Plagiarists beware

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)

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42 thoughts on “Plagiarists beware

  1. Diane, I’ve just picked up on this, desperately disappointed to have missed out on all the action but I’ll be sharing this once I’ve logged onto a machine rather than a phone! Great work! Adam

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  2. Jackie Sayle

    We’ll be getting a reputation for being Amazing Amazon Warriors if we carry on like this. First it was WO and now a plagiarist thinking she can hide in the wilds of the USA. I’m not cutting my right breast (not proven that the Amazons actually did that) for anybody, but I’ll be happy to continue the fight against any injustice to writers whenever and wherever the need should arise. Love the way you wrote the story up.

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  3. I was utterly shocked when I heard
    about this over on SSS. Thank you so
    much for bringing it to everyone’s attention
    Diane 🙂

    It is very worrying though isn’t it.
    I’m very reluctant to post online anything
    I’ve written, but, now we have online
    magazines, and comp winners entries
    posted on websites I think, unfortunately,
    It’s going to become more common 😦

    Keep up the good work 🙂

    xx

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  4. We did it again 🙂
    That’s twice now we’ve managed to get a fantastic result – beware anyone who messes with us, you will pay, lol.
    Seriously though, I’m glad we are able to get together and seek justice for writers – real ones! – and put right what was wrong. Maybe we ought to form our own union!

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  5. Teresa

    I don’t know how people like that can sleep at night! I’m only just catching up with what’s been going on, but well done the SSS for getting on to her 🙂

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  6. I just wish she could be punished properly. The authors whose work she’s stolen should get together and bring a prosecution against her. A fine or short custodial sentence would really teach her a lesson.

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  7. This is a shocking story. One person could make herself a career out of stealing other people’s intellectual property – I feel so thankful you Amazons have exposed her. but there must be others…. A custodial sentence should be mandatory to discourage them all.

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  8. Only saw this last night on Twitter and I was appalled to read this morning how much plagiarising this individual has actually been doing- and presumably profiting from.
    Glad it’s been stamped on quickly and so publically. Well done SSS.

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  9. Well done, SSS. I’ve only just caught up with all this (where have I been?) and it’s very scary. This is the second plagiarist that has come to my attention recently, and I know the first one is still winning competition prizes.

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  10. Angi

    What’s that old saying… something about truth being stranger than fiction? Well done to the Internet Warriors for tracking down the culprit and bringing this to our notice.

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  11. Sadly it’s all too common these days – I myself and a group of friends have also outed a serial plagiarist several times, as she keep changing her personas – we have been called all the names under the sun and accused of cyberbullying, stalking and harassment… in the mean time she created fake accounts on FB who in turn created ‘hate groups’ attacking us; long ‘hit lists’ spread across the internet and fake reviews on books that some of us wrote in our own words.

    This brief outline is still the top post on my blog… (make sure you read the comments) if you should be interested.

    http://cymraes.wordpress.com/2010/06/20/debate-on-the-rochelle-moore-scandal-on-facebook/

    But – the tide has turned and she is outed once again – but sadly her books are still for sale 😦

    Good job in outing this one too – yes – it is rife as many think they can get away with it – luckily Google is out friend… 🙂

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    1. Sorry, didn’t see this one before – I think the link forced it into the pending area. Thanks for taking the time to pop along and leave a comment. You’re very welcome. 🙂

      Hopefully we’ll start to stamp this out.

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  12. I’ve only just caught up on this properly as I’ve had a busy family weekend, though saw that something was happening. Very well done, everyone! It’s really worrying, though, when something like this brings home just how much potential there is for plagiarising on the internet. Like others on here, I’m wary of putting any of my work online, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to avoid.

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  13. I have no idea how anyone can unintentionally publish something they didn’t write. Maybe while sleepwalking? Beggars belief.
    Well done to all who’ve been involved in exposing this. The world needs to know that no one can get away with this kind of crime.

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  14. How could it possibly be “unintentional”? If I save a piece of work by someone else in a computer file (or any other file) that I think might serve as INSPIRATION for a story — I attribute it. And by the time I write about it, it’s quite a different piece in every way, and I often add an author’s note saying, “X’s piece titled THIS, available on Y, inspired this piece”, the same way I would if I used a painting or a photograph as a jumping off point. And I certainly don’t use the other person’s actual text.

    I don’t believe this individual is sorry for doing it – -just sorry for getting caught.

    Good work.

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