Emma Cline, whose 2016 breakthrough debut novel The Girls heralded her as an emerging voice in the literary world, is being sued for plagiarism by her ex-boyfriend, author Chaz Reetz-Laiolo.
Reetz-Laiolo, whose suit was filed in San Francisco federal court on Nov. 29, alleges that Cline surreptitiously deployed keystroke logging software to plagiarize phrases and plot points from his manuscripts, which would later end up in The Girls.
Cline filed a countersuit on the same day, disputing many of the claims in Reetz-Laiolo’s suit while contending that the keylogger was used as means of protecting herself within an abusive relationship.
Reetz-Laiolo and Cline began living together in Berkeley in the summer of 2010 after becoming romantically involved the year prior. It was during their cohabitation, Reetz-Laiolo alleges in the complaint, that Cline deployed a keylogging software called Refog on her personal computer in order to track, and later access, his personal bank accounts and e-mails. Screenshots embedded in the suit allegedly show Cline accessing Reetz-Laiolo’s bank accounts and his e-mails, where she searched for keywords like “mom” and “ass” and looked through correspondence with editors on his Gmail account.
He also alleges that these e-mails contained manuscripts of his work, which he says she plagiarized from. Embedded in his complaint is a table of eight purported instances of Cline’s plagiarism. (At least three carry no attributions to Reetz-Laiolo’s work, with one cited as a common phrase he used in conversations.)