AngiePen (angiepen) wrote,
AngiePen
angiepen

Plagiarism for $$

It looks like the fanfic plagiarists are taking it up to the next level. elisa_rolle reviews romantic fiction in her journal and recently got some comments which indicate that one of the books she's reviewed was originally posted as Star Trek slashfic.

It's bad enough when some idiot plagiarist thinks she/he can steal someone else's story and post it in public without anyone noticing. You'd think that by now they would've figured out that even changing the names to make the story fit (sort of [eyeroll]) another fandom doesn't mean no one will notice the theft. But now at least one person has apparently decided that praise and hugs and e-cookies aren't enough -- they want actual money for their stolen goods. :/

Posted Comments:

"Just want to let you know that this story has been blatantly plagiarised. I read a very similar story years ago in a star trek slash fanfiction site. The link is below. The similarities just blew me away starting with the first scene
"


This looks like a reader who noticed the similarities between the stories, or it might've been a friend of the original writer who'd noticed the plagiarism, sent around to support her/his claims, as I've seen done in other cases.

"Yes. It was written by *me* several years ago and can be found on my website . I have contacted the publishers today to warn them to cease publication. They actually had the cheek to suggest that *I* had stolen the story. I am in contact with a lawyer and unless the publishers retract their statements and cease and desist from publication of my work under the name of this person, they won't have enough money to publish any more stolen stories after I have finished with them!>

Elisa didn't care for the tone (quite understandably -- I get that the writer is mad, and I'd have been furious, but none of this is Elisa's fault) so she deleted the comments. Next:

"I can comment as fast as you can delete....
This book was written by me. The story was stolen and I intend to sue the publisher. If you are in any way connected to this theft, I suggest you remove this review promoting stolen goods, otherwise I will include you in my lawsuit.>


[sigh] I think this last comment was seriously out of line, and obviously posted out of anger rather than thought. I've never heard anything to suggest that someone who reviews a plagiarized book is in any way liable, so it was bogus as well as rude. I can absolutely understand the anger of a writer whose work has been stolen, but throwing around baseless threats of legal action isn't the way to get sympathy.

Regardless of this individual author's judgement or lack of same, if this plagiarism-for-dollars idea spreads, it'll be even more important for us to keep an eye out and defend our literary property.

The first thing that occurs to me is that any piece of fanfic a writer posts (and cares about) should be saved somewhere in perpetuity. I know some fans delete their old stories, whether they just don't like them anymore or when they move on to another fandom or do a flounce or whatever. But in light of this, I think it'd be smart to save at least a journal or web site copy, so that the original date of "publication" is preserved. Journal entries can be set private rather than deleted, and web pages can be trapped, but keeping an original post intact somehow in case of later dispute would seem to be prudent.

The original post and its comments are here. Writers beware.

[ETA: The author has come to the later post in Elisa's journal (the one linked above) and has apologized for her accusations, so props to her for recognizing that she's been uncool to the wrong person in a moment of shock. /EDIT]

[ETA2: (2 Dec) More info has popped up since I wrote this post, and rather than make everyone read all the comments, I'll try to summarize.

This doesn't seem to be a case of plagiarism anymore. Amanda used that word but it looks now like she used it incorrectly. Massa did not copy Amanda's story word-for-word, at least not in the excerpt linked to a MySpace post here. (Thanks to ontherunaround for that link.) Instead, what it looks like is Massa sat down with a copy of Amanda's story and changed just enough that it's not technically plagiarism, but it's still very clearly based on Amanda's story, at the paragraph and sometimes the sentence level, turning the story into some kind of MadLib. :/ Check it out.

Although not technically illegal (to the best of my understanding) this is still incredibly uncool. Although probably not actionable, I would hope that if Amanda could prove priority (there's a URL from the Wayback Machine in the comment thread in Elisa's journal, linked above, and Amanda's also said she has e-mail exchanges saved from when she was sending earlier versions of the story back and forth with her beta) then no legitimate publisher would want to offer it for sale under anyone else's name. It's one thing to grab a plot or a gimmick or whatever from another writer -- every writer does this all the time, whether they realize it or not -- but quite another thing to grab paragraph-by-paragraph and line-by-line.

This might not be the first time Massa's done this. She's apparently been accused of plagiarism from fanfic writers before, although none of them were willing to fight it out. Someone else in the MySpace comment thread mentioned that she might have made improper use of one of Christine Feehan's stories, but I'm skeptical until I see something concrete on that. First, if it's just an "idea" that was "stolen," there's not necessarily anything wrong with that; it depends how much was used and how much it was changed or twisted or whatever. You can't copyright an "idea" and there aren't many really original "ideas" in literature anyway. And second, Christine Feehan (for those not into the paranormal romance subgenre) is a hugely popular writer; anything obviously characteristic of her work would be immediately recognized and Massa would have to be supremely stupid to borrow too closely from her.

Linden Bay, Massa's publisher, has pulled the book in question from sale. (The person who posted on MySpace didn't go check, but I did.) This doesn't mean they necessarily believe she's guilty of wrongdoing, though; pulling it while the dispute is going on is just prudence on their part. It shows good faith, and they can always put it back later.

The fact that this isn't an actual plagiarism case just makes it messier and harder to deal with. It's pretty clearly improper use of another writer's work, even if the excerpts used for comparison turned out to be the only place the copy-and-fiddle process was done, which I doubt. Plagiarism would be easier to fight and more straightforward to argue. As it is, I don't know that Massa's actually done anything illegal, but it's definitely over-the-top derivative and incredibly lame and I suspect her publisher's very unhappy with her right now. /EDIT]

Angie
Tags: issues, publishing, writing
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