In March Gerald Posner admitted his fall 2009 book MIAMI BABYLON included some passages from Frank Owen’s CLUBLAND. At the time, Posner blamed faulty research methodology, and said “if you use something from another book, a statement from another book, it needs to be in quotations, or if you take something and put it in your own syntax and grammar, you still need to cite it.” He promised to review his book further and revise the material. (This came a month after Posner resigned from the Daily Beast after it was found that he copied material from Miami Herald articles online, which he said was “inadvertent.”)
Now Owen has filed suit in a Manhattan Federal court against Posner and publishers Simon & Schuster, alleging “numerous examples of word-for-word copying.” Claiming copyright infringement, the suit says Posner’s book “is little more than a frequently verbatim precis of significant portions of Clubland, a verbal reduction sauce in which 30,000 words are reduced down to approximately 10,000 and yet the flavor remains the same.” In a separately posted letter, Owen writes that “Simon & Schuster has known since March that Miami Babylon contains dozens of plagiarized passages, yet six months later, they continue to sell the book. It’s obvious that Simon and Schuster not only condones plagiarism but continues to profit from it.”
The suit cites many comparative passages, though most are one to three sentences long. But they allege broadly that “through approximately 10,000 words of Miami Babylon, Posner almost exactly copied Mr. Owen’s sequencing of events (even when not purely chronological); Mr. Owen’s use of third party sources; Mr. Owen’s factual sequencing; Mr. Owen’s use of quotations and the emphasis provided by such quotations. In short, Posner’s theft of Mr. Owen’s protected expression was not only by verbatim copying.”
Simon & Schuster spokesman Adam Rothberg tells the NY Post that while Posner acknowledges “inadvertently used phrases” that “to suggest that this usage amounts to copyright infringement is entirely without merit. As the complaint makes clear the unattributed use of phrases at issue was limited and in the reporting of factual events. Mr. Posner and Simon & Schuster will vigorously defend this lawsuit.”
In a more unusual allegation, last week an attorney for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wrote to Simon & Schuster, “hinting that the publisher may have violated several campaign finance laws that prohibit in-kind contributions by corporations by posting on its website a promotional video” for the book YOUNG GUNS: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders. Politico reported that because the video is produced by Representative Eric Cantor’s PAC, the publisher’s posting “seems to use corporate resources in coordination with Congressman Cantor to redistribute his leadership PAC’s partisan campaign material.”
S&S did not respond to Politico’s story.