The Virginia Quarterly Review convincingly reproduces a number of incidences in Chris Anderson’s new book FREE: The Future of a Radical Price that reproduce nearly verbatim portions of a number of Wikipedia articles.
Anderson admits fault via e-mail, saying “all those are my screwups after we decided not to run notes as planned, due to my inability to find a good citation format for web sources.” He intended to “do a write-through” of “source material without an individual author to credit (as in the case of Wikipedia),” and says that “obviously in my rush at the end I missed a few of that last category, which is bad…. I should have had a better process to make sure the write-through covered all the text that was not directly sourced.
“I think what we’ll do is publish those notes after all, online as they should have been to begin with. That way the links are live and we don’t have to wrestle with how to freeze them in time, which is what threw me in the first place.”
As you can imagine, Hyperion supports Anderson’s statement: “We are completely satisfied with Chris Anderson’s response. It was an unfortunate mistake, and we are working with the author to correct these errors both in the electronic edition before it posts, and in all future editions of the book.”
But Fast Company observes: “What’s more disconcerting is that Anderson was relying so heavily on Wikipedia for his information in the first place; even middle-school book-reports shouldn’t be crafted with ancillary information from that site. Confoundingly, many of the passages that appear lifted were readily-available definitions of terms that would appear in more credible reference books like the Oxford English Dictionary.”
Subsequently, Ed Champion finds and blogs about various other lightly rewritten or borrowed phrasings from other sources (including a passage from a book by Wired colleague Kevin Kelly). “A cursory plunge into the book’s contents reveals that Anderson has not
only cribbed material from Wikipedia and websites (sometimes without
accreditation), but that he has a troubling habit of mentioning a book
or an author and using this as an excuse to reproduce the content with
very few changes — in some cases, nearly verbatim.”