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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.




Comments

( 152 comments — Leave a comment )
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spungen_spinks
Oct. 12th, 2009 01:04 pm (UTC)
It's atrocious and mind-boggling that this occurred. The phrase "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" comes to mind, but really it's just extremely irritating!

I know that there are actions being taken to have them banned from LJ but I feel that in the sphere of the internet they can easily create a new account- such is the internet I suppose. It makes it too easy to remain anonymous and sometimes by implication lawless.

But I'm sorry it happened to you. =)
jordan_c_price
Oct. 12th, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC)
It's funny how so many of those expressions turn out to be entirely inaccurate when you go to use them, isn't it? ;-)

Online, I think sometimes all you really have is your reputation. Once you destroy that, it's gone and you have to start all over again. So I don't think we can say the plagiarizer hasn't lost anything.

And me, mostly I was weirded out.

Thank you for the kind words!
(Anonymous)
Oct. 12th, 2009 01:15 pm (UTC)
I actually had someone post one of my books to a writing site, same title, same publisher's blurb, as if they'd written it. (Not just my book, but the moron was doing the same to several other bestsellers like Lora Leigh.)

Moron. You do NOT plagiarize, especially books that have hit NUMBER ONE on Kindle erotica!! (Idiots.)

AND, when people were praising "her" work, she was accepting thanks as if she'd written them!

Grrr!

Yes, the postings are down, as is her account.

Some of these people Just. Don't. Get. It.

And I hope they understand karma will bite them in the ass.

Lesli Richardson (aka Tymber Dalton).
jordan_c_price
Oct. 12th, 2009 04:34 pm (UTC)
Hi Lesli, that was really weird seeing her enjoying the accolades, wasn't it? What was there for her to be happy with? That she was getting attention, I suppose. Which she still continues to get.

I'm sorry you had to deal with this too. It's such a weird feeling to see your hard work with someone else's name as the byline.
(Deleted comment)
jordan_c_price
Oct. 13th, 2009 02:09 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy it :D
kltownsend
Oct. 13th, 2009 11:49 am (UTC)
Here via Twitter...

Like just everyone else here, I want to say I'm so sorry you had to experience this. The thing is, I don't think many of us mind fanfic. Many of us have started that way. It's a good training area and it's fun. It's when people cross that line.

While I agree with you and say that she's not sorry and she only took it down when she got caught, I also think plagiarism is a problem spreading throughout the Unites States more so now than ever before. (I can't speak for other countries.)

I've encountered quite a few young people who do not get the concept of copyright or plagiarism. I've served as a substitute before and have had kids pass in material lifted word for word or with only a few sentences changed. I had it back to them, give them the chance to change it, and they pass it back STILL plagiarizing a person's work.

And when I talk to them about it, they are clueless.

So if it's this bad with kids grabbing articles, blogs, and bits of information online, then I imagine it's happening with fiction more often than we know.

I love the internet, but with the speed and availability of material, along with many people just not getting the concept, I'm afraid we're going to see more and more of this.
jordan_c_price
Oct. 13th, 2009 12:11 pm (UTC)
Wow, this is a haunting post. I agree, the ease with which people can steal (either electronic goods or intellectual property) and the level to which they're willing to rationalize that it doesn't hurt anyone, seems to have combined to create a group of users who has never known any different and truly believes that lifting an article and putting their name on it, filesharing music or giving away an ebook to a thousand of their online buddies is morally right.

So I'm not sure what's to be done about that. In terms of piracy, I would think this isn't a sustainable practice, because what's going to happen is that the smaller, niche content producers will not be able to endure the erosion of their livelihoods, whereas the corporate-backed middle-of-the-road, mass-market content will be able to take the hit of losing a percentage of their profits to digital theft. So that content they love? They're killing it by ensuring the producers will have to give up writing or playing music or drawing comics or whatever, and go back to punching a clock at the plant.

In terms of plagiarism, I do see there is still this sense of outrage, particularly here in the Merlin community, where readers feel like they've been played and duped. If the fanfic currency is praise and engagement, they've been giving it to the wrong person -- and no one likes to be made a fool of. So a social currency of reputation (or loss of it) has come into play. Someday, though, the stigma of plagiarizing may eventually erode too, judging by your experience and what I've seen of others.

I'm thinking of a humor blogger I follow whose post was stolen and it then went viral (like millions of hits) and it wasn't attributed to him. What a sick feeling that must have been!

Thanks so much for joining in the conversation!
juliandahling
Oct. 13th, 2009 06:20 pm (UTC)
I thought it was alo fucked up that she's allegedly in GRAD SCHOOL. How the fuck did she get into Grad school if she thought that "adapting" wasn't blatant cheating and plagarism? She probably cheated her way into school, through undergrad. Hopefully they'll catch her when she rips someone else's thesis off and then she'll get ejected from her scholarly institution. Karma's a bitch I tell you.
jordan_c_price
Oct. 13th, 2009 09:15 pm (UTC)
I think she's a teacher too. I recall there were plenty of bullshit artists in grad school. Most of 'em got nice, big grants and cushy professorships on the way out, too.

Thank you for your support ;-)
(no subject) - juliandahling - Oct. 13th, 2009 11:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan_c_price - Oct. 14th, 2009 03:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - juliandahling - Oct. 14th, 2009 05:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Oct. 14th, 2009 12:07 pm (UTC)
Came across this from Ann Somerville's site. Thought you'd be interested that I put her site through the plagiarizm program at work and it came back clean apart from some song lyrics she used as titles (to be fair she credited them).


Sarah (love your work!)
jordan_c_price
Oct. 14th, 2009 03:02 pm (UTC)
That's so cool of you! I was more than just a little curious about that, to be honest. Thank you so much!
eriador117
Oct. 14th, 2009 12:15 pm (UTC)
Here through the erec blog. I'm not in the Merlin fandom (I'm more of a Harry Potter girl myself), but so sorry you were plagarised. That is not a nice thing to happen. And now I.ve discovered some more m/m books for my to be read list :) They sound really good and I'll go straight for the original ;p)

(((Hugs)))
jordan_c_price
Oct. 14th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad to hear this incident has some sort of silver lining. I hope you enjoy them :-)
blue_jay12345
Oct. 15th, 2009 03:32 pm (UTC)
I can understand how you're feeling, but it says nothing at all about you (apart from the fact that everybody liked YOUR writing). The person who did this is a cheat and whether she wanted to make money from it or not is not an issue here. The fact is, that she stole something, and that's just wrong. It says all about her. From what I read in the thread, she comes across as an arrogant person, who thinks what she did wasn't wrong at all. This of course doesn't in any way reflect negatively on you. However, it might reflect badly on other writers of fanfics. As you mentioned, you did a fair bit of that yourself, and it can be a lot of fun doing it and it's a great way to practice your writing muscles, but what this person did has nothing whatsoever to do with writing fanfiction. I think it's good you decided to register your work, but it's a sad thing that it's you who has to pay for the fact that others steal from you.
jordan_c_price
Oct. 16th, 2009 01:42 am (UTC)
I'm pleased that fanfic writers came out looking good too. I suspect some bigger authors, studios, etc. don't understand the value of fanfic and how it's really all about extending the experience of the show, book or movie rather than replacing it. Thanks so much for the kind words!
(Anonymous)
Oct. 15th, 2009 05:39 pm (UTC)
I'm another Merlin fan who was part of the anonymous community that first came across this. I'm very sorry that this happened to you, and I hope you don't see it as a reflection of the fandom as a whole. I've been part of the fandom for almost a year now, and most people are wonderful and would never tolerate such a thing. I also believe that most of them praising her (your, rather!) fic had not read your novel, and had they known, they would never have praised her like that. I'm just a fanfic writer, but I take plagiarism very seriously and I really do think that most everyone in Merlin fandom does as well.

On another note, I'm going to check out your novel since I found the premise interesting. I do hope that this turns into a positive for you, and I'm sorry that you were hurt.
jordan_c_price
Oct. 16th, 2009 01:40 am (UTC)
You should be proud of your community -- they all rallied and dealt with the plagiarizer without me having to do anything (other than watch in dismay.)

If I gain some new readers, that's certainly a positive thing to come from an otherwise lousy experience. Thank you!
myrimidryad
Oct. 17th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC)
That seriously sucks. I was actually one of the ones squeeing over that, and to find out she just stole everything from someone else makes me feel all slimy. I just read part of the first chapter on Amazon, and it is so weird to read the exact same thing with so few differences. I'd been waiting for the next update, and I was really into it, so I figure I'll go buy the actual book now. I'm really sorry that had to happen to you. :(
jordan_c_price
Oct. 17th, 2009 08:56 pm (UTC)
Hey, I'm glad you dig the story. It really does take some of the sting away to know that a bunch of people got turned on to my writing.

I was so happy with the coolness of the Merlin community.
sethryod
Oct. 18th, 2009 12:26 am (UTC)
Well...
If it helps you any: I got to this post over a long list of merlin post and I am really sorry about what happend to you.
This form of mind-rape, can't be excused.
But it got me very curiouse about that book of yours, could you possibly give me a link or more information (or both) what it's about and where to buy it? =) The bit's I've read aout here sound marvelous.
jordan_c_price
Oct. 18th, 2009 12:47 am (UTC)
Re: Well...
If it's any consolation, seeing someone else's name on my story was more of an uncomfortable violation (like realizing there's a peeping tom at your window) than a violent thing (like a rape).

You can find out more about PsyCop at http://psycop.com. The ebooks are at http://jcpbooks.com and more about all my projects (including links to free stories) is at http://jordancastilloprice.com.

Thanks for asking :D
Re: Well... - sethryod - Oct. 18th, 2009 12:55 am (UTC) - Expand
hanarobi
Nov. 16th, 2009 01:54 am (UTC)
Late to the party, but just read your interview on the monthly newsletter that I got today (thank you, by the way, since I got to read the bit about Psycop 6 and it made my day!) and found out about this whole plag thing. Wow. Stunned. Whoa. Crap.

Sorry it happened. Sorry she was so unrepentant. Reading the screen capture was quite the experience.

Among the Living is a wonderful novel and the opening is extremely memorable. You deserve to have all the credit for it. No one else should get some of your glory reflected their way when they did none of the hard creative work. Why is that so hard for some people to understand?
jordan_c_price
Nov. 21st, 2009 10:57 pm (UTC)
Hey, thanks for commenting! My guess is that the plagiarist fully understood what she was doing was wrong (and why), but once she got caught she tried to talk her way out of it using a string of 25-cent words. No one sees themselves as the villain of a story, so that's where justification comes in.

I considered snagging some work off her website, changing a character name, posting it, and adding "by Jordan Castillo Price" as a byline. But I was worried some readers who didn't know me well enough might not catch that I was trying to be ironic.
(no subject) - hanarobi - Nov. 21st, 2009 11:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan_c_price - Nov. 23rd, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Nov. 21st, 2009 10:49 pm (UTC)
This has to be akin to literary rape
Outrageous!
I am so sorry that there are these conscienceless people more willing to steal rather than to work. I feel terrible that this person did this. But so proud of the fearless reader who saw it for what it was and commented. I am so happy that all of your work will be registered. I am so angry for you as I read about this!
Magda
jordan_c_price
Nov. 21st, 2009 11:00 pm (UTC)
Re: This has to be akin to literary rape
Hi Magda - It hit me harder than I expected, but the rest of my life went on and started trickling back in, and I had deadlines to make and crises to deal with at my day job...and eventually it became "that weird plagiarism thing that happened to me in October."

I'm happy that registering your copyright is really easy nowadays and can be done all online. Once I did the first couple of books the process got easier and easier.
mamakitty729
Mar. 11th, 2010 08:03 pm (UTC)
I stumbled across this when I was going through @katiebabs' old WTF blog posts. Let me first say that I'm truly sorry this happened to you. Plagarism is plagarism is PLAGARISM. If I would have done anything like that in my English Comp II class last summer, I would've been kicked out of college. Silly example, I know. But the bottom line is that her style of "fusion" is illegal, wrong, and just plain STUPID.

Secondly, I want to say that I'm not usually one to read m/m. It's not that I have anything against it, but it doesn't typically float my boat. That being said, I'm preparing to buy the PsyCop series because your writing is so fabulous that I can't help but get it. I read the excerpts I could and bought... well, I'm embarrased at how many I bought ("Buy Now With One Click" is evil, I swear. My Kindle is going to be full within a week).

I hope you are doing well (since this post originally was put up several months ago) and that that hideous girl hasn't ripped off anyone else's work.

Twitter: @MamaKitty729
Wordpress: http://mamakittysbooks.wordpress.com
jordan_c_price
Mar. 11th, 2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
Hi Mamakitty! Isn't one-click fabulous? I mean...er...dreadful, yes, quite awful.

Thank you for letting me know you enjoyed the excerpts enough to click. It really makes my day.

To my knowledge, the plagiarist has continued working on her PsyCop/Merlin "fusion" but has not yet posted it. It's a two-pronged problem, both theft of my intellectual property and a violation of my copyright. I had to learn more than I ever wanted to know about copyright due to this issue.
jenkritique
Aug. 31st, 2010 01:39 am (UTC)
God... just god.

I have never read your series, have never even read Merlin, but someone on an online bulletin board posted this, where we were talking about plagiarism. And now I'm truly shocked.

I've seen plagiarism before in fanfiction. Mostly it was just dumb people who wanted good feedback and were extremely stupid.

But this...? Oh, this. I've been plagiarized before, but it was a small thing, a few lines that were very similar to an ending to one of my chapters in a fanfiction, and she fixed it up right after that, bless. The author had read my fanfic and had done it almost not intentionally.

But this person... god she is f*cked up, as if her dumb "fusion", and her arguments. Plagiarism is a horrible thing, you do not just copy people's work and claim it as your own. It's just completely and utterly wrong, and it's so stupid that people are doing it, and to think that she's a grad student is even worse.

The line between good and bad nowadays is thinning out. Iu just gets worse and worse, and I can't believe that author. Scratch that, she's not even an author.

//rant

Just, simply, I am so sorry for you. I'm so glad that the Merlin fandom were wonderful helping you and I hope that this never happens to you again. :(

-Jen
jordan_c_price
Aug. 31st, 2010 02:07 am (UTC)
Thanks, Jen. One thing the incident made me do was ensure my work was properly registered with the US Copyright service. Now, should I see unauthorized use of my work somewhere, I have the option to litigate for statutory damages.

I think people do know the difference between good and bad, right and wrong. I also think they make a lot of excuses and convoluted arguments.

For sure, the fandom felt dismayed to be praising the plagiarist for her creativity when it turned out her characterizations, plot, wording, etc. were all copied! Nothing like making your own fandom feel like a bunch of dumbasses for praising you.
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