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The short version: gwendolynflight , a writer in the Merlin fandom, took Among the Living (PsyCop 1), stripped out the names and locations, re-cast the novel in her fandom leaving a majority of my prose intact, then posted it online. Then defended her right to plagiarism with statements like, "Plagiarism is a social construct, which has little meaning outside of specific contexts."  Seeing the title Among the Living and the term PsyCop with another author's name beneath it felt like a suckerpunch.

The fic is down, but here's a bit of aftermath (update...it's all been removed now, her whole journal. The screencap is all that's left.)

And here's a screencap where everyone was praising gwendolynflight about things such as the mood and the subtle interactions of the characters, and she was eating up that praise, until someone said, "OMG you copied this WHOLE BOOK." Then the post came down.

The long version: 
I was at the Wisconsin Book Festival today enjoying Lynda Barry talking about comics as art, literature, communication, and all that good stuff. She said that, for her, comics were a transitional place between the author's interior and exterior life. You can never live directly in her head, but you can read her comics and get a little glimpse.

I thought to myself, all art does that, doesn't it? It's this piece of yourself and your inner world that you put out there for other people to experience. There's really very little in this world that's more intrinsically personal than that.

So to see Among the Living online with a change of names and another name in the byline really violated that transitional space of mine. It certainly violated my copyright. It's been taken down, so it no longer continues to do so, but the transitional-space violation is what's leaving me queasy.

I'd also like to say that fanfic is an entirely different thing. If a reader said, "Wouldn't it be funny if Victor and Jacob got a flat tire...?" and wrote that story, using my characters and storyverse but their own plot and words, that would be fanfic. I've written half a million words of fanfic; it's how I learned to write, for good or ill. This re-tooling of Among the Living was not fanfic.

You may be wondering if this made for good publicity. No, it hasn't. I've sold two copies over this whole devastating mess. That wouldn't even pay for the McDonalds lunch we had on the way back from the Book Festival.

So, what's to be done?
US authors, when you publish a work, for enhanced protection of your copyright you must register it with the US copyright office. For an electronic work, the cost is $35, and it takes about half an hour of your time. I assume it gets faster and easier after you've done it a few times. If your literary work is registered before the infringement takes place and you opt to litigate, you may collect statutory damages rather than actual money lost.

According to Wikipedia: The basic level of damages is between $750 and $30,000 per work, at the discretion of the court.

Plaintiffs who can show willful infringement may be entitled to damages up to $150,000 per work. Defendants who can show that they were "not aware and had no reason to believe" they were infringing copyright may have the damages reduced to $200 per work.

Some of my newer works are registered. By the end of this weekend they will all be registered.


( 152 comments — Leave a comment )
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Oct. 10th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
That is mindblowing bullshit. I'm so sorry that happened to you. I'd love to share this over Twitter, but I don't want to draw attention to something if you don't want it.

"So, a few people think this fic is too close to the original novel. And it is. Changed the setting, some characterization issues, obsessed over Google Earth for a few weeks learning Manchester, and over Wikipedia learning UK police tactics and fun things to do in Picadilly Garden, but I totally stole her plot and just about every scene and transition."

"Because, damn, I could've changed all the words, I just didn't see the point, not if I was already borrowing her structure of two murders and an attempted third."

...the level of not-getting it is pathological.
Oct. 10th, 2009 08:55 pm (UTC)
Hi Anah, it would be fine if you wanted to tweet it, and thank you for asking. And thanks for your support.
(no subject) - anahcrow - Oct. 10th, 2009 09:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan_c_price - Oct. 10th, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - anahcrow - Oct. 10th, 2009 09:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 10th, 2009 08:47 pm (UTC)
And that person just doesn't understand what she did was wrong.
I support fanfic, when it is actual fanfic. Ali & I started that way too.

I am glad you are going to register your stories. It's something I've been thinking about doing as well. I've been holding off because a $35 fee for each piece is a little too much at the moment.
Oct. 10th, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
As with most people who do something wrong and offer convoluted explanations, I think she just got caught and then had to rationalize what she was doing. If you look in the screen grab, she's preening over her wonderful writing when the other readers are squeeing over it.
Oct. 10th, 2009 08:54 pm (UTC)
I give up.
Oct. 10th, 2009 08:56 pm (UTC)
It's pretty mind-numbing.
Oct. 10th, 2009 09:07 pm (UTC)
"Because, damn, I could've changed all the words, I just didn't see the point,"


That's just ... how does anyone think that's ok??? It's not fanfic, it's not even a remix, it's just straight up plagerism! It's lying to readers and stealing from you.

I'm so sorry that your good day was ruined by this violation.
Oct. 10th, 2009 09:09 pm (UTC)
One of the readers seemed really pissed off, too. She actually asked the author how she could accept praise for the writing and not feel weird about it.

Maybe this is a good wake up call for me. I can't assume other people accord me what I'd consider a minimum amount of fair play.

(no subject) - ragingpixie - Oct. 10th, 2009 09:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 10th, 2009 09:23 pm (UTC)
I don't have words that haven't been said but I hope you're able to undo the damage to your own psyche.

I really do because I'm a Vic/Jacob fangirl and frankly, you're one of the best of the m/m writer community. I'm glad you've taken measures to keep it from happening again - at least not without a hefty price tag.

I'm still so sorry :(

Edited at 2009-10-10 09:24 pm (UTC)
Oct. 10th, 2009 09:27 pm (UTC)
That's so sweet of you to say. Thank you! I was already getting my legal ducks in a row to deal with other theft issues, actually have been doing so these past several months, so pretty soon I'll be a copyright juggernaut!

Beautiful icon :D
(no subject) - zoenichols - Oct. 10th, 2009 09:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 10th, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC)
I can't believe that someone would do something so incredibly criminal and insane. Did she not think that another reader would recognize your book? The gall of some people never seems to amaze me.
Oct. 10th, 2009 10:31 pm (UTC)
I would think there is a lot of overlap between slash readers and m/m readers, you know? It sounds like someone did recognize it and out it pretty quickly.
Oct. 10th, 2009 09:40 pm (UTC)
Obviously that should read "the gall of some people never ceases to amaze me."*g*
Oct. 10th, 2009 09:43 pm (UTC)
I had a guy take one of my stories once -- no changing anything -- and pass it off as his. I felt like somebody'd reached into my chest and ripped one of my lungs out. I was lucky a reader recognized it and gave me a quick heads up. In your case, you have such a vivid style, folks will know your work when you read it, especially a masterpiece like the Psy Cop series. Least you have a good attitude about it, doll.
Oct. 10th, 2009 10:32 pm (UTC)
How did you handle the situation? In this case, the story was already taken down. That video with my first lines of "Among the Living" playing and someone else credited as the author is still going strong. I guess in the long run that doesn't affect me other than the willies I get from it.
(no subject) - sarajbell - Oct. 10th, 2009 10:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sockmonkeyhere - Oct. 15th, 2009 04:20 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan_c_price - Oct. 15th, 2009 11:17 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 10th, 2009 09:43 pm (UTC)
I can imagine how you must have felt. What a weird and uncomfortable experience. :/

And I think she's sorry about being caught; not sorry that she's done something wrong because I get the impression she still doesn't really feel that she has done anything wrong. *sigh*

It's good to see that there were some people ready and able to jump in quickly to get the story taken down (and to get screencaps! That was very good thinking).
Oct. 10th, 2009 10:34 pm (UTC)
Hi Gaye, I totally agree. It's super cool so many in the fandom -- people I didn't actually know -- were ready to stand up for what was right. When I was active in fandom we had a superstar-type moderator who was so strong in personality no one would ever dream of challenging her, even when she was blatantly in the wrong. Those who did were totally ostracized.
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 10th, 2009 10:36 pm (UTC)
I did briefly think of taking a fanfic from her website, changing some names, and posting it with a byline other than hers on it just so she could see how it felt. It's really messed up to see the title of your book, someone else's name as the author, then the first few lines of your story. The first line of Psycop was so memorable too, I really felt dismayed to see it with my name stripped away from it.

I imagine the pain of the first plagiarism is the worst one.
(no subject) - kassa_rvws - Oct. 10th, 2009 10:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 10th, 2009 09:53 pm (UTC)
Some people are just oblivious to the world outside their head, and it sounds like she's one of them. Personally, I don't understand how she could do that.

I ended up buying to copies of Camp Hell, an ebook because I couldn't wait the two days shipping to get it, and the paperback because I wanted a copy I could read at work.

For me, your writing is so unique and the characters wonderful that it was well worth the price. The thought of taking anything away from that is just - I don't have words.
Oct. 10th, 2009 10:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, that's so sweet! It's been an exhausting afternoon so far, but it's wonderful to know so many people care about the series. It was one of the earlier m/m works that's still going on, so I think it must have some sentimental value.
Oct. 10th, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
I am speechless. I love your series, and it's obvious that you worked hard to create it. There's a difference between fanfiction and plagiarism. This person crossed a line. You've been much more diplomatic than I think I could be.
Oct. 10th, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC)
Well, I would have had a hissy fit if I'd been able to follow my first impression, but I was on my way out the door when I got the email so I had some time to think. I don't think authors look very classy when they go all apeshit. So I wanted to make sure I stripped the snideness out of my comments. As much as I could, anyway.
Oct. 10th, 2009 10:13 pm (UTC)
Let me just say, I am so deeply sorry that you got hurt. When we noticed what she'd done, we took steps almost immediately - screencaps, alerting the communities, asking her to take down the story and then publicly calling her out when she reacted a certain way to messages. It's not acceptable when one fan does it to another fan and it's certainly not acceptable when it's done to a published writer.

I hope that some good will come of it, because quite a few people have expressed interest in buying the PsyCop books now and I just bought the first two stories earlier tonight. I didn't know your work before this all happened but I'm glad a friend of mine is a fan of the series and recognized the plagiarism.

You've been very classy and gracious through this and I just wanted to let you know how impressed I am with you and your writing.
Oct. 10th, 2009 10:43 pm (UTC)
I was so impressed with the way the fandom really handled this without me even needing to be involved in any way. I just thought that since I"m a fairly public person, between my groups and blogs and podcast, that I should probably acknowledge that it happened, and how I processed it.

Thank you so much for your support -- I deeply appreciate it.
Oct. 10th, 2009 10:29 pm (UTC)
Nothing to add here. Just a bump for support.
Oct. 10th, 2009 10:43 pm (UTC)
Yay, a bump. Thank you! My cats give me bumps for support too. ;-)
Oct. 10th, 2009 10:30 pm (UTC)
Holy crap, does she ever come across as entitled. In what world does she think it's okay to pass off another's writing - word for freaking word - as her own??
Oct. 10th, 2009 10:46 pm (UTC)
At my day job, two colleagues and I LOVE planning various activities and programs we do. We just love it. It's the funnest thing we get to do, putting together different contests and games and decorations. Then we go to library conferences and the other librarians just want to take our stuff and do it without even adapting it. They want to copy it.

We're always so stunned because it's like they're skipping the best part -- the creativity and the planning. It's like eating a good meal through a feeding tube because you're too insecure to chew it.
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