Copyright/Plagiarism

Some people are just assholes. If you are a reader and follow authors, especially those in the romance genre, you may have already seen the current uproar regarding blatant plagiarism. If not, I’ll summarize.

There are apparently people out there, this case is one in particular, but it is apparently not an uncommon thing, that will take bits and pieces from already published works, if not whole books, pass them along to a ghostwriter(s) to create a novel from the disparate pieces so that they can slap their name on it and sell it. By doing this, they can amass a large body of work rather quickly and make a lot of money. Basically, they are stealing another author’s work, or parts, and calling it their own. This particular thief (I refuse to name names to gain this particular asshole any more notoriety), if I’ve read some of the stories correctly, even managed to win some awards with their stolen work.

A reader caught something and notified the author of the stolen work and things exploded from there. I don’t have any kind of definitive count, but more than a dozen books have been marked as having plagiarized material in them from an large number of legitimate authors. I’ve seen it said a couple of different times, it is almost always a reader that uncovers acts of plagiarism, so as readers, we have to be cautious. I will be keeping my eye out as I read now. It seems to be much more prolific in the areas of self-publishing and those publishing to Kindle Unlimited (which I do use) in large quantities. As much as I hate to wait for new books from authors (patience and me do not get along well), I’m most definitely understanding of the time and the process and I’m totally willing to wait if it means I’m going to get the real deal and not something stolen.

As an artist and someone who is currently going through the tedious, painful, hard, demanding and time consuming process of becoming an author, this infuriates me to no end. There are so many pieces to this that tick me off. The theft is an obvious one. But it is so much more than just that. It is also the greater concept that anyone can get something for little to nothing.

I have had my work devalued in the past. People that want something that took hours and hours of time and effort, not to mention the cost of materials, for such a stupidly low price it is laughable and think you are the asshole when you refuse. Or worse, they think that you putting in all that effort to create something should be free. I have had information that took me months to research, organize and put together copied to another person’s website as if it was their own. They didn’t ask. They didn’t credit me. They just took it as if that was okay.

That is straight up bullshit.

What is worse are those that are stolen from that do not have the ability to fight it. In this case, smaller self-published authors like I’m going to be, do not have large publishing houses and agents in their corner to help them fight or even sue. There are definitely some big names involved in this mess, so those that don’t have the same clout do have some recourse and help, but… what if it was only one person? Or a few small authors that are struggling to make a name for themselves? What kind of leverage are they going to have against someone that has made a ton of money off of stealing other’s hard work? The scenario is made even worse if they don’t have a strong or large social network to help back them up. It is kind of terrifying to think about.

My Hubby created a seriously awesome logic puzzle, but everything is an app anymore. In that arena, you have several large companies with tons of coders that grab anything new, make a few tweaks to the graphics, slap a new name on it and they are golden because they have the money and the reputation to get in front of a lot more people. That, sadly, is absolutely legal because coding and apps are on a whole different level when it comes to copyright. There really are no protections. He decided, in the end, to just not do anything with it because it was too much work to put together only to have someone steal it within weeks of it dropping. This mess, while vastly similar, is NOT legal, but it could still very well push new authors away from putting in the effort if it is so easy for someone to take their work and make money off of it.

Don’t even get me started on the fact that these jackwads are “writing” fiction, as a living, functioning human and using a ghostwriter. Oh and not even acknowledging until they get caught that they are even doing so in the first place. If you do not have the creative talent to write on your own, you shouldn’t write. There are obvious exceptions to that, but it still applies to the general concept. If you must use a ghostwriter, it absolutely should be acknowledged with the credit provided for their work.

Every single word in my book is mine, with the teeny tiny exception of a sentence or two suggested by my editor. Even most of those I had to reword because they didn’t feel like mine. I have slaved over and evaluated each and every single one to ensure they belong or they are the right ones. I have been so obsessed with every bit of this being mine, my creativity, my words, everything, I even did my own cover photo and insisted on finding a cover designer willing to work with that. If I felt like I could have, I would have even done the cover design part on my own, but that falls just outside of what I felt comfortable with.

I even went so far as to avoid reading anything at all while I was actively working on my book, then avoided books that would fall into a similar genre as what I was writing while between edits because I was afraid I might inadvertently or subconsciously slip something in from something I read and I didn’t want anything to influence what I was writing in any way, shape, or form.

That said, my editor and designer are acknowledged in the credits for the work they are putting into this for me as well as everyone that laid eyes on this as beta or proofreader. I am not claiming their work as my own. Hell, I won’t even post one of BG’s photos here without giving her credit.

I am horrified for these authors that have had their works stolen. It is a violation on such a personal level that anyone that hasn’t created something like this will never fully understand. It is kind of like having a child taken from you and exploited in horrible ways (imperfect analogy, but still). It is made worse by how easy companies like Amazon make it. I haven’t gotten to that part of the publishing process yet, but from what I understand, there isn’t a whole lot of oversight from the self-publishing side. As a reader, I’ve seen some pretty awful crap in KU in the past. Things that never should have made it to any form of published stage. I have seen some of the stories of paid reviews and click/read through farms set up so those “authors” can make money. It is appalling and will make it incredibly hard to compete since I am unwilling to cheat the system.

When I decided to pursue publishing my book, I never really considered that it could be stolen. I mean, the laws around those types of copyright are pretty frickin’ explicit. No one would be that stupid. Would they? Apparently, the answer to that is a solid, neon, yes. Am I worried about publishing my book now? Sure. A little bit. That doesn’t change my plans. This project was something I needed to do and I will see it through to completion. I’ve done what I can to protect it to the best of my ability and I will fight where I can if something happens. It will be an uphill battle against those willing to skirt the system, to cheat and steal because of my lack of willingness to do the same and with my tiny social network, but I’m trying anyway. It is all I can do, but I will not sell my creativity short by not even trying.

 

Author: TJ Fox

I am a slightly sane artist, amateur photographer, book addict, wife, mom and raging introvert. I have more hobbies than I can count, so it is beyond shocking that I manage to find time to do any of them, let alone most of them and still have time to do anything else. Of all the talents I claim, writing wasn’t one of them until my muse dropped the idea for a book on my head.

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