A Perspective on Plagiarism
Posted on March 7, 2016
I still can’t spell the damn word correctly. One thing for sure, nobody will ever plagiarize the word plagiarism because it takes too much effort. Now, this has been talked about to death recently, and yet for as much as folks are talking about it, it doesn’t seem to be sinking in with some people. For the life of me, I don’t understand why. I have a theory or two, but I just don’t understand some of the responses to the incident.
The incident, of course, is the plagiarizing of another author’s book that happened late last year and made the rounds on social media. This happens from time to time, plagiarizing a book, and based on what I’ve gathered, there isn’t much in the way of recourse, probably because it’s costly. I think there may be a lawsuit over this one, though, but I’m not certain.
In any case, here’s the thing. One author took the work of another author, changed the names and some of the genders of the characters, played with some of the wording, and published the altered work as their own. This author got caught and, last month, issued an apology on Facebook three times, the same apology a week apart. I don’t know if this was mandated by an attorney or via an agreement with the author who was plagiarized, but the apology was posted three times. Here’s the comment that first got my hackles up, which was posted under the third and final apology:
“Is she (the author who was plagiarized) making you do this over and over again? Now that would be just really really wrong. We accept your apoligy. Everyone needs to move on. Both her and you have a life time of writing to do.”
Alright. The offending author didn’t steal another author’s lunch money. This author stole her work. Imagine for a moment if you have an office job and your boss asks you to take on a project outside of regular work hours. In return for doing it, you’ll get a percentage of any profits it makes. So you do, you finish it, and turn it in. Now, your next door neighbor comes by one day, sees a folder sitting on your table with all your work, takes pictures of it with their camera, duplicates the work at their home, and turns it in to their company. This person now starts making a percentage of profits based on your work.
How would that make you feel?
But that isn’t how some people are seeing it. Here are some additional responses from the apology posts:
“We all make mistakes. All forgiven and forgotten. You are a fabulous writer!!!”
“Also forgiven and forgotten.”
“Refreshing for someone to take responsibility for their actions! Still a fan! Prayers!”
“It takes a strong and courageous woman to apologise for her mistakes. People should not judge….we all make mistakes!! Whether it be with books or just in everyday general life. Stop acting like you guys are saints. People in glass houses should not throw stones!! Well done brave lady for apologising….as long as we learn from our mistakes!! Forgiveness people…like god forgives our sins!!”
“We all make mistakes, it’s what we do to correct those mistakes that makes the person we are. Don’t spend a great deal of time beating yourself up for the mistake. Take what you have learned and share it with others so they too won’t make that same mistake. Be a voice and help others to not step into that hole. You are a great author and you will write more stories and this too shall pass.”
“…you just took my breathe away. Wow! So very brave, so heart felt, and so honest. These are the things writers are made of, so I see great things for you in the future. I’d give my eye teeth to have someone think so much of my work they would rewrite it in their own words. I know they say this is wrong and people are hurt by this, but truth be told, you can only Live, Love and lose so many ways and it’s all a rewrite. So it’s back to the laptop for you, write your heart and be the success you know you are. Take the bad with the good and keep moving forward.”
First of all, I’m not suggesting the author should never be forgiven or should stop writing. Forgiveness is earned. Second, many people responded to the above comments pointing out that a crime was committed. And on that note, third, people should understand that this wasn’t a mistake. Thought went into it. This was deliberate. This author deliberately rewrote another author’s story, published it, and earned money from it.
So, knowing this, she shouldn’t beat herself up too much because, well, she apologized, and some folks would welcome seeing their work rewritten by another author. Does this sound remotely absurd?
My own literary output is fairly slow due to family issues during the past 7 years, but can you imagine if I stole a story by Rick Reed, J.P. Barnaby, T.C. Blue, G.A. Hauser, Patricia Logan, Kiernan Kelly, Amy Lane, or any of the other authors in the genre? Not only would they beat my ass for it—and that would just be their opening salvo despite Patty thanking me for cleaning up her issues with commas—but I wouldn’t be able to show my face in the literary community for a very, very long time if at all. I’m pretty sure an apology wouldn’t cut it either.
There are things the offending author could do to bring a sense of closure to the incident. Some honesty and transparency would be a good start. And if it goes through the courts, there may be some monetary damages awarded. But in speaking about why she did it, and why it’s wrong to do it, it might help if she suggested to some of the folks who left these comments that they’re glossing over something much more serious than they appear to believe it to be.
Just my two cents.
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.
14 Responses to “A Perspective on Plagiarism”
sue bowdley says:
March 7, 2016 at 10:36 am
I agree with everything you’ve said there…..Maybe could be forgiven…but yeah it has to be earned…this is peoples livings that are being messed with and surely if these commenters had had it done to them they wouldn’t be so forgiving x
Cindy Pass says:
March 7, 2016 at 11:19 am
It is theft. Pure and simple. The author in question made a CONCIOUS decision to steal from another author. The person MIGHT be able to be forgiven, but the action of stealing should NOT be forgiven. IMO all monies earned from the theft should be turned over to the original author, along with all court costs, lawyer fees, and a hefty fine.
Or maybe just put them in the stocks for however long they were selling someone else’s work…….
Patricia Logan says:
March 7, 2016 at 12:31 pm
I vote for stocks. LOL
March 7, 2016 at 12:20 pm
March 7, 2016 at 9:36 pm
In the key of?
Patricia Logan says:
March 7, 2016 at 12:35 pm
Sorry. I can’t wrap my head around why people are assuming she made a “mistake”. That’s like a rapist defending is actions by saying, “I tripped and fell and my dick landed in my victim by mistake”. What clueless idiots. And you gotta love the one who took the religious bent. That just chaps my ass!
s a meade says:
March 7, 2016 at 2:12 pm
I couldn’t agree more. Having been plagiarised myself, I know what a kick in the guts it can be.
An apology is just words. Anyone can post an apology online and think that doing that is enough. In this case it isn’t. It wasn’t a mistake, it was a conscious decision to steal another author’s hard work. And that, to me, merits more than a poorly worded apology.
G. A. Hauser says:
March 7, 2016 at 2:23 pm
You have me scratching my head as well, Kage. But am I surprised by it? No. At the moment the writing community is so troubled, nothing surprises me any longer. But, when you have an amazing copyright attorney, on retainer, like I do, who is a pit-bull, which someone out there already knows, because he bit their tush so hard they bled for weeks, and if I ever find out it has been done to me, my attorney is the last person they need to fear. If people think plagiarism & piracy are just the pitfalls of being a writer, then they need their head examined. I am just thankful that our readers are watchdogs, and they are exposing these frauds. I also wonder if these comments that support the theft, are not simply sock puppets. Like I said, nothing surprises me anymore. This business is rife with jealousy, hate, and trolls. That’s just my two cents.
CR Guiliano says:
March 7, 2016 at 8:47 pm
Not that I’m on your list, but…agreed. I was accused of stealing, something I did not do, nor ever would. Theft is theft, no matter how you excuse it, and apologies aren’t enough.
March 7, 2016 at 9:36 pm
Not that you’re on my list… That’s the first thing you got out of the blog, Carah? lol It’s like we’re married sometimes.
CR Guiliano says:
March 8, 2016 at 8:20 am
Does that mean I get to brag that you are my FB hubby?
Eddie Lam says:
March 7, 2016 at 9:35 pm
Everything has its own consequences. As an adult, we think twice before taking any action. In writing 101, we all learn plagiarism is a crime. She cannot tell people she doesn’t understand or know about it.
For her friends, I understand why they stand by her, and ask her to not beat up herself. But for her fans/audience, I just don’t understand why they gave her kind words. She doesn’t deserve it and they should feel disappointed. They should be feeling betrayed. I would. How do I know what I read from this author is not someone else’s words? It is like people saying first degree murder is okay.
I just feel bad for the victims.
Kiernan Kelly says:
March 7, 2016 at 11:17 pm
If it’s the person I think you’re referring to, she first tried to throw her daughter under the bus by claiming it was the daughter’s fault. Then, only after months and months went by, did she post the apology. She also made the bestseller list with her newest book.
No, Virginia, there is no justice in writing.
Yes, I will beat you down and sit on your head if you plager…plague…steal from me.
March 7, 2016 at 11:39 pm
I’m the person who discovered and reported her plagiarism of Opal Carew’s series. Would you believe, after seeing the reaction in our community, I’ve questioned whether I should have said anything at all? Readers turning on each other and attacking the real victims (other readers and the two authors). Authors “grabbing their popcorn”, calling it just “more drama”, and wringing their hands thinking that the “bad press after the fact was worse than the crime itself”. Yes, there were several readers and authors who spoke up immediately and harshly against the plagiarism and there were several who specifically recognized the hurt caused to readers. Unfortunately, the hurtful comments are what stick in my mind the most. What is right ultimately wins in my mind and I still report plagiarism when I see it, which I’ve done twice since then. But, I have become very cynical of the community and I’ve distanced myself greatly. I’d wish readers would realize that this community doesn’t have to be a bunch of cliques with an us vs. them mentality. I hesitate give any advice to authors as I don’t have their perspective, but I’d like to say that I’ve followed many and I’ve been to a few conventions over the last 11 years. It’s clear that the bloggers and reviewers are, generally, much more revered than the average reader. I would just offer that the average reader is more likely to catch plagiarism. Whether an author wanted to comment on the plagiarist or not…chances are some of the same readers that read your books were conned and hurt by her. Instead of commenting “not my circus”, it’s just my opinion that more good would have been done with a kind word to your readers.
As for her apology, I don’t believe she’s sorry for stealing and the major reason for that is that I don’t believe she thinks what she did was wrong. She’s referred to it as “re-writing” or “transforming” a story. No! She stole work (copy/paste style) from at least 2 authors, money from however many readers and her apology doesn’t begin to cover it. I don’t think there will be any lasting consequences for her. She was put in a 3 month time-out over the holidays and now she’s publishing again. She’s already got some reviewers back and within the year, I’d imagine she’ll be back on the blogs and book tour promotions. She’ll get however many new readers who won’t have heard a thing about her crime and her career will carry on.
As to plagiarism, there have been at least 5 cases with multiple authors in each (that I know of) since this one. Many times, the changes have been so minimal that a google search of part of a sentence in the first paragraph is all that is needed to find the twin work. Authors, give a shout on your social media if you find it ever happens to your work. At least one person (or many) usually offer to help with forms, contacts and lawyer details.