Forums > Queen - General Discussion > Plagiarism in Ultimate Queen Book

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Losing my way user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 08 Nov 11, 17:56 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Has anyone seen the book "Ultimate Queen" by Nigel Goodall and Peter Lewry? I have just begun collecting Queen books via Ebay and got this one because it purported to be some kind of encyclopedia (in fact it is a book of lists with barely any commentary at all, offering no evidence that the authors are fans).

Just before getting it, though, I got hold of Ken Dean's Queen: A Visual Documentary and read through that (brief but enjoyable). When the Goodall and Lewry book arrived, I began reading through the brief biographies of the band members and got an uncanny sense of deja vu. I went back to the Ken Dean book to compare the biographies and found that Goodall and Lewry had all but copied the biographies from Ken Dean. There are some superficial changes but basically they have cut and pasted the Dean text, and chopped it up a bit to cover their tracks. The actual wording, expression, and structure of the sentences are basically the same, with a minimum of changes having been made.

What is particularly funny is that in the Dean biography the bio of Freddie follows on from the one on Roger, and the Roger text ends by saying that Tim Staffell's roommate was also a singer... effictively serving as a transition to the next biography, which is of course of Freddie. In the Goodall and Lewry text, they have retained this, but have changed the order of biographies so that Freddie comes first. The result is that the transition is completely ruined. The Roger text ends by telling us that Tim Staffell's roommate was also a singer, and the Queen neophyte is left wondering, "Who's that, then?"

I am amazed that a supposedly respected publisher like Simon and Schuster issued the Goodall and Lewry book. Isn't there a law against plagiarism? Ok, they mention the Dean book in the acknowledgements but that does not give them license to cut and paste his text. Repeating "the facts" does not mean repeating the actual words of another writer either. It is absolutely shameful. I wonder what Ken Dean makes of it.

Micrówave user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 09 Nov 11, 10:34 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I'm sure both are just glad someone read their book.

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Posted: 09 Nov 11, 17:47 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

The Ken Dean book was the first Queen book I ever bought and I tought it was very good. At the time it was a great entry level reference for anybody getting into Queen, back in those Pre-Internet days (or at least before everybody and their mothers got online).

In Spanish it was translated as "Queen: Between Love and Death, by Ken Dean".

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Posted: 10 Nov 11, 13:42 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Non-fiction plagiarism is a difficult case to present in court, basically because you cannot copyright facts as such. The details of, say, a person's life or history can be written about by anyone capable of research. You can copyright the intellectual property via the medium in which they are presented, such as one's book compared to another, but if someone copies it, changes enough wording, there's not much anyone can do except hope that the quality of the original work exceeds that of the author who copied it and attracts a greater audience.

There's the famous case of Fred Worth, from whose trivia books Trivial Pursuit blatantly ripped off for a quarter of the the original questions, even including Worth's deliberate typos and *wrong* answers, which he put in to catch anyone who stole his idea. That's how he found out TP had plagiarized him. He presented all of this in court and LOST because the court ruled, correctly, that facts, even incorrect ones, cannot be copyrighted. If TP had made a book out their theft, Worth would have had a case, but the difference between his books and the TP board game, as in different media, protected them. For an added bonus of suck, people who know the correct answer to the wrongly printed answers in TP will lose the question now (if they play the original Genus Edition).

That's also why trivia books have seemingly wild wrong answers sprinkled throughout, so no one reprints their book

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Posted: 10 Nov 11, 15:28 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Very interesting post, rhyeking. I can understand why when it comes to bare facts, as in trivia books, it is hard to guard against plagiarism. However, journalism is another matter. Surely the facts are one thing, and the expression of those facts another. As you say, it depends on whether the wording is changed to a sufficient degree.

Take a look at just one example from the Dean/ Goodall and Lewry books, plucked at random. I should point out that it is not an isolated example - it is the same throughout the biographies of the four members:

"May and Taylor had been soured by their experiences with Smile. May had painstakingly built a guitar that was as good if not better than anything commercially available. Freddie had some very definite ideas about presentation. All of them were intelligent and qualified individuals who could easily have found well-paid careers in the real world, and if they were to form a rock group, they intended to take it seriously, and make a success of it."
(Ken Deane, Queen: The New Visual Documentary)

"Brian and Roger and nevertheless been soured by their experiences with Smile. May had painstakingly built a guitar that was as good, if not better, than anything commercially available, and Freddie had some very definite ideas about presentation. All of them were intelligent and qualified individuals who could easily have found well-paid careers in the real world, but if they were to form a rock group, they seriously intended to make a success of it..."
(Goodall and Lewry, The Ultimate Queen)

Facts can be adhered to but the expression itself should belong to the particular writer who is relating them. It is possible to state a fact of a biographical nature in a near infinite number of ways. I do not know anything about the law, but in my humble opinion what Goodall and Deane have done is blatant plagiarism, and if one got caught doing it in high school or university your paper would be failed.

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Posted: 11 Nov 11, 14:27 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Oh, I agree, it's total plagiarism, in the moral sense, if not the legal sense. I'd have my publishers' lawyers take a look, if it were it my book ripped off. If they said, "Sorry, you don't have a case," I'd be upset, but not surprised. Then I'd work to improve my book for the next edition.

In university, in my 2nd year Lighting Design class, a student asked the instructor (a famous lighting designer) how he protected his designs from theft. The designer shrugged and said, "There isn't much you can do. How do you copyright red light?"

What gets me is the amount of effort people go to to copy other peoples' work. Wouldn't it be faster to just write your own?

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Posted: 12 Nov 11, 14:45 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I find it disheartening that it would be difficult to make a legal case against such plagiarism, though I don't doubt that you are correct.

I agree - it does often seem easier to write one's own stuff than to copy other's. In the case of the Goodall/Lewry book, however, I'm not sure - it seemed they made very little effort to change anything.

I wouldn't recommend the Goodall/Lewry book, quite apart from the plagiarism. Speaking personally, I like to have some commentary to go along with the sort of lists the book offers. For example, there's a list of bootlegs, but absolutely no information whatsoever regarding the sound or performance quality. No track listings, no star ratings, nothing. I wonder if the book Queen - The Complete Works is better in this regard?

I really like the Phil Sutchcliffe book, and am looking forward to the 40 Years of Queen which I have ordered but not received yet.