anderson book Free


I don’t see the irony that others see in the revelation that Wired editor Chris Anderson has seemingly lifted vast swaths of content from Wikipedia (and other sources) for his new book Free.

Anderson has been a vocal proponent of open-source content. In fact, he argues that a new economy is emerging — one based on value-added components to free goods and services. “There are dozens of ways that media companies make money around free content,” he stated in his influential Wired article Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business.

So the fact that he used free content in what will (still) likely be a highly profitable book isn’t surprising. The subject matter might even excuse the fact that he used Wikipedia as a primary source, even though numerous people have commented that their profs would have failed them for doing the same thing.

However, his apparent failure to attribute the content is another matter.

Wikipedia encourages users to republish the content. But it clearly sets out the terms of copyright, which includes attribution. Anderson argued he and his publisher removed footnotes late in the editing process and he neglected to rephrase the passages in his own words. But editors at the Virginia Quarterly Review, including Waldo Jaquith, found nearly a dozen passages reproduced nearly word-for-word from uncredited sources.

That’s not an editing error. It’s a textbook blatant case of plagiarism.

As fellow VQR editor Jacob Silverman states:

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 … 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.

Too bad. I was looking forward to the book.


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