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Apparent Plagiarism in Chris Anderson’s Free

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 23, 2009

Chris Anderson’s new book, Free, will be out early next month (you can order it for $17.81 on Amazon). Over on the VQR blog, Waldo Jaquith discovered that several passages in the book were lifted directly from Wikipedia and other sources without attribution.

These instances were identified after a cursory investigation, after I checked by hand several dozen suspect passages in the whole of the 274-page book. This was not an exhaustive search, since I don’t have access to an electronic version of the book. Most of the passages, but not all, come from Wikipedia.

In response to a query by Jaquith — bloggers take note — sent *before* the publication of the piece, Anderson took responsibility for the copied passages, saying that they were “notes” that were originally footnoted:

This all came about once we collapsed the notes into the copy. I had the original sources footnoted, but once we lost the footnotes at the 11th hour, I went through the document and redid all the attributions […] Obviously in my rush at the end I missed a few of that last category, which is bad. As you’ll note, these are mostly on the margins of the book’s focus, mostly on historical asides, but that’s no excuse. I should have had a better process to make sure the write-through covered all the text that we not directly sourced.

Anderson’s publisher, Hyperion, considers his response to be satisfactory and will correct the errors in future editions.