I have been reading a sample PDF of a book by a professor at a research university published in 2007 on the publisher’s website. For some reason the book’s title was not included in the PDF’s footer (as it should be) so I had to google a passage from the book with the hope that Google Books would provide me with the title. I was quite surprised when it provided me with two titles.

There was a second book by a completely different author (an engineer with a PhD who works in the industry) published in 2015. Not only was the passage there but the whole paragraph (possibly more) verbatim. And even though the second book had tons of references, the first book wasn’t among them.

Should I let someone know about it? If yes, whom?


4 Answers 4


I would suggest contacting the original author (A1) to let them know about the (probable) plagiarism, rather than directly contacting the second author/publisher (A2/P2). This way:

  • At the point where you get in touch with a stranger, you are not accusing them of anything, so communication is much less loaded/constrained.
  • If A1 tells you they have authorised the re-use, then you know it’s OK; whereas if you contact A2/P2 and they say it was authorised, it’s hard to be sure you can trust them (since their ethics are already in question).
  • If the re-use is indeed not authorised, then A1 is the person with the best legal and moral authority to contact the publishers P2 and make this allegation.

Not to copy and paste my answer from another question, but...

You should contact the editor/publisher of the book which plagiarized (book 2), present your claims, and be prepared to submit evidence. If there's no response, contact the editor/publisher of the original book (book 1) - they may be able to use legal means to force the matter.

  • 7
    What are your reasons for suggesting contacting the second publisher directly, rather the original author/publisher? In my answer I suggest the opposite order; but it would be useful to hear the potential advantages of both options.
    – PLL
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 10:05
  • 2
    @PLL: Chiefly because it's more direct. The problem does not lie with the original author/publisher - they've done nothing wrong. Contacting the second publisher directly addresses the core issue - an author they published has plagiarized, and it's up to them to (1) stop publishing the book, and (2) notify the original publisher/author about what happened. I'm making the assumption that this publisher will do the right thing, of course - their reputation is at stake. Should they fail to do so, however, you can then fall back to the original publisher/author.
    – tonysdg
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 12:08
  • 7
    @tonysdg Assuming that OP is a 3rd party for this, I don't see a reason for disclosing oneself, and coming across as an accuser. Also, original publisher is at loss. They should know it immediately, and it's up to them whether or not to act upon it. This seems like a perfectly reasonable approach to me. And it's less work, going straight to the party in whose interest is to act. Your appears as a perfect course of action for some who got plagiarised.
    – luk32
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 13:06
  • @luk: Ultimately, I don't personally think there are any problems with contacting the original author/publisher first - the end result of presenting your claims and submitting evidence does not change. That said, how does that approach prevent oneself coming across as an accuser? Regardless of who you contact, you are essentially accusing someone of plagiarism (and possibly rightly so). All that changes is who you are making your accusations to - the publisher of the plagiarized work, or the publisher of the plagiarizing work.
    – tonysdg
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 13:14
  • 1
    By analogy, if you spot somebody stealing a car you could confront them (which is most direct of all), or you could inform the owner of the car (who has the incentive and support of the legal system to do something about it). Or you could contact the police. But in the real case of plagiarism there is no certain equivalent of the police: the plagiariser's publisher might act in the role of the police, or might act in the role of the thief, you don't know for sure. If you have confidence in the publisher, though, then they're a reasonable bet to do something about it, hence this answer. Commented May 1, 2016 at 16:16

Be aware that it's possible that the second author (A2) didn't plagiarize the first author (A1). Both authors could have copied from an earlier source.

You mention that A2 has tons of references, perhaps the original source is listed among them.

Be careful not to slander anyone with your inquiries.

  • 7
    I don't understand. You seem to be saying that it might be slanderous to claim "A2 plagiarized A1" in a situation where the truth is that A2 and A1 both plagiarized A0. If A2 really is a plagiarist, it's hard to see how accusing them of plagiarizing the wrong person could be slanderous. Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 20:32
  • 13
    @DavidRicherby: I'm just saying "be careful". Maybe A2 referenced A0 and OP didn't notice because they were just looking for a reference to A1's paper. Maybe the paragraph was even copied from an old paper published by A2 20 years ago.
    – James
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 20:53
  • 6
    @DavidRicherby the OP has no proof that the academic didn't give the industrialist permission to use the material. Since the OP only read "a sample" of the book, we don't even know if the industrialist acknowledged a general permission to reuse the academic's work in a part of the book which the OP didn't read.
    – alephzero
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 1:05
  • 4
    @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft A lot of people confuse plagiarism with copyright infringement. Plagiarism is attribution failure; a cited quotation isn't plagiarism but can be infringement. The connection between the two is that sometimes plagiarism contributes to infringement when a license requires attribution or a defendant is trying to show clean hands for a fair use defense. Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 1:28
  • 9
    @DamianYerrick: There is a huge difference between "a cited quotation" and a word-for-word copy of a paragraph with no indication that it's a quotation, plus a citation to the source in the back of the book. The latter is still plagiarism. Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 2:15

In addition to informing the editor/publisher of the book which was plagiarised, I might also be better to bring this to notify this to the original author of the plagiarised book too (if possible).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .