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Morrissey biographer sues Julie Burchill for plagiarism

A HIGH Court writ has been issued accusing the author and columnist Julie Burchill of plagiarising a book about her hero, the rock singer Stephen Morrissey.

Johnny Rogan, unofficial biographer of the former lead singer of The Smiths, and his publisher, Book Sales, claim that an article by Miss Burchill in the Sunday Times Magazine had borrowed extensively from his book 'without attribution or permission'.

The alleged breach of copyright hinges on the middle of a 4,000-word article published last March, in which she presents a life of the 35-year-old singer and a brief history of The Smiths, who had 14 hit singles between 1983 and their break-up in 1987.

For most readers, the beginning and end of the piece will have proved far more interesting. Miss Burchill began by relating how, more than a decade ago, the then unknown Morrissey wrote her 'strange' letters when she was 'a teenage starlet working in the pop press'. They were 'polite, but with a hidden threat, or promise, or dare of some sort of oblique sexual contact'.

She ended the piece by relating her bizarre and deeply awkward meeting with the singer when, having rejected his offer of an interview in the course of researching an article on him, he turned up on her London doorstep one lunchtime. She let him in but they did not get on well together. She concluded the article with the advice 'do not meet your hero'.

This personal element is of no interest to Mr Rogan, author of Morrissey & Marr, the Severed Alliance, the Definitive Story of The Smiths, and his London solicitors Davenport Lyons.

They want Miss Burchill, a best-selling author and one of Britain's highest-paid columnists, and Times Newspapers Limited to pay damages or hand over profits resulting from her article.

Miss Burchill said: 'I'm very surprised. I thought once facts were written down, they were out in the public domain.'