Monday, March 2, 2015

Plagiarism Happens

So, this happened...
Perfect Man screen shot
This is obviously an Amazon listing, describing a novel written by someone named Melissa Rogers. The listing rather prominently advertises 'bdsm' and 'alpha male' tags, and for several days it was a free download, with a ranking of around 5000.
So why is this a problem?
It's a problem because The Perfect Man wasn't written by Melissa Rogers. It was written by my friend Amanda Byrne, aka Radiodemon. (It also doesn't contain any bdsm, and the hero is more of a beta with strong alpha tendencies, but that's beside the point.) She entered her story in last year's Valentine's contest at Literotica.com, and she won. The entire story (not just the first 18 pages as shown here in "Part One") has been available at Literotica for free, although it will be taken down soon at Amanda's request.
Last Friday someone emailed Amanda, letting her know a chunk of her story had been published on Amazon under three parts. A Literotica reader saw the story, recognized it, and was thoughtful enough to contact Amanda about it. (So YAY for conscientious community members.) Amanda downloaded all three parts, the first half to 2/3 of the piece, just to confirm it was in fact her story. The other two parts were published under different authors' names, with similar cover art. All three were free, though as is apparent from the image at the top of this post, Part One is now priced at $2.99, and parts 2 and 3 appear to have been taken down.
Amanda contacted Amazon on Friday through their copyright complaint tool,and she's sent Amazon a cease and desist letter. She's provided them with as much information as she had. It's her story. The story has been up on Literotica.com under her log-in. She has a copy of the cancelled check for the prize money, Amazon acknowledged receipt of her complaint, but says it takes 5-7 business days for them to investigate the situation. 
That's five to seven days someone could be making money off of Amanda's work.
So this makes me mad, and not just because something shitty happened to a friend of mine.
Authors have their work pirated all the time. It's sort of an occupational hazard of publishing in the digital age.  I don't usually get too excited when I find one of my books on a shady "download for free" site, because I figure as soon as I send off the cease and desist letter, it'll disappear from one site and put up somewhere else.  I also figure if you're a big enough loser to download people's work from a pirate site, you deserve whatever malware or viruses come along with it.
But Amazon is different. Regardless of what you think of their business practices, most of us trust it as a place to shop. My experience with Amazon customer service has always been good, too, so it's appalling to me that they're slow to respond to the concerns of an author, one of the many who keep their machine running. It's bad enough that losers out there would rip off someone else's work, but when an author is lucky enough to uncover such blatant plagiarism, it's frightening to feel like you don't have back-up.
In a perfect world, Amazon would have pulled the listing down while they investigated the complaint, ensuring that no one would benefit from this fraud. In a perfect world, anyone stumbling on this listing would look at the ten one-star reviews and stay the hell away.
In a perfect world, cheaters wouldn't win.
If you're interested in reading all of The Perfect Man, I'll be sharing the listing when Amanda publishes it for real, and if you've got any advice on how to avoid situations like this, or what to do when they happen, please leave your thoughts in the comments. I'm putting this same post up on the SpellboundScribes blog, because I want people to know about what happened. Jump HERE for Amanda's own blog, to get her thoughts on the issues this raises.

Peace,
Liv

10 comments:

  1. Grrr. Argh.

    So frustrating. But I have to say I'm not all that surprised a behemoth like Amazon doesn't respond quickly.

    I wish it were not so. I also wish I could give up my kindle as a form of protest.

    But I (panic attack!) can't. :-(

    I hope it all gets resolved quickly.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I know this stuff happens, but it really frosts me. I can't imagine how frustrated and angry Amanda must feel. I am not educated on how to work this system, but it sounds like something we should all get educated upon. Did you mention on FB something about thinking it might be a bot rather than a person? I'm not sure I even know what that means but it sounded important. :) Would love to understand better but am unsure where to go for guidance.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sara, I thought it might be a bot just from the way it was formatted and posted - it's like someone just copied it straight from the Lit website and pasted it into a Word doc, slapped a cover on it, and hit publish.

    The biggest thing I took away from this was it doesn't matter WHERE I posted the story or under what name, it's still protected by copyright, even if I didn't REGISTER the copyright. Not registering makes it harder to sue for damages, but Amazon still has to follow copyright laws and take it down.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The Perfect Man still doesn't have a sales ranking, so maybe (?) the one-star reviews are scaring people off. I hope so...
    Thanks for checking in you guys!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm with Ellen. I would even go further and say that Amazon is not really, and never has been a bookstore, nor has it ever really functioned with a bookstore aesthetic. That in no way excuses their non-response to plagiarism, but it does go a ways toward explaining it. Heaven knows I'd be lost without my kindle, but my hunch is that books are actually a pretty small part of the business.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I also sent a comment to Amazon.com about this. There's no excuse for the book not being removed when the author proved it was hers!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm sorry your friend is having to go through something like this. It must be super-frustrating :(

    I'm not sure Amazon should have a policy of taking down a listing pending further investigation whenever they receive a plagiarism report. Seems like something trolls might be able to exploit in order to hassle us writers.

    Hopefully a favorable resolution comes sooner than the quoted 5-7 days.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I hear what you're saying, Mike. You're right - trolls would complain about books just because they didn't like the cover or content. I also learned that if the copyright complaint is found to be legitimate, Amazon doesn't pay the person who published someone else's work for any sales.
    Thanks for all your comments, and for your support for Amanda!

    ReplyDelete
  9. At least the person doing this will not get the royalties. But what a frustrating thing to happen!

    ReplyDelete