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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. 11th, 2009 08:03 am (UTC)
OMFG. Everyone else has said it so well. (Just another reason I'm sliding off under my Lurk stone for a while.)

Please feel better about it soon. Don't let her twisted confusion reflect in ANY WAY on you. It's not worth the mental and emotional energy.
Oct. 11th, 2009 10:37 am (UTC)
Thanks, darlin'! I'm learning more about copyright at the moment than I care to no. Some creep actually wrote and published a sequel to Catcher in the Rye, it was banned in the US because Salinger defended his intellectual property, and everyone's bemoaning the first amendment over it. My brain hurts.
Oct. 11th, 2009 09:37 am (UTC)
Got here from an LJ-posted tweet by ephemera.

Her responses are ... special. Glad that the community handled it (at least those who identified it as a complete retread) and that it did actually get spotted, but sad that anyone had to go through that kind of thoughtless entitled bollocks. And that the internet and the find-and-replace tool in a text editor make it so easy to do that kind of thing and pretend it's your own work. [sigh]

Please paraphrase that ramble as a message of combined support and outrage.
Oct. 11th, 2009 10:38 am (UTC)
Thank you! I thought the community really stepped up admirably.
Oct. 11th, 2009 12:22 pm (UTC)
This unbelievable - and she actually took the time to argue her point and a bitch about it as well...

Where will this end... I thought when my blog was lifted was bad - but this is beyond believe...

Oct. 11th, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC)
Re: Unblievable
I totally don't get stealing blog posts. It would be so different if someone liked your blog post, took and reprinted one paragraph (with attribution and link back to original) and then riffed on it a while in their own words...that would be like a community builder. They'd be promoting the original creator, themselves, and drawing like-minded people towards them.

But instead they steal, get caught, and look like big douchebags.
Oct. 11th, 2009 01:23 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry this happened to you. FYI, when I googled plagiarism and gwendolynflight I came across an lj thread from 2007


In which angiepen explains to her about both plagiarism and copyrght.

So, proof that she knew what she was doing all along... :(
Oct. 11th, 2009 03:20 pm (UTC)
It's been 2-1/2 years and she STILL hasn't figured out what intellectual property is?

(Good to see you, BTW!)
(no subject) - kriscat - Oct. 11th, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 11th, 2009 02:06 pm (UTC)
OH HEEE! And now the (bunch of words deleted) has taken all her posts either private or deleted them. Good. Dumb bunny.
Oct. 11th, 2009 03:24 pm (UTC)
Kriscat just noticed she's been acting baffled about copyright since 2007. *sigh*

I would assume she's taken the posts private since she didn't delete the account.
Oct. 11th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
Daft cow.

Not you, her. *grins* Just to be clear.

Some people obviously got whupped by the stupid-stick early and often. Unfortunately, this one picked YOU for her 'admiration.'

Maybe plagarism IS a 'social construct'... along the lines of not ripping someone's lung out through their nostrils. *sweet smile* Though she doesn't seem to be debating the value of THAT 'social construct,' does she?

Sorry. This sort of thing just pisses me off.

Even so, it's heartwarming that the Merlin fandom gave her a smackdown... and that the LJ police likely will/are too. *grins*

Good job to you on handling it so well. I'd have gone a fair bit ballistic, me. *nod nod*

Oct. 12th, 2009 01:13 am (UTC)
I might have gone ballistic, but I saw the whole thing just as I was headed out the door and got to ponder it for several hours before I composed my thoughts!
Oct. 11th, 2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
I'm so very sorry this happened to you. That's an appalling infringement and such a horrible thing to do.

Within fandom, there's a comm that handles all the investigations of plagiarism: stop_plagiarism; you might want to mention it to them as she could've done this to others.

Oct. 12th, 2009 01:14 am (UTC)
Thank you! Her fanfic community let me know they're handling the reporting to stop_plagiarism. They're being awesome.
Oct. 11th, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC)
omg she was milking up those comment! aosdhaoejnwirvusbv that is so WRONG! ughh!!

(I'm a faithful stalker of Cheryl's and when I saw her post about this I couldn't believe it)

What a distrust among fellow writers. Ughh she deserves to be banned from all realms of creative writing.

As for you hun, direct all those lovely comments that those people left on her post to yourself, because they're YOURS!

*off to rant about rude people*
Oct. 12th, 2009 01:15 am (UTC)
What was interesting was the commenters who were so dismayed they'd complimented her. I think it shows how vulnerable when we make stuff and when we share our thoughts about that stuff.
Oct. 11th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)
I never heard of you before, and when I read the first chapter of the fic I excitedly bookmarked the site, awaiting the next chapter. When I heard about it being a plagiarized work, I felt like a fool. However, if it is any consolation at all, knowing that it's a rip off made me curious about your work, and have just now completed ordering Among the Living and am greatly looking forward to reading it.

It's a horrible think to have happened to you, but I hope my small contribution (though hey, not like I'm being put out any - I got a wonderful book to read!) helps even just the slightest bit.
Oct. 12th, 2009 01:17 am (UTC)
Thanks so much -- I hope you enjoy the book! I think everyone who was enjoying it was made to feel foolish -- though of course they have no reason to since the plagiarizer represented the work as her own.

I'm grateful if I find some readers who appreciate the story over this incident. It would really be a silver lining.
Oct. 11th, 2009 09:20 pm (UTC)
I am so sorry this happened to you. I'm here through the post on merlin_finders and have seen this stunt in the Heroes fandom also, I commented on her original trailer for the fic (pointing out that it was similar to one I'd already read! oh the irony) and now feel ashamed.

I'd also like to point out a website which I think is hers:


I guess anyone who has ever written anything needs to check it out (if this isn't hers somebody let me know)
Oct. 11th, 2009 09:37 pm (UTC)
Have now managed to delete my comment, god bless lj
(no subject) - jordan_c_price - Oct. 12th, 2009 01:19 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 11th, 2009 09:22 pm (UTC)
I am sure you have gotten a thousand comments like this already, but I just wanted to say sorry. I mean, I didn't do it, but still I feel your pain. If someone stole my work, I would flip a shit! It must be the journalist in me, but plagiarism is the devil. :)
To be honest, I was just about to read that 'fanfic' - I had it bookmarked, but I didn't get back to it until today.
Anyway, just wanted to say that if you even possibly find a positive out of this, it should be that your work was so good that someone had to take it because they couldn't come near to as good as yours. Not anything of a consolation, but it's something I suppose.
Oct. 12th, 2009 01:19 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for the kind words of support! They're much appreciated.
Oct. 12th, 2009 12:22 am (UTC)
Sheesh, that's awful. I'm glad people in the fandom spotted it and are doing something about it, but still. I know the wording so well from proofing for the second edition, and recognized all the phrasing. I'm so sorry you went through this.
Oct. 12th, 2009 01:21 am (UTC)
Did you notice she added watery words like "very?" I'm a little numb at this point and my to-do list is sprawling all over the floor. I might need to play hooky to catch up.
Oct. 12th, 2009 01:39 am (UTC)
I'm stunned that it happened, that anyone had the gall to do what she did. Unbelievable.

I thought it was funny the way she spelt Auracel wrong, so that it would be 'different'.

She's a very silly girl. You're handling it well, I think.

Oct. 12th, 2009 11:19 am (UTC)
Wow, Ali. I hadn't noticed that Auracel re-spelling. (I didn't look at her re-do too hard because it was too tough for me to see) For some reason that makes this whole thing hit home that much more.

*hugs you back*
Oct. 12th, 2009 09:18 am (UTC)
First, let me express my sympathy to you that this happened at all. Plagerism is never excusable no matter how you wrap it.

Originally, I saw the post made by a friend of Gwendolyn Flight. Saw it was in a fandom I'm not interested in so I decided to skip. Later I saw a post by logophilos with your book sited as the original. After reading your comments and your gracious take on what was done, I decided to take a look.

If nothing else comes from this, you just made another sale due to the fiasco. I'm very much looking forward to reading this now. Glad I missed the other :)
Oct. 12th, 2009 11:22 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I hope you like the original -- I promise, it's better ;-)

I keep telling myself to be grateful, it could have been worse, like if everyone compared the two and told me, "Yours sucks but the fanfic rocks." Then I'd need to hang up my writer's hat.
(no subject) - tameiki - Oct. 12th, 2009 02:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 12th, 2009 11:40 am (UTC)
...I read that fic a few days ago and now I feel slightly sick. That's just... I don't think I could have been so calm about it in your position.

Anyway, I'm going to go and buy the original now.
Oct. 12th, 2009 04:32 pm (UTC)
Aw, that's so awesome. I hope you enjoy the fic the way I meant it to be told.

She duped a lot of people, really played with their heads.
(no subject) - kathkin - Oct. 12th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
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