I interrupt this weekend to relate a little story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
It all began early Friday afternoon when much-loved and well-respected author Liz Fielding reported on her blog that a piece of her work had been blatantly stolen, tweaked, and passed off as the work of someone else. You can read all about it on Liz’s blog post here.
A small group of people from the Facebook group the Seriously Serious Scribes immediately jumped in, providing support to Liz on her Facebook page and on her blog. They shared the news on their own Facebook pages and then off they tootled to do some damage.
First stop was Smashwords where the story in question was being offered as a freebie. The ladies and gents of the SSS reported the offending story to Smashwords as plagiarism and then started to “review” the book as stolen property. I can’t link there any more because the book was swiftly removed.
The plagiarist bobbed on to Liz’s blog and said:
“I cannot begin to describe my shame in releasing what I had done and came here with the hopes that Ms. Fielding my one day accept my apology. I know you can never forgive me because it is an unforgivable sin as an author.
“I did not do this with malicious intent and deeply regret any pain and inconvenience this caused you.
“As explained on my blog I found this story in a section on my computer where I ‘abandon’ ideas because they were not working out when I first wrote them. In reading it I came up with some ideas that might make it work and tried changing it up a bit.
“It was never for sale and I did not make any money off the downloads but I am still extremely embarrassed this happened.
“Again I apologize.”
(Typos belong to the plagiarist – I got fed up of keep typing [sic] in so took them all out again …)
This blog comment has since been deleted, by the plagiarist, because straight away it fuelled a whole new barrage of abuse – directed at the plagiarist and not Ms Fielding.
So, of the impression that this may just have been a one-off incident, the SSSs, amongst others by now, continued their rampage and visited the plagiarist on her blog, where the book – and others – was still being publicised. And they started to leave comments on there suggesting that the “author” may prefer to remove the plagiarised work.
The blog comments started to get deleted, so more were added – and deleted again. By the blog owner. Then the pages started to be taken down and all advertising blurb regarding the person’s other “works” disappeared too. Then comments were disabled. And then the blog was taken down.
And so the SSS headed off to Amazon, to where the plagiarist’s other books were being sold … but again, they started to disappear one by one.
Satisfied that they had done their job, the SSSs retired for the evening … only to discover later that the rest of the blogosphere had taken over where they’d left off … because the other books apparently written by the same person were also plagiarised – and different pen names had been used.
And then this comment appeared on Liz’s blog, anonymously this time:
“I’m working as hard and as fast as I can to remove ALL works published under my name or penname. I’ve notified all sites of the issue and linked them to this site. I know it doesn’t excuse anything and I don’t expect it to. Despite assertions to the contrary, it was not intentional and I’m doing everything I can to rectify the situation. Thank you for your patience.”
We’ve since found out that the plagiarist’s books were available on Goodreads and various other places too, and they’re all gradually coming down again.
It wasn’t restricted to just books and stories either. There are further comments on Liz’s blog regarding blog and forum posts that had been lifted by the same person and claimed as their own. With links.
We’ve been warned that the internet is fertile ground for such blatant theft. But this also proves that once you’re found out, you’re found out. And it proves that there’s strength in numbers. We should all join together to fight for writers’ and other creators’ rights.
Our single little solitary “accidental” plagiarist is actually a serial plagiarist … or was the same “mistake” made every single time? Why were these files on the person’s hard drive in the first place? How can any of this be “unintentional”? Not only is this person a thief, but also a liar.
I suspect that someone in the world is feeling very lonely this weekend, but I am proud to be a founding member of the Seriously Serious Scribes.
What do you think about it all?
EDIT: Much has unfolded since I wrote this late Friday night. People were very busy. You can find out more at Romantic Fiction Online, the Smart Bitches Blog, and at Dear Author, which includes an apology. (25/02/12 11:40pm)