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Kaavya may face legal action

The NRI writer's bit about "unconscious" copying is not selling.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2006 18:37 IST

Kaavya Viswanathan's bit about "unconscious" copying is not selling. The publisher of the two books from which she has drawn heavily is just not amused by her action or explanation — and has not ruled out legal action for plagiarism.

It's an "act of literary identity theft" and her convoluted explanations are "deeply troubling and disingenuous", said Steve Ross, senior vice president of Crown, the publisher of Megan McCafferty's two books from which Kaavya has been accused of lifting material.

Kaavya's action, it says, is more far-reaching than reported earlier. The Harvard Crimson, which ran the expose on Sunday, revealed 13 passages of "striking similarity".

Crown has now documented more than 40 passages with "identical language and/or common scene or dialogue structure" from McCafferty's novels.

"Based on the scope and character of the similarities, it is inconceivable that this was a display of youthful innocence or an unconscious or unintentional act," Ross said in a statement.

The controversy, however, has given a big boost to the sale of both Kaavya's How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life and McCafferty's Sloppy Firsts (2001) and Second Helpings (2003).

On Monday, Kaavya's book was at No. 178 on Amazon.com. By Tuesday, it had shot up to No. 68. And McCafferty's first book was up from No. 1,546 to No. 327, and the second book from No. 4,912 to No. 898.

Kaavya's publisher — Little, Brown and Co. — is stoutly defending the 19-year-old Indian author. "We do believe Kaavya. She has apologised, publicly and profusely, for any difficulties that may have come from her actions. We believe this is an unfortunate but honest mistake, and we intend to give Ms Viswanathan every opportunity to correct the situation," a company executive, Michael Pietsch, said.

But he made it clear that there are no plans to withdraw the book, with a first printing of 100,000, from bookstores. Revisions "to remove any inappropriate similarities" will be made "at the earliest opportunity", said Pietsch, who has previously said that it will take several weeks to print new copies.