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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

throwawayreview
Oct. 10th, 2009 06:13 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.
jordan_c_price
Oct. 10th, 2009 06:43 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.

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