Chris Anderson’s “Free” — A Case of Plagiarism

Free by Chris Anderson
Free by Chris Anderson

Some of you may have been following the mini whirlwind around the publication of Chris Anderson’s new Book: Free: The Future of a Radical Price. There is a great review of this silly book in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell.  Anderson is editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine .  In Free, he appears to be arguing against artists, musicians and writers who are so  insolent, audacious and out of step with the values of the  New Economy and Web 2.0,  that they continue to use the outdated paradigms of  actually expecting to be  paid for their work.  He seems to believe that intellectual property inexorably is moving toward being free. 

Well — apparently Mr. Anderson practices what he preaches –plagiarism, that is. After all, it is free. There is an article and a review in the Virginia Quarterly from June 23 that shows that Anderson included material without attribution that was lifted  (mostly)  from Wikipedia. The reviewer, Waldo Jaquith, found several dozen examples of direct and unattributed material.

Anderson wrote a rejoinder to Gladwell in his Wired Blog. He was shocked that Gladwell could simplify his thought so. In the blog, he didn’t mention his reliance on unattributed sources (if you can even call Wikipedia a source).

After the Virginia Quarterly exposed him, of course he cried crocodile tears and made his mea culpa. See New York Times.

 You can download his entire book for free off of Scribd. He will be doing this until August 10. Nice guy, huh? A man who practices what he preaches.

 Well, not exactly, no. Think about it. He isn’t giving it away for free. He has already been paid. According to Publisher’s Marketplace, Anderson received an advance of $500,000 for his previous book, The Long Tail.  The advance for Free is not recorded in the data base. Presumably, the advance was significant. So Anderson has nothing really to lose by posting it for free on Scribd. He has been paid and probably, a pretty penny. 

 Since Anderson believes that ideas should be free, and since  he has sold his ideas for considerably more, perhaps he should contribute some of this surplus and undeserved income  to –hmm — maybe  The Author’s Guild. After all, writers have a right to be paid for their work, don’t they? 

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5 Responses to “Chris Anderson’s “Free” — A Case of Plagiarism”

  1. howpublishingreallyworks Says:

    I feel very strongly about plagiarism. It’s all very well for people who want access to the work of others to say it should be distributed for free: but if writers are expected to do that, how are they meant to earn their living? It’s just not realistic.

    I blogged about plagiarism earlier this week and suggested that bloggers who focus on writing and publishing could participate in an anti-plagiarism day. I’ve nominated Friday 17 July as an appropriate date. I’d be grateful if you’d consider taking part too.

  2. andyrossagency Says:

    It sounds like a good idea to me. And I will read your blog.

  3. Patricia Says:

    Great post, as usual!

  4. Book Banning at Amazon.com « Ask the Agent Says:

    […] have spoken in an earlier blog entry about the unfortunate tendency of Internet Culture to devalue the worth of intellectual work.  But […]

  5. Amazon v. MacMillan: The End of the Affair « Ask the Agent Says:

    […] And then there is this  notion that “information wants to be free”. We have discussed this in a previous blog entry about the book, Free by Chris Anderson. […]

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