Plagiarism Happens

“Plagiarism is an academic crime.  It is punishable by academic death.” – Man of the House – Tommy Lee Jones

In school, we all know what happens if we get caught plagiarizing.  It truly is an academic crime, punishable by academic death.  Or it was when I went to school, I don’t know how it works these days… I’m guessing since they now have programs to check for plagiarism, it hasn’t gotten better and the penalties are still steep.

That’s all well and good, but what happens when an author plagiarizes another author?  We all sorta know about the Janet Dailey/Nora Roberts case.  Janet Dailey, a successful romance writer was sued by Roberts because she plagiarized several of Roberts’ novels and claimed them as her own.  Roberts won.  It was a huge scandal.  Eventually, Dailey was able to reclaim some of her reputation before she died.

For the vast majority of authors out there, self publishing/independent publishing has been a huge thing.  We are no longer bound into contracts we don’t like the terms of.  We can make as much money as a traditionally published author.  We are able to publish as fast as our brains and fingers will allow.  It’s been amazing.

However, there are always unscrupulous people out there.  These people are plagiarizers.  They steal our words and sell them as their own.  It happens to traditionals, it happens to indies.  They are simply trying to cash in on what they see as a get rich quick scheme.

The problem is, authors can’t read every book ever published in an attempt to check this stuff.  We have to rely on algorithms and readers to find it.  Once it’s found, we authors then have to appeal to the better nature of ebook retailers to get the offending book removed.  For the most part, retailers are willing to do it, but we have to prove the plagiarism to them.

And the bastards that did it?  They don’t care… Truth be told, they are screwing over the author and the reader.  The reader gets to pay for a book twice (that they’ve already read) and the author loses sales that should have gone to them.  That account gets banned and they just set up a new one with new information and start all over again.

As readers, we have to be aware of this problem.  We are the frontline of defense.  We are the ones who will say “Hey, wait a second, this book sounds awfully familiar to this other book.”  Then we will investigate and maybe tell the author, if the author is approachable or the retailer, whatever.  The trick to finding the real author, is the publication date.  You can’t plagiarize a book that hasn’t been published yet, unless you’re an editor or beta reader and that’s a whole new level of wrong…

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