Thursday, 5 December 2013

The curse of plagiarism rears its hair-extensioned head

Another day, another case of plagiarism on the interwebs.

Yesterday, sit was author Elisabeth Nelson. I do not for a minute believe that Ms Nelson is a real person. If she is, she's the most photogenic author I've ever seen who only ever had one photo taken of her in her whole career. Surely a woman that good looking has selfies coming out the yin yang.

The photo turned out to be nicked from a Revlon hair extension ad.

Looking at Nelson's profile, it appeared to only exist from mid 2012.
In that time, she has published nearly 30 titles, including some non fiction. All of them are on the raunchy side of romance/erotica. Eighteen months of making money from writing.

That's the kind of prolific output that would put the late Barbara Cartland to shame.

Alas, it's 18 months of making money from other's people's hard work. The author bio for Elizabeth was word for word copied and pasted from author Roni Loren's website.

As the news began to spread, other authors found Nelson's titles bore a striking resemblance to their works, except the character names and the author's names were changed.

Who was doing all the work of stopping the plagiarist? Authors and their agents and their friends were, that's who. Authors were on the warpath and sending takedown notices to Amazon and all other retailers. They shared information and put their IT skills to work. By the end of yesterday, some of Elizabeth's web presences were down.

But her books are still on sale, more than 24 hours later.
Which means the plagiarist was still earning money and Amazon, iBookstore and all the rest of them were still taking their cut.

Trying to fight plagiarism is like battling the many-headed hydra - lop one head off and two grow back in its place. Here's a rundown of some plagiarism checkers, compiled by those marvellous folks at Melbourne University.

Here's what every publisher, including Amazon, Smashwords and the rest of them need to do from now on:

Run every single submitted manuscript through a plagiarism checker.  Here's a rundown of some plagiarism checkers, compiled by those marvellous folks at Melbourne University. 

If a body of work contains too many uncredited resemblances to other work, it can be refused publication.

Update: Here's what I cynically thought about the situation a few hours ago.
"Here's why they won't do it: They will lose money

For example. Every book I sell on line is priced at $2.99. For each sale from the ibookstore I get $2.10, royalty, so Apple gets .79 cents. For each sale from Amazon, I get $1.05, which means Amazon gets $1.94.

These are books I wrote, that I sweated over. Luckily for me, nobody has ripped off my work and changed the character names - yet - but at that cheap sale price, Amazon isn't making much money from just me.

But the cumulative effect of thousands of authors selling a few copies of their books each week quickly adds up. So let's average this out at the lower end: 1,000 authors selling an average 10 books each a week at $2.99 is $19,400 a week for Amazon."

What do I now think, mere hours later?

I think it's even worse than I thought.

Friends of friends have said the main players including Amazon do use plagiarism checking software and catch HEAPS of suss stuff before it goes through. But they don't catch everything.

This makes me want to vomit. There is clearly a cosy industry of people ripping off authors all over the place and establishing false author identities.

Which again puts the responsibility on authors to spend what should be their writing time checking to see if they're getting ripped off.

Not to mention the 'free' book sites that straight out rip-off authors.

Plus - come on guys, put a limit on the number of titles you can load up in any given year. Even if authors have a backlist to rival Enid Blyton, uploading 30 to 40 titles over several months HAS to be flagging something.



Lia Wright said...

I like book reading. According the book we can understand the author. What the author exact want.

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Ebony McKenna. said...

The bots are getting through the 'prove you're not a robot' fence. We are all doomed.