Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Plagiarized: A Tale of Two Betrayals

Whoever said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery obviously wasn’t a writer and was probably not talking about writers. Copying a writer’s work and claiming it as your own is serious, it’s illegal and it has a name; plagiarism.

Recently, the writing community was shocked by the news that one romance writer plagiarized the work of another. And we’re not talking about borrowing a few lines. We’re talking about taking the entire novel and changing so few details that anyone reading both would immediately see the problem. The author committing the plagiarism initially stayed silent but did remove ten of her books from circulation. Yes, ten! That author has since come out to say that she has “made mistakes” in her writing and was dealing with personal issues.

As an author, I was stunned and sickened when I learned of this. I’ll admit there have been times when I’ve read a book and liked it so much that I wished I’d thought of it. I have never, ever, plagiarized another author’s work. I’ve never even considered it. The fact that someone would is almost unfathomable. Not even in my darkest personal moments can I imagine stooping so low as to steal from someone else.

What makes this case worse is that it hit home for me. Until I learned she was a fraud, I supported the plagiarizing author. I bought several of her books and left glowing reviews online. I followed her on social media. I encouraged like-minded readers to buy her books. As a reader, I feel betrayed. As an author, I’m heartsick. Did the money I paid for her books rightfully belong to someone else?

A few years ago one of my stories was plagiarized. Just like in this instance, it was an alert reader that stumbled across it and contacted me. In my case, there was no profit being turned by the phony. She took my story and made it her own and posted it on a Justin Bieber fan fiction website. It took me a few weeks of going round and round with the moderator of the website, who was probably a teenage girl for all I know, to finally get my story removed. It didn’t matter that this other person wasn’t making money from claiming my story as hers. What mattered was that my story, a story I’d worked so hard on, was being passed off as hers and she was getting praise she didn’t earn.

Plagiarism is one of those crimes I’ll never understand. Isn’t there any kind of conscience on the part of the person committing the crime? How can they sit back and watch the money and praise roll in and not give one thought to the person they’ve victimized? And that’s what we are folks, we’re victims. The authors being plagiarized are victims of the most heartbreaking kind, but the readers are victims too. The readers are paying for a product and endorsing an author who is nothing more than a thief stealing the words, dreams, and in some instances money, of an author who poured blood, sweat and tears into her novel.

There isn't much more I can say other than it's disgusting and anyone who steals from another author should be punished to the fullest extent the law allows, no matter what the reason for the plagiarism was. You can bet I'll be keeping an eye out to see what comes of this case.