Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Plagiarism Charge Hits Television Personality

An author of a celiac disease book accused television talk show co-host, Elisabeth Hasselbeck of plagiarism in a lawsuit filed June 22 ("'View' Co-Host Hasselbeck Accused of Plagiarism," New York Times report from an Associated Press story, June 23, 2009). Susan Hassett, author of Living with Celiac Disease sent Hasselbeck a copy of the book after the co-host of "The View" mentioned that she had the disease last year. Hasselbeck's book, The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide was published this year and Hassett cites "lists and passages" from her earlier book that have been found in the 2009 book. Also, incorrect information about celiac disease was included in Hasselbeck's book. Hassett's lawsuit aims to stop the sale of the latest book.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are celebrity authors unfairly targeted in plagiarism claims? Or do celebrity authors not possess sufficient expertise on a subject in many cases, so they feel the need to borrow freely from other authors without attribution?
  2. Hassett mentions that Hasselbeck included "lists and passages" from the earlier book by Hassett. The United States Copyright Office at the Library of Congress notes what is not covered by copyright on page 3 of their Copyright Basics web page (PDF format). Unless the "lists" she mentions include added descriptions or explanations, they may not be protected under copyright. Do you think all information (including lists) in an author's work should be protected under copyright law? Why or why not?
  3. Many popular books (in contrast to scholarly research studies) don't include lists of sources in the text of the book or in a bibliography at the end of the book. Should all books list sources used in preparation of that published work? Why or why not?

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