Wired editor accused of plagiarizing Web sources for 'free' book

Waldo Jaquith, writing for the Virginia Quarterly Review, was reading through a preview copy of Chris Anderson's upcoming Free: The Future of a Radical Price when he noticed that a passage sounded familiar, and then another, and then another. He eventually located several dozen passages in the 274-page book that appear to have been lifted directly and without attribution from Web sources -- Wikipedia mostly, but there were others.

Mr. Jaquith reached out to Mr. Anderson (pictured right) -- who is currently the editor-in-chief of Wired -- and his publishers at Hyperion before going public with the saga on Tuesday in the company blog. Mr. Anderson said he'd correct his "screwups" online by the time the book is released (in July) and in future editions; Hyperion said that was good enough for them.

Mr. Anderson's book is, ironically, about the effect that free-like-beer content -- such as, you know, contributions to Wikipedia -- will have on the future of business. Daniel Tunkelang at The Noisy Channel observed, "It may not have been his intention, but Anderson has helped uncover a subtext of his advocacy: In a world where the only acceptable price for content is free, there's a risk that respect for the value of content will correlate to its price." Commenters at Gawker were less kind: "MrInBetween" noted acidly that he "can't decide which is more embarrassing -- failing to cite Wikipedia as a source or using Wikipedia as a source."

Oddly, this isn't the first time a Wired contributor has been lit up for alleged plagiarism of a phenomenon he was allegedly celebrating. In the wake of Columbine, author Jon Katz put together a text of geek and outsider commentary called "Voices from the Hellmouth," which he planned to publish. Problem was, much of the book comprised posts by Slashdot commenters who weren't necessarily looking to be published under someone else's byline. The ensuing controversy torpedoed the project.

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