Self-Publishing News: 1.23.2017

And now for the news!

This week in the world of self-publishing:

Due to the ease of publishing anything from documents to novels on Amazon, some authors are finding that their work is being appropriated without their permission, or even without their knowledge. This kind of plagiarism can be straight copy-and-paste, word for word plagiarism, or it can be slight alterations to the story or wording.

Rachel Ann Nunes, a writer of Mormon fiction, found that one of her stories had been hijacked by a plagiarist who added sex scenes to remarket her stories as more mainstream romance novels. Luckily, a reader of Nune’s picked up on this copyright infringement and asked the plagiarist about the similarities and was told that the authors had collaborated on the piece. When Nune confronted the other author, Mullens, she received a vast amount of backlash on social media from whoever this troll was on the other end of the keyboard. One-star reviews of her book began springing up, hostile Facebook messages from strangers and the like. With this, Nunes was faced with a decision: drop it and let the theft slide, or take legal action. Nunes decided to sue who she believed to be Mullens for damages of $150,000, the trial taking place after the time of this article.

Without astute readers out there to catch this, there is a lot of this word theft that can fly under the radar for vast amounts of time. If it is discovered, you can imagine as an author how absolutely violating that must feel. People pour their heart and souls into their work when creating any piece of writing. To have someone else come along and throw their name on it and take credit for your creative outpouring is not just insulting, it’s a downright slap in the face.

The plagiarism trend seems to hit hardest in romance novels, as they are the biggest sellers in the ebook world, but any genre can fall prey to this. More surprisingly, the culprits aren’t always who you’d imagine they’d be either. Take Laura Harner, for example, a plagiarist who had put out 75 books in just two years. Due to Amazon’s rewards system, which puts authors who publish more often higher in the rankings. Unfortunately, Amazon gets to keep 30% of the profits from all books published on its site, stolen or not, as long as it removes the stolen work if it is discovered to be as such. This means the safeguards for authors who publish through Amazon will never be as good as those when publishing through a traditional publisher, who would be personally liable for violating copyright laws.

In short, the internet makes it quite easy for plagiarists to keep stealing work and making money under new names and new accounts. If signing up is as easy as having an email, and the company your publishing with is more focused on creating lots of content, i.e. lots of money, then it becomes relatively easy to work the system and pass off other people’s work as your own. This is the ugly side of a beautiful technological advance. Anyone can sit behind a keyboard and create a convincing online profile of themselves that does not match their true identity, which makes catching and prosecuting this type of offense extremely difficult.

I highly recommend reading this article for more examples of authors who dealt with this issue. I will also say, that as it is most often readers who catch these perpetrators in the act, remember that your role as a reader is equally as important as it is as a writer. Reading our fellow author’s works is one of the best safeguards we have in this digital age. I found myself profoundly impressed and inspired by the vigilance and support of readers who helped the victims mentioned in this article. It just goes to show how much showing appreciation for your fans can go.


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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry. This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Some Reasons Why Authors Need to be Copyright-Savvy

As a copyright clearance professional and trainer in copyright basics for creatives in the publishing sector, the arts, the public speaking arena, and the music industry, I often see the consequences in the new self-publishing and independent-publishing paradigm of a lack of knowledge about even the basics of copyright. The Internet, for example, offers a wealth of content, some of it serving as a resource and some as material that we can directly incorporate to enhance our own work. In today’s global marketplace, it is important to know how to locate and use copyrighted content while keeping the risks of infringement to a minimum.

Authors who are unaware of the consequences of plagiarism and infringement may find themselves facing some unpleasant decisions regarding their work.  If they are accused of either activity, they may have to defend their reputation and struggle to diminish the damage such an accusation can make on their career. If they have to defend themselves in court, they may face costly attorney fees. If they lose, they may have to remove all their books from the sales mechanism they have chosen and discard them. They may have to pay damages of as much as $30,000 per work infringed and, if the infringement is found to be willful, they could have to pay damages of up to $150,000 per work infringed.

Three common misconceptions about using copyrighted content follow:

Misconception 1: A small amount of copying is always OK.

This is not true.  There is no law that states a specific amount of words or lines are a fair use. Even a line or two of lyrics or a line or two of poetry can be an infringement, for example.

Misconception 2: Giving credit for a quote excuses its use without permission.

This is not true. Giving credit for a copyrighted work only makes its use free of plagiarism. The use of a copyrighted work accompanied by a credit, but lacking a permission, may still be determined an infringement.

Misconception 3: It is always OK to publish a photograph if the physical copy is in possession of the user/publisher.

This is not true.  The possessor of a physical copy of an artwork or photograph is not necessarily the owner of its copyright.  Another consideration with the use of a photograph is the use of the images within the photograph. For example, there can be problems related to copyright ownership with publishing even a family photo if permission hasn’t been obtained from family members included in it and from the photographer who took the photograph.

 

Joyce Miller is co-founder and co-owner of Integrated Writer Services, LLC. She does manuscript assessments, copyright clearance, and advising on instances of plagiarism, infringement, misquoting, and improper citing. For more information about Joyce and the services she provides, go to www.permissionacquistion.com or contact her directly at joycem@writerservices.biz.