When Imitation Doesn’t Equal Flattery

Recently there was a fascinating case of plagiarism in the romance world recapped at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. I have to say that the thief’s initial excuse — that the stolen story was simply in the wrong folder on her computer and she thought it was something she’d started a long time ago — is absolutely classic. Oh yes, it was a story she started long ago and…now with fresh eyes decided to change all the names and identifying details. Uh huh.

I’m glad she did ’fess up by the end of the day, admitting to everything and not giving any further excuses. But certainly too little, too late. It just amazes me that in this digital day and age, someone would have the nerve to repeatedly try and pass off other writers’ work as their own.

NPR wrote about the issue of plagiarism in Createspace, Amazon’s self-publishing imprint. Some “authors” are shamelessly cutting and pasting stories wholesale, slapping on their name and a new title, and making money (although I hope not much). I really feel Amazon should be policing Createspace and taking responsibility for what they’re selling. Of course, I recognize this is not an easy task given the sheer number of self-pubbed works on Createspace. I like NYU professor Adam Penenberg’s suggestion:

Why not require an author to submit a valid credit card before she can self-publish her works on the Kindle? If an author, who could still publish under a pen name, were found to have violated someone else’s copyright Amazon could charge that card $2,000 and ban her from selling again. Amazon could also run content through one of the many plagiarism detectors that are available — such as Turnitin or iThenticate –before an ebook is put on sale.

Amazon should be an industry leader in preventing plagiarism and not just respond to complaints. I feel there must be something more they can do than just slowly take stuff down after reports.

I’ve never — to my knowledge — been plagiarized. I certainly wouldn’t be flattered if I was! I’d be furious. How would you respond?

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