Cassandra Clare and Plagiarism?

A few years ago my stepdad and my mom returned from a trip with presents for my sister and I. My stepdad handed me a book that he said I thought I’d like, based on the summary on the back. It turns out that said book was the third or fourth in a series, so I never ended up reading.

However, recently, my friend was talking about the Mortal Instruments series and how much she enjoyed it. She recommended it to me and, realizing that the book I had received as a gift was a part of the series, I picked up the first book in the series.

Before I even cracked the spine I decided to look the series up on Goodreads, as I usually do before reading novels. As it turns out, there’s a huge debate on whether or not Cassandra Clare, the author, has plagiarized.

Apparently, Clare used to be a Harry Potter fan fiction writer in the early 2000’s. She had a trilogy of book-length fics, focusing on Draco Malfoy, that had been very popular among the Harry Potter fan fiction fandom. Essentially, it was discovered that Clare was using quotes and excerpts from books, T.V. shows, movies and more without the proper disclaimer/citations and she was eventually kicked off of, a very popular fan fiction website.

The deletion of her account sparked a huge debate amongst the fandom: some were in favour of the deletion, others against. In fact, many thought that fan fiction itself is plagiarism, so why was Clare being punished while the rest of the writers remained unnoticed. As a former fan fiction writer, I understand what that means. Often, it is said that since fan fiction borrows the characters, plots, settings, and more from books, and movies, and shows, then it must be plagiarism. However, fan fiction in and of itself is not plagiarism. When one writes the fiction, they cite from what book, etc. the characters and such are being taken from, then they create their own story.

The problem with Cassandra Clare’s fic was that not only was she taking those characters and plots and other ideas from outside sources (not only Harry Potter), but she never gave credit to the original authors. Not to mention that when she was caught she didn’t seem remorseful in the slightest. In fact, she still didn’t seem to think she’d done any wrong.

Then, after Clare had received her book deal for the Mortal Instruments series, the debate sparked up again online. Apparently, the series itself is essentially Clare’s original fan fiction with a few name, plot, and setting changes to make it her “own world”. Now, considering I’ve never read the Mortal Instruments series, I can’t quite comment on the similarities, however, if what is being said is true, I certainly don’t ever wish to read them.

As a writer, the idea of plagiarism makes me mad. The fact that someone would take the ideas of someone else and pass them off as their own disgusts me because I know how long writers work, and I know how attached a writer gets to her characters and stories. I feel sorry for the stories she has ripped off, and I truly hope that somewhere, deep inside, she knows that the money she has earned for other people’s ideas, is wrong.