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Posts Tagged ‘online plagiarism’

book thiefAs I’ve written before, one of the hazards for Indy authors who self publish is piracy. You write a story, put it up for free online, and then it mysteriously appears for sale on the Kindle Marketplace. This has happened several times with my novels – and it’s just happened again. My story “Push Hands” is currently available on Amazon for the princely sum of $3.25, and I’ve no idea how it got there. I cried foul on the comments section, which is how I got the last lot of pirated material taken down, but Amazon doesn’t always approve of such unconstructive criticism, and I may have to approach their legal department directly. Again.

There’s not much we can can do about online piracy, other than remain vigilant and challenge it on sight.  If you’re an Indy, the first time this happens you’ll find it upsetting, even a little creepy that someone out there is impersonating you, but I think we have to accept it more as an occupational hazard and not get too hung up about it. The main concern here is for our readership, and to make sure no one ends up paying for work they think is coming from us, when it isn’t. So if you find your work for sale on the Kindle Marketplace, and you didn’t put it there, keep your head, spare your expletives and speak to Amazon. There is a process, and it works. Amazon will take it down.

If you’re a reader and you’ve paid money on the Kindle Marketplace for anything I’ve written, then I’m sorry but it’s been pirated and I urge you contact Amazon, who should refund you. All my work is available for free on Feedbooks. I do not self-publish on the Kindle Marketplace.

If you are the pirate, I’ve nothing really constructive to say to you, other than you’re courting some seriously heavy Karma, my friend, and you really need to mend your ways before it catches up with you.

I am the real Michael Graeme and you’ll find the real, unadulterated, unpirated, totally original, and absolutely free version of my story “Push Hands” here:

Push hands book cover

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The murky underbelly of on-line publishing?

They say where there’s muck there’s brass, but equally the opposite is true: where there’s the sudden glitter of freshly minted brass, the muck’s never going to be far behind in chasing it. It seems reports of the financial successes of certain authors using the Amazon Kindle marketplace as a publishing platform have resulted in murky characters muscling in and trying to sell ebooks on Amazon.com that don’t actually belong to them. They call it content farming. I call it plagiarism, or stealing.

Can’t write? Not a problem. There’s plenty of creative content out there you can simply cut and paste and sell under your own name. Just delete the author’s name and replace it with a false one of your own. But wait, isn’t that illegal? Sure it is. It’s also dishonourable, deceitful and downright dirty, but we writers are stupid enough to put our work up where anyone can copy it aren’t we? So it’s our own fault, right? I mean some writers even give it away – so what’s the problem? Worried about getting caught? Don’t be daft. Who can afford to get a lawyer involved to sort it all out? Sure, if the original author spots it and complains to Amazon, they’ll pull the plug on you, but by then you’ll have made a few bucks for very little effort and disappeared back into the woodwork like the n’er-do-well worm that you are.

It happens, apparently. It happens a lot, and it’s getting worse.

I wasn’t aware of this until a couple of my own books appeared over the weekend as retitled Kindle editions. The seller, who I’d never heard of, was claiming authorship and demanding the princely sum of $6.70 per download. My thanks once again to Lori and Emma for pointing this out to me, and for covering my back. I couldn’t believe the barefaced cheek, but then I’ve always been blissfuly naive in the ways of the world. I was initially quite cross, but I’m more philosophical about it now.

I’ve been agonising over Kindle publishing myself, but eventually rejected it as being too complicated – the financial and, taxation side of it – and then someone else comes along steals my stuff and puts it on the Kindle Marketplace themselves. There’s the plot of a good story in there, and a complex moral as well that I could spend a long time exploring . But seriously, it seems there’s little an online author can do about this, other than keep their eyes peeled by frequently googling their own stuff and making sure there’s nothing suspicious about what comes back at them.

Amazon were quick to act in this instance, taking the links down, but now I’m wondering if any copies were sold, and if that money can ever be repaid to the customers who downloaded those books in good faith – because they received a second rate product to say the least.

While the books were still up on Amazon I used the “look inside feature” and noticed the formatting of the text was mangled, the chapters not always complete, showing all the signs of having been clumsily combed off the internet, patched together and offered up for sale like a badly pirated video that turns out to be all noise. The difference is, however, with a badly pirated video, you know it’s pirated before you pay for it, because the guy selling it has a dodgy look about him and operates in the shadows of your local boozer. If you pay for it, you only get what you deserve, but with the Kindle, you’re assuming Amazon’s content is legitimate, and you’ll be justifiably cross to find yourself paying for disjointed content. It also tarnishes the reputation of the Kindle, and Amazon, and undermines consumer confidence in the whole e-book market.

I think this is actually quite a blow for the online independent publishing sphere. While on the one hand it’s encouraging to know there’s enough money around in independent publishing these days for the criminal underworld to take an interest in it, the last thing we want is paid content from independent authors turning into a minefield for the consumer. That way we all lose. I’m happy to be keeping my work on the free side of the internet for now. It makes it no safer, but there’s less confusion. If you’ve ever paid to read an ebook with my words in it, it was stolen.

So, if you recently downloaded those disjointed, second rate cyber-knockoff copies of “Love lost and found again” by “Kevin Peters” or “Fearful of the consequences” by “Jennifer Watson”, do please contact Amazon and insist on a refund. And if you’re not already weary of the whole business, please go over to my Feedbooks stream and download the proper e-books for free. “Love lost and found again” is a plagiarised version of “The Road from Langholm Avenue”. Fearful of the consequences is culled from my novel “Push Hands”.

Regards

Michael

**Update Feb 14th**

It seems I’ve taken the plunge at last and started selling my work on Amazon.com, with three Kindle titles listed – The Road From Langholm Avenue, Push Hands and The Lavender and the Rose. Yes, these books are under my own name and their original titles, but I’ve no idea how they got there, nor where the revenue is going.

I’m trying to have these taken down but in this case Amazon is putting the onus on me to prove I own the copyright, so they want address, phone number, inside leg measurement, plus a declaration signed in blood, on pain of death or life imprisonment, that I’m telling the truth.

Interesting! Okay – just sent that off to their legal department. We’ll see how it goes.

15/2/12 – Amazon reply to confirm receipt of my query and express regret that they are unable to respond as quickly as they would like at this time. Offending books still there.

17/2/12 Offending books still there.

21/2/12 Message from Amazon confirming imminent shooting down of offending books. Books gone.

Matter closed.

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Well, never has my flabber been more ghasted. My thanks to Lori and to Emma for writing to me and pointing out that my “free” novels are apparently for sale on Amazon.com as e-books for the Kindle. I had been thinking about making some of my books into Kindle editions, but discounted the idea as ludicrously complicated and probably pointless, so I was astonished to discover it’s already happened. Unfortunately they appear to have been written by someone else.

What?

The road from Langholm Avenue is currently being sold by Kevin Peters under the title “Love lost and found again”. My novel Push Hands is being sold by Jennifer Watson as “Fearful of the consequences”.

I’m actually quite stunned by this.

If you check the “look inside” feature on Amazon for these works, you’ll see the text is mangled and truncated, but definitely my own words. If you pay to download these books you’re going to be disappointed, you’re going to be angry, and my only comfort is you won’t associate them with my name. The product descriptions on Amazon are also a straight forward cut and paste from my descriptions on Feedbooks, where both of these books, like all my works, are available for free – and where, hopefully, the formatting is neater and the text more complete. Jeeze, I agonise over these books,… I kick myself for every misplaced comma and apostrophe, then some scam merchant comes along and hacks and cuts indiscriminately, and charges you six dollars for it.

If you’ve read Push Hands or Langholm Avenue, I thank you,… you are valued as a most rare and precious  reader, and much respected by yours truly, whatever you thought of my work. If you’re also an Amazon customer, could I ask you to go over to Amazon.com and leave a comment in the reviews of “Love lost and found again” and “Fearful of the consequences”, pointing out this strange discrepancy?

I don’t mind giving my work away. I love to write and in many ways it’s been a great relief to me to finally brush aside the  obsession with published and therefore paid authorship, which was clearly beyond my reach. I do greatly appreciate the comments from all my online readers. It’s given my work a terrific boost over the years, but it hurts to have someone steal and try to sell my stuff under their own name, thinking I wouldn’t notice. I suppose it’s a risk we all take as independent authors, putting our work up there, unprotected, for all the world to see, and maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that someone’s tried to engineer a scam with it.

I urge “Jennifer Watson” and “Kevin Peters”, probably nom-de-plumes of the same n’er-do-well, to remove these books from Amazon.com immediately. If they’ve plagarised my stuff it’s reasonable to assume they’ve done it to other indy authors as well, so I also urge Amazon to take a closer look at their account. I’ll also be writing to Amazon and reporting the outcome here. I’ve been a good customer of theirs over the years, with never a cause for complaint, and I’m sure they’ll be as concerned as I am that this kind of thing is going on.

I’m not sure if I should feel insulted or flattered at this stage. I feel violated, possibly, which isn’t nice at all. I think I’ll take a bath, then go to bed. Maybe I’m dreaming all of this?

My thanks again to Lori and to Emma.

Regards

Michael Graeme

**Updated 18 Feb 2012 ** These plagiarised works are no longer on Amazon.com.  They took them down before I was able to contact them. Other works have now appeared though, under my own name and bearing their original titles. These are proving more difficult to shoot down.

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