It is a sobering fact – plagiarism is part of a writers life. I have been posting articles on the internet since 1999 and having my content "stolen" was commonplace.
There is a saying: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery". I just wish they had chosen to copy my red robe and UGG slippers.
Last week, I was hit again. This time it was an e-book. As a "competitor" I purchase several formatting books each month. Not to steal content, but to read other avenues (there IS more than one way to format your book) and to make sure my content was not pilfered.
I found an ebook that was well written and clean. And for the first 78% it was fine, then I read the final 3 chapters. What the% @ #! *! My words were staring back at me from my iPad. Even the typo!
After 4 hours of investigating, I discovered the perpetrator used a pseudonym for his ebook; I discovered his "real" name, his Twitter and Facebook accounts, his mailing address and phone number AND where he worked. I was a regular Sherlock Holmes' 2nd cousin twice removed.
But the real rub? He was one of my customers! Once I had his real name, I found his order where he purchased my Kit and then copied content directly from the PDF into his ebook.
So what can you do to protect yourself from plagiarism?
Register a Copyright. I know, your work is copyright from the moment you put "pen to paper." BUT, do it anyway. In the US, the cost is only $ 35, and it protects you Internationally.
Keep a sharp eye. You can not be everywhere at once, but your readers can (almost). I have a very loyal customer base and they rallied to my side when I was attacked.
Buy books that are "suspect". Check the "look Inside" or get a sample of the book. both are free. If you see similarities, then purchase the book. You can ask for a refund within 4 days, if you wish. I do not recommend you habitually purchase and return as this may flag your account.
What to do if you find your work has been plagiarized?
FIRST. DO NOT CONTACT THE OFFENDER. No matter how tempting it may be, do not hurt yourself by a direct attack. Leave that to the store's legal department and your own lawyer. If you have a legal claim, then the store will do everything in their power to remove the problem for fear of retribution.
SECOND. Contact the Store. In my case the offender was on Amazon. On the bottom of every product page is a blue box labeled "Feedback". There are several options you can choose to comment on the product, including:
Do you believe that this item violates a copyright? Click here
Amazon takes Copyright Infringement very seriously. I was misinformed on that fact by a reputable lawyer and fully expected to never hear back from Amazon on the matter. I was pleasantly surprised when 2 days after contacting Amazon's Legal Department, I was notified the offending material would be taken down. (Note: it takes about 3 days for the book to come down– I imagine that they have a lot of cases to deal with.)
THIRD. Get a lawyer. One that can at least draw up a Cease and Desist. Do a lot of the leg work yourself and be prepared. Having a registered copyright is a big plus especially if you will be filing a claim internationally. If you are paying a lawyer $ XXX / hour, you want to get in and out quickly.
Copyright Registration (US)
Amazon's Notice and Procedure for Making Claims of Copyright Infringement
If you believe that your work has been copied in a way that constitutes copyright infringement, please provide Amazon.com's copyright agent the written information specified below. Please note that this procedure is exclusively for notifying Amazon that your copyrighted material has been infringed.
- An electronic or physical signature of the person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright interest;
- A description of the copyrighted work that you claim has been infringed upon;
- A description of where the material that you claim is infringing is located on the site, including the auction ID number, if applicable;
- Your address, telephone number, and e-mail address;
- A statement by you that you have a good-faith belief that the disputed use is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law;
- A statement by you, made under penalty of perjury, that the above information in your notice is accurate and that you are the copyright owner or authorized to act on the copyright owner's behalf.
Once you have compiled your information you can email, mail or fax. I decided to fax it and made a note of the date and time. I also followed up through their contact form of the offense.
Amazon.com's Copyright Agent for notice of claims of copyright infringement on its site can be reached as follows:
Amazon.com Legal Department
PO Box 81226
Seattle, WA 98108
phone: (206) 266-4064
fax: (206) 266-7010
-mail by E: Copyright@amazon.com
Amazon.com Legal Department
410 Terry Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98109-5210
The offending book is to be removed from Amazon by Tuesday. My lawyer will be sending a Cease & Desist letter to the offender to further strengthen my claim and hopefully deter any future violations.
One of the best outcomes from this entire situation was the outpouring of support from readers and customers. I can not even tell you how amazing that felt.