March 12 – March 19, 2009 Edition

Harlequin Lawyers
Clear Brenda Jackson
Of Alers’ Charge

NEW YORK, NY/Authorlink News/03/12/09—According to sources close to African American romance author Brenda Jackson, the Harlequin legal department has concluded its investigation into fellow author Rochelle Alers’s charges that Jackson copied text from Alers Just Before Dawn and Private Passions, and used passages in Jackson’s newly-released book, Tall, Dark…Westmoreland! (March 2009). Alers is also African American and published by Harlequin.

“Upon close review of the above titles, we have concluded that there is no basis for a finding of copyright infringement or plagiarism,” the legal department said, in a memo sent to Jackson.

“The test for copyright infringement is ‘substantial similarity’. There is minimal similarity between Brenda Jackson’s book and Rochelle Alers’ two books. The plots, sequence of events, dialogue and character development are sufficiently varied such that the total concept and feel of Brenda Jackson’s work does not in any way resemble that of Rochelle Alers’ work.

“More specifically, at issue is the fact that Brenda Jackson’s Tall, Dark…Westmoreland! refers to a suicide involving a young child as does Rochelle Alers’ Just Before Dawn. However, the scene (in the context of each story and its impact on the characters) differs widely. Further, even though both Brenda Jackson’s book Tall, Dark…Westmoreland! and Rochelle Alers’ book Private Passions involve campaigns for public office, this element varies significantly with regards to its relation to the plot. Above all, in copyright terms, these elements may be considered to be ‘scènes-à-faire’ – that is, these elements are too commonplace to constitute protectable expression. For these reasons, it is our opinion that there is no copyright infringement in this case.

“Plagiarism, on the other hand, involves the unfair attribution to an author of another author’s work. In effect, for plagiarism to exist, one author would have to falsely claim authorship over text that he or she did not write. This is most clearly indicated by verbatim reproduction of another author’s text. We do not feel that there is any evidence of this in any of the books at issue, and are quite confident that our authors each individually and separately wrote their own books. There is not even a slight similarity in the language, tone or placement of the implicated scenes in each of these books. As such, it is our view that Brenda Jackson did not plagiarize Rochelle Alers’ work,” the lawyers concluded.

Jackson’s website says she is the first African-American author to have a book published under the Harlequin/Silhouette Desire line of books and the first African-American romance author to make USA Today’s Bestseller’s List and the New York Times Bestseller’s List for the series romance genre. She recently signed a five-year contract to write for Harlequin exclusively.

Rochelle Alers has been hailed by readers and booksellers alike as one of today’s most prolific and popular African American authors of women’s fiction, with nearly two million copies of her novels in print.