The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle -- Part V (post 1)
The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle
Contents, Part V: The brawl: The FanFiction.Net forums; FanFiction.Net moderators' journals; ParadigmOfUncertainty; The SugarQuill forums; cassie_and_rhysenn and HP_Fanfiction; Email: Michela Ecks and Pamela Dean
plagiarize: verb take (the work or idea of someone else) and pass it off as one’s own.
— DERIVATIVES plagiarism noun plagiarist noun plagiarizer noun.
— ORIGIN from Latin plagiarius ‘kidnapper’, from Greek plagion ‘a kidnapping’.
pastiche: noun an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another work, artist, or period.
— DERIVATIVES pasticheur /pastishör/ noun.
— ORIGIN Italian pasticcio, from Latin pasta ‘paste’.
--Definitions taken from the Compact Oxford English Dictionary.
Part V: The brawl
I've tried organizing this section in several different ways-- who said what when-- but there's a fundamental flaw in my strategy. I'm trying to impose organization on a fandom brawl lasting several days that spread over many different sites and many different mailing lists. So, in the end, I'll lead you through it in the order I remember seeing it.
The FanFiction.Net forums no longer exist. The relevant posts on GAFF and the old SugarQuill Forums are lost; I can't access them directly, and they don't appear in the Wayback Machine as far as I can tell.
More recently, almost all posts dated June 23, 2001 on the ParadigmOfUncertainty list have been deleted or screened. The cassie_and_rhysenn list has been renamed "Rhysenn"
and all message archives are locked and only accessible by list moderators
. ETA: Rhysenn has posted below that she has unlocked the archive (thank you); posts from 6/23 to 6/26 are missing.
There may also be missing posts on the Harry Potter for Grown-ups list, but I couldn't find those last year when I was researching the incident on mailing lists, so I assume that deletion is of much longer standing.
I will usually be reproducing the full text of posts where I have it available rather than be accused of twisting a line out of context. I will bold the specific lines I want to draw attention to. With the exception of posts from the hpslash and Glass_Onion lists, all posts are from lists which had no age restrictions and required no moderator approval to join at the time of the incident. These are: HP_FanFiction, cassie_and_rhysenn, HP_Paradise, ParadigmOfUncertainty, and Ranting_page.ETA:
I had assumed that the missing posts had been screened and were available to the list moderators, but Lori has confirmed that she cannot see the missing posts on ParadigmOfUncertainty. At this point, I presume the missing posts on cassie_and_rhysenn and ParadigmOfUncertainty have been permanently deleted. I am sorry to hear that; I had hoped it would be possible to make them available again.
The FanFiction.Net forums
On the morning of June 23, 2001, I went to FanFiction.Net and looked in the forums. They were already steeped in chaos.
Several threads had been opened demanding that FanFiction.Net reinstate Cassandra Claire. Debates raged; I believe I posted in two of them-- one in response to someone who, as I recall, was angry that everyone cared about "some old book whose copyright had expired." In another post (or perhaps the same one), I linked to a comment Nora Roberts had made about being plagiarized by Janet Dailey.
Heidi also appeared on the forums to argue copyright law. In various forums (including this one), she said that plagiarism was never mentioned in copyright law, and generally argued (as I recall), that the FanFiction.Net moderators were foolish to delete Cassandra Claire's account because all material on the site was equally infringing.
Someone posted content from Meimi's LiveJournal
on the forums (her post is now
locked ETA: deleted
), and others may have linked to or posted content from Cairnsy's LiveJournal as well.
The FanFiction.Net moderators closed down the threads, declared the discussion closed, and then continued to close down new threads on the subject.
FanFiction.Net moderators' journals
From the FanFiction.Net forums, I went to Cairnsy and Meimi's LiveJournals. Cairnsy's post
is still available (ETA:
Cairnsy has locked
Cassandra Claire has been found guilty of plagerism, her account at Fanfiction.net has been deleted.
Let the flames begin.
An anonymous poster posted a reply
< /lurk >
They know. And Cassie knows. They're posting about it on the PoU list.
Cairnsy asked what they were saying. I went to look myself.
One of the first things I did on ParadigmOfUncertainty was go to the Files section. Imagine my surprise to see a new version of chapter 9 of Draco Sinister
had been posted. The disclaimers now mentioned Pamela Dean by name but still referenced the wrong book-- The Secret Country
, not The Hidden Land
. The change was immediately apparent because the posting date of the file had changed and now read "6/23/2001."
I looked at the messages. There were questions about where Cassandra Claire's writing had gone and a response by Heidi saying they were looking into it.
Michela Ecks had posted to the list in reply, saying that Cassandra Claire had been blacklisted for plagiarism. Her post also contained the full plagiarized text from my email to Cairnsy, slightly mangled, apparently due to having been received over an AIM chat with Meimi. (A similar post by Michela Ecks can be seen here,
about halfway down the page.) She was summarily banned from ParadigmOfUncertainty shortly thereafter.
Cassandra Claire posted herself (PoU 9368, this post is now deleted or screened):
I don't really know what to say yet, since I just woke up (Heidi
called me to tell me about my being blacklisted.) All I can say is
that beyond neverhiding the fact that quotes in the stories are taken
from Buffy, Monty Python, Red Dwarf, and so on, I've clearly stated
it in my disclaimers for the stories, there have been multiple (and
in-depth) discussions on PoU about the quotes with people having fun
identifying them, and I even have an unofficial quote-nabbing game
with some of my fellow authors (I won't name names for fear of having
them suddenly blacklisted, but they are some of the most popular and
respected HP authors out there)-- "I want this quote from Buffy/Red
Dwarf/Babylon 5! You can't have it!" and so on. As for The Secret
Country, I also stated in my disclaimer that Draco's trip to the
afterlife was an homage to Pamela Dean, and a friend of hers (Pamela
Dean's) wrote me after I posted it nd said she loved the homage,
thought it was great. There was some discussion of Dean's books on
the PoU list as well afterwards. I was planning to do some crossover
stuff with it down the line. Although at the moment it looks like
there might not be a down the line.
Ditto the fact that some of the fencing scenes are homages to the
Amber chronicles (Corwin's signature fencing move is Draco's) simply
seemed to me a homage, especially since it was disclaimered and
discussed on list. I have referenced countless authors and TV shows,
there's no way I could count them all, but I do believe they've all
been mentioned in my disclaimers. I have to ask myself, if the
problem was not strong enough disclaimering (is that a word?), why
didn't they contact me in any way and ask me to beef up the
disclaimers? I would happily have done so.
I am rather wondering how the list feels about my continuing to post
DS here. Are you greatly bothered by the blacklisting, etc? If so, I
shall happily retire gracefully. - Cassandra Claire (PoU 9368; The majority of this post was reproduced by the anonymous poster on Cairnsy's journal here)
There was a tremendous outpouring of support on the list; her fans didn't want her to stop posting. Two examples:
Please don't retire! Please! I love DD and DS, they are both such
magnificent fics, and I loved the lines from Buffy and all that. I
always loved trying to figure out what episode they were from. And
many of these lines, original or not, I have never heard before and
think they were hilarious. Who cares if you lifted a couple?
Everybody at ff.net does that. Heck, I'm sure I've done that! No,
please no graceful retiring, I know all of us have been waiting for
the continuation of DS far too long. Don't let the jerks at ff.net
get you down--just post it here at the list. We won't blacklist you,
promise. Cassie, I have been waiting weeks and weeks for this story--
please don't get discouraged and not post it. We still love you.
~FleurHartz~ (PoU 9378)
I'm disgusted to hear this! I've read all of the DS and DDs, and I love them!
It's insane. Fanfiction is pulling their usual bullshit. Everyone borrows
stuff- this is completely irrate. I really think that deep behind this is the
fact that Cassie's name became parellel to FanFiction.net, and some people
(ahem, Xing, ahem) couldn't handle it. (PoU 9380; I did not write down the name of this poster, for which I apologize. I can no longer view the original post to rectify that omission. If this is your post, please tell me and I will alter this document to credit you.)
Thereafter, several posters were thrilled that fans were fighting on the FanFiction.Net forums. They cheered Heidi on. Cassandra Claire posted again:
I agree with Barbara and with several others who have posted about
the need for moderation.
I appreciate enormously the outpouring of support, and the
confirmation that you will all still be reading DS and DV on this
list as they come out. I appreciate it more than you know, but I see
no reason to send hate mail or post angry posts in my defense on
ff.net or anywhere else. I also, while I appreciate the thought, see
no need for a petition to reinstate me to ff.net. I do not wish to be
reinstated there, and frankly there is little chance of it happening.
They have taken a stance, and while many consider it to be an
unjustified stance, they cannot now back down from it without looking
stupid. Also, it is their site, and their right, to boot me in
whichever manner they pleased. If they had booted me for
misspelling "Weasley" there is nothing I could or would do about it.
If this is the way they run their site, I frankly don't wish to be a
part of it. I appreciate the actions of the authors who have taken
down their own stories to show solidarity -- schnoogles to Heidi,
Ebony, Alicia/Sue and others.
I am not planning on changing the style in which I write my stories,
or ceasingto include homages and references where I wish
to. "Plaigarism" is, by dictionary definition, borrowing work from a
source and passing it off as your own. I have borrowed quotes, and
quite intentionally paraphrased that scene from Pamela Dean, and was
quite clear in stating that I was doing so. I was *not* passing off
the Buffy quotes or any other reference as my own work (as anyone on
this list clearly and surely knows.) However, as far as ff.net is
concerned (from what I can tell) they do not care that I clearly
cited the works I borrowed from. As far as they are concerned, that
doesn't matter. (I don't know what this says about songfics, where
huge chunks of copyrighted lyrics are reprinted, often with very
little fic around them -- but it's not my business to make the rules.)
I say let's let it go. The actions and attitudes of ff.net, which I
have found an unpleasant place at the best of times, have made it
quite clear to me that I no longer wish to be a part of that
community. (That's it's mutual helps. ) I am quite happy to
continue distributing DS and DV here, and on C and R and on HP
Fanfiction. I happen to disagree strongly with the position they've
taken here, and they way they chose to take it, but they are free to
make whatever rules they like. It's their site. However if
there's one thing I've learned from our beloved HP books, it's that
following arbitrary rules is not necessarily going to get you
Cassie (PoU 9432)
Colin posted a response as well:
Dear Members of HP_Paradise and ParadigmOfUncertainty-
During the past six months or more, I have read and thoroughly enjoyed the fics
of Cassandra Claire. After what's happened today, I don't know what to do-I'm
torn between staying or leaving ff.net forever. I think it's terrible that a)
Cassie was not even sent an email beforehand-why didn't they give her a chance
to alter/remove the chapter in question? and b) She stated quite clearly at the
beginning AND the end of the chapter that she had used Pamela Dean's novel as
But there is something I feel I should get off my chest-I knew that this was
going to happen before it did. I mean, I didn't think they'd go THIS far, but I
was aware that Cassie had been reported to the ff.net staff. Feel free to email
me about who it was...but I won't tell you. I gave the person my word I wouldn't
I really hope that no one hates me now...please, if you had an opinion of me in
the first place, don't let this affect it. I feel awful now, and I hope Cassie
won't be angry at me...I don't think she will, as she's handled this situation
with AMAZING calmness...but nevertheless I feel as if I should've done
I'm also debating whether or not to remove my fics from ff.net...I want to help
the cause. What does everyone think?
"If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life."
"Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the show?"
--Anon. (PoU 9443; Colin crossposted this to the HP_Paradise Yahoo! group, and it can still be viewed there as HPP 1505)
Colin was flamed as a result of his apology post. Some of this can still be seen on the HP_Paradise list, although the content on ParadigmOfUncertainty has been screened:
Thanks to you, this whole ordeal with Cassie getting banned could've
been avoided. From your message above, it seems as if your friend and
you were conspiring against Cassie, seeming as your friend *made* you
promise not to tell her. You positively *knew* that your friend was
reporting her and yet you didn't drop her a little note that could've
saved her membership and could've stopped a lot of very good authors
from leaving ff.n. Oh, and don't forget all the debates and flame-
wars going on in the discussion lists and in the ff.n HP forum. I
wonder if maybe your Peter Pettigrew's brother...
:::spits in your face before stalking off:::
***D~M~L***, who is feeling thoroughly disgusted. (HPP 1508)
He later clarified that he had only learned about the plagiarism report two hours before the deletion of Cassandra Claire's account:
That's not it at ALL. I never conspired against Cassie, and this
person isn't a "friend"...I only just met her yesterday! There isn't
anything I could've done, though I wish I would've notified Cassie.
If I HAD said something, though, it would've been too late, as I only
found out about two hours before it happened.(HPP 1511)
As I recall, Colin later went on to create banners and buttons declaring his support for Cassandra Claire.
Colin's response-- in particular, "She stated quite clearly at the beginning AND the end of the chapter that she had used Pamela Dean's novel as inspiration"-- made me angry enough to respond:
>I have borrowed quotes, and
> quite intentionally paraphrased that scene from Pamela Dean, and
> quite clear in stating that I was doing so.
I have a few things to point out here, and don't really care if it
gets me flamed (which it almost certainly will).
As of today, you have re-uploaded DS chapter 9, and now the author's
note at the beginning and end of the chapter now says the following:
Credit for the inspiration for this conception of the wizarding
afterlife goes to a book called The Secret Country – written by
Before today, the author's note said this (at the end of the chapter
only, the one at the beginning only mentioned Pratchett):
NB: Credit for the inspiration for this conception of the wizarding
afterlife goes to a book called The Secret Country, alas, I no longer
recall who wrote it.
A few points:
*The book isn't The Secret Country, it's The Hidden Land.
*If you intentionally paraphrased the scene, why did you get (and
still have) the book title wrong and why did you say you didn't know
who wrote it?
*If it's paraphrased, why don't you say that instead of
Based on that, I can see why it's felt that your disclaimer is not
clear enough. Even with a disclaimer, you can't legally take that
much out without the author's permission. If you have it, say so.
You say you're a journalist, Cassie, and Heidi's an intellectual
property attorney. You must both be familiar with the fact that
Janet Dailey was accused of plagiarizing Nora Roberts a few years ago
(initially based on a few paragraphs in Notorious, but expanded on
further investigation). It was settled out of court.
Here's what Nora Roberts had to say about it:
(Scroll to the bottom of the page to read her reaction. Her fans'
reactions make for interesting reading too.)
Look, the thing is that even if every other word is entirely
original, it makes people wonder.
One other thing on the topic-- a few months ago I remember there
being a series of posts on one of the mailing lists you (CC) post on,
talking about an author on ff.net who people thought had plagiarized
a few paragraphs out of DD/DS. "She should be banned!" people
said. "How could she think she'd get away with plagiarizing someone
as famous as Cassandra Claire (not that it would be any better if it
were a lesser-known author)?"
This is out of a published novel. Why is the situation somehow
-Stealth (PoU 9448, I previously referenced the existence of this post in this thread)
As previously noted, I already knew
other text from Pamela Dean's novels had been incorporated when making this post.
In the "swing and miss" category, the direct response to my post was someone saying that they now understood they'd been too negative about plagiarism from Cassandra Claire's Draco Trilogy and should have been more sympathetic.
There was a post on the subject by AngieJ/Ebony:
Cassie was not given due process. At all.
On top of that, the nature of the allegations are in direct conflict
with the very nature of fanfiction. I'm an English teacher.
Plagiarism (see, I can spell it!) bothers me and bothers me badly.
Yet I write fanfiction.
This, my friends, is a case of those with bloody hands casting the
first stone. - Ebony (excerpt from PoU 9480; read more of this post here. I did not save the full content.)
Lori, the list owner, also commented (note that I have made two alterations to this post: (1) Colin's last name, which appeared in the original post, has been removed and replaced with XXXXXX; (2) Lori's signature block, which contained her last name, has been removed)
It's been a few days since I could check my email, so I'm only now hearing
about all this.
I will post one and only one opinion and statement on this issue and then I
consider the matter closed.
I was shocked and upset to hear of Cassie's blacklisting. Cassie is a dear
friend to me and I love her writing, so naturally I was angry at this
attack upon her. However, as has been pointed out, the staff of
fanfiction.net is a private organization and is therefore under no
obligation to act in a rational manner. The existence of far more
plagiaristic stories on that site that go unharassed leads me to suspect
that Cassie's popularity might have something to do with this issue. I
hope that's not true, because I might be next, or Carole. I fear for the
safety of any story where these are the criteria.
I have considered pulling my own stories or not posting further chapters.
I've come to the conclusion that such an action would accomplish nothing.
I don't consider ff.net to have a monopoly on my fiction, and it's
therefore unimportant enought not to warrant action.
I don't think anyone should worry about the safety of this list or any of
our stories posted here. There has been fanfiction for twenty years online
and some of it has been far more high profile than ours. No worries.
And now, a warning from Mean Lori. The next person who flames Colin
XXXXXX, as far as I'm concerned, should be summarily booted off this list.
If you cannot respect someone else's position, then you don't belong in a
civilized society. Judge not lest you yourself be judged. And that means
you. Scold over.
I support Cassie 100%. I do not believe she is guilty of plagiarism in any
way, shape or form. I am dismayed by this attack on her, but I know it's
out of our hands.
At this point, the discussion was essentially declared closed on PoU.
The SugarQuill forums
There was some conflict on the old SugarQuill forums related to this incident; unfortunately, it does not appear to be archived in the Wayback machine.
- Michela Ecks complained that she had been banned from the ParadigmOfUncertainty list (Cassandra Claire was to later confirm that she was responsible)
- Cairnsy suggested (either there or elsewhere) that the lists were banning people who disagreed with them
- Heidi suggested Cairnsy was guilty of libel for claiming that people were being banned for disagreeing.
- Heidi made several posts on copyright law on the SugarQuill boards.
The libel accusation on the SugarQuill-- as well as Heidi's posts there (and elsewhere) claiming that the passage was not
plagiarism nor even copyright infringement-- led to Michela Ecks contacting Heidi's law firm. In her posts, Heidi specifically mentioned several times that she was an intellectual property attorney, and, on mailing lists, she frequently used her work email to post her opinions.
Heidi mentions this on Fandom_Wank's Greatest Hits here
Oh, and speaking of the Sugarquill boards, did you save copies of the
post(s) I made there that inspired you to email the law firm I was
then an associate with, when you asked them whether it was appropriate
for an attorney to go online and discuss the copyright and the fact
that plagiarism, as a word, isn't included in it? I'd love to have it
for my archives.
As well as here
Please don't take any hatred against me out on Cassie. She didn't know I was posting my comments last month and she doesn't know what I'm posting now. I have my own grudge against Michela, and it entirely stems out of the fact that in the week or so after Cassiegate, she emailed my law firm to complain about the fact that I was posting things like the definition of plagiarism and the contents of the Copyright Act on various websites (and other than on FFN, it was with the webmasters' permission).
Michela Ecks made two comments
about contacting Heidi's law firm. In her opinion, Heidi was giving legal advice on the internet. This legal advice was in direct contrast to Heidi's past statements about the legality of fanfiction and all other legal opinion that Michela Ecks had seen regarding fanfiction.
Further, Michela took Heidi's statements that Cairnsy was committing libel as threats.
In essence, the accusation (which Cassandra Claire would also make) is that Michela brought real life into a fandom matter. This is the full background.
cassie_and_rhysenn and HP_FanFiction
The discussion was declared closed on ParadigmOfUncertainty on June 23, 2001, but it remained open on cassie_and_rhysenn. Michela Ecks had crossposted the message showing the plagiarized text to cassie_and_rhysenn, which, as I recall, was the first post on the subject on the list.
There was another post by Cassandra Claire on C&R declaring herself mystified (Michela Ecks posted excerpts from it on FWGH
), but the next main phase of the argument took place on HP_FanFiction.
On June 24, 2001, Flourish (then on-staff at FanFiction.Net) posted a statement to HP_Paradise and HP_FanFiction (her signature removed):
All right, in response to the entire Cassie thing (this is what I
posted to HP_P, and it may not entirely apply here, but frankly I'm
too frazzled to post anything more coherent):
First of all, I would like to let everyone know that I
had no idea this was happening. Please do not blame me
for it because I am on fanfiction.net staff. I was not
consulted and didn't even know that it was an issue.
Secondly, I think that anybody who dares to judge
Colin in this matter is basically being a JERK. Colin
couldn't have done anything without betraying his new
friend. He was really put between a rock and a hard
place, and he handled it the best he knew how... so
lay off. He admitted that he knew, which was really,
Thirdly, I think that Cassie, Heidi, and Ebony have
all handled the situation very well and maturely (LOL,
they're old enough to know how to behave themselves,
hehehehehehehe), and I hope that everyone on this list
follows their example. If you're pissed at
fanfiction.net, don't send hate mail or flame people
who are still on ff.n. Just calmly LEAVE. LOL.
I am going to stay on staff at fanfiction.net and hope
that nobody will harass me for my decision. I also
hope that I can influence certain people (who are less
than diplomatic, I must say) to change their policy
about informing people who will be booted.
Less than an hour later, Michela Ecks posted a long essay to the HP_FanFiction list and to others as well:
I've decided to retreat from the Harry Potter fandom, specifically this
mailing list if you're recieving this. To me plagarism is always wrong and
tolerance of it offensive no matter the rational. I would ask that if list
mods desub me because I'm about to go out to visit family for the day.
This is mirrored at http://writersu.s5.com/steal.html for your convience.
I feel silly even having to say this but it needs to be said for the odd
person wandering through who is thinking of
writing the next epic tale.
Plagarism is wrong. Plagarism is theft. Please read.
by Michela Ecks (Laura Hale)
mecks@... or lhale@...
Permission is granted to freely distribute this document so long as the
document and credit remains intact.
On the night of June 22, 2001, Cassandra Claire's edopus "Draco Sinister"
and her other stories were removed from fanfiction.net because one story
had a substantial passage that was lifted from a book by Pamela Dean. There
were insinutations that she had incorporated large chunks of dialogue from
Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Black Adder and Red Dwarf. These were, too my
knowledge, never fully investigated because the Pamela Dean evidence was
enough to prove that Cassandra Claire had plagarized. She was black
Writers University fulls supports and endorses this. Writers University
fully supports and endorses any and all fan sites that
aggreesively seek to prevent, stop or punish known plagarists.
I want to endorse this rationally and on my own at Writers University
because I'm, to a degree, being raked over the coals for this incident.
(HPF 3262, Ranting_page 4)
(As the essay itself is long and is available through the Wayback machine here
, I am not incorporating it.)
As a result of this post-- the first one I had seen taking my side
by someone not a fanfiction.net moderator-- I emailed Michela Ecks. Although these emails overlap with some other discussion, I will describe them elsewhere.
Flourish posted a reply to this thread:
> I certainly welcome any and all discussion either on-list or
> personal e-mail. I will let Yael respond on her own, but I can
> in general, we are on the same page with this.
Thank you, Shay. I agree with what you've been saying entirely.
However, I would like to give Xing's point of view, as he stated in
an e-mail he sent me earlier today:
I have been aware and was part of the removal process. This
knowledged lasted a week of government time and I don't know
before of research by cairnsy and meimi and/or those that
brought it up
Here are the facts:
Cassandra Clair stole entire an entire scene, not just quotables,
Pamela Dean's The Hidden Land book, very obvious and she
just said she
been inspired by The Secret Country trilogy (which The Hidden
of) and that she couldn't remember the author's name. The
inspired. The parts she stole was not annotated and adding the
that she didn't even name the author or the actual book in the
We did not remove her based on our perception of plagerism but
that was blatant plagerism.>>
Personally, I think his reasoning is fine (it's on his shoulders
what the fans do, XD) but one thing: if they were talking about it
for a week, why couldn't they e-mail Cassie & inform her that she
was being blacklisted?
I'm following this up on ff.n.
(HPF 3266; Heidi previously excerpted from Xing's email here)
Flourish also posted Xing's email on PoU, but with the following addendum:
This is, apparently, Xing's position. I accept everything he said -
he does have good reasoning - but WHY in SMEG couldn't he
have informed Cassie that she was being blacklisted?! You
would think that people would be willing to do that, at least. So
I'm following up on getting people who get blacklisted informed.
Hopefully he'll institute a policy of telling people WHY they are
blacklisted and telling them BEFORE he rips them off the site.
-Maddy/Flourish (from PoU 9544)
Colin replied to Flourish's post on HP_FanFiction:
> Personally, I think his reasoning is fine (it's on his shoulders
> what the fans do, XD) but one thing: if they were talking about it
> for a week, why couldn't they e-mail Cassie & inform her that she
> was being blacklisted?
That's exactly what I was thinking. Gah. What odd reasoning!
--Colin (HPF 3267)
On June 25, 2001, the HP_FanFiction list moderator posted an oblique notice:
It is with great regret that we announce the removal of one of our members from
the list. This is not something that we think lightly of, nor this is something
we would like to repeat often.
It has come to our notice that this member took an active part in flaming other
members of this list, among other actions. While we are tolerant towards many
things, we will not tolerate the harming of our members. This is supposed to be
a safe place for writers who want to improve, and we will fight to keep this a
sympathetic environment to veteran and novice writers alike.
We will use this opportunity to urge any other activist in the "Godawful Fan
Fiction" community to please leave this list. We do not see kindly the use you
make of the fiction and announcements posted here.
Included is a copy of the message sent to the removed member:
We have found that your recent actions and words do not agree with the policy of
the HP_Fanfiction list. This list is designed for writers who need encouragement
and support to develop. Your policy of discouraging authors who are not up to
your standards, as well as the use you make of information you obtain on the
list, are unacceptable to us.
Therefore, we respectfully ask you to remove your membership from the list by
June, 26 at 10:00 a.m. GMT. That will give you one day to state your mind in the
matter on the list. After that, if you do not quit the list, your membership
will be terminated.
We hope you understand our stand on this,
Thanks, Shay and Yael (HPF 3285)
At this point, Michela Ecks was banned from the list-- a gesture which seemed largely irrelevant in conjunction with her earlier request that she be unsubscribed.
With that exception, after June 24, 2001, there was relatively little discussion of Cassandra Claire's blacklisting on HP_FanFiction, but the debate continued on cassie_and_rhysenn.
I posted again on C&R on June 25, 2001. My post was in direct response to "Clarissa," but also addressed Cassandra Claire. (I have removed Clarissa's last name from this text and replaced it with "XXXXXX"). Clarissa asked why Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" wasn't also
plagiarism (because it is based on Hamlet and contains lines from Hamlet), and further commented that Stoppard was considered a "genius" (implying that Cassandra Claire was also a genius).
This post is quite long, and shows some confusion on my part between pure plagiarism and copyright infringement. However, for the record:
--- In cassie_and_rhysenn@y..., "Clarissa A. XXXXXX"
>If Mr. Stoppard isn't plagiarizing, how
> is Cassie plagiarizing?
This response is very long. Be warned.
One might point out the following:
*Shakespeare died in the 1600s. Copyright is generally accepted to
expire 50 years after the author's death, at which point the work
enters the public domain. (The same point can be made about Jane
Austen, by the way.)
*Stoppard acknowledges that his work is a reinterpretation of Hamlet
from the point of view of minor characters.
*I suspect that if Stoppard took the text of Hamlet, replaced the
names of the characters, and called it his own work, people might not
accuse him of "plagiarizing" because Shakespeare is in the public
domain. However, I doubt they'd call him a genius.
Consider the differences between these two situations.
*Pamela Dean is very much alive. "The Hidden Land" is currently out
of print but will be re-released sometime in the near future.
*Cassandra Claire did not acknowledge in her original use of the text
the name of the author of the book (although she does in the recently-
- 6/23-- updated file of the chapter), nor did she list the correct
book title. She gave no indication which parts were her own and
which were not.
*She did, in fact, take the text out of the book, cut a few lines,
shorten a few others, and change character names. Which begs the
question, why didn't she list the correct book title and the author?
Look, if we were talking one paragraph here with some similarities, I
would say "unconscious influence." If we were talking a line here
and there or a similar scene with different events, I would
say "homage." When we are talking many paragraphs (and I do not mean
three), events and lines in the same order, exact lines in most
places, same dialogue... I would say:
To get this text matching this closely, you need to have had the book
open in front of you so you could type out of it. That being said,
it is at the very least common courtesy to acknowledge you did that.
And you cannot say, "I was inspired by it" because you
weren't "inspired," you copied it. And you can't list the wrong book
title and say you can't remember who the author is. That *in* *and*
*of* *itself* means that you are claiming that you made it up with
minimal influence of the vague memory of a book you once read that
you no longer remember the title of and the author of. Ergo,
Fanfiction.net has a zero tolerance policy for plagiarism. Read
through the notices and the essays on the site. It's pretty obvious.
Frankly, they have to. Who would put their fanfiction up on an
enormous fanfiction archive if they knew that the people managing the
archive said, "Oh? Someone copied your work? Well, we don't care
about that. You may have put six months effort into it, and the
person copying it may have put in five minutes, but that's OK." Do
you think anyone would use that archive? No, they wouldn't. It
would just be an easy place for people to find stories, copy and
paste them, and pass them off as their own.
As for the frequent complaints I've read about "I've seen all these
*other* stories that plagiarize. Why weren't *they* removed? Why
did fanfiction.net make a target of Cassandra Claire? It must be
that she's too popular and they want to humiliate her."
Let's make a few points here:
*If you've seen other stories that plagiarize and you don't report
them, how is fanfiction.net supposed to know about the plagiary? If
someone reports it, they investigate it, and if they find it to be
true, they delete the account. With a staff of five on the review
board, they don't read everything that goes up. They can't. They
rely on members to police what's up. If you don't report something
that plagiarizes, then it's going to stay up. That's your choice.
*Cairnsy posted on the discussion forum that there were five cases of
plagiarism a week. I suspect that many of those end in the same way
this one did. They're not treating her any differently than they
treat anyone else. You think that the policy in general is wrong?
You think all those who are found guilty deserve a second chance?
OK, fine. But don't expect them to treat Cassandra Claire
differently from the rest of the world just because you like her
*The only way that Cassie's popularity probably figures into this
mess is that it means that she had more readers than a lot of stories
do. That meant if there was a *chunk* of text that was plagiarized
from a somewhat obscure source, it was more likely that she would
have a reader that recognized it. Also, it means that more people
noticed when her account disappeared.
For those of you who think that "They should have told her beforehand
and I bet she would have put a better disclaimer up or deleted the
OK. Great. That's a marvelous theory. But what does the fact that
a passage was taken out of a novel and incorrectly/incompletely
*The author is willing to take text out of someone else's work and
pass it off as her own.
*One clear, provable instance of this has been shown.
*It took many months for a reader to appear that noticed this.
--> There may be other passages in the work that have not yet been
noticed, and will be identified in the future.
Does this mean there *are*? No, it doesn't. In fact, everything
else in Draco Dormiens and Draco Sinister could be original. But
fanfiction.net has no way to prove that is true, and the author
cannot be trusted to indicate what is hers and what is not.
Therefore, the author cannot be trusted to post only original work on
fanfiction.net and should not have an account there.
What most of you don't seem to be thinking about is the following:
imagine *you* spent six months writing a story. It was hard work.
You finished it. You were proud of your work. You posted it.
Sometime later, you're reading through other fanfiction. You read
something and think, "My God! This is exactly what I wrote!" And it
isn't a sentence. It isn't a paragraph. It's several paragraphs and
lines of dialogue. You think, "And, look! This person's being
praised for *my* work! How dare they? Did *they* put the six months
into this that *I* did?" Do you care whether or not there's 500
pages of story around it? Probably not. That was *your* work.
Look, borrowing ideas, borrowing a few scattered quotes, but framing
something very original around them-- that is different. The clear
majority of effort is clearly your own.
For those who say, "Yes, but Draco Sinister is much longer than those
two pages and all of *that* was written by Cassie!" I'll ask-- how
do you know? Because she didn't say it was from anywhere else?
Well, she didn't say those two pages were from somewhere else,
either. So, why are you so sure? And why do you expect
fanfiction.net to believe it? You want to give her a second chance?
OK, but realize not everyone does, and fanfiction.net's policy
says "no second chances."
I *know* this will get me flamed, and not only because it's long.
But think about it, hmm? Try to figure out how you'd want it handled
if you discovered someone were plagiarizing your work, and stop
thinking about this issue as if it were only about one of your
And this is my final word on the matter as well.
-Stealth (C&R 1112, previously excerpted here)
I deliberately mentioned the possibility of more plagiarism in the Draco Trilogy. Once again, no one looked.
I received two emailed responses to this, but nothing onlist (as I recall). This was, for many years, my final public statement on the matter.
Not long after (also June 25), Cassandra Claire responded to a post in the same thread by Caroline/nottoosane. This is similar to her posts on PoU, but no longer claims she was "very clear" about paraphrasing:
--- In cassie_and_rhysenn@y..., Caroline <nottoosane@y...> wrote:
She violated literary ethics and from what I've seen, has still not
admitted to doing anything wrong. I approached this situation with a
good degree of indifference to Cassie, because it seemed very much
like an honest mistake-- her mistake being, not understanding, for
whatever reason, that this particular writing practice of hers was
unacceptable and punishable.
> But twice in the past 24 hours, I've seen her claim to be a
professional author outside of her fandom activities.
> Frankly? Cassie, I think you're either lying about that, or you're
going to get a HUGE wake-up call someday, if you find what you did to
be a legal, acceptable, and sound writing practice and continue to do
it. I am *stunned* that any rational, educated, "professional" adult
would commit such a gross violation of literary standards and, if not
defending it herself, allow so many others to defend her.
*Sigh.* I haven't been doing much self-defending because a)I thought
it was pretty obvious that I'd made a mistake and that I knew it and
b) I don't want a flame war. Which this will turn into. Quickly.
I am actually a professional writer. Of *non-fiction.* Whether you
believe me or not is immaterial. I am a journalist; it's how I make
my living. I also write my own fiction. Do I consider either my
published nonfiction or the original fiction I write to be in any
way, shape or form similar to my fanfic writing? No. Not a chance. Am
I going to work Buffy quotes into my magazine articles? Bloody
unlikely. What the point would be escapes me. Ditto my original
fiction. So the likelihood of a "wake-up call" on those fronts is
I have always seen fanfiction as a venue in which I can do what I
*cannot* do in those other venues -- namely, what Minx called earlier
(and with accuracy, I thought) a "pastiche" --- weaving together
JKR's world with my own plotline, and incorporating bits and pieces
of other fantasy worlds. I'd have to ask you if you've been a member
of the PoU list -- if you were, you'd have seen the discussions that
follow the release of each chapter -- "Oh, that's the swordfighting
bit from Zelazny," "Oh, that's the scene from thus-and-such episode
of Buffy" -- I had never made it any secret that that's what I was
doing, and since fanfiction is by its nature so derivative, and since
I have seen so many other fanfics doing similar things -- pulling
chunks of text from books, rewriting scenes from movies, dozens upon
dozens of quotes from Buffy and Monty Python and Blackadder and so
forth (I even had a sort of unofficial quote-nabbing contest going
with other fanfic writers -- if we found a cool quote we'd claim it
for our next chapter before anyone else snagged it) it really did
seem to me that as long as it was disclaimered, it was fine. As long
as I was clear about what I was doing, it was fine. I used to get
dozens of emails in which readers sent me sources -- sometimes
quotes, sometimes whole pages of text from books or plays --
saying "Cassie, I think you should have Draco say this" or "maybe you
could use this description/place/setting." It seemed to me that my
audience understood what I was doing, or trying to do, with my
fanfiction, and that as long as I was not concealing this from them,
it was all right. As for the Pamela Dean section, when it came out
she was discussed on PoU. People were pointed (not by me) to where on
the web they could download the complete text of her books( now
there's copyright infringment for ya.) So I didn't feel as if I were
trying to hide anything.
I am not saying I don't realize now that I was not correct in my
assumption. I'm just saying that's what I thought, and that I
certainly didn't mean any harm. To anyone.
I know some writers have pulled their work from ff.net to show
solidarity with me. Many others have pulled their work because
they've done the exact same thing I did -- pulled a chunk of text
from another book, paraphrased it, and mentioned it in the
disclaimer. It is easy, with fanfiction being the gray area it is, to
be confused. Now they don't feel safe. So they've pulled their work.
More will probably follow. Because they *are* confused. It *is*
confusing. I've heard from a lot of confused people, so I know.
I am not going to stop writing, but I am also not going to say that I
will not change the way I've been writing. I need to think this over,
talk it over with lawyers, and discuss it with professional authors.
I had even thought of sending the chapter in question over to the
author, Pamela Dean, and asking her if she minded it. Don't think I
haven't been giving this thought, or that I am simply allowing
everyone to rally around me blindly because I feel that I am perfect,
or have made no mistakes. I don't feel that way. And I have asked, on
other lists and I believe on this one as well, that people not send
angry emails to ff.net or rant to the moderators over there on my
behalf. I apologized over on PoU and offered to quit writing and
resign as moderator. I have communicated with friends of the author
in question about what the best thing to do would be. I am not taking
this lightly, but I am also trying not to get into a flame war about
it. If you think I don't feel terrible: rest assured. I feel
terrible. If that isn't enough, perhaps you might wish to continue
this conversation with me off-list, since I *also* feel terrible that
this has taken up so much of the list's time and space.
Cassandra. (C&R 1115, previously excerpted here. The content of this post would also be referenced in a later discussion on the Ranting_page mailing list.)
Shortly thereafter, the discussion was declared closed on cassie_and_rhysenn.
Email: Michela Ecks and Pamela Dean
I received a reply from Michela Ecks. In it, I learned that she had already exchanged email with Pamela Dean. Michela forwarded the emails to me. (Michela no longer has these emails, and I deleted them in 2001 because I felt it was inappropriate for me to have them. However, a small excerpt of one of these emails appears here
, dated June 24, 2001. The "author policies" page was formerly associated with Michela Ecks' Writers U website.)
I had deliberately tried to avoid bringing Pamela Dean into the fight. I had decided to give fandom the opportunity to deal with the problem. I wanted the Draco Trilogy removed, where it would be unlikely to provoke lawsuits. Bringing an author whose copyright had been infringed into the discussion didn't seem likely to help avoid
But, as Pamela Dean had already been contacted, and her email to Michela asked about the Nightmare Grass scene, I emailed her myself.
(I am currently in discussion with Pamela Dean on whether I can post an excerpt of this email; she wanted to run it by her agent. If I receive permission to use it, I will reintegrate it here.)
In my email, I sent her the full list of arguments I was seeing on messageboards and mailing lists in favor of Cassandra Claire. In her reply, she responded to them. She also commented that she had received email from Cassandra Claire requesting permission-- but that Cassandra Claire had only mentioned the land of the dead-- not
Nightmare Grass or any other incorporated text.
I forwarded the email I'd received from Pamela Dean to Michela Ecks.
In the course of our continued discussion, Michela mentioned the Godawful Fanfiction forums-- and I went to visit them. (The relevant page doesn't appear to be archived by the Wayback machine.) All in all, GAFF was gleeful that Cassandra Claire had been blacklisted. I enjoyed reading the posts there because-- again-- the regulars at GAFF weren't screaming about Cassandra Claire being wronged. Of course, a few Cassie-supporters promptly showed up to teach GAFF the error of its ways.
Michela also said that Cassandra Claire was now posting profanity-laden posts and implying she had permission to use the text. I went looking for the posts, remembered that someone had posted on one of the lists about creating a new "Ranting_page" list, and joined to read.Previous Post (Intro through Part IV)Next Post (Part V (cont'd) through Part VIII)