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Monday, March 14, 2016

Patchwork Plagiarism

Posted by JM Darhower Monday, March 14, 2016, under | 46 comments

Last week, I woke up to an email from a reader, the subject of which was every author's biggest fear:

someone has stolen your work

Now, I get messages occasionally from concerned readers who find similarities of my books in other books (I got another one just over the weekend), and I'm sure other authors get these messages, too, and we're grateful for them. We can't have eyes everywhere. We don't see everything. So we appreciate that people are looking out for us (that they love our work enough to want to protect it!). Luckily, the vast majority of the time it's simply a case of coincidence. It's a matter of inspiration, of similar thoughts and feelings. Coincidence does, in fact, exist, and it happens often. More than once another author and I have created similar scenes, had our characters exchange similar dialogue, and we've laughed about it. Great minds think alike and all that jazz. And if I've ever inspired another writer, if my work has ever in any way spawned an idea in somebody else that turned into a book, that's AMAZING. I am absolutely honored, and you rock the fuck on with your badass writing self. I've read many books that have inspired me. None of my books would exist if Mario Puzo hadn't written The Godfather. I probably wouldn't have had the guts to ever publish something if it weren't for Twilight. I am a BIG champion of fan-fiction. I love fan-fiction, I support fan-fiction, and I've written fan-fiction. Creativity spawns creativity. Like Albert Einstein said, "creativity is contagious... pass it on." (don't quote me on that, because I haven't officially sourced it... but I'm sure he'd agree).

But that's not what this is about.

This isn't about being inspired.

This is about copying.

 *back to the email I received*

So this reader of mine said she recently picked up a book, The Don: Sebastiano by Elle Raven & Aimie Jennison, and she was quite upset because as she was reading it, she was coming across passages that she KNEW she'd read a few times before... passages she was sure, without even having to crack my book open, that she'd read in Monster in His Eyes.

Here is one such passage (page 97, location 1517 of The Don):

"There's no need to be afraid; I'm not going to hurt you."
I kissed her then. Her lips were soft like velvet, a stark contrast to the roughness of mine. My kiss was gentle and I could hear her small, languid breaths against my lips which I eagerly inhaled, taking them all in. She was consuming me. I heard her let out a soft moan, and I barely caught it as I whispered, "Unless you want me to."
It indeed rung a bell, so I fished out my handy dandy copy of Monster in His Eyes, and there is was:

MONSTER IN HIS EYES (page 71, location 1149):
"You don't have to be afraid," he says. "I'm not going to hurt you."
He kisses me then. His lips are soft—so, so soft, like velvet, a stark contrast to the roughness of the rest of him. His kiss is gentle, little more than breaths against my lips that I eagerly inhale, taking him in. I let out a soft moan, hardly catching it as he whispers, "unless you want me to."

Okay, wow, that's super close. Maybe we just really think alike. Could be a coincidence, right?


THE DON (page 96, location 1496):
"If you want me to stop, just tell me and I will," I reassured her.
"Should we..." Her voice was a strained whisper. "I mean, do I need to have a safe word just in case I don't like what you do? I've watched movies. I've read books and from what you've done to me already, I have no idea how kinky you'll get."
I stopped mid-thrust, pulling back to look at her. I laughed, raised my scarred eyebrow and asked, "Is that right? Now what makes you think I'll give you reason to want to use a safe word?"
"I, uh... will I be needing one?"
I considered what she said for a moment before shaking my head and pushing into her, a little harder this time, making her breath hitch.
"Not this time, baby," I said, fighting off a smile. "Relax, Sierra. Just relax and let me fuck you."

MONSTER IN HIS EYES (page 74, location 1206):
"If you want me to stop, just tell me," he says, "and I will."
"Should we…" My voice is a strained whisper. "I mean, should I have a safe word or something?"
I've watched movies, I've read books, and I'm not sure how kinky this man gets.
He stalls mid-thrust, pulling back to look at me, his eyebrow curving. I can see the twinkle in his eyes, amusement, the monster intrigued by my question. "Do you want one?"
"I, uh… do I need one?"
He seems to consider that for a moment, halfway inside of me, before shaking his head and pushing into me, a little harder this time, making my breath hitch.
"Not this time," he says, fighting off a smile. "Just relax, Karissa."

Uh-oh.

THE DON (page 127, location 1980):
"Really, well, who are you then?"
I took another step toward her. I was so close I could see the chocolate and hazel flecks in her eyes. I stared down at her, keeping my expression deathly serious.
"I am someone you should stay far away from."
The minute I said those words to her, I felt her tremble and noticed gooseflesh all the way down her arms. I loved the effect I had over this woman. With only one word or look, I could make her tremble.
"I don't think I can. I don't think I want to stay away from you."
Sierra responded by reaching out toward me, running her hand across my chest and brushing it against my thigh. I yearned to touch her back but I was too angry, so I snatched hold of her hand, stilling it on my leg, my grip strong.
"I'm telling you," I said, my voice strained. "I'm warning you. I'm not a good man, Sierra, and I never will be. So don't think you can fix me, or that I'll ever change, because I won't. I can't."

MONSTER IN HIS EYES (page 81, location 1807):
"Who are you then?"
He takes another step forward, so close that I can see the blue in his eyes now. He stares down at me on the bed, his expression serious. "Someone you should stay far away from."
Those words make me tremble. I believe it—he has a way of making someone believe whatever he says—but still, they don't stop the traitorous feelings inside of me. Maybe I should stay away from him, but I don't want to.
I don't think I can.
Instead of responding, I reach out toward him, running my hand along his thigh. The yearning to touch him still lingers in me. His reflex is startling fast as he snatches a hold of my hand, stilling it on his leg, his grip strong.
"I'm telling you," he says, his voice strained. "I'm warning you. I'm not a good man, Karissa, and I never will be. So don't think you can fix me, or that I'll ever change, because I won't. I can't. You have to know, if this goes any further, if you ask me to stay, I'm not going to be able to let you walk away."

 Hmmm...

THE DON (page 116, location 1819):
Removing his hands from between my legs, he cupped my chin with his hand, tilting my face to his so I had no choice but to look him in the eyes. His thumb swept along my bottom lip, and I let out a shuddering breath as he leaned closer, tilting his head as if he was going to kiss me but pausing instead. His gaze burned through me, seeping down into my soul, seizing me like a prisoner.
I am his willing captive.

MONSTER IN HIS EYES (page 71, location 1144):
He cups my chin with his hand, tilting my face so I have no choice but to look him in the eyes. His thumb sweeps along my bottom lip, and I let out a shuddering breath as he leans closer, tilting his head like he's going to kiss me, but he pauses there instead. His gaze burns through me, seeping down into my soul, seizing me like a prisoner.
I'm a willing captive.

 *clears throat*

I could go on, but you get my drift.

Monster in His Eyes released in April 2014.

The other book? It came out in November 2014.

It was on sale for well over a year before the reader discovered these passages. A year, before anybody noticed. Without this reader, it might've been another year. Hell, it might've never been noticed. And that makes me sick to my stomach.

Not to be melodramatic, but I poured my heart into those words. It doesn't feel good, you know, having them ripped out and used. (Okay, sorry... that was totally melodramatic... but that's sort of how it feels). I could make some guesses as to how this happened. I could speculate all day, but I'm not going to. I contacted the authors of The Don about the situation last week, and one of them responded by promptly pulling the book from sale and saying they were going to speak to a lawyer. They've also pulled the sequel to it. Not going to speculate why. Just laying it all out.

I'm sure there are some people who will think I'm in the wrong for making this public. They'll think I should've kept it as a personal matter, that I should've dealt with it in private. They'll maybe even call me a bully for standing up for myself. But this isn't something that should be swept under the rug. This type of behavior, this 'patchwork plagiarism' shouldn't be tolerated. I see other authors dealing with this who keep it private, who make deals behind closed doors for 'restitution' and are then barred from speaking about it publicly, so nobody knows it ever happened. And that's their right. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. I've sought legal counsel and I'm fully following her recommendations in this situation. But we've got enough problems in the book world, dealing with piracy. We shouldn't have to also deal with other authors--authors we do takeovers with, authors we sit near at book signings and interact with in author support groups--hijacking our words on top of it. We shouldn't have to sit down and shut up and take it, like we're in the wrong for calling it out.

I'm not saying anything bad about the authors in question. I don't know them. All I'm saying is that while most of the time similarities are coincidences, sometimes they're... not.

*end of talk about email*

When something inspires you, you pay homage to it. You acknowledge it. You appreciate it, and you create something that showcases that. It doesn't have to be directly, but in your soul, in your heart, you know. Something got inside of you, it touched you, and it came back out through your art. ALL of us do this. Every single person. Whether we're conscious of it or not, everything that's touched us somehow becomes a part of who we are, and we in turn pass it on to somebody else.

But taking passages someone else wrote and using them as your own is not 'being inspired'. It is not imitation. It is not the greatest form of flattery. It is stealing. It is plagiarizing. And it's not cool. At all. The book world is supposed to be a big family. We're all in this together. We share struggles. We celebrate each others victories. We should respect each other. And sometimes this book world is so beautiful that it makes my heart want to burst.

But sometimes, it's disheartening.

Really disheartening.

~JM

46 comments:

I hope someone can get you a copy of the sequel. I find it suspicious they pulled that one too. If they have other books online, people should be paying a really close look at them. If they did it once, I'm pretty sure they've done it before. I'm so so so sorry that this happened to you hon. You did the right thing.

I'm sorry that you've gone through this experience, but I thank you for sharing this. I've not gone through his exactly, but I did find one of my books which I write under FP Alamo, uploaded to a pirate book site. It was heartbreaking to see how many times it was downloaded for free. Don't know how I would react to plagiarism, but I would probably also reach out to readers like you've done. Best wishes.

I'm just glad someone was abe to pUT it all together. I read tons and can barely remember the names. Now go slap some bitches! Just rediculous. I'm all for copying is the best form of flattery, but not at the expense of your own wallet. Give them hell on all of your fans behalf. You are the artist of that masterpiece and those words belong to those characters only! I only love you more for standing up!

I'm just glad someone was abe to pUT it all together. I read tons and can barely remember the names. Now go slap some bitches! Just rediculous. I'm all for copying is the best form of flattery, but not at the expense of your own wallet. Give them hell on all of your fans behalf. You are the artist of that masterpiece and those words belong to those characters only! I only love you more for standing up!

Holy shit this pisses me off. Myself and my co-blogger read a ton of books, but never put that together because we both read the different books.

That's insane and most definitely more than coincidence. The other authors should be ashamed of themselves. I'd be curious to know how similar the actual plot itself is too. Their reaction is very telling but then I guess when you have no defense, there really isn't much that you can say for yourself. Good luck with working this out - I hope you keep us updated.

Come to my bosom my sweet friend. This is fucking horrible.

Absolutely disgusting and I am so sorry. This is not acceptable and you did the right thing.

Absolutely disgusting and I am so sorry. This is not acceptable and you did the right thing.

I am so very sorry. I know how much it hurts, and I wish there was something I could say that would help.

I hope you are able to get some justice. Copyright law tends to be a weak and ineffectual scourge, like a flogger made from spaghetti.

I don't know... If you can't write your own original love scenes, then maybe write a children's book instead. Or nothing at all. Don't steal words from other authors. Did they really think no one would notice? This shit pisses me off. And honestly? These ladies just ruined their writing careers with this reveal. Why would you risk undoing all of your hard work by copying someone else's stuff. It's not that hard to be original!

You're right. We share each other's victories and sorrows. My heart is heavy for you. For someone to rape your words off the page is the lowest thing in this book world. I'm so sorry this happened to you.

So sorry you have had your work plagiarized. So uncalled for and you have every right to stand up and call them on it. Hugs to you!

Absolutely make it public. Let readers know they've been ripped off, just as they would be if they bought what they thought was a Gucci handbag and it turned out to be a copy.

Name and shame, let the world's know those hacks steal from people with real talent. No reader will buy from someone who steals other peoples work. I feel sick just thinking about it.

Everyone talks about Wattapp like it's wonderful, it scares the hell out of me, all i hear are horror stories of this very thing. I'm so sorry this happened to you.

I'm sorry that someone thought it was OK to steal your words.I hope that you can get everything taken care of .

Great post. I'm glad you stood up and talked about it. Maybe it will discourage other thieves from doing the same.

Blech! This just makes me sick! And it's happening far too often in book world these days. God knows I've read passages from other authors and thought, "Wow that's really similar to that scene I wrote in that book a year and a half ago" but it's never been plagiarism to the extent you are dealing with now. I'm so sorry this happened to you, babe, and you absolutely should speak up. Hacks are always exposed in the end.

You have nothing to apologize for - they knew what they had done and pulling the books so quickly and getting a lawyer confirms that.

You did the right thing. Those are your words, your creative passages and talent. They stole it. Simple and plain. I think you showed a great deal of class on how you have dealt with it. I wish you luck and I hope they are ashamed of themselves.

What a terrible thing to happen to you. You have been very graceful in the circumstances, JM.

I've got both books (The Don & book 2) but not a lot of free time right now to go through & check for plagiarism....BUT if anyone else would like to do it, I can see if it's lendable or something. I feel sick that I spent money on these books.

I remember, back before self-publishing & ebooks, the plagiarism case between Janet Dailey & Nora Roberts (I'm a huge Nora Roberts fan). Janey Dailey lost her big name publisher but continued to put out books, even after admitting her wrongdoing. She blamed it on "personal stress" because her husband was battling cancer and.....this is my favorite....she said the "essentially random and non-pervasive acts of copying are attributable to a psychological problem that I never even suspected I had" (her quote) & that she was in treatment for the unknown "disorder". Yeah, right. She got caught. Like a cheating scandal....blame it on a psychological disorder, go to rehab, be forgiven.

Have you reported this? You should!

Really glad you had a fan/reader that noticed the plagiarism &let you know. I wonder how many other passages were lifted from other authors to piece together their "book".

Thank you for going public. Readers need to know that some authors out there are not as honest as the rest of you who write from the heart. If I owned any by that author(s) I'd be requesting my money back from Amazon. I hope you are able to find the sequel they pulled and contact your own lawyer in regards to this issue.

That is beyond obvious. WOW. I hope they never publish again. I'm sure they have their own talents but to be so utterly brazen as to openly steal another authors words like that is criminal.

That is beyond obvious. WOW. I hope they never publish again. I'm sure they have their own talents but to be so utterly brazen as to openly steal another authors words like that is criminal.

Wow!I'm really sorry you have to go through something like this.I hope everything works out for you.I can only imagine how frustrated and upset you must feel.Thank you for posting this information.I've read hundreds of books and I've never put to much thought into plagiarism because come on seriously we are all adults and you are taught at an early age about copying someone's work. Keep your head up :-)

You might want to note that we're not talking about plagiarism here. Plagiarism is a term used in academia. You won't ever find it used in the courts. However, when one steals passages from a previously published work and puts it in their own, it's called Copyright Infringement - the stealing of intellectual property and punished heavily in Federal court . If you ever catch anyone doing it that stands outside Fair Use law- there are things you can do. First and foremost, contact the website of whomever is selling it (Amazon, B & N). DMCA laws state these sites must have info on them where one contact for claims of copyright infringement. They must then remove the book with the infringing material. Then get an IP attorney and file a suit with the Federal Court.

I hope you're suing them. This is... this is every expletive.

I am so sorry this happened to you. And I hope everything works out for you, and that many people will report this after reading your blog post, because what they did here is disgusting and terrible.

Sorry this happened to you. But I support your making this public. I don't think it helps to sweep these things under the rug. What this person did was completely wrong...though I can totally understand wanting to steal Naz for one's own. He's awesome. ;)

Seriously however, some people will say to take this as a compliment to your work, but I respectfully disagree. Someone being inspired by your work is a compliment. Stealing your work is no compliment, it's a crime.

One thing I noted when comparing the above passages, was that with just the small changes she made to try and make it look like her own work, she managed to weaken it. I'm not kissing butt when I say that in each passage you compared, yours is just better written. If she can noticeably weaken them with each of her choices for change, I shudder to think what work entirely her own might look like.

Good afternoon, I want to apologize to you. When I posted on your blog this morning, and on Facebook also about finding the print version of your book, I was not trying to get people to buy it. I was trying to let you know that Amazon still has it listed on their website. I know you stated they removed the electronic version, but there are 3 party sellers out there that haven't pulled their print copies and didn't know if you were aware of that. On one they are asking $90 some dollars for a print copy, and rightfully that money should go to you. But I noticed someone had removed my comment from your this, it was still on Facebook, but I have removed that one myself. Again, I wasn't trying to harm you in any way, I was just trying to pass along information. Please accept my apologies, I meant no disrespect. I have all of your books and I think you are an amazing author. Thank you for the privilege of reading your works. Thank you, and please have a great day, Moll

You are awesome! Thanks for looking out for our REAL authors!

I applaud you for taking this to the author. We need more honest people like you. We need to stand behind our authors and their amazing work!

I applaud you for taking this to the author. We need more honest people like you. We need to stand behind our authors and their amazing work!

Wow! There's similar, and then there's practically verbatim... This is horrible, JM.

Anyone who calls you a bully for going public with this is an idiot. I just shared your blog post with my 564K on Twitter so I'm a bully along with you.

Jesus Christ. These sorts of people are why we can't have nice things. So sorry you're going through this, honey. Epic suckage. :(

This makes me sad and I'm sorry you're going through this.

Oh, it's a blatant plagiarism, I have no other words!

I bet, that if you'll check your work and compare it with this "The Don" with some powerful plagiarism checker (e.g. Unplag https://unplag.com/), you will find a huge
percentage of similarity!

Besides, the results of this check could be used in the court.

Just don't leave it without your attention, the plagiarist has to be punished.

I want to be a writer, but am such a prolific reader, I'm afraid I'll accidentally repeat someone's scene or paraphrase, as I have a semi-photographic memory that I'm afraid could choose to pop out when I don't have any intention of using it.
I, however, would never be so cruel, hurtful, or just plain damn dumb and stupid (one of my grandma's favorite sayings) as to blatantly, bluntly, or callously use someone else's work and claim it as my own.
I've actually been told I'm too honest for my own good since I turn in forgery and fraud at a job since I was the data integrity manager, but it nearly got me fired (I quit first). I would be heartsick if ever I accidentally were to regurgitate someone else's words. So I've held back from writing.
I'm sorry you were hurt in this. You were allowed your melodramatic moments. - I would have been crying my eyes out. So I only hope you not only get what's due to you in recompense, but I hope you get the other thing due to you - a very sincere apology. Without the sincerity, it won't be worth the tree it took to print it, and I'd demand one be planted in its place.
All the best to you.

(I really shouldn't write s*&t without caffeine. Sorry for the cockups, as my friends from across the pond might say.)

(I really shouldn't write s*&t without caffeine. Sorry for the cockups, as my friends from across the pond might say.)

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