No need to bother with publisher due diligence at the time of publication. Let’s just chuck it out there and rake in the moolah and hope no-one notices. If they do, smile sweetly and agree to review sources and make corrections after the fact.
The UK Labour Party’s opposition shadow chancellor has been caught with her hand in the till, making money off plagiarised content, but not to worry. Well revise future editions and pretend it didn’t happen, says her publisher, that admits to this being a regular thing.
Basic Books is the publisher in question, Rachel Reeves the shadow chancellor. They together published a book, The Women Who Made Modern Economics, that despite research assistants doing the donkey work, managed to a lift material from multiple sources without so much as an acknowledgement.
Were this a book produced with AI, the industry would be up in arms, citing this is further proof of the impending end of civilisation as we know it, and casting the artificial author and the very real publisher as criminals. AI cannot be trusted. Only humans may publish, because of course humans embody integrity and always respect copyright.
Enter, stage left, the shadow chancellor with her book that, by belated self-admission, contains no original research and not much in the way of original sentence structure.
Again, if this were an AI-produced book we would demanding the book be removed from sale. But it’s one set of rules for humans, another for AI.
To be fair, Reeves is getting some harsh coverage from the media, although because of her political status more than her act of plagiarism which by the way she vehemently denies. Copying and pasting other authors’ work and passing it off as your own? That’s not plagiarism. They were just “mistakes,” Reeves explains with a straight face, no doubt mentally sending a memo to her team of researchers to fire them for landing her in the shit.
Researchers and ghost-writers committing crimes? No problem. Getting caught in the act? Sadly, 2020s UK politics is so awash with corruption and scandal, and criminal acts by politicians have become so normalised (don’t even ask for a list of ongoing examples – this is an essay, not a book), that a mealy-mouthed apology accompanied by a defiant “I’m proud of what I did” is considered okay.
Reeves publisher explained, per the Financial Times, as reported by The Bookseller, that material copied from other sources “should have been rewritten and properly referenced”, before casually adding (don’t laugh, this is for real!) “At no point did Rachel seek to present these facts as original research. When factual sentences were taken from primary sources, they should have been rewritten and properly referenced. We acknowledge this did not happen in every case. As always in instances such as these, we will review all sources and ensure any omissions are rectified in future reprints.”
“As always in instances such as these…“? WTF? So this is routine policy? No need to bother with publisher due diligence at the time of publication. Let’s just chuck it out there and rake in the moolah and hope no-one notices. If they do, smile sweetly and agree to review sources and make corrections after the fact.
As for the author. She’s proud to be a plagiarist. “Hey, I’m part of the British political system. Dishonesty and seeing how much we can get away with is a badge of honour.“
Okay, she didn’t say that, even is she was probably thinking it. But what she did say amounts to the same thing.
Rachel Reeves: “Obviously, I had research assistants on the book, but I take responsibility for everything that is in that book. But for me, what I wanted to do is to bring together the stories of these women. And if I’m guilty of copying and pasting some facts about some amazing women and turning it into a book that gets read, then I’m really proud of that.”
Pass me the sick-bag.
“Obviously, I had research assistants.” Well, yes, of course obviously. Which author doesn’t? So let’s put the blame clearly on them, while nobly taking responsibility and pocketing the advance and royalties for sales already made.
And of course, being guilty of copying and pasting material without source acknowledgements and passing it off as your own work is most definitely something to be proud of. No matter that certain AI companies are currently in court for (allegedly) doing exactly that. One law for high-profile humans, another for AI.
But let me end this post with a quote from the UK’s Tory tabloid newspaper the Express. Not something I’ve ever done before, and likely it will never happen again, but the Express appears to have an angle other reportage missed, and delivers it so pithily I really must, with proper acknowledgement, copy and paste here:
“Ironically, one of the book’s themes is about women not receiving credit for their work or ideas.”