Plagiarism has been a subject of particular interest to me ever since Mr. Gale, my eleventh grade history teacher, gave the class a talk on plagiarism that scared the bejesus out of me. If you've read My Life Among the Aliens and Club Earth, you know that I also have turned my eye to the subject of feeding kids once or twice.
So perhaps you'll understand why the plagiarism complaint and now lawsuit relating to Jessica Seinfeld's book draws me like a magnet.
Slate has reprinted an article from last October called Not That There's Anything Wrong With That discussing copyright infringement and plagiarism, particularly as it pertains to cookbooks and this case. The author, Steven A. Shaw, agrees with me that neither book was very original. (I would think any mom with kids more than a year old would realize that.) He also makes the case that Seinfeld didn't plagiarize anything. But, of course, now I guess that's up to a court to decide.
Perhaps I'm being an alarmist here or ignorant of the law or ignorant about publishing or all of the above. Nonetheless, I wonder if this case could end up having a chilling effect on writing and publishing because it's not all that unusual for more than one writer to write about a subject even in the same calendar year. It takes so long to write a book and go through the publishing process that many writers (and their publishers) may not even know they have some competition for the same turf. This whole thing is causing me to suffer flashbacks to that eleventh grade plagiarism talk.
Fortunately, this case has a high enough profile that we can probably look forward to hearing all about what happens with it.