Upswell: the author publisher relationship is one of trust

18 June 2022

A statement from Terri-ann White of Upswell, publisher of Australian author John Hughes novel The Dogs, made in the wake of additional allegations of plagiarism by Guardian Australia:

I have published many writers who use collage and bricolage and other approaches to weaving in other voices and materials to their own work. All of them have acknowledged their sources within the book, usually in a listing of precisely where these borrowings come from. I should have pushed John Hughes harder on his lack of the standard mode of book acknowledgements where any credits to other writers (with permissions or otherwise), and the thanks to those nearest and dearest, are held. I regret that now, as you might expect.

I think the sympathy of most people lies with Upswell. As White points out, the relationship between writer and publisher is one of trust. A publisher cannot be expected to check every last sentence in a manuscript to ensure there are no duplications between it and another work. It is the author’s obligation to declare such borrowings, and is something just about all do.

On the other hand, it is also unrealistic to expect works to be completely devoid of references to other titles. For example, I could understand how a sentence — perhaps read in a book years ago — might linger in the mind of a writer to the point they come to think of it as theirs. And while I’m not sure many people would expect to see upwards of sixty instances of such borrowings in a single book, authors referencing each other’s work is, and always has been, intrinsic to writing.

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