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June 24, 2009

Free by Chris Anderson plagiarized?

free by chris anderson plagiarismFile under: Author behaving badly. And: Irony of ironies. 

Chris Anderson's book The Long Tail described how the Internet is shaking up the distribution model of established companies, and won him a following as an astute observer of business trends. But now he has acknowledged lifting large chunks of material for his follow-up book, Free, which argues that companies may ultimately profit by giving products away.

The source of the material: Wikipedia.

The problem was spotted -- and described in meticulous detail -- by The Virginia Quarterly Review. Anderson says the problem was inadvertant (where have I heard that before?) and due to a last-minute decision to eliminate footnotes. He told VQR that he tried to add attributions or rewrite passages where needed, but did not get them all.

Maybe this is just an inevitable outcome from the mind-meld that gave us The Long Tail. While writing that book, Anderson used an online audience to vet his findings, so he already had a pretty fluid take on the concept of authorship. Watch out for that slippery slope, Chris!

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 10:20 AM | | Comments (2)


I don't know which bothers me more with plagiarism. The lack of morality in stealing somebody's work or the stupidity involved in thinking you won't get caught.

What sensible author would ever use Wiki-freakin-pedia® for their research, either? While I occasionally resort to wikipedia for random blurbs on things, I would never use it as a substantiated source for any type of research, whether it be a novel or a high school research paper!

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About the blogger
Dave Rosenthal came to The Baltimore Sun as a business reporter in 1987 and now is the Maryland Editor. He reads a wide range of books (but never as many as he'd like), usually alternating between non-fiction and fiction. Some all-time favorites: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole; Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; and anything by Calvin Trillin or John McPhee. He belongs to a book club with a Jewish theme.
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