Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has been very outspoken about accusations of plagiarism levied against his wife Jessica by author Missy Chase Lapine. During appearances on TV shows, Seinfeld has implied Lapine is a “wacko” and among other things, he called the author “angry” and “hysterical.” An attorney for the Seinfelds said Lapine’s claims were “unfounded and untrue.” Both authors’ books deal with getting children to eat healthy foods, even if they’re picky eaters.
After reading Lapine’s legal complaint, I’d have to say she provides some very persuasive evidence. For one thing, Lapine isn’t a “wacko.” She’s a professional writer, the former publisher of Eating Well. She serves on the Culinary Arts Faculty at The New School. She serves on the Children’s Advisory Council of Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian where her culinary nutrition methods are used in pediatric wards.
After carefully reading the examples Lapine set forth, comparing similarities between her book, published before Jessica Seinfeld’s book, there are one too many similarities. Lapine had submitted her manuscript to Harper Collins, who rejected it. HC later published the Seinfeld book. Lapine’s book is titled The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids Favorite Meals. Seinfeld’s wife’s book is titled, Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Getting Your Kid Eating Good Food. Both books have identical techniques (the use of pureed healthy food items, disguised in favorite recipes) and the logos were eerily similar. Lapine devoted her life’s work to developing her recipes, and it’s hard to imagine that two authors would choose identical ingredients to puree.
If I were a judge hearing this case, Lapine would win hands down. It’s irresistible to theorize there was a crossover with the publisher somehow; after all, Lapine had submitted before Seinfeld. Perseus published Lapine’s book, and even brought to HC attention similarities between the books after Lapine showed her publisher a promo brochure for the Seinfeld book.
Read the list of extensive similarities between Lapine’s book and Seinfeld’s wife’s book at The Smoking Gun where the complaint is published. In my opinion, if what the complaint says is accurate, and the examples are accurate, Seinfeld owes author Lapine a sincere apology. I wonder how the comedian would react if he found someone else marketing one of his routines, with minor alterations.
This is simply another example of what happens when the publishing marketplace is monopolized by a few big houses with a gluttonous appetite for celebrity-written (or ghost-written) content, and the only emphasis is profit. I doubt publishers even worry much about plagiarism, because unless you can spend a lot of money on attorneys, you don’t have a hope in hell of protecting your work. My sympathy goes to Lapine.