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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 10:32 pm (UTC)
Whoa. Just. Whoa.

Thank goodness for those people ready to call her on it.

*sort of stunned*
Oct. 10th, 2009 10:47 pm (UTC)
I agree, I love that there were readers out there who had no problem saying, "Wait a minute." But I'm sort of stunned too.
Oct. 10th, 2009 10:33 pm (UTC)
WTF is this "plagiarism is a social construct"? I don't know what society she's from, where plagiarism is acceptable. What's sad is you can tell she totally believes what she's spewing.

Everyone makes mistakes. I've said some incredibly entitled and stupid things in the past, but I've always looked at the other group's point of view and seen the wrongs in my arguments. But this girl just does not understand at all. So many people are trying to explain it to her but she's still got her head stuck in the sand and she's still clinging to this "plagiarism is a social construct".

And I love how she's interpreting this as "perceived plagiarism" and how she's putting "into my own words" in quotes (as if she already believes the story is in her own words).
Oct. 10th, 2009 10:48 pm (UTC)
Against my better judgment, I waded over to her journal and told her to take down the video where she used an excerpt from your work (without credit - and her name as author!).
(no subject) - jordan_c_price - Oct. 10th, 2009 10:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan_c_price - Oct. 10th, 2009 10:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rbm00 - Oct. 10th, 2009 10:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan_c_price - Oct. 10th, 2009 11:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan_c_price - Oct. 10th, 2009 11:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rbm00 - Oct. 10th, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 10th, 2009 11:04 pm (UTC)
I had something similar happen a few years back, only it was by a "beta reader" with one of my unpublished stories. He posted to a popular online site and even had a Yahoo group set up for fans of "his work"...

Like this person, he just started the rationalization and talking in circles thing -- but was mostly just sorry he got caught.

So very sorry this happened to you.
Oct. 10th, 2009 11:13 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's atrocious! That's a lot worse, because a beta reader relationship is so based on trust. This was just some stranger who came along and appropriated my stuff.
(no subject) - jourdanlane - Oct. 10th, 2009 11:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kltownsend - Oct. 13th, 2009 11:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 11th, 2009 12:34 am (UTC)
Thanks, Ann. It's comforting that the fanfic community, for the most part, is going, "Uh...no."
Oct. 10th, 2009 11:25 pm (UTC)
I want to apologize on behalf of the rest of Merlin fandom, which was shocked and horrified by what gwendolynflight did. The moderators of various communities are looking into the situation and may take action to bar her from certain parts of the fandom as a result. I know that doesn't undo the damage she's already caused, but I hope it deters her from stealing from you in the future.

On a personal note, I am so very sorry this happened to you, and doubly so that it came from the corner of fandom where I live. All I can say is that steps were taken, and continue to be taken. She will be reported to stop_plagiarism because of her inability to understand what she did and how she hurt you. A full report should be available there once all the relevant material is gathered and a mod approves it.
Oct. 11th, 2009 12:36 am (UTC)
I was really pleased and impressed by the way the Merlin fandom dealt with it, so I hope none of you think I'm anti-fandom, I'm totally not. I felt like so many members of the fandom rallied around me even though you didn't know me. I was really touched.

Your fandom isn't besmirched :-)
(no subject) - briar_pipe - Oct. 11th, 2009 01:45 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 10th, 2009 11:31 pm (UTC)
Major logic fail on that thief's part. In her world, I guess if you put your license plates on someone else's car and drive off, that's okay cuz 'you made it your own.'
Oct. 11th, 2009 12:37 am (UTC)
Dude... I need a new car. Mine is doing a weird clicky thing when I try to start it and they say it's NOT the starter or the battery. Brilliant idea!
(no subject) - d_floorlandmine - Oct. 11th, 2009 09:31 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 10th, 2009 11:59 pm (UTC)
Jesus. I don't have many words that aren't 4-letter to comment about this. I can't even read a paragraph of her bullshit justification.

There are always some jackass in a fandom that ruins it.

I'm so sorry this happened. But I'm glad someone called her on it.
Oct. 11th, 2009 12:40 am (UTC)
The justifications made my brain hurt too. Just remember, in fiction writing, the villain never thinks they're the villain. They always have some kind of logic that completely justifies whatever it is they're doing.

I totally don't hold the fandom responsible. The majority is really on top of this, and frankly, are dealing with this more directly and thoroughly than I think a particular portion of my old fandom would have. I always thought there was a lot of looking the other way and going "la la la" when someone was being uncool.
Oct. 11th, 2009 12:57 am (UTC)
here via anah's tweet. good grief, what an unrepentant narcissist. "plagiarism is just a social contract"; oh, what brilliant insight -- all human laws and agreements are "just" social constructs.

she's contemplating "ostracizing herself" from fandom? fandom needs to kick her butt out until she grows a conscience.

now i go and buy 5 copies of psycop for friends who should read the original. i am so sorry this happened to you!
Oct. 11th, 2009 01:42 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for the show of support. "Social contract," ha, you're so right. That's the thing about language, isn't it? If you're determined, you can argue that anything is anything else.
Oct. 11th, 2009 01:05 am (UTC)
I have posted a comment asking her to remove the line in the video or ask you for permission to use it and give you credit in the video. I let her know it is a copyright violation.
Let me know if I should formally tell her
Oct. 11th, 2009 01:44 am (UTC)
Thank you so much. I guess I want to wait and see what happens. I don't have the intellectual property attorney I was telling you about on board quite yet, but I will shortly. I don't want to shoot myself in the foot by trying to do cease & desists myself.
(no subject) - andy_slayde - Oct. 11th, 2009 01:56 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 11th, 2009 01:22 am (UTC)
Did she actually apologize to you? I know she commented that she hoped you wouldn't see her post discussing taking down her plagiarized fic. But the way she expressed herself made me think she was humouring everyone over something that she felt wasn't a big deal in her mind. (Though I'm personally skeptical of any apology from that quarter at this point.)
Oct. 11th, 2009 01:46 am (UTC)
No, she hasn't contacted me directly or apologized. I don't suppose it would mean much to me if she did. She's clearly only sorry she got caught. And really, what good does it do? Is she going to obtain a stat for how many people read my story (with her name on it) and reimburse me $3.99 for each instance? I doubt it. I'd probably get laughed at for even suggesting such a thing.

I see she was planning on "adapting" Criss Cross as well. Not a good idea. Not at all.
Oct. 11th, 2009 01:49 am (UTC)
I wish I had known about earlier. You might have taken the high road (and I applaud you for it) but my f-list would have FUCKED HER UP. I've had fanfics stolen, which was annoying because despite lifting pre-made characters from someone else's world, the situations, scenarios, and WRITING were mine. Stealing free fanfiction is one thing, but plagiarizing from a PUBLISHED BOOK that is part of an author's livelihood is unconscionable.

I still want to fuck her up. *snarls*
Oct. 11th, 2009 02:40 am (UTC)
I think I see plagiarism the same whether it's a fanfic or a published fic. But she did two things here, plagiarizing and copyright violation.
(no subject) - dysonrules - Oct. 11th, 2009 04:01 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dysonrules - Oct. 11th, 2009 04:08 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan_c_price - Oct. 11th, 2009 10:29 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 11th, 2009 02:05 am (UTC)
Yikes. When I saw it posted I was excited to read it, because I thought a fusion with your PsyCop world would be cool (and commented as much), but I didn't read it before it went down, and thus didn't realize that she'd lifted the book wholecloth. FWIW, I'm VERY sorry that it happened, and to have been giving (however unknowing) support to someone who ripped off your hard work.

I love fanfic, I've been reading it for 17 years, but there's a huge difference between that (even fusions and crossovers and re-tellings) and just blatantly plagiarizing.

Many apologies, for my unintentional support of someone who would do something like that.
Oct. 11th, 2009 02:41 am (UTC)
You have nothing to apologize for, honestly. I'm really happy with the way the community dealt with the matter. I'm sorry for all of you, too.
(no subject) - an_sceal - Oct. 11th, 2009 02:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan_c_price - Oct. 11th, 2009 10:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 11th, 2009 02:42 am (UTC)
I came to the same conclusion ;-)

Thanks for the kind words. I think it's bedtime for me now. Don't let LJ explode while I'm asleep.
Oct. 11th, 2009 05:30 am (UTC)
Jordan: not a continuation of the outrage, more a question on the informational aspects of your post. You have me wondering about registering copyright on my work. Prepublication, I mean. So I know I can do this, but does it cause any glitches in later publication? Maybe you don't know.

Just seems that for some of my tighter work, if I pass it around for critiques...it might be worth the 35 fee to register. But not if it caused problems later. Or maybe that's a dumb question. Like asking if publishers would turn down a work if you'd already registered copyright. Surely not. Feel as if I'm missing something.

Just puzzling. Thnx, and maybe you don't know, seeing as you're published. That's okay, if so.
Oct. 11th, 2009 10:33 am (UTC)
Cool questions! Publishers expect you to copyright your work, so no, it won't cause you any problems down the road. When you sign a publishing contract you are granting them permission to print your copyrighted work in whatever form it says in that contract.

You can copyright a work-in-progress. Actually, you can copyright several. If you're working on 10 stories, you can zip them up and call them the "My October Stories" collection and copyright them ALL for the $35.

You may also pre-register copyrights, which is more expensive, and I'm not sure how that's any better than copyrighting a work in progress. Maybe if you were in film and you felt the final product would be so changed from your original idea that the copyright on the work in progress wouldn't stand up in court.
(no subject) - ocotillo_dawn - Oct. 11th, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 11th, 2009 06:49 am (UTC)
I actually saw that post but thought it was a crossover (many have happened with fandoms in modern setting recently) or something. Didn't pay a whole lot attention since I haven't seen any S2 Merlin yet and the summaries of fics tend to be spoiler-heavy these days.

Sorry to hear it wasn't a simple crossover but something this nasty :( If I'd known I would have shot you an email or a a comment about it since I saw it after rolling out of bed yesterday already.

Uhm. This may be the wrong place to ask this but considering it's that time of year again and all that, what's your stance regarding fanfic anyway?
Oct. 11th, 2009 06:53 am (UTC)
Ignore the last question, I'm not all that awake yet *rolls eyes at self* I obviously need more coffee, sorry.
(no subject) - jordan_c_price - Oct. 11th, 2009 10:36 am (UTC) - Expand
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