Sunday Issues A’Plenty: Plagiarism, Censorship, and Mud-Slinging

There is something stinking to high heaven in the world of publishing right now, and being me, how could I not offer an opinion?

So buckle up, boys and girls. It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

There is a thread on Dear Author that is a fire raging out of control. It deals with three different things.

1. PayPal is dictating terms to booksellers that use its service. If that seller offers novels in various categories PayPal finds offensive and does not agree to pull them off-list, PayPal will not process their sales. 

I can’t begin to tell you how pissed off this makes me. First, it’s censorship, and that should be a thing of the past. Second, a business is telling other businesses what they can and can not sell. Third, it’s telling authors, “You can’t write this stuff because we don’t like it and we’ll make sure you can’t sell it.” Nazi Germany anyone? The religious right in this country is out of control, and the problem is, they’re somehow managing to ride roughshod over some basic civil and legal rights. My stand on this one is clear: CENSORSHIP IS WRONG.

2. The Treasurer of the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA, (Romance Writers of America), Kay Manning (and several other assorted pseudonyms) had this to say after being caught as a plagiarist:

I’ve gone back and forth on how to address this for several hours. A personal blog post would not be seen by enough people. Nor would a response to Ms. Fielding’s blog. When Dear Author posted this blog, I felt it was the answer I’d been looking for. I couldn’t find a more public place than this.

To all the authors, publishers, and editors I stole from, I am sorry. There is no excuse. All distributors have been notified and those I couldn’t take down/remove myself are being removed by the third party as soon as possible.

To all the authors, publishers, and editors I’ve met and known over the years, I am sorry. I know you will never forgive me and you shouldn’t.

To anyone associated with the Kiss of Death Chapter, you can be assured that all funds relating to the chapter are well managed and controlled by a dedicated President and Board. I have not had access to any accounts where wrongdoing could have occurred without their immediate and swift action.

Finally, so there is no misunderstanding. I am a thief, a plagiarist. I am not an author.

It seems the lady is no lady: she took other people’s novels, changed a word here and there, and published them under her own name(s). Side by side comparisons have been done. At first, when called out about this, she tried to cover using lame excuses and outright lies, but it wasn’t long before the proof, as they say, was in the pudding and she finally came clean.

My opinion on this one is easy: She done wrong, and if she stole your hard work and made money off it, sue the crap out of her. Her pretty apology means nothing in light of her thievery.

And now we come to the last issue, the handling of which is bothering me a great deal.

3. One of Dreamspinner’s authors–a writer who created a bestselling, well-reviewed, award-winning novel his first time out–has been accused of plagiarism. Complicating this issue (and believe me, it should, and from I’ve read, will be checked thoroughly), readers on DearAuthor (because that’s who hangs out on that blog: readers. Not writers, READERS) have decided that flipping fanfic for publication is a crime punishable by death.

Dreamspinner was brought into this late, from what I’ve read (and I’m part of that publisher’s writer’s group, so I see that side, too), but they are investigating the claim, and I’m sure the proper steps will be taken should it be decided a wrongdoing has occurred. Until then, people should keep their opinions to themselves instead of posting them all over the internet, which encourages the spread of misinformation.

The author of the work in question said he was inspired by a film called Shelter. Some people are insisting the writer copied every scene and character in the movie to create his novel. I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, so I don’t know. AS SUCH, I have no opinion, but it seems others don’t let that stop them. Even as they admit they haven’t read the book and/or seen the film, they’re screaming PLAGIARISM at the top of their lungs, and like yelling FIRE in a crowded theater, everyone is suddenly braying the same thing as they rush for the exit.

It’s like witnessing mass hysteria, reading that blog posting, and suddenly, I feel like I need to wash my hands and rinse my brain.

Because not only is everyone jumping on a bandwagon that hasn’t been confirmed or denied yet, they took it a few steps farther. This unproven accusation made them then jump to fanfic, which they insist cannot be flipped for publication and the authors of such need to be burned at the stake. Then they really get out the tar and feathers, and decide Dreamspinner is a terrible publication house and they will never review another title published by them, nor will they buy books from their authors.

Did you see what happened here? Uh, did you notice? ONE author was accused of plagiarism, and suddenly, that publisher and every author there has been blacklisted.

NAZI GERMANY, folks. They say history repeats itself, and goddamn if I don’t see it happening right here, in this country, in 2012.

I have opinions about this, too. You’re not surprised, are you? Yeah, thought not.

First: Let Dreamspinner (or some impartial entity) decide whether this author plagiarized from a film. Then let them take the necessary steps to resolve it, either way. If something criminal was done (and I do think stealing intellectual property from others is criminal), don’t assume Dreamspinner knew about it. No self-respecting publisher would ever condone such thievery, because they would soon be out of business. And if it is found that the author did, in fact, lift the story for their book from a movie and was not simply inspired by it, don’t you dare attribute that wrongdoing to every other writer with that publisher. Wouldn’t that be just the teensiest bit extreme? Not to mention just plain stupid.

Fanfic. I’ve written it. I don’t see how it’s possible to flip, say, a Spock or Sylar story for publication without writing a completely new story, but I must say that the writing is just as hard as it is when starting from scratch, and if a writer thinks they can somehow turn that fanfic about ghost-hunting brothers into a piece acceptable for publication, more power to them. It’s still writing, and it’s still their writing, and they know very well that they can’t use anything copywrited by others in their story.

Inside the fanfic world is a subgenre: RPF. That’s real person fiction, and it’s inspired by the actors who play the characters in our favorite shows and movies. I’ve flipped a few RPFs for publication, and I see nothing wrong with it. I’ve never met the actors, I don’t know who they are, and so everything I attributed to them is made up. In essence, their public personas inspired me to create an original story.

Many writers use pictures of actors to guide them when they’re writing original fiction. It helps us maintain focus on our characters, to keep their eye color the same throughout, to remember what their body types look like, etc. Some probably even hear their voices in their head as they write dialogue. Is this plagiarism? Fuck, no. What the hell are you stealing?

There is a clear difference between “inspiration” and “plagiarism.” Most people know when they’ve crossed that line. I haven’t, and none of the other authors I know who’ve made use of RPF in creating stories for publication have, either.

And finally: Readers are not writers, and they don’t get to have an opinion on what a writer should and should not write. Readers have the option to buy, or not buy, an author’s product. To blacklist a publisher and their writers based on hearsay, innuendo, and incredibly obtuse leaps of non-logic is WRONG. Knock it off. You’re hurting people.

Think before you speak. Innocent until proven guilty. Never trust a fart.

Okay, that’s it! Rant is over. I wish I could say I felt better, but I partied hearty last night and have a beast of a headache! *goes in search of aspirin*

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About Fenraven

Fenraven happily lives in south Florida, where it is really hot most of the year. Find him on Twitter, Google +, and Facebook by searching on 'fenraven'.
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6 Responses to Sunday Issues A’Plenty: Plagiarism, Censorship, and Mud-Slinging

  1. Reblogged this on M/M Paranormal Romance and commented:
    Great blog, lots of good points!

  2. One of the more vocal people on GR grabbed a screen shot of this entry (that just floored me!) and put it up, so there’s no reason to password-protect it anymore.

    I was really trying to stay out of this mess, because while most of the people I’ve met on GR are astute, reasonable, mature individuals, there are a few that are not. My RL is stressful right now and I sure don’t need grief from total strangers. Also, my post referenced the thread on DearAuthor, not the one on GR. Just wanted to point that out.

    Oh, and my grandmother grew up in Germany as Hitler rose to power. My references to Nazi Germany had to do with their rampant censorship and book burning, and the harsh methods they used to control others. Genocide is not something I take lightly, as someone on GR has implied. I was deeply offended by her careless comments.

    TJ Klune,who has been accused of plagiarism, has posted on GR. Read his viewpoint here: http://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/2152317-so-what-have-all-you-been-up-to

  3. Pingback: Paypal and Plagiarism « M/M Paranormal Romance

  4. Eff! When something bad happens everyone wants to scream “thief”, “murderer”, “monster. Why? Not so sure. Probably because human beings feel better about themselves pointing out the flaws in others and thinking they are better persons.

    It’s easy to judge. It’s easy to feel better about our own mistakes and defects when we find someone has worst ones. It’s horrible how people are consumed by the desire of feeling omniscient, powerful and perfect. To be above others. “I am better than you!” “You are not worth it!” “You should envy me, not the opposite!” “You see, you’re not that great!” “ha ha ha, you’re an idiot!”

    Exactly the reason yellow press and paparazzi sell their stuff so much. Exactly the reason discrimination is still present. Exactly the reason why we still have wars.

    Call me crazy if you want. Envy, ego, hatred, wrath. They are ruling the world. We must be very careful about our own soul or it could be devoured too.

    Oh, yes. We don’t need a deity to convoke an apocalypse. We don’t need beings from another world to destroy us. Nope. We are doing a perfect job. Just sit down and wait.

    *sigh* Rant is over.

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