So someone took a book from me. This wasn’t like the time I fell asleep on the bus and someone swiped my copy of “Hitchhiker’s Guide”, oh no. This was much, much worse.
Every once in a while, I Google the titles of my stories, just to see if anyone is talking about my work. (Spoiler alert: they aren’t.) I was doing this the other day, and I decided to search for the name of a creepy poem I wrote, “Holding Back The Dark”. I found out someone had plagiarized it.
Now, people have plagiarized my work before. I’ve even had students in writing classes ask me if they submit my stories for their homework assignments. (No, you can’t.) If the plagiarist is posting to a site they don’t own, like a Tumblr, it’s usually pretty easy to get my work removed. But this guy went a bit farther than just signing his name to something I wrote. He took a whole stack of my stories, put them together in a novel-length book, and started selling it.
This book was on Amazon. It was on Smashwords. Like herpes at Burning Man, it was all over the place. I started sending out emails asking for it to be taken down, with links to the original on my site. I don’t date the posts on my website, mostly because that would make it obvious how lazy I am about posting updates, but there are comments on “Holding Back The Dark” and other stories with dates more than a year earlier than the stolen book was published.
Smashwords responded the quickest. They took the book down, but only “notified the account owner that further violations will result in account closure”. I guess stealing a year’s work from me isn’t enough to get him banned.
Amazon responded a couple days later. They took down the Kindle version of the book. As of this writing, the paperback version is still there, but listed as “out of print”. The “author” hasn’t been removed from the website. He even has another book listed. Fortunately, not one I wrote.
As I was searching for places online where the book might be available, I found the most shocking thing of all. Not only did he steal all those stories from me, he tried to get Wikipedia to list him as the real author of my work! Thankfully, neither I nor my imitators are famous enough to have our own Wikipedia pages. (I’m so unknown, even some of my best friends don’t know my name.) The article was quickly deleted. Looks like I won’t be getting a copyright infringement notice from him.
So, any other authors reading this, keep an eye on your work. Google your story titles, and unique phrases in your stories. This can happen to you, too. If you don’t catch the plagiarists quickly, people might decide that you’re the thief.
If you do happen to find unauthorized copies of your work posted online, you can send an official DMCA takedown notice to the owner of the website, but I didn’t need to go that far. All I did was send simple, polite emails explaining the situation, with links to proof that I was the real author.
Ask for any copy of your work to be taken down, even if the plagiarist is just some kid with a blog. If they get caught stealing your words now, they might not steal someone else’s livelihood later.