Dr. Plagiarizer or: How I Learned To Stop Stealing Other People’s Work
Posted on October 26, 2015
I was in a Creative Writing class back in college and had the displeasure to sit next to someone I wasn’t overly fond of. He was a bit on the obnoxious side of the fence, and eager to make a name for himself. We ended up getting paired together for an in-class project and I decided to try and make the best of it, a rarity for me at that time in my life. We met outside of class, discussed various writing projects we were working on, and I made the mistake of telling him the title of a book I was writing. He showed up to class two weeks later, leaned over and excitedly told me about a story he was writing…and he used the same title I had because he liked it. I could have killed him. Fortunately, the idea of prison didn’t turn me on, so he lived.
That’s about as close as I’ve come to someone copying my work. It wasn’t much, was it? But it was enough to annoy me at the time. Now imagine having a book you’ve written copied. Or even a screenplay you’ve written, only to watch a movie and discover someone has taken your idea and put it on the big screen without paying you or giving you credit. Heck, we still hear about lawsuits regarding music artists who have songs that sound an awful lot like other artist’s songs. It happens. And it seems like it’s never an easy process to go through the court system.
The author world had an unexpected upheaval last week when Laura Harner was accused of plagiarizing another author’s work. I’ve seen the screenshot comparisons and it doesn’t take a genius to realize something illegal happened here. And while Harner’s book was removed for sale, so were several others by the author. One of the problems that comes up in cases like this, however, is the cost associated with filing a lawsuit. Copyright infringement is a Federal case and according to a comment on Jenny Trout’s blog on this matter, court and lawyer fees can run several tens of thousands of dollars.
Do we all have that kind of money to spend? Probably not. If you win, the person who infringed on your copyright may be made to pay your costs. However, who says they have that kind of money? This makes me wonder how many lawsuits never make it to court because of this very reason.
Several people, readers and authors alike, have expressed curiosity at the sheer volume of quiet coming from Laura Harner via social media. Why hasn’t she responded to what’s come forward? Is there another side to the story? My guess, and it’s strictly a guess, is that we won’t hear anything from her unless it’s a very, very carefully worded message that gives zero information. If Harner apologizes or comes clean, it’ll be used against her in court. I’m also guessing any lawyer she hires would recommend she doesn’t offer any explanation. And that kind of sucks.
I think many of us would like to know why. I’m sure the author(s) she plagiarized would like to know why. Maybe the answer would be disappointing, but at least there would be some sense of understanding behind her actions.
Okay, and in all honesty, I’m looking forward to seeing how the lawsuit between Amazon and the fake reviews plays out. Wouldn’t it be something to see a site set up so that the public can browse what reviews were posted for various products? There have been murmurings in the author community for some time about paid reviews. Why not finally see who’s been utilizing the services of these reviewers-for-hire?
Anybody else curious about how both of these debacles will unfold?
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.
2 Responses to “Dr. Plagiarizer or: How I Learned To Stop Stealing Other People’s Work”
Patricia Logan says:
October 26, 2015 at 12:14 pm
I’ll be following both lawsuits because the outcome is important. As to the Laura Harner situation, she did post that a statement is being reviewed and is forthcoming. She also stated something along the lines of her actions begin and end with her. I’ll be watching things. While the charges of plagiarism are warranted if it happened, I have been shocked at some of the vitriol I’ve read. I find myself feeling sorry for her because she is human and she’s taken a vicious verbal beating this week. Don’t get me wrong. Plagiarism is an inexcusable act. I’m not excusing it. I’m only commenting on the pitchforks and torches I’ve seen come out in response to it. It’s been very sad.
I’ll also be following the review lawsuit. I doubt the list of clients for the reviews will be revealed but wouldn’t that be interesting reading. The bottom line is this. In my experience reviews don’t sell books and the well written organic reviews really stand out from the paid for reviews written from blurbs. The contain details that only someone who’d read the book would know. Whatever the outcome, hopefully some good will come out of it and in the future, authors will refrain from buying reviews. One can only hope but the penalty, if found out, should be something like having their book taken down and their vendor acct closed so they can no longer profit from sales at Amazon on any of their books. We’ll see if that happens. As always, great post, Kris
Eddie Lam says:
October 27, 2015 at 7:07 am
I don’t understand why a writer do plagiarism. It is writing 101. If you can’t follow the rules, and you shouldn’t be a writer. It sucks that being a victim and you are right, not everyone can afford the lawyer fee. Plus, writer doesn’t make much money anyway. 🙁