Over the last few months we’ve been privy to several cases of piracy, plagiarism and outright deceit perpetuated by authors against other authors. All of us have had to deal with the continued threat of piracy but more and more of these cases are being traced back to individuals in well known book review sites. Of course when found out, the review sites do what they can to help rectify the situation, but the damage is already done. The shock and the sense of being violated always sticks in the back of your mind. Who do you trust to send your book for reviews if even the busy review sites are being infiltrated by dishonest individuals?
In the case of the pirates, the stolen property is uploaded to various file sharing sites and available FOR FREE. What is the motivation for these people to take someone else’s work and simply give it away for nothing other than to be known on these sites as the go to person for any book you want? They don’t care that each and every download takes money out of that author’s pocket and less they have to cover their bills for the month. They don’t care because it doesn’t affect them one bit. If someone came up to them and had access to their bank accounts and took a dollar out every hour, I bet they’d feel just a bit put out, but that’s a story we’ve talked about many times before.
On the same level as these criminals (yes using copyrighted material in any way without permission is a crime) are the current brain trusts who’ve been caught stealing portions and in some cases the entire book of another and passing it off as their own. How can this happen? Well, some start out “innocent” enough as fanfiction. They post a chapter or two claiming to be a unique take on two characters from some television show, book, or movie. They insert the right names in the right places and BAM! Others on the fanfic site are impressed. They fawn all over this “aspiring author” slapping the praise on so thick that the recipient just has to keep putting out the chapters. It gets to the point that one or three of the folks actually have to convince this “writer” that his/her stuff is good enough to publish. That’s when the shit usually hits the proverbial fan, but in a few cases these stolen works actually get published and are up for sale on Amazon and in other outlets.
How is this all figured out? By READERS!!! Sharp-eyed readers gravitate to these books because they remind them of another book. Book bloggers and reviewers have hosted these authors and their books and found one too many similarities and went investigating throughout social media and the rest of the World Wide Web. It’s these fabulous individuals who have found the incriminating evidence and shared it with all of us. They’ve found screen shots of Twitter conversations, websites and blogs, excerpts from the stolen works to compare side by side to the “new” book and highlighted passage after passage of the crime.
Of course is this enough to make the criminal back down? Nope. They continue to say it’s their original work and we’re all being cyber bullies even going as far as to say they would never even consider reading the “filth” put out by the author they stole from. By filth here you can read erotic romance. You already know my opinions about the people who look down upon MY GENRE…sorry. I’ll get back on track. Suffice it to say, when you’re caught just admit it and go on. Stop making up more lies and stealing more identities to come to your rescue. You’re just digging a deeper hole and larger lawsuit for yourself. Here’s another lesson for you would be thieves: it doesn’t matter that you’re copying from a book that came out yesterday or 7 years ago. Stealing is still stealing. All we have to do is Google passages and we can find you. You may get away with it for a little while, but when we catch you…be prepared for a good old fashioned trial by fire.
This last one really boggles the mind and has many of us in my author groups thinking it’s not just one person doing this. There has got to be at least two of them to be this organized and convoluted. Teresa Mummert did a fabulous job going through all the twists and turns HERE. It will boggle your mind how this particular thief set all of us up. Once again, it was a READER who found it and alerted DearAuthor. The evidence presented is overwhelming and I have to admit it makes me angry on one hand and so very sad on the other.
I guess I’m one of those naive people (only when it comes to this! hehehe) who thinks that authors stick by each other and support each other. Before I entered the world of being a published author, I never dreamed I would be witness to this sort of thing, let alone it become such an elaborate production. Don’t these people have any morals at all? No sense of right or wrong? I only knew about piracy from the Napster controversy years ago, never thinking that one day I would be sending out take down notices to websites overseas. Before 2011 I never dreamt I would be sharing blog posts and retweeting information about plagiarizing scum. Who would have thought I would have to defend the copyright of not only my own works, but help to defend that of other authors.
So who do I trust? The readers for one. They are the ones who point out to us when another is stealing our work or when another is deliberately rating our work low and giving themselves five stars. I also have a few groups of authors who I’ve grown close to over the last two years and would trust them to not only give me honest opinions about my work but would have my back if my stuff was stolen and published under someone else’s name. I would do the same for them. I still trust the well known review sites and I will send them special watermarked PDF copies of my work for review. This way it protects me and it protects them.
Has any of this made me leery about publishing any more of my work? A little bit, but I’m not going to let a few bad apples destroy my lifelong dream. I’m going to keep writing and putting myself out there. I’m going to keep building up the friendships throughout the publishing world so maybe one day we can actually stop this crap from happening BEFORE it gets to the published stage. I’d like to see the fanfiction sites take a more active role in monitoring what’s going on under their noses. Unfortunately with Amazon’s new program of publishing fanfic of a limited number of TV shows, I just see this getting worse before it gets any better. I mean, if Amazon could let Amazingly Broken by Jordin Williams be up for sale with huge passages of it lifted directly from two other books by two other authors, how is it going to police the books that go up under the new venture?
Food for thought, my lovelies. Food for thought.
6 thoughts on “Authors Stealing From Authors: Who Can You Trust?”
We have been dealing with this as well in the niche market I am in where pretty much every author knows every other author. There are two things that bug me most about this.
1. These people think they can get away with it. We are not just authors and designers but readers and players too. If you write something in our field we will find it.
2. When you point it out publically there is the inevitable back lash of “why do you care” or “its not your job to police these things.” So there is an attitude in some that not only is it alright, but also somehow we are at fault for pointing it out.
I am going to develop these thoughts a little more. Thank you for this posting.
Thank you for stopping in, Tim. It is disheartening when there is such apathy about stealing another’s hard work. It’s bad enough there are people taking credit for the work of their underlings, but in these cases, stealing already published works and then releasing them again as your own just makes it all the more vile to me.
The mentality of “oh well, it’s not my job to police these things,” has to stop. It IS our job as readers, authors and publishers and other artists to police this stuff and stop it from happening. If we don’t, then one day we will be the victim of these crimes and there will be no one there to help.
I agree. It seems like a loosing battle sometimes.
I posted my own thoughts on this just a bit ago.
Feel free to stop by.
Oh Lord where can i start… I followed both these cases and have to say they made me sick… As i am a reader and blogger… I love reading all forms of romance and when someone steals from hard working authors who I love it pisses me off. As I am a proud “Smut” reader and couldn’t believe what happened to Lorelei James and how that girl had the nerve to do it to another author as well, with the new asshat doing the same thing to Jamie McGuire and Tammara Webber. On the plus side You know your readers have your back and should this ever happen to you… There is an army of loyal and honest readers and bloggers who would stand up for you 🙂 Much Love and Keep writting Jeannie
I got to talk to Lorelei James for a few minutes at RomCon last week during the “speed date the author” segment. I told her what happened to her ticked me off and made me incredibly sad. She said more or less she felt the same but if only the thief would have just ended it. Instead she kept up the charade and is now in all sorts of legal trouble.
I think many people who steal the work of others, especially that of Indie/self pub authors, think they can get away with it because it costs too much to defend the copyright. But the stupidity of going after the works of a New York Times best selling author and think she and her publisher wouldn’t take legal action is just plain idiotic. I’m sorry to say that this is the sort of mentality I see a lot with folks who are in their late teens up to early 30’s. I am in no way saying this applies to all in that age group, but it’s this generation that has the idea they are entitled to all the perks without having to do any of the work to get it. These specific individuals prefer to take the easy route whenever possible, often on someone else’s dime.
For a variety of reasons, everything I publish, everything sent out for review, and most things even on my blogs have embedded key word sequences and watermarks. I know the content will be abused, copied, shared, etc. That’s the world we live in. But I want to at least gain some insight into leaky sources and trace the propagation of my materials.
It gets trickier with people lifting things and claiming them as their own. In a world where someone legitimately can write “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” it’s hard to go after anyone unless they copy things word for word… My goal in these cases tends to be more about converting their readers into my paying readers. Frankly having a stack of legal judgments against someone with no revenue neither covers my costs of litigation nor gives me back control of my content except in a legal sense.
I think if writers took less of a lone wolf approach and more of a collaborative approach then we’d get more done, we’d be able to harness these criminals energy, and we’d have a different scenario. Maybe the answer is changing the game somehow… but I’m not sure. In the meantime, keep an eye out, gain intelligence, and act within the system. Maybe that will encourage these thieves to mature.