17 October 2005 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 6 comments

I’ve been thinking about Carhart’s book again, and about a comment that came in. That comment suggests that although Carhart claims loudly that he’s espousing some novel theory, the historical record plainly demonstrates that others have already tread the same water on a number of prior occasions. That is intellectual dishonesty at best, and consumer fraud at worst.

What bothers me is that people do derivative works without acknowledging that that’s what they are, and without ackowledging that they’re borrowing ideas from others. There has been so much written about the Battle of Gettysburg that apparently the only way to make a splash is to re-package someone else’s work, jazz it up, and try to sell it as such. As a student, I was taught that doing so without attribution constitutes plagiarism. In my humble opinion, Mr. Carhart has engaged in plagiarism by claiming that his theory is novel and by not giving proper credit to those who have come before him.

I wish I could say that this is the first time I’ve seen this sort of thing, but it’s not.

I wrote a review of a book by a guy named Derek Smith on the April 1865 Battle of Sailor’s Creek wherein I lambasted the author and his publisher for stealing the maps of Chris Calkins. I later asked Chris about this directly, and he confirmed that he was never asked for his permission to use his maps, that he was not paid for the privilege, and that those maps were stolen from him by the author and the publisher.

The publication of that review brought about a letter to the editor by Rick Sauers, indicating that the same publisher had done the same thing to him on another book.

As an author who gets paid precious little for the fruits of his labor, I feel their pain. Plagiarism is intellectually dishonest, and when it’s used as a means of selling books–making money at the expense of the ones who REALLY did the work–then it’s theft and a fraud on the consuming public. I cannot forgive that, and I cannot condone it.

Please do yourselves a favor. Don’t buy Carhart’s book and encourage more plagiarism.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Mon 17th Oct 2005 at 10:40 pm

    Well said, Eric. As a published writer, I too can tell you that without a doubt the most irritating thing to have happen is to be plagiarised. To put it simply, ripped off. I can stand as much criticism about my writing as anyone can dish out, but the one thing I cannot abide by is being ripped off when I’ve done the hard work.
    I have a popular website about Civil War cavalry, and I spent years, thousands of dollars, and thousands of hours collecting the information that went into, for example, the detailed biographies on my site. Suddenly, my biographies began popping up on other websites – word for word. In most cases, they were simply cut and past jobs that other webmasters did. It would have been tolerable if they had given a credit or link back to my site — however, several of them simply didn’t credit me at all. They published my work as if it were their own, and with the full knowledge that my website is annually copyrighted.
    As if that weren’t enough, shortly I began seeing my biographies popping up in the print media, again without any credit to me. In one case, the “author” of the piece was so bold as to literally reprint one of my biographies word for word, without so much as changing anything. I immediately called the publisher of the magazine, pointed her to my website biography, and demanded a public apology and retraction. I got one in the very next issue, right on the front page, and the “author” is now blacklisted.
    This is happened in several cases, and it gets no easier each time it happens.
    There is also a very popular book about the generals in the Gettysburg campaign. If you look at the biographies in this book, and then compare them to several biographies that USED to be on my website (more about this in a moment) you will see that paragraphs in the book are lifted word for word from my site. Not so much as a credit to me. At the end of each biography in this book, there’s a little section that suggests “further reading” and “sources.” Think there’s a mention of me or my website? Not a one. The author of this book gets paid every time one is sold, and I get buttkis. I’ve spent 20 years in some cases coming up with that information, and this fool simply prints it like it were his own work and gets paid for it. He’ll get matching pairs of black eyes if I’m ever in the same room with him.
    Sadly, I’ve had to take down several of the biographies on my website, consequently. I hated to do it, because many folks who enjoyed reading them are now punished because of the action of a few morons. But, I could simply no longer take it. It feels like someone is breaking into your home and stealing from you.
    It’s left such a bad taste in my mouth that I haven’t really updated the website in many months. I used to put new material on it almost daily. It’s a huge shame, and it’s as if an enjoyable hobby (one aside from my writing for publication) got ripped away from me.
    Most sadly, plagiarism seems to be becoming more the norm now than the exception. In one famous recent case, an author stole photographs from a published popular book about photography at Gettysburg. As in Carhart’s case, he’s plagiarised secondary sources to come up with his book – which is obvious because if he’d done any primary sourcing at all, he would have realized that his theory falls flat. I’ve been seeing more and more such works appearing lately. More and more people are doing less and less work, yet getting published. I don’t know if it’s a case of publishers not caring (or being more concerned for the bottom line than anything else), or if “authors” are simply getting more bold. Perhaps it’ll take a kick-ass lawsuit to wake the industry up. I don’t know.
    All I know is that’s it’s frustrating as hell, and I’m one researcher who simply decided that I wasn’t going to take it anymore.

    J. David Petruzzi
    Brockway PA

  2. Mon 17th Oct 2005 at 10:51 pm

    Hear, hear, JD. Well said.

    There are few things that bother me more than having my intellectual property–the fruits of my years of labor–stolen, but it’s happened before, and it will, undoubtedly, happen again.

    Eric

  3. Tue 18th Oct 2005 at 8:03 am

    I presume that this was the comment in question? Someone named Walker?

    Really, it’s an obvious hypothesis, given the relative proximity of the three actions. I would suppose all the intellectual work would lie in substantiating the claim, of which y’all have indicated that no particular effort has been expended by either Walker or Carhart. I haven’t bothered with the book, given the notices and my limited resources. Working through your Union Cavalry Comes of Age this week, with Securing the Flanks on my pile to be read next.

  4. Tue 18th Oct 2005 at 8:14 am

    Mitch,

    Precisely.

    And thanks for reading my work. I really appreciate everyone who spends their hard-earned money on my books. I hope you enjoy.

    Eric

  5. Tue 18th Oct 2005 at 8:23 am

    Eric,

    I fully agree with your post. I know it is hard for authors to be new and fresh when it comes to Civil War writings, but authors such as yourself have been able to do so. I respect what you are saying here and as a result, I have “pulled” any promotion from my website og Carhart’s book.

    Mike

  6. Tue 18th Oct 2005 at 9:15 pm

    Mike,

    I’m much obliged for your kind words, and I also appreciate your support very much.

    I enjoy your blog. Please keep up the good work.

    Eric

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