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brainstorm77
10-23-2015, 06:08 PM
This time it's mm romance author Laura Harner who has been accused. The following link highlights what has happened so far: http://jennytrout.com/?p=9693

I am saddened by this since Harner has been a popular author among the mm romance author and reader community for quite some time.

Ravioli
10-23-2015, 07:02 PM
"Suspected". Looking at the evidence the author of that blog post provided, we might as well scrap that word. Disgraceful.

Jamesaritchie
10-23-2015, 07:05 PM
Suspected? It looks pretty blatant. Well, plagiarism is always a good way of becoming popular, as long as you plagiarize quality.

brainstorm77
10-23-2015, 07:23 PM
Yeah, it's right out there.

brainstorm77
10-23-2015, 07:24 PM
How does plagiarism make an author popular?

Viridian
10-23-2015, 07:37 PM
How does plagiarism make an author popular?
Because a thief can produce quality material quickly.

brainstorm77
10-23-2015, 07:41 PM
That slipped my mind. I was thinking after they were found out :Shrug:

ElaineA
10-23-2015, 07:44 PM
I think JAR means it sarcastically. At least that's how I'm reading it. Copying = a way to put out a lot of books, which she did. More books = more readers, and she is copying pretty well-penned material. Then engage with a tightly knit community and voila! Popularity.

I'm kind of curious. I wait sometimes 18-24 months for my fave authors to put out a new book. Didn't the prolific nature of this author's output ever ring any alarms among her fans or other authors?

brainstorm77
10-23-2015, 07:47 PM
Some of her works were short. It's not uncommon though in m/m and romance/erotic romance for an author to have a large output.

ElaineA
10-23-2015, 07:56 PM
I read a lot of romance. 15 books a year would definitely make me raise an eyebrow. Not that I'd think "plagiarism" though. I'm a bit too naive about creative theft to jump there (although the more this happens, the less naive I'm getting. :() I've seen enough authors rehashing their own work to become bored by their stuff.

thethinker42
10-23-2015, 08:06 PM
I'm kind of curious. I wait sometimes 18-24 months for my fave authors to put out a new book. Didn't the prolific nature of this author's output ever ring any alarms among her fans or other authors?

A lot of authors in this genre are extremely prolific (I'm one of them). For those of us doing this full-time, it's pretty much the only way to survive unless we're runaway bestsellers. Many of us produce 1-2 books a month.

So no, being that prolific wouldn't set off a lot of alarm bells for people in this genre.

Viridian
10-23-2015, 08:11 PM
A lot of authors in this genre are extremely prolific (I'm one of them). For those of us doing this full-time, it's pretty much the only way to survive unless we're runaway bestsellers. Many of us produce 1-2 books a month.

So no, being that prolific wouldn't set off a lot of alarm bells for people in this genre.
I was just about to use you as an example! Lol.

Fifteen titles a year is really prolific, but it's not unheard of. Especially in the m/m community.

thethinker42
10-23-2015, 08:16 PM
I was just about to use you as an example! Lol.

Fifteen titles a year is really prolific, but it's not unheard of. Especially in the m/m community.

It's definitely common in the M/M community. The genre simply isn't big enough for an author to make a living off 1-2 releases a year unless they're runaway bestsellers.

And hell, some of us just prefer to write fast. Doesn't mean there's anything suspicious going on.

ElaineA
10-23-2015, 08:40 PM
And hell, some of us just prefer to write fast. Doesn't mean there's anything suspicious going on.

Duly noted, and WOW! I'm jealous. :D

Seriously, though, I didn't mean to imply anyone should jump right to being suspicious, and with your and Veridian's explanations, I can understand how this author could pull it off without anyone thinking much of it. Now I feel even more sorry for the community of m/m writers, if her BS results in making people suspicious when they wouldn't have been before. Grrrr

I hope St. Martin's goes after her hard and fast. Sounds like she's made a pretty good chunk of change. Maybe someone will be able to shake some of it loose.

thethinker42
10-23-2015, 08:43 PM
I hope St. Martin's goes after her hard and fast. Sounds like she's made a pretty good chunk of change. Maybe someone will be able to shake some of it loose.

She mentioned somewhere that she was closing in on half a million copies sold, and something like ten books have been confirmed (I believe) plagiarized. That's not going to be cheap. Sucks to be her - zero sympathy.

Hapax Legomenon
10-23-2015, 09:30 PM
I'm always a little confused when people shout plagiarism in cases like these and then demand blood/compensation. Plagiarism isn't itself illegal. Copyright infringement is. The author is doing both, unless there was some secret deal that allowed them to use someone else's work. Do we shout plagiarism because it sounds scarier?

beckethm
10-23-2015, 10:04 PM
I'm always a little confused when people shout plagiarism in cases like these and then demand blood/compensation. Plagiarism isn't itself illegal. Copyright infringement is. The author is doing both, unless there was some secret deal that allowed them to use someone else's work. Do we shout plagiarism because it sounds scarier?

Plagiarism is the act of passing off another person's words or ideas as one's own, which is precisely what this author did.

Copyright infringement is using copyrighted material without permission. You can attribute your source and still be infringing someone's copyright.

In this case, I think plagiarism is the most accurate term. (Though you are correct in saying plagiarism is not always a crime.)

amergina
10-23-2015, 10:50 PM
I'm always a little confused when people shout plagiarism in cases like these and then demand blood/compensation. Plagiarism isn't itself illegal. Copyright infringement is. The author is doing both, unless there was some secret deal that allowed them to use someone else's work. Do we shout plagiarism because it sounds scarier?

We call it plagiarism because that's what it is. That you can sue someone for copyright infringement because they plagiarized you doesn't make the act not-plagiarism. It's both plagiarism and copyright infringement.

You can also infringe on copyright without plagiarizing, like when someone lifts the majority or an entire article and posts it elsewhere *with* the original attribution but *without* the permission of the author.

Plagiarism can also result in fraud I think (IAMAL though), because the thief is profiting from intellectual property that does not belong to them.

So yes, copyright infringement. But also plagiarism.

jjdebenedictis
10-23-2015, 10:56 PM
I'm always a little confused when people shout plagiarism in cases like these and then demand blood/compensation. Plagiarism isn't itself illegal. Copyright infringement is. The author is doing both, unless there was some secret deal that allowed them to use someone else's work. Do we shout plagiarism because it sounds scarier?I think people shout plagiarism because, like many things that are not illegal but which are morally reprehensible, social ostracism and public vilification is the worst we can do to punish the person. (Like that guy who bought the rights to sell a certain medication, then jacked the price up 600%, or whatever it was. It's legal; we can't stop him. All we can do is call him a gigantic erupting anus.)

The copyright infringement is better addressed via lawsuit, and I hope it will be. The plagiarism can only be addressed via public outrage.

Ravioli
10-23-2015, 11:02 PM
I'm always a little confused when people shout plagiarism in cases like these and then demand blood/compensation. Plagiarism isn't itself illegal. Copyright infringement is. The author is doing both, unless there was some secret deal that allowed them to use someone else's work. Do we shout plagiarism because it sounds scarier?
Legal doesn't equal right, and illegal doesn't equal wrong. I'd rather be surrounded by prostitutes and drug dealers, than by one single fur farmer or impounder.

Viridian
10-23-2015, 11:02 PM
I'm always a little confused when people shout plagiarism in cases like these and then demand blood/compensation. Plagiarism isn't itself illegal. Copyright infringement is. The author is doing both, unless there was some secret deal that allowed them to use someone else's work. Do we shout plagiarism because it sounds scarier?
Well, law and ethics are two different things.

Copyright infringement is against the law. Plagiarism is unethical.

We're not mad at them because they broke the law. We're mad at them because they did something unethical.

Hapax Legomenon
10-23-2015, 11:38 PM
Well, law and ethics are two different things.

Copyright infringement is against the law. Plagiarism is unethical.

We're not mad at them because they broke the law. We're mad at them because they did something unethical.


I still feel like the "without permission" part is a bigger deal than without citation, though.

Like, let's say we have a hypothetical self-pub m/m writer who's good friends with a self-published m/f romance writer. The m/m writer calls up the m/f writer one day and says, "Hey! Can I rewrite the last book you wrote as m/m?" The m/f writer, for whatever reason, replies, "Sure! But make sure my name's nowhere on it, ok?" They're both in on it and agree to it, but the readers don't know. Would we still be angry? If we are still angry, are we as angry as we would have been otherwise?

thethinker42
10-23-2015, 11:55 PM
I still feel like the "without permission" part is a bigger deal than without citation, though.

Like, let's say we have a hypothetical self-pub m/m writer who's good friends with a self-published m/f romance writer. The m/m writer calls up the m/f writer one day and says, "Hey! Can I rewrite the last book you wrote as m/m?" The m/f writer, for whatever reason, replies, "Sure! But make sure my name's nowhere on it, ok?" They're both in on it and agree to it, but the readers don't know. Would we still be angry? If we are still angry, are we as angry as we would have been otherwise?

Why would the authors not let the readers know? Readers aren't stupid. Any author worth their salt knows that something like that would blow up in their face, so 100% transparency would be critical. For example, I'm writing a sequel to another author's book. We're both being absolutely upfront about what it is, that he gave me permission, etc., for this very reason -- so someone doesn't scream that it's fanfiction, theft of intellectual property, etc. Why wouldn't we? Same for two authors working together in the scenario you presented. I can't imagine any situation where the authors wouldn't think that would end in disaster.

If those two authors made the arrangement you suggested, and were transparent about it, then I don't see how anyone would be screaming theft or anything. There would be some backlash over converting hetero to M/M (mostly because of concerns over writing gay romances that are offensively heteronormative - it's been discussed within the genre, and hasn't been received well), but not about using someone else's material with permission.

Viridian
10-23-2015, 11:59 PM
I still feel like the "without permission" part is a bigger deal than without citation, though.
Yeah, I agree.

When a plagiarist plagiarizes, they're doing two things wrong. They're stealing from another writer and they're misrepresenting themselves to readers. I do think the theft part is worse. The person who is actually violated, IMO, is the author the plagiarist stole from.

But the readers are still being lied to, and they have a right to be annoyed regardless.

Roxxsmom
10-23-2015, 11:59 PM
I read a lot of romance. 15 books a year would definitely make me raise an eyebrow. Not that I'd think "plagiarism" though. I'm a bit too naive about creative theft to jump there (although the more this happens, the less naive I'm getting. :() I've seen enough authors rehashing their own work to become bored by their stuff.

I've read works by highly prolific authors (several titles a year) that feel a bit like they're copying their own earlier plots or characters. I gave up on one fantasy writer I really liked for a while when I began to have this deja vu feeling when I read their books--wait, have I read this one before? No, it's just published this year. But I could swear...

I guess when authors plagiarize other writers, they're counting on their own readers not overlapping at all (I guess she was counting on the readers of the M/F romances she stole not reading her M/M). But when she ended up being popular, there was likely going to be at least some overlap in readership.

Or maybe a certain arrogance sets in. She maybe thought her readers were too dumb, or simply too adoring, to cotton to it.

Maxinquaye
10-24-2015, 12:16 AM
I'm always a little confused when people shout plagiarism in cases like these and then demand blood/compensation. Plagiarism isn't itself illegal. Copyright infringement is. The author is doing both, unless there was some secret deal that allowed them to use someone else's work. Do we shout plagiarism because it sounds scarier?

Plagiarism has been a taboo for hundreds and hundreds of years. It's the one thing that will get you headlines in a global press. Just look at the journalists that have been caught doing it over the last decade. It's huge scandals because it pulls the rug under everyone elses feet. It may not be illegal, in a technical sense although fraud accusations and charges can be levelled, it is definitely a greater taboo than copyright infringement.

The big dirty secret is that many writers will happily infringe on software copyrights, and listen to music they've downloaded off the net, and relax to films viewed through services other than Netflix... But they would never ever do plagiarism.

amergina
10-24-2015, 12:25 AM
I still feel like the "without permission" part is a bigger deal than without citation, though.

Like, let's say we have a hypothetical self-pub m/m writer who's good friends with a self-published m/f romance writer. The m/m writer calls up the m/f writer one day and says, "Hey! Can I rewrite the last book you wrote as m/m?" The m/f writer, for whatever reason, replies, "Sure! But make sure my name's nowhere on it, ok?" They're both in on it and agree to it, but the readers don't know. Would we still be angry? If we are still angry, are we as angry as we would have been otherwise?

Without citation is a big deal in academic circles, for what it's worth. In fiction, it tends to be an all or nothing thing.

And I honestly can't ever see the scenario you hypothesize playing out, for exactly the reasons TT42 states.

Both authors would be setting themselves up for drama and shit by not being transparent. It's a corner case that's very unlikely to occur for these exact legal ramifications. And if it were to happen? Well, they kind of have to expect the shit that will be heaped up until they come clean and say "It's okay!" The default is that it's NOT okay to copy someone's work/use someone else's characters for money without a transparent acknowledgement.

DancingMaenid
10-24-2015, 01:44 AM
Plagiarism has been a taboo for hundreds and hundreds of years. It's the one thing that will get you headlines in a global press. Just look at the journalists that have been caught doing it over the last decade. It's huge scandals because it pulls the rug under everyone elses feet. It may not be illegal, in a technical sense although fraud accusations and charges can be levelled, it is definitely a greater taboo than copyright infringement.

The big dirty secret is that many writers will happily infringe on software copyrights, and listen to music they've downloaded off the net, and relax to films viewed through services other than Netflix... But they would never ever do plagiarism.

I think claiming that you made something is a different, deeper for of theft than other forms of copyright infringement. Someone who pirates something is not claiming they made it and aren't taking the creator's basic ability to claim their own work.

I'm not claiming that piracy is fine, but as someone who's fine with people sharing my work noncommercially, I would absolutely have a problem with someone plagiarizing my work. I see the two things as very different.

helen ravell
10-24-2015, 02:06 AM
Apart from the plagiarism, for which there can be no excuse, it bothers me a little that this author has achieved high levels of success in the genre by simply converting a female character to exactly the same character with a male name and pronouns.I've seen plenty of comments and critiques that argue that both male characters in an m/m ought to BE male, not watered down women, yet here we have a total transfer. I write m/m/f and I really do try to have both my males use male gendered language and behaviours, but is that a different case? I'd be curious to read other m/m authors' opinions.

brainstorm77
10-24-2015, 02:11 AM
Apart from the plagiarism, for which there can be no excuse, it bothers me a little that this author has achieved high levels of success in the genre by simply converting a female character to exactly the same character with a male name and pronouns.I've seen plenty of comments and critiques that argue that both male characters in an m/m ought to BE male, not watered down women, yet here we have a total transfer. I write m/m/f and I really do try to have both my males use male gendered language and behaviours, but is that a different case. I'd be curious to read other m/m authors' opinions.

That's another discussion/topic all on its own. You could start a thread on it. I know of many cases where the author in question started out writing MF, but due to low sales switched to MM thinking they'd be more popular with better sales.

thethinker42
10-24-2015, 02:11 AM
Apart from the plagiarism, for which there can be no excuse, it bothers me a little that this author has achieved high levels of success in the genre by simply converting a female character to exactly the same character with a male name and pronouns.I've seen plenty of comments and critiques that argue that both male characters in an m/m ought to BE male, not watered down women, yet here we have a total transfer. I write m/m/f and I really do try to have both my males use male gendered language and behaviours, but is that a different case. I'd be curious to read other m/m authors' opinions.

I absolutely agree.

Maxinquaye
10-24-2015, 02:11 AM
I'm not claiming that piracy is fine, but as someone who's fine with people sharing my work noncommercially, I would absolutely have a problem with someone plagiarizing my work. I see the two things as very different.

I totally agree. Plagiarism is much worse than copyright infringement. That's why it's generally a career destroying thing to do. I doubt the consequences would be as dire if someone was caught sharing a song or an ebook. But plagiarising? The culprit will most likely never work again in his or her field. The taboo is that strong, even though it's technically not illegal.

Latina Bunny
10-24-2015, 02:59 AM
I still feel like the "without permission" part is a bigger deal than without citation, though.

Like, let's say we have a hypothetical self-pub m/m writer who's good friends with a self-published m/f romance writer. The m/m writer calls up the m/f writer one day and says, "Hey! Can I rewrite the last book you wrote as m/m?" The m/f writer, for whatever reason, replies, "Sure! But make sure my name's nowhere on it, ok?" They're both in on it and agree to it, but the readers don't know. Would we still be angry? If we are still angry, are we as angry as we would have been otherwise?

Um, I'm sorry, but what would be the odds of such a thing happening, lol?

If such an unusual, and not to mention, fantastic hypothetical situation were to occur, there is still the issue of misrepresenting one's work to the readers. That sounds a bit disrespectful and maybe even arrogant to me (as a reader). Why would a person mislead one's audience (outside of a magician's magic trick show)?

ETA: I also feel that it kind of disrespects the art and craft of written works, if that makes sense?

Tazlima
10-24-2015, 03:33 AM
Why would a person mislead one's audience (outside of a magician's magic trick show)?



Even in a magic show, there are strict limits on how magicians represent themselves to their audience, most importantly the fact that the audience should always know they're watching an illusion. There was quite a kerfuffle in the magic community a while back when "street magic" was at its peak. One of the big-name TV magicians, I forget which one, crossed that line. He went to some remote village, did magic tricks, and then filmed the response of people who believed he was doing actual magic rather than entertaining illusions.

Not cool.

Hapax Legomenon
10-24-2015, 03:49 AM
That's another discussion/topic all on its own. You could start a thread on it. I know of many cases where the author in question started out writing MF, but due to low sales switched to MM thinking they'd be more popular with better sales.

I could easily see a case with someone writing MF, seeing it wasn't selling, and then switching around the book a bit to make it M/M and reselling the book under a different penname. I do wonder if people would cry foul in this case.

Latina Bunny
10-24-2015, 04:04 AM
I could easily see a case with someone writing MF, seeing it wasn't selling, and then switching around the book a bit to make it M/M and reselling the book under a different penname. I do wonder if people would cry foul in this case.

As long as it's the same writer, and not another writer copying another writer's work, then I may not think much of it. I may feel a little insulted by it, depending on how the story's rewritten, and how the author represents the story.

I mean, it would depend on the story, of course, and how many stories are being converted, but it would probably feel a little lame for some readers.

It's like when some writers use similar plots or characters in their own books.

It could look like the writer is one of those "one-trick ponies" or "one hit wonder" kind of deal. Or as a sign of disrespect for the craft of writing, etc.

It really depends. It also depends on whether the author is forthcoming about the other books...

The hypothetical (albeit somewhat unbelievable) situation you stated earlier is a bit different, though. It's one writer purposely using another person's writing and misleading the readers (through omission of citing the original source).

ETA: I was discussing the two hypothetical situations Hapax brought up, not the actual OP situation. The OP situation is totally plagiarism (and copywrite infringement?).

amergina
10-24-2015, 04:15 AM
But that's not the case here. The case here is someone who took another person's m/f romance novel and changed it to m/m and made money off of it. Twice. With two different authors. One whom is published with St. Martin's, so not *exactly* an unknown author.

Readers get *cranky* if an author republishes a novel under a new title and dosn't CLEARLY mark it as a republished book. They want to know if something's been out before, and if so, what the difference is between that version and this.

We just had a big name author gender-swap a novel (swapping the genders of the MCs). It was clearly marked as such and under the author's name *because* if it hadn't been, everyone and their mother's second cousin three times removed would have pounced on it and cried foul.

Now granted, if someone wrote an m/f romance, published it on Amazon and it sold 10 copies in a year and then they took it down and rewrote it as an m/m and published it under a new name and it did great... you probably wouldn't hear much outcry. Mostly because who would know? If it did come to light, the author could legit say "Yeah, that was me too. I'm [name]. I rewrote it because it sold 10 copies." And while there might be some crabbiness, I bet that it would die down pretty fast. Because... same person, no theft.

But again, that's a corner case, and not at all what happened here.

In this case an author took the words of two others (at least), gender swapped one character to male, and published the books as her own original works.

lianna williamson
10-24-2015, 04:49 AM
One of the big-name TV magicians, I forget which one, crossed that line. He went to some remote village, did magic tricks, and then filmed the response of people who believed he was doing actual magic rather than entertaining illusions.

Not cool.

Off-topic, but that was David Blaine, and in his defense, he did tell the villagers that what he was doing was not real magic, but just illusions. In that same special, he performed tricks in NYC, somewhere in the US south, Haiti, and a remote South American village. There were definitely people in NYC who believed he was doing "real" magic, and people in the "primitive" village who understood it was just tricks.

Sorry for the hijack! Back to the OMGWTF-ness of this plagiarism situation...

Filigree
10-24-2015, 10:45 AM
Who knows how long this woman has been doing this? Now her entire back catalog is suspect.

From the outside, it doesn't flatter self-published erotic romance writers or the field in general. This woman (I won't bother writing her name) has touted herself as an industry maven (she was at GRL, right?) So now I'm dealing with sneers from authors and publishing professionals in a completely different genre, who are basically saying in private: "Oh, well, that's the *culture* of the erotic romance genre, and we're not surprised at seeing a self-published author trying to game the system, and the readership is unsophisticated enough we're surprised they even noticed."

:Headbang:

Ugh. As someone who wants to self-publish in a couple of genres, this reaction infuriates me nearly as much as the plagiarist did.

thethinker42
10-24-2015, 04:15 PM
I could easily see a case with someone writing MF, seeing it wasn't selling, and then switching around the book a bit to make it M/M and reselling the book under a different penname. I do wonder if people would cry foul in this case.

They absolutely would. There has been some discussion among M/M authors about switching pronouns in that manner, and the general response is "NO." Because it implies that a male and female protagonist are interchangeable, and adds to the stereotype that gay romances are more heteronormative than not. I guarantee it would NOT go over well.

And I say this as an author who writes straight and gay, and can't sell for beans in the former while doing very well in the latter. It has never once crossed my mind to make one of my straight books gay for the sake of rejuvenating sales.

In the interest of full disclosure (since I've talked about this on other threads in the past), I do have one book that started life as hetero, but after two unsuccessful drafts (finished but "not quite right"), I realized the problem was that the story should've been M/M. I didn't go in and just change the pronouns, though. I moved the heroine to a secondary role and created an entirely new male character. Then the story worked. That's actually happened with two of my books, now that I think about it, but again, I didn't just swap out pronouns -- I introduced an entirely new character.

Going in and just swapping out pronouns would imply that women and gay men are completely interchangeable. They absolutely are not, and this has been the subject of heated discussions within the genre.

Captcha
10-24-2015, 04:33 PM
Re. the pronoun switching -

I absolutely agree that there has to be more to it than switching pronouns. But I've been intrigued for quite a while about taking the same set-up and writing it twice, once as m/m and once as m/f, just to see the way the differences could shake out. It would be two separate books, each written fresh, but there could definitely be some overlap in setting and plot points. Like, for example, if I did a Character X returns to his/her small town of origin and runs into old flame Y, who is now a big-time businessman threatening to foreclose on X's parents' farm... how would the townsfolk react to female X vs. male X? How would the power dynamic between the two of them play out? If X has gone away and become a mechanic and ends up fixing Y's car during a big rain storm, how does Y feel about being rescued by a woman rather than a man, etc...

I think it could be really fun! And I'd be happy to read another author who did something similar. It's not automatically self-plagiarism or unoriginal or a rip-off to gender-switch a story - it depends on how deeply the gender-switch is done.

Latina Bunny
10-24-2015, 04:37 PM
I can think up of some types of stories where a character can be gender-bent with little problem, but there are other stories where the character's sex and gender, and other factors, like social norms regarding sex and gender, come into play.

Still, it feels a bit insulting to just change pronouns in this genre or type of story without consideration for the many factors at play in the story.

If done poorly and nilly-willy without any thought for how the dynamics could be changed in the story, it can feel like the author is thinking that gay males are interchangeable with straight female characters and that all gay relationships follow heteronormative parameters.

(It can also feel lazy or sloppy.)

brainstorm77
10-24-2015, 05:16 PM
There's more http://jennytrout.com/?p=9693

Hapax Legomenon
10-24-2015, 06:40 PM
I can think up of some types of stories where a character can be gender-bent with little problem, but there are other stories where the character's sex and gender, and other factors, like social norms regarding sex and gender, come into play.

Still, it feels a bit insulting to just change pronouns in this genre or type of story without consideration for the many factors at play in the story.

If done poorly and nilly-willy without any thought for how the dynamics could be changed in the story, it can feel like the author is thinking that gay males are interchangeable with straight female characters and that all gay relationships follow heteronormative parameters.

(It can also feel lazy or sloppy.)

I did say "switching around the book a bit" and not "simply swap pronouns, do nothing else." I mean, men and women aren't entirely different species. There are some books where you can more easily switch the genders of characters than others, though it might be harder with most romance novels than in many books of other genres.

Like I just remember people talking about female protagonists and their criticisms. For some reason I have a feeling that people might have fewer objections if it was done the other way around, m/m to m/f.

And it's hilarious that they think romance readers wouldn't notice. IME romance readers tend to be some of the most prolific readers out there.

Marian Perera
10-24-2015, 06:48 PM
There are some books where you can more easily switch the genders of characters than others, though it might be harder with most romance novels than in many books of other genres.

I can think of some romances - historicals, secret pregnancies, etc. - where it would be damn near impossible without substantially rewriting the story. Or maybe setting it in an alternate-history world where men's virginity was greatly prized, but women were supposed to have plenty of experience before they finally settled down.

Liosse de Velishaf
10-24-2015, 07:35 PM
There's more http://jennytrout.com/?p=9693

That appears to be the same post as in the OP... Is it in the comments or something? Or maybe I'm just having deja vu.

ElaineA
10-24-2015, 07:53 PM
LOL, yes. This was the second post on the subject. The first was here: http://jennytrout.com/?p=9685

Viridian
10-24-2015, 07:57 PM
I've noticed that whenever this discussion pops up in sf/f, everyone is all like "male and female characters are pretty much the same and you shouldn't overthink gender."

But whenever this discussion pops up in the romance community, everyone is like "male and female characters are inherently different and swapping pronouns forces heteronormative gender roles onto gay couples."

Swapping pronouns does not imply gay men and straight women are interchangeable. It implies male and female characters are interchangeable. And sometimes they are.

For god's sake-- not every m/f relationship involves gender roles.


I can think of some romances - historicals, secret pregnancies, etc. - where it would be damn near impossible without substantially rewriting the story.
Yeah, I agree. It a book is heavily steeped in heteronormativity, obviously it needs more than just a pronoun swap to make it m/m.

Latina Bunny
10-24-2015, 08:03 PM
I can think of some romances - historicals, secret pregnancies, etc. - where it would be damn near impossible without substantially rewriting the story. Or maybe setting it in an alternate-history world where men's virginity was greatly prized, but women were supposed to have plenty of experience before they finally settled down.

Yes, this. There are some stories where sex/gender does not matter, but there are other stories where sex/gender are important factors to the story (and world building).


I did say "switching around the book a bit" and not "simply swap pronouns, do nothing else." I mean, men and women aren't entirely different species. There are some books where you can more easily switch the genders of characters than others, though it might be harder with most romance novels than in many books of other genres.

Ok, I think I pretty much said something similar to this, so I'm not sure what you're responding to here...Maybe I'm missing something?



Like I just remember people talking about female protagonists and their criticisms. For some reason I have a feeling that people might have fewer objections if it was done the other way around, m/m to m/f.


Why would you think that?

Latina Bunny
10-24-2015, 08:54 PM
I've noticed that whenever this discussion pops up in sf/f, everyone is all like "male and female characters are pretty much the same and you shouldn't overthink gender."

But whenever this discussion pops up in the romance community, everyone is like "male and female characters are inherently different and swapping pronouns forces heteronormative gender roles onto gay couples."

Swapping pronouns does not imply gay men and straight women are interchangeable. It implies male and female characters are interchangeable. And sometimes they are.

For god's sake-- not every m/f relationship involves gender roles.


Yeah, I agree. It a book is heavily steeped in heteronormativity, obviously it needs more than just a pronoun swap to make it m/m.

That's why I said it depends on the story. I think Romance is a bit trickier, because there are audience expectations, target audience aspects, representation issues, and, well, preferences.

For example, I know that some people say that "sex doesn't matter, it's what the inside that matters, and love is love", etc, but I still have preferences and my own orientation to consider. A woman would turn me on, but a man's abs wouldn't. Even if the man's personality was the same as the woman, I may still have trouble with the sexual attraction aspect. (I also feel like a woman may most likely have similar experiences as me and understanding what it feels like to be a woman in society, so I would probably still feel closer to the woman than the man.)

Romance and sex are touchy situations for me, so a Romance with a male love interest would feel different than a story with a female love interest, and so on.

I think there is also how one views a story with one's own experiences and biases, etc, in real life. For example, it's a different situation in society when a girl/woman has lots of sex ("slut") vs a man who has lots of sex (player/"stud"). An aggressive male is seen a good thing, while an aggressive woman may be seen as a "bitch".

Being a LGBT woman who's not fond of dominant Alpha males, I would view an Alpha male love interest differently than an Alpha female love interest, and I would also know that the dynamics of sex and romance and social norms would be different regarding the two relationships (if the story's setting was set in a world similar to our world).

brainstorm77
10-24-2015, 09:10 PM
I got confused :hi:

I meant to post the other post that the other poster posted. :)

A co-author speaks out: http://lworrall.blogspot.ca/2015/10/laura-harner-and-separate-ways-series.html

jjdebenedictis
10-25-2015, 12:08 AM
For god's sake-- not every m/f relationship involves gender roles.
To my mind, this is the core of the issue. Every story is different, so whether it's possible to swap a character's gender in that story without it affecting the plot (or going to weird places built out of the author's unconscious biases) depends on what's true of the world built in that story.

You probably couldn't do it in a regency romance. You maybe could in a paranormal romance. It depends very sensitively on who your characters are and what's true of the world they live in. Books are not widgets; there isn't going to be one answer for everyone.

Hapax Legomenon
10-25-2015, 01:09 AM
Why would you think that?

For the most part it seems like a woman doing manly things is considered a "bitch", while a man doing womanly things is considered impossible or unrealistic. A "bitch" may not be well-liked, but does not break one's suspension of disbelief. See what Viridian said about female characters in SF/F community versus the romance community.

Latina Bunny
10-25-2015, 01:19 AM
For the most part it seems like a woman doing manly things is considered a "bitch", while a man doing womanly things is considered impossible or unrealistic. A "bitch" may not be well-liked, but does not break one's suspension of disbelief. See what Viridian said about female characters in SF/F community versus the romance community.

That's reflecting society, though, so don't pin that on just the Romance community. You'll have to change society's social norms and perceptions of you want books to reflect a more progressive outlook on men and women. Unfortunately, society still has double standards for the sexes and genders, so obviously books and audiences would likely reflect such beliefs and opinions.

People have their preferences, and many Romance readers are reading with their own biases and preferences and personal tastes, etc.

I think the thing with Romance, as I have said before, is that it's a more personal taste thing based on what kinds of preferences one wants in their (more idealized) Romantic stories (or "fantasies").

I think there is more expectations of certain tropes or archetypes, as well as personal preferences. The point of reading a Romance is to read about a main couple overcoming certain flaws and difficulties to get to a Happily Ever After or Happy For Now ending. We are (most likely) supposed to root for the couple to get that Happy Ending.

I read Romance for escapism more than any other genres (besides maybe light hearted MG or light hearted General Fiction). I guess some other Romance readers are the same. The purpose of Romance stories for me is to provide me with a Romantic story with characters for whom I would root for to get their Happy endings.

SF/F (that are not Romance) don't provide that guarantee, so they are more free to go off and create more unlikeable or un-rootable characters and have bittersweet or tragic endings, or just not focus on romance, etc.

ETA: Romance and sex are personal and even sometimes sensitive or touchy subjects in the world (at least, in the U.S.?), and so people have their personal tastes and preferences on that subject. A Romance book revolves around said subjects, for the most part.

Romance also has a history, and the voracious readers of that genre may be used to having certain expectations and enjoying certain tropes, etc.

I think that social norms gender and sex are more scrutinized in Romance because, well, society tends to have certain social norms that revolves around such topics, especially when it comes to sexual intercourse, sexual orientation and preferences, sexual identities, contraption, childcare, pregnancy, women's health and sexuality, etc.

Filigree
10-25-2015, 06:46 AM
Here's a sad and interesting, but not altogether surprising twist: Laura Harner was at one point an AW member. Or at least someone who joined to complain in three posts about Cobblestone Press in 2011. Shortly after getting the rights returned on her book(s?), she apparently began self-publishing.

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?69991-Cobblestone-Press&p=6410682&viewfull=1#post6410682

What I find really sad in this? The old pattern of 'badly published author gets burned by bad publisher, goes off, and continues the bad practices.' Temptation is such a slippery slope...

job
10-25-2015, 10:08 PM
Copyright infringement seems so much a win/win situation for the thief.

It's true an author with public presence and respect in the writing community will forfeit that. Valuable stuff to lose. But ...

-- The thief earns money on each stolen title for months or years before they get caught. They keep those royalties.

-- They don't get prosecuted. What author has the funds to chase them through the courts?

-- They probably lose few readers. Are favorable Goodreads reviews deleted? Does the average reader know or care what's happened?

-- Book industry professionals are so pragmatic. Janet Dailey was offered a four-book contract almost on the heels of her copyright-infringement case. Her books continue to be stocked in bookstores and bought by libraries.

-- And in her home community, the thief need only shrug and say, "It was just a misunderstanding. A blow-up over nothing."

ElaineA
10-26-2015, 01:45 AM
-- Book industry professionals are so pragmatic. Janet Dailey was offered a four-book contract almost on the heels of her copyright-infringement case. Her books continue to be stocked in bookstores and bought by libraries.

-- And in her home community, the thief need only shrug and say, "It was just a misunderstanding. A blow-up over nothing."

I have to say reading this post made my stomach turn. It's such a violation of a relatively tight-knit community's support for one another.

amergina
10-26-2015, 02:10 AM
I haven't seen anyone in the M/M community who hasn't been horrified, FWIW.

MaryMumsy
10-26-2015, 02:51 AM
Book industry professionals are so pragmatic. Janet Dailey was offered a four-book contract almost on the heels of her copyright-infringement case. Her books continue to be stocked in bookstores and bought by libraries.

The new contract was actually 4 years later. She made the mistake of stealing from Nora Roberts. Janet wasn't prosecuted, but Nora did sue and recieve an out of court settlement. At the time Nora said any money recieved would go to literacy programs.

MM

brainstorm77
10-27-2015, 05:43 PM
Update: Harner stated on her Facebook that should be making a written statement about all that has gone on. It would be available on her website. That was some days ago. Nothing has shown yet.

Filigree
10-27-2015, 06:02 PM
Wanna bet she'll blame evil incompetent ghostwriters? That's the only remotely useful excuse she can offer, and then she'll get hammered for using ghosts in the first place.

ElaineA
10-27-2015, 06:05 PM
Wanna bet she'll blame evil incompetent ghostwriters? That's the only remotely useful excuse she can offer, and then she'll get hammered for using ghosts in the first place.

Or asked to prove who they are so other writers can avoid them. If she has to name "them," she might think twice about that tactic.

thethinker42
10-27-2015, 06:08 PM
Wanna bet she'll blame evil incompetent ghostwriters? That's the only remotely useful excuse she can offer, and then she'll get hammered for using ghosts in the first place.


Or asked to prove who they are so other writers can avoid them. If she has to name "them," she might think twice about that tactic.

What she did is despicable, but wouldn't it make sense to wait for the statement before we start speculating about what excuses she may or may not use? There's nothing she can say that'll excuse what she did, but she HASN'T made any comments about ghostwriters, so why even bring it up?

JetFueledCar
10-27-2015, 06:10 PM
What she did is despicable, but wouldn't it make sense to wait for the statement before we start speculating about what excuses she may or may not use? There's nothing she can say that'll excuse what she did, but she HASN'T made any comments about ghostwriters, so why even bring it up?

To play Cynicism Bingo.

My square of which is that she won't make a statement at all, and we'll decide what she did based on which books she pulls. But I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

thethinker42
10-27-2015, 06:14 PM
To play Cynicism Bingo.

My square of which is that she won't make a statement at all, and we'll decide what she did based on which books she pulls. But I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

I don't know if there's a statement coming or not, and I honestly don't think it matters -- she plagiarized, so she's lied and profited from it, so nothing she says can be taken at face value anyway. I just don't see the point in speculating about the content of a statement that hasn't been issued, particularly to the point of bringing up ghostwriters (has she ever said she used ghost writers? Is there a reason this is a specific possibility? I may have missed it if that's the case, but I haven't seen anything to that effect except by people speculating).

ElaineA
10-27-2015, 06:38 PM
I should have been more clear and less sarcastic. You are, of course, totally correct, LA. Just about nothing she says (if she says anything at all) can be taken at face value. The exception might be an open confession and an agreement to disgorge her profits, but that's not a likely outcome. I will say I read something mentioning ghostwriters elsewhere, but since Harner hasn't spoken on the matter, and no forensic investigation has been done into her books as yet, whatever I read would fall in the "speculation" category.

brainstorm77
10-27-2015, 06:48 PM
http://lworrall.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/laura-harner-and-separate-ways-series.html?zx=887a6e6033602ebe A co-author of Harner's speaks out.

Once!
10-27-2015, 07:00 PM
The thing that puzzles me is this ... doesn't she think that her plagiarism will be noticed? Perhaps she thought that the two books were appealing to different markets. But surely you have to recognise the risk when you decide to do something like this? I can't imagine living with that as a constant fear. It must be what it is like to live life as a bigamist or a fraud.

jjdebenedictis
10-27-2015, 08:05 PM
There's nothing she can say that'll excuse what she did, but she HASN'T made any comments about ghostwriters, so why even bring it up?That claim has been used before as a defense against accusations of plagiarism.

US Congressman blames ghostwriter for plagiarism (http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_26611617/mcinnis-regrets-handling-plagiarism-scandal)

Inception-like plagiarism-within-plagiarism case (http://thefictionvixen.com/2013/06/28/the-weirdest-plagiarism-scandal-yet/)

thethinker42
10-27-2015, 08:16 PM
That claim has been used before as a defense against accusations of plagiarism.

US Congressman blames ghostwriter for plagiarism (http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_26611617/mcinnis-regrets-handling-plagiarism-scandal)

Inception-like plagiarism-within-plagiarism case (http://thefictionvixen.com/2013/06/28/the-weirdest-plagiarism-scandal-yet/)

Oh, I know. But my thought was, let's wait for this particular author to actually MAKE such a claim before speculating that she WILL.

Becky Black
10-27-2015, 09:10 PM
Copyright infringement seems so much a win/win situation for the thief.

It's true an author with public presence and respect in the writing community will forfeit that. Valuable stuff to lose. But ...

-- The thief earns money on each stolen title for months or years before they get caught. They keep those royalties.

-- They don't get prosecuted. What author has the funds to chase them through the courts?

-- They probably lose few readers. Are favorable Goodreads reviews deleted? Does the average reader know or care what's happened?

-- Book industry professionals are so pragmatic. Janet Dailey was offered a four-book contract almost on the heels of her copyright-infringement case. Her books continue to be stocked in bookstores and bought by libraries.

-- And in her home community, the thief need only shrug and say, "It was just a misunderstanding. A blow-up over nothing."

It's sadly true that a majority of plagiarists don't seem to face any substantial consequences. I'm hoping that in this case the publishers of the copied books will go after her. They have the resources writers don't. The smarter plagiarist swipes self published books or fanfics because there's less chance of legal action against them. If they are with a publisher themselves that publisher can try to recover money from them, but how many manage to, who knows?

It's an interesting point about readers. Readers can call out the plagiarism in reviews on Goodreads and Amazon and other places. But the ones on Amazon or other retailers will disappear when the book is taken down. The ones on Goodreads will stay up (Goodreads won't delete them. Readers can edit their reviews, so they can remove any praise and change the rating) and they may put off readers who use that site, but what percentage of the person's readership is that? It's easy to think "everyone knows what she's done, nobody will buy her books." But not everyone is on Goodreads, or Absolute Write, or following the same blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook profiles or pages. There will be plenty of people who are readers, but aren't involved in the online community around the genre and may never see a thing about it.

It always makes me sad when the writer's fans come out and start defending them over it - and there are always some. Whatever excuse the writer comes out with, they will buy it and say everyone else is being mean and should cut the writer some slack. They've been lied to and played for fools when they bought the book, when they reviewed and recced it, when they maybe emailed the author or interacted on social media with them, telling them how they love their books and the author then flat out lied to them, personally, by talking some rubbish about how much that book meant to them, or how much they appreciate hearing how someone loved "their" words. The readers are entitled to be as angry as anyone else in that situation, but some just keep on willingly letting the lying writer play them for saps.

JetFueledCar
10-27-2015, 09:13 PM
Oh, I know. But my thought was, let's wait for this particular author to actually MAKE such a claim before speculating that she WILL.

But if we speculate about her going as low as she can, and she doesn't, we're pleasantly surprised. And if we speculate about her going as low as we can, and she does, our speculations are validated.

Speaking as a cynic.

brainstorm77
10-28-2015, 06:36 PM
Laura Harner makes a statement to The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/oct/28/prolific-romantic-fiction-writer-exposed-as-a-plagiarist

Ravioli
10-28-2015, 06:50 PM
Well, at least she admits she made a "mistake".

amergina
10-28-2015, 06:51 PM
In transforming two M/F romance stories into an M/M genre, it appears that I may have crossed the line and violated my own code of ethics, she wrote.

Ya think????? :rant:

thethinker42
10-28-2015, 07:05 PM
"may have"? How is there even any question? Ugh.

Filigree
10-28-2015, 07:15 PM
Yep, she pretty much used the language I thought she was going to use. A 'mistake'.

I'm a fanfiction writer, among other things. I know that what I do in that universe skirts the letter of legality and infringement, and I make damn sure that I do not profit from it directly. I think I know why Harner did what she did. Even my little three-hour experiment showed me that I could probably strip and switch a book in about a quarter of the time it takes me to write anything original. But to sell that as my own work? Makes my skin crawl. It's not an accomplishment, it's a liability collapsing inexorably into a career-killing implosion.

I value AW because of its community, knowledge, civility, and inclusion. The mods and owner do a great job of more-or-less gently reinforcing RYFW. But...there are times and places when respect is not merited. 'Stop Being Nice' is one way to really help the plagiarism issue - which I suspect is more endemic in self-publishing than many of us realize.

That said, I look forward to Harner's future statements.

Tazlima
10-28-2015, 07:24 PM
Yep, she pretty much used the language I thought she was going to use. A 'mistake'.


Heckuva mistake.

To quote the "Cell block Tango,"... he ran into my knife. He ran into my knife ten times..."

AnneMarble
10-28-2015, 07:53 PM
I read on one of the blogs two really odd things. First, Harner claimed that she had a soft copy of one of the m/f romances she was accused of copying on her computer as "inspiration" or something like that. I think she misunderstands the meaning of the word? I can't understand having a soft copy of another author's work (unless it's an eBook for reading of course -- and because of DRM, I'd imagine those files can be hard to copy from). Putting a non-DRM soft copy of that file on your computer is asking for trouble, even if you don't mean to use it in a bad way. (And I can't imagine not meaning to use it in a bad way.)

Second, in a later post, she apparently blamed her daughter for some of this?! Uhm.. :Shrug:However, there was no link, so I couldn't find out more. I don't know if this was on Facebook, or on her web page, and of course, whether or not the posts stayed up. Has anyone read more of this? I thought blaming the ghostwriter was bad, but this...
:rant:

There was a book on writing m/m that suggested getting inspiration from m/f romances. But by inspiration, the author meant that you could take the basic plot and then think of ways to write an m/m romance based on that plot, but only after making changes, and of course, using your own words. (I'm sure even then, the idea was still controversial.) I wonder if some writers read this idea and thought "Well why not use the author's own words as well? It's not stealing if I rewrite them and change the names. Sigh.

Viridian
10-28-2015, 08:23 PM
I notice that she did not admit plagiarizing may have been a mistake. She says transforming m/f books into m/m may have been a mistake.

Weird.

thethinker42
10-28-2015, 08:24 PM
I notice that she did not admit plagiarizing may have been a mistake. She says transforming m/f books into m/m may have been a mistake.

Weird.

I still can't get past the "may have" part.

ElaineA
10-28-2015, 08:36 PM
"May have" likely = attorney advising "don't admit to anything in public." I mean, if I were her attorney, that's what I'd advise. It's pretty clear these authors are going to have legit causes of action. Her play now is to try to make it expensive for them to fight her. And of course, garner as much pre-sympathy as possible. Yuck.

ETA: Oh, yay, Courtney Milan is sub-tweeting about it. On the upside, anything CM does brings more attention to a thing from readers, too, so that's good.

Fallen
10-30-2015, 03:10 AM
Hmm, a new post from the Daily Mail (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3295137/Gay-romance-writer-caught-plagiarizing-best-selling-straight-romance-novelist-verbatim-admits-mistakes.html). There's also a link to the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/10/29/gay-romance-novelist-accused-of-plagiarizing-straight-romance-novelist/) article that makes romance sound a little too easy to write, yet still too hard for Harner to write. Hmmmm

Once!
10-30-2015, 12:05 PM
The mind boggles. "Transforming" a story and copying someone else's work almost word for word are not the same thing.

"May have ..." ???????

Filigree
10-30-2015, 03:50 PM
Grab a cold brew of your choice and find the popcorn, folks, we're in for a bumpy evening. :popcorn:

Fallen
10-30-2015, 05:46 PM
Nice to see this one come out regard the Washington Post article: CDA News (http://cdanews.com/2015/10/plagiarism-accusations-lead-to-taking-aim-at-gay-romance-writers/)

brainstorm77
10-30-2015, 06:17 PM
She certainly didn't do herself any favors with that statement.

Once!
10-30-2015, 10:01 PM
It's odd how this story is splitting into two, like one of those multiple headed mythical beasts. Chop one head off and another two grow in its place.

So we now have the plagiarism story going in one direction and the Washington Post spouting nonsense rubbishing the genre. I'll join Filigree in that bucket of popcorn.

brainstorm77
10-30-2015, 10:24 PM
The Washington Post article is shit and regurgitation of other articles. I'm glad the commentators blasted him.

Fallen
10-30-2015, 10:26 PM
Oh lol, yep. Smart Bitches (http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/2015/10/plagiarism-the-pattern-and-the-response/) have picked up on the Washington Post article too. There's a definite split between the stories going on now.

ElaineA
10-30-2015, 10:44 PM
The thing that cracks me up is WaPo is owned by Bezos. Sometimes people accuse them of having a bias toward Amazon, but this very clearly demonstrates they don't think twice about their boss, since Romance (especially in the Kindle program) is one place Az is making a good profit.

You had to figure the literature snobs would glom onto this to smear the entire romance genre. When don't they?

Another mark firmly against this plagiarist, as if any more were needed.

Filigree
10-31-2015, 04:57 PM
The problem is, *any* time romance is mentioned by mainstream writers (esp. literary and women's fiction authors, for some reason) you can just about count on the romance-author bashing. We're a convenient target. It doesn't even have to be against LGBTQ fiction, either - het romances get called out just as often.

Critics keep referencing old Barbara Cartland and Harlequin tropes from the 1970s or earlier, or the astonishingly awful attempts at science fiction romance in the 1980s and early '90s, or even the more-current dinosaur porn and fanfiction remixes that made bank. Outsiders claim romance pieces are somehow easy to write, just a matter of taking items from different columns and mixing them. Whenever money is even mentioned, it's usually disparaging, and linked to a rant about unsophisticated readers who don't know better.

And, sadly, sometimes those critics are right.

The voracious reading pace of many M/M readers means that there's an uncritical audience for just about anything. Harner sold really, really well. There has historically been little overlap and a fair amount of mutual suspicion between M/F and M/M readers (something Harner appeared to count on). There are self-published and commercially-published authors who do scarcely more than repeat their preferred stories with new characters and slightly-changed stories. There are dozens upon dozens of low-grade small presses that offer almost no marketing or editing to rush out digital or expensive print-on-demand paper books...and a readership willing to overlook all of that, just to get its latest werewolf/vampire/angel/male-pregnancy/whatever romance fix.

The remedy is not to bash the critics, because stupid jealous people will always be with us. It's to keep writing interesting, well-written, insightful, and explosive romances - of whatever subgenre we like - and put the word out that Romance Has Changed. The world is changing with it - slow, but it's happening.

ElaineA
10-31-2015, 06:12 PM
Jenny Trout wrote a piece for HuffPo in response to the WaPo article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jenny-trout/no-romance-novels-are-not_b_8432068.html) pretty much rehashing the same stuff, but it did give me pause for thought again about how some sort of threat to manhood is at the root of the disdain.

However, I'm annoyed at myself for having gotten sucked in and allowed my anger to be redirected. The focus should be, and should remain on, the plagiarist. The only way to make her understand the gravity of her violation is for everyone to stay on message, so she can feel the full weight of her betrayal. This scattering of the issues is only helpful for her.

And yes, Filigree, your assertion that quality might ultimately help is valid, but when even the big publishers are rushing poorly executed books out on their digital-only lines, it's hard to see how things will change, unless the demand for better comes from readers.

Filigree
10-31-2015, 08:10 PM
(Scratches head) I hear you. We need to keep the focus on Harner. Is there a concerted group effort to scan/strip her books, and check them against previously published material? If she pulled 10 books right away, that's not an insignificant percentage of her catalog. I'd lay money there are more books that she might think are better hidden.

As for quality issues in M/M, that's up to readership growth and changing expectations. I did a fun experiment recently with a reader friend of mine who happened to love the alpha/beta/omega trope in M/M, and also loves Avengers fanfiction. I asked her to name her favorite commercially published Omega M/M romance (out of RYFW I'm not naming it). Then I pointed her at a slow-developing M/M/M Omega fanfiction novel by someone who should be winning Hugo awards right now for original fiction. My friend came back to me several weeks later, and said she was not only spoiled for her original choice, but was giving a skeptical eye to a lot of similar books in her to-read pile.

Reader education, one step at a time. :evil

amergina
10-31-2015, 08:17 PM
As someone who commercially publishes m/m with a big-5 digital imprint, I'll just see myself out.

brainstorm77
10-31-2015, 08:36 PM
I think it's fab that a big publisher publishes MM. More should in my opinion.

Filigree
10-31-2015, 09:26 PM
There should be a lot more publishers in the genre.

Amergina, your work is nowhere near the M/M book my friend referenced...neither in writing skill, development, or publisher. But since there are writers here who are published with that company, I'm keeping mum on it.

This, right here, is one of the huge problems I have with cliques: the resistance to meaningful critique of individual works, as if analysis is tantamount to an attack on all members of that group.

Let's not lose sight of the core problems of this case. Harner plagiarized. She was able to do it over many books, because she (almost successfully) counted that M/M readers and M/F readers might not compare stories. She had excellent financial reason to continue doing this. She had a readership - many of whom seem to be loyal fans even now - who were apparently willing to read as much in their favorite sub-genres as could be published.

I'm sorry if you feel singled out. I didn't intend that. I think your publisher is one of the ones actively trying to make a positive change in the M/M romance genre.

amergina
10-31-2015, 09:59 PM
There should be a lot more publishers in the genre.

Amergina, your work is nowhere near the M/M book my friend referenced...neither in writing skill, development, or publisher. But since there are writers here who are published with that company, I'm keeping mum on it.

This, right here, is one of the huge problems I have with cliques: the resistance to meaningful critique of individual works, as if analysis is tantamount to an attack on all members of that group.

I wasn't actually cranky responding to your post about an individual book, but to:


And yes, Filigree, your assertion that quality might ultimately help is valid, but when even the big publishers are rushing poorly executed books out on their digital-only lines, it's hard to see how things will change, unless the demand for better comes from readers.

(Bolding mine.)

My books were hardly rushed. Yes, in comparison to off-set print books, they were, but when compared to quite a few digital first publishers...no. I don't particularly like blanket statements that cover me as well as other people I know, including the editors that I know worked hard on these books. Now, of course there's always "Well, I didn't mean you...." and yeah. Still covers me. And others I know. I'm not unique.



Let's not lose sight of the core problems of this case. Harner plagiarized. She was able to do it over many books, because she (almost successfully) counted that M/M readers and M/F readers might not compare stories. She had excellent financial reason to continue doing this. She had a readership - many of whom seem to be loyal fans even now - who were apparently willing to read as much in their favorite sub-genres as could be published.

I'm sorry if you feel singled out. I didn't intend that. I think your publisher is one of the ones actively trying to make a positive change in the M/M romance genre.

And yeah, I do think the focus should be on Harner and her plagiarism and the impact on her victims and the genre, and not on publishers or other writers.

brainstorm77
10-31-2015, 10:40 PM
There is this misconception that digital only lines or small digital presses rush their books and I don't think that is the case for all. Some do no doubt, but every press/publisher is different. I have written for 4 small digital first publishers and never once did I feel rushed with edits or release dates.

As for literary snobs looking down on romance that's fine. They can think what they want. I think the sales for the romance genre speaks for itself with popularity. I work hard on my writing. I am certainly not ashamed of it. I am proud to be a part of the romance author community.

lianna williamson
10-31-2015, 10:51 PM
Speaking as someone who doesn't write in the Romance genre, I think more non-Romance/Erotica authors need to get off their butts and stand up for their fellow writers. I don't care to see my own genre (SF/Fantasy) disrespected by folks who know next to nothing about it, so it shouldn't be okay for me to just sit and file my nails while other authors get bashed for theirs.

I'm an unpublished nobody, so the blog post I'm planning to write about this won't exactly set the world on fire. More authors from all genres (including Literary) should respond to crap like this with, "That's not cool. Fiction is too varied and complex to dismiss an entire field of it with the term 'bodice-ripper'. And FYI, writing a novel is not easy, and I'm insulted on behalf on my fellow writers that you would dismiss the work involved in writing their books." I think silence from other writers reinforces the idea that it's okay to insult Romance/Erotica.

Liosse de Velishaf
11-01-2015, 03:11 AM
There are certainly a lot of shitty Romance novels. Just like there are a lot of shitty novels in every genre. That's not an inherent fault of the genre. There are Romance books that can compete with the best in any other genre.

I don't personally read Romance novels because I am not the target audience. But almost every Romance writer I have met or talked with has been just as clever, witty, sophisticated, etc as any author in my favorite genres. And much of their work has been the same. We should not be shitting on each other to make our genres look better to assholes who wouldn't know a good book if it was tattooed on their retinas.

Any Romance author (or author in any other genre) deserves ust as much support against plagiarism as James Joyce or George R.R. Martin.

jjdebenedictis
11-01-2015, 04:11 AM
One of my favourite sayings is: Snobbery is the public face of insecurity.

In other words, if you feel the need to try to position yourself/what you like as inherently superior to other people/what other people like, that's usually a sign you secretly fear you/it is nothing special at all. Snobbery is defensive.

But I do want to keep the focus on the plagiarist. What could self-published authors in particular (since they don't have the legal might of a publisher behind them) do to ferret out plagiarists? It seems to me a public shaming like this is their most effective strategy when they can't afford to sue (or there is no financial benefit to suing).

Would it be possible for sites like Smashwords and Amazon to have plagiarism-detecting software? Even scanning twenty words out of a newly-published book to see whether it matches or comes close to twenty words out of the similar books in the database seems like it would be a do-able sweep. It wouldn't catch everything, but maybe it could make life difficult for the really egregious plagiarists.

Weirdmage
11-01-2015, 04:32 PM
What could self-published authors in particular (since they don't have the legal might of a publisher behind them) do to ferret out plagiarists? It seems to me a public shaming like this is their most effective strategy when they can't afford to sue (or there is no financial benefit to suing).

I think this is a very important point. Having thought about it on several occasions over the years, the only solution I have is to make copyright infringement a criminal offense. As it stands now, you have to afford a lawyer to be able to go up against someone who infringes on your intellectual property. And corporations with a lot of money for lawyers can make spurious infringement claims agains people who don't have the money to defend agains a lawsuit.
The current system doesn't really protect rightsholders, it just favours people with money. To me, that is something that needs to be changed.

Captcha
11-01-2015, 04:57 PM
I think this is a very important point. Having thought about it on several occasions over the years, the only solution I have is to make copyright infringement a criminal offense. As it stands now, you have to afford a lawyer to be able to go up against someone who infringes on your intellectual property. And corporations with a lot of money for lawyers can make spurious infringement claims agains people who don't have the money to defend agains a lawsuit.
The current system doesn't really protect rightsholders, it just favours people with money. To me, that is something that needs to be changed.

It does seem strange that some forms of copyright violations (file sharing for music) apparently justify government intervention, while other forms apparently don't. Hard not to see a "look after the interests of corporate America" slant to that...

Fallen
11-01-2015, 05:57 PM
Would it be possible for sites like Smashwords and Amazon to have plagiarism-detecting software? Even scanning twenty words out of a newly-published book to see whether it matches or comes close to twenty words out of the similar books in the database seems like it would be a do-able sweep. It wouldn't catch everything, but maybe it could make life difficult for the really egregious plagiarists.

I think this is a good idea. Amazon seems pretty quick to remove any abuser. The blind spot that Harner exploited was that chasm between m/m and m/f readers. But as for software that could highlight it... it's not like with corpus study where you type in a word and crossmatch it across different registers.Going by Harner's, words were changed, sentence structure reordered. I don't know of any system that could run a reliable cross check like that, not with the amount of novels produced per week. I agree with Weirdmage that it needs to be a criminal offense.

I just can't understand Harner's light comments about it so far. Even changing from 1st to 3rd, where the whole structure is in place, takes time and planning, it's not something done overnight. She would have read it, copied, paste, sat down to adjust word order, pronoun... so that's about the worst abuse of a low possibility modal I've EVER seen; there's no "may have" about it.

lianna williamson
11-01-2015, 07:17 PM
There's no way she expects other writers to buy this crappola. She's hoping readers who know nothing about the writing process will hear these BS explanations and be like, "Huh, makes sense. It was basically just a misunderstanding."

amergina
11-01-2015, 07:20 PM
There's actually is software for detecting plagiarism similar to the software universities use.

Weirdmage
11-01-2015, 08:08 PM
There's actually is software for detecting plagiarism similar to the software universities use.

I don't think it's in Amazon's interest to use that. Or, to be more precise; since Amazon has not started using that it is clearly in their financial interest to not try to stop plagiarism. The question then is Amazon an accesory to these instances of plagiarism?

In my opinion, the only thing that keeps corporations in check is regulations. In this case the regulations neede is to ban any e-book store that does not have software that detects plagiarism in place from trading at all.

Sheryl Nantus
11-01-2015, 09:18 PM
I don't think it's in Amazon's interest to use that. Or, to be more precise; since Amazon has not started using that it is clearly in their financial interest to not try to stop plagiarism. The question then is Amazon an accesory to these instances of plagiarism?

In my opinion, the only thing that keeps corporations in check is regulations. In this case the regulations neede is to ban any e-book store that does not have software that detects plagiarism in place from trading at all.

Amazon is in business for itself - they're not concerned about plagiarism or anything else as long as they can make money. It's what they *do* and they do it well. I'm shocked they're even doing something about the reviews.

Fallen
11-01-2015, 09:22 PM
There's actually is software for detecting plagiarism similar to the software universities use.

Do they have the manpower to use it with a huge distribution site such as Amazon, though, across countries? Did Harner also have them translated at all, does anyone know? What's to stop the blind spot of someone translating another author's novel into a different language and breaching translation rights too?

jjdebenedictis
11-01-2015, 10:45 PM
There's actually is software for detecting plagiarism similar to the software universities use.I was thinking of this when I made my comment. I know the algorithms to catch slightly-changed passages exists, because that software already exists. It can't be simple, which is why universities pay for the software and don't try to write their own, but it is a solved problem.

I suspect the real issue, for Amazon, is simply the gargantuan database of books they have. Even searching a 20 word string for a match would be an outrageous amount of CPU time. They'd have to limit which books they compared against, and if they limited too much, then they'd miss something like Harner's theft.

Captcha
11-01-2015, 10:52 PM
I suspect the real issue, for Amazon, is simply the gargantuan database of books they have. Even searching a 20 word string for a match would be an outrageous amount of CPU time. They'd have to limit which books they compared against, and if they limited too much, then they'd miss something like Harner's theft.

Well, and the other issue is that they have no real incentive to give a shit. The fake reviews, presumably, are getting attention because they were cutting into profits somehow, but how does plagiarism really affect them? They get their money regardless, right?

Amazon has authors in a tough spot. We can't really afford to stop working with them, so what else do we have that will affect them?

And most readers don't really seem to care.

So it goes.

Once!
11-02-2015, 12:23 PM
I am not sure that all this Amazon bashing helps here. Amazon keeps its costs low by running a largely automated system. That helps their profitability, but it also helps us by reducing our costs to sell via Amazon.

The downside of being mostly automated is that Amazon is not equipped to vet every book that it sells. Maybe it can use anti-plagiarism software, but it is not about to devote large amounts of human time to the problem because that would add costs. And those costs would also affect us, either in reduced sales or in lower margins for writers.

It is also a fact of life that the public are a lot less interested in plagiarism than we are. Their end product is not harmed by plagiarism (unless it's a shoddy product). The one thing we do have going for us is that readers do become loyal to writers they like and they can help us to police the system.

There are no easy answers here but I don't see that Amazon are the bad guys in this scenario or that attacking them is going to change anything.

Captcha
11-02-2015, 01:29 PM
I am not sure that all this Amazon bashing helps here. Amazon keeps its costs low by running a largely automated system. That helps their profitability, but it also helps us by reducing our costs to sell via Amazon.

The downside of being mostly automated is that Amazon is not equipped to vet every book that it sells. Maybe it can use anti-plagiarism software, but it is not about to devote large amounts of human time to the problem because that would add costs. And those costs would also affect us, either in reduced sales or in lower margins for writers.

It is also a fact of life that the public are a lot less interested in plagiarism than we are. Their end product is not harmed by plagiarism (unless it's a shoddy product). The one thing we do have going for us is that readers do become loyal to writers they like and they can help us to police the system.

There are no easy answers here but I don't see that Amazon are the bad guys in this scenario or that attacking them is going to change anything.

It's not Amazon-bashing to point out that they're profit-motivated, it's just reality.

They're fencing stolen property. They're happy to use filters to exclude books that don't meet their "moral" standards, but apparently their moral standards don't include an anti-plagiarism stance. That's obviously because they think selling erotica will cut into their profits, and selling stolen property won't.

Once!
11-02-2015, 02:16 PM
... not Amazon-bashing ... they're fencing stolen property.

Does. Not. Compute. Danger, Will Robinson, danger!

Captcha
11-02-2015, 03:10 PM
... not Amazon-bashing ... they're fencing stolen property.

Does. Not. Compute. Danger, Will Robinson, danger!

How are you defining "bashing"?

Once!
11-02-2015, 03:16 PM
Well, let's start with accusing them of breaking the law as in "fencing stolen property". Then throw in the suggestion that they don't "give a shit". Dig back into the thread and we have "they're not concerned about plagiarism or anything else as long as they can make money". Or the suggestion that they are an accessory to plagiarism.

What definition of bashing are you using?

Captcha
11-02-2015, 03:55 PM
Well, let's start with accusing them of breaking the law as in "fencing stolen property". Then throw in the suggestion that they don't "give a shit". Dig back into the thread and we have "they're not concerned about plagiarism or anything else as long as they can make money". Or the suggestion that they are an accessory to plagiarism.

What definition of bashing are you using?

In my definition, there should be something untrue in the statements to make it bashing.

The "fencing stolen property" phrase is a bit inflammatory, sure, but I think it's true at its core, and the rest of it? It's just facts. They're a multinational corporation. They're legally required to care most about making money. They clearly don't give a shit about plagiarism because they haven't done a thing about any of the many plagiarized books that are being sold through their company. I'm not seeing the word "accessory" used, unless I missed it, but maybe you're getting that from the "fencing" idea?

I think there are numerous things Amazon could do if it wanted to truly address the plagiarism issues. TurnItIn.com or equivalent, lifetime bans for people found to be plagiarizing, etc. Sure, it'd be hard to keep track of different authors publishing under different names, but it'd be something. As it is? They wouldn't make money by doing any of that, so they're not doing it. I don't see the bashing in pointing that out.

Does anyone know what happens to the money already collected but not yet paid to plagiarizing authors? I seem to recall being fairly outraged by what happened to it in a previous case (I have a feeling maybe Amazon just kept it?).

Once!
11-02-2015, 05:28 PM
"Amazon is fencing stolen property" is a true statement? Fencing is the act of knowingly buying and selling stolen property. Have you seen Amazon do that? They may unwittingly sell plagiarised works but I haven't seen any evidence that they have knowingly published them.

The accusation "doesn't give a shit" is your interpretation, as is "haven't done a thing about any of the many plagiarised books". These are not facts. They are your claims.

Accessory to plagiarism is a suggestion made by Weirdmage at 04.08 yesterday (UK time).

If you said that Amazon could do more to tackle plagiarism, I'd probably agree with you. I would like them to go at it with something like the energy and enthusiasm they are bringing to the fake review problem. But that shouldn't deflect attention from the root problem here which is author plagiarism.

Captcha
11-02-2015, 08:05 PM
"Amazon is fencing stolen property" is a true statement? Fencing is the act of knowingly buying and selling stolen property. Have you seen Amazon do that? They may unwittingly sell plagiarised works but I haven't seen any evidence that they have knowingly published them.

The accusation "doesn't give a shit" is your interpretation, as is "haven't done a thing about any of the many plagiarised books". These are not facts. They are your claims.

Accessory to plagiarism is a suggestion made by Weirdmage at 04.08 yesterday (UK time).

If you said that Amazon could do more to tackle plagiarism, I'd probably agree with you. I would like them to go at it with something like the energy and enthusiasm they are bringing to the fake review problem. But that shouldn't deflect attention from the root problem here which is author plagiarism.

I'm not quite sure why this is getting so heated - obviously we disagree, but...?

At the same time, if you're going to disagree with allegations and inflammatory language on my part, it would probably be good for you to be more careful about allegations and inflammation on your part. So, Wierdmage didn't suggest that Amazon is an accessory to plagiarism, Weirdmage asked a question about whether they are. If even asking questions counts as "bashing" in your books, I think it's going to be pretty hard to discuss the issue.

And, of course, if me claiming that Amazon doesn't give a shit and hasn't done anything about plagiarism are only my claims, we should remember that the plagiarism in this case is only a claim, too. It seems pretty self-evident, but from where I'm standing, what I said about Amazon seems self-evident as well. If you can't accept my claims without absolute proof, it seems a bit strange that you're willing to accept another author's claims. Your call, obviously, but I think there's value in consistency.

Really, I think the problem may be coming from having a thread about something that's really beyond discussion. It seems crystal clear that plagiarism occurred, and it seems crystal clear that we all agree it's wrong. When you say we shouldn't deflect from the root problem, what do you mean, exactly? No one's disagreeing that Harner's a plagiarist. What more is there to say on that topic?

brainstorm77
11-02-2015, 08:22 PM
Amazon does react rather quickly when plagiarism is pointed out. In Harner's case she removed her own books(10 I think). One of my publishers had blatant plagiarism when some vendor decided to upload and sell their freebie stories including using their covers. Amazon took them all down quickly once it came to their attention. They were down in less that 24 hours if I remember correctly.

Blame the authors doing it. It's their fault. I don't blame the publishers. When I sub to my pubs on the contract signing I certify that my work is completely original. Another publisher of mine had an author who plagiarized and they immediately removed the books in question and had discussions with the plagiarized author. I don't know the outcome with that author because everything went silent on both sides. I am assuming the legal team worked something out with them.

Captcha
11-02-2015, 08:56 PM
There are stories from self-published authors having trouble getting plagiarized copies of their books removed from Amazon, and the conclusion I've heard from these authors is that Amazon only listens to larger organizations, not individual authors. Several of them have written about getting the SFWA involved and then getting results.

I think we all agree that the fault lies with the plagiarists. Talking about other ways to address the issue isn't absolving the plagiarists of responsibility, it's more acknowledging the whack-a-mole issue of going after individuals. If we can find something at the system level, it has a chance of actually working...

Weirdmage
11-03-2015, 12:59 AM
Accessory to plagiarism is a suggestion made by Weirdmage at 04.08 yesterday (UK time).

No it isn't. It's a question I posed: "The question then is Amazon an accesory to these instances of plagiarism?" It's a perfectly valid question.

Since I know from several authors that they do not get paid if Amazon takes down books sold without the right to do so (, and that they in some cases will continue selling the books while they "investigate"), I know what the common-sense answer to that question is. I do not however know the judicial answer to that question since I know from experience that the judicial system and common-sense need have nothing to do with eachother.

Once!
11-03-2015, 02:59 AM
Capcha - I suspect that it's getting heated when we start using language which implies that Amazon has broken the law (fencing) or "doesn't give a shit". Or when weirdmage asks a question which hints at illegality ("accessory to plagiarism").

This whole issue started when one "author" apparently decided to steal another author's work. We've all seen the extracts and heard her apologising. And while I'll never say that someone is definitely 100% guilty, it does look as if we have a smoking gun in this case. I don't want this poor wee lamb weaseling out of this one by saying that it's really Amazon's fault for letting her get away with it.

Weirdmage - think of it this way. Author A complains to Amazon that Author B has plagiarized their work. What should Amazon do next?

If they immediately take down Author A's books, they are depriving that author of income. The author might complain that Amazon has no right to remove their books from sale. And if the investigation finds no plagiarism, then author A will complain about Amazon's unfair tactics.

If they don't take down those books, they run the risk that the books might have been plagiarized. Author A continues to get illegal income while they are investigating. Then Author B complains about Amazon's unfair tactics.

So Amazon are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Until they have carried out their investigation they don't know whether to believe Author A or Author B.

In AW we have seen both scenarios. We have seen authors complain that Amazon has taken their books down. And we have seen authors complain that Amazon hasn't taken someone else's books down. That's why I struggle with this "accessory to plagiarism" stuff. Just what do you expect Amazon to do? Sure, hindsight is a wonderful thing. It's easy to be smart about this when someone has done the hard work of comparing the books. But it's not always so easy, especially when two authors each claim that they wrote something first.

Captcha
11-03-2015, 03:18 AM
Capcha - I suspect that it's getting heated when we start using language which implies that Amazon has broken the law (fencing) or "doesn't give a shit". Or when weirdmage asks a question which hints at illegality ("accessory to plagiarism").

But why is it so important to you to defend Amazon from criticism? I mean, if we were accusing YOU of fencing or not giving a shit, I can see you getting upset. But... Amazon? I'm pretty sure they can take it.


This whole issue started when one "author" apparently decided to steal another author's work. We've all seen the extracts and heard her apologising. And while I'll never say that someone is definitely 100% guilty, it does look as if we have a smoking gun in this case. I don't want this poor wee lamb weaseling out of this one by saying that it's really Amazon's fault for letting her get away with it.

Did you read anyone saying it wasn't her fault? Did you read me saying it IS her fault?

But, seriously, what do you want this thread to be about? She's bad. Yes, she's bad. Wow, I can't believe how bad she is. Yup, really, really bad. There really isn't much to discuss, is there?

Unless we branch out a little. What can we do to make future plagiarism less likely? Rely on Amazon's good will and morality? No, probably not, for reasons you've been kind enough to repeat for me several times. So we need to find other large scale solutions, ones that don't depend on a multi-national corporation suddenly becoming a protector of the little guy.

In terms of what Amazon should do? TurnItIn.com. Amazon can surely write a program that does something similar. Why haven't they? Well, I have my reasons for that, but as the defender of Amazon, maybe you have different reasons. So - why do you think Amazon hasn't bothered to come up with their own plagiarism-detection software?

Once!
11-03-2015, 03:33 AM
I am not trying to defend Amazon from criticism. I am trying to defend them from unjustified criticism, in the same way that I would defend anyone and anything from unjustified criticism.

Whether we like it or not, there are a small number of large organisations including Amazon who are fundamental to the business of publishing and selling books. We authors rely on these organisations for our income.

Naturally, these organisations are not perfect. We live in difficult times as we come to terms with new tools like the internet which make things like plagiarism and fake reviews much easier than ever before. Amazon will get things wrong. They also exist to make profits. Some of their sales tactics are pretty dodgy.

But I don't think it is either helpful or accurate to portray Amazon as this big nasty organisation which only exists to do you harm. They are not going to listen to us authors if all we ever do is whinge and moan. We need to have a sensible and mature debate with them if we expect them to listen to us.

Try this: We can either say "wouldn't it be a good idea if Amazon installed plagiarism detection software?"

Or we can say "Amazon doesn't give a shit and fences stolen goods."

Which one do you think they are going to listen to?

Kylabelle
11-03-2015, 04:00 AM
If Amazon were a human person, rather than a fictional, legal "person", there might be a case for arguing that the phrase "fencing stolen goods" violates RYFW, but even in that circumstance it would be a very thin case.

As it is, let's let that expression stand with no further criticism as an instance of appropriate writerly hyperbole, okay?

Once, if you find someone's posts problematic, please use the "report this post" button rather than repeatedly taking them to task.

Thank you.

Weirdmage
11-04-2015, 01:53 AM
Or when weirdmage asks a question which hints at illegality ("accessory to plagiarism").
I've already explained why I asked it that way. Why are you ignoring the explenation?


Weirdmage - think of it this way. Author A complains to Amazon that Author B has plagiarized their work. What should Amazon do next?

If they immediately take down Author A's books, they are depriving that author of income. The author might complain that Amazon has no right to remove their books from sale. And if the investigation finds no plagiarism, then author A will complain about Amazon's unfair tactics.

If they don't take down those books, they run the risk that the books might have been plagiarized. Author A continues to get illegal income while they are investigating. Then Author B complains about Amazon's unfair tactics.

So Amazon are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Until they have carried out their investigation they don't know whether to believe Author A or Author B.
Which is why it makes more sense to check all books previous to them being sold from Amazon's store.

Ravioli
11-04-2015, 02:13 AM
Can Amazon seriously be expected to supervise the contents of millions of submissions and cross-reference them?

Captcha
11-04-2015, 02:52 AM
Can Amazon seriously be expected to supervise the contents of millions of submissions and cross-reference them?

Honestly? I think they can, yes. Not by hand, but by running the text through software similar to TurnItIn.com? Why not? The files are already in digital format, so it's not like they'd have to scan the books page by page.

I'd be open to them charging a one-time "cataloguing fee" or something of the sort, if the project turned out to be expensive. $50 or so for each new title? Or maybe have it indexed to the number of pages, since $50 might be a bit steep for a short story. If they told me the money was going to run an anti-plagiarism program and any excess would be banked to help compensate victims of plagiarism? I wouldn't complain.

jjdebenedictis
11-04-2015, 07:30 AM
Honestly? I think they can, yes. Not by hand, but by running the text through software similar to TurnItIn.com? Why not? The files are already in digital format, so it's not like they'd have to scan the books page by page.Compare one book to several million other books. That's already a lot of CPU time. Now compare every one of those several million books to every other one of the other several million books. There's this thing called a "factorial" in mathematics that is coming into play...

Computers are fast, but they're not magical. What you're suggesting (unless some very smart limits are put on the comparisons) is a cripplingly large task. One that will not pay for itself in any way. There's no way a company even as large as Amazon could afford to embark on such a task. It's just money out the window (literally; it all turns into the heat your servers are cranking out.)

Captcha
11-04-2015, 12:05 PM
I'm not a computer expert, but I keep referring to Turnitin.com for a reason. They claim to search each assignment submitted to them against more than 45 billion web pages, more than 337 million student papers, and more than 130 million published academic papers. And they can apparently do this for a low enough fee that a lot of schools have bought their service and made its use mandatory.

So - why can Turnitin.com do it, and Amazon can't?

Once!
11-04-2015, 01:11 PM
I'm with you on that one. If a search engine like google can sift through something as big as the internet, it should not be beyond the wit of man or woman to be able to do something similar with books.

Milenio
11-04-2015, 01:38 PM
Even "free" sites (read: limited searches, as in no access to academic and other closed sites) can do a good job of finding plagiarised text.

Becky Black
11-04-2015, 02:07 PM
It would have to be an industry-wide effort really, since Amazon isn't the only place people self-publish. Smashwords would surely have to do it too, or they'd become the plagiarist's playground for those people who couldn't get plagiarized books past a check on Amazon. What about sites like Wattpad? People don't only plagiarize for the money. After all it happens plenty in fanfic too, where nobody is making any cash off it.

I have a couple of free books on Amazon and Smashwords, that were (and still are) available on my old website before I ever decided to dabble in making an ebook of them. I also have a non-free short story I put up that's also still available in an anthology you can buy in Amazon and on Smashwords. (Non-exclusive rights thing.) So I was definitely expecting that at some point either Amazon or Smashwords would challenge me to prove they were mine and I have the rights to publish them. But that never happened.

Ravioli
11-04-2015, 03:11 PM
Well if it's technically possible, then sure, why not. It's true I can't even upload a harmless fan video without immediately being criminalized, so it should be possible with text, too. Unless it's print-only...

I'm not paying those $50 though, that's more than my book will ever make :ROFL:

Captcha
11-04-2015, 03:20 PM
It would have to be an industry-wide effort really, since Amazon isn't the only place people self-publish. Smashwords would surely have to do it too, or they'd become the plagiarist's playground for those people who couldn't get plagiarized books past a check on Amazon. What about sites like Wattpad? People don't only plagiarize for the money. After all it happens plenty in fanfic too, where nobody is making any cash off it.

I have a couple of free books on Amazon and Smashwords, that were (and still are) available on my old website before I ever decided to dabble in making an ebook of them. I also have a non-free short story I put up that's also still available in an anthology you can buy in Amazon and on Smashwords. (Non-exclusive rights thing.) So I was definitely expecting that at some point either Amazon or Smashwords would challenge me to prove they were mine and I have the rights to publish them. But that never happened.

I think if Amazon did it, everyone else would probably have to follow, for the reasons you stated. Nobody wants to be known as the place where plagiarism doesn't get caught.

Which means, I guess, that this could be one more tool to reinforce the Amazon strangle-hold--no, wait, let me rephrase--Amazon's admirable market dominance (:Hug2:). If it IS somewhat expensive or difficult to do this, for whatever reason, Amazon might have the resources to set the system up while smaller e-book sellers would struggle more. But then hopefully there'd be some way for the smallers to band together and share the costs?

Again, though, based on the TurnItIn.com model, I'm not sure this would be all that expensive to do.

jjdebenedictis
11-04-2015, 05:48 PM
I'm not a computer expert, but I keep referring to Turnitin.com for a reason. They claim to search each assignment submitted to them against more than 45 billion web pages, more than 337 million student papers, and more than 130 million published academic papers. And they can apparently do this for a low enough fee that a lot of schools have bought their service and made its use mandatory.

So - why can Turnitin.com do it, and Amazon can't?But that's comparing one essay to all those web pages. It's not a matter of comparing all those web pages to each other. Comparing one thing to N things involves N searches, but comparing N things to N things uniquely involves N! (where N! = N-factorial) searches.

To put it in perspective, 10! = 3.6 million and 15! = 1.3 trillion and 20! = 2.4 trillion trillions. The numbers go up that ferociously fast.


I'm with you on that one. If a search engine like google can sift through something as big as the internet, it should not be beyond the wit of man or woman to be able to do something similar with books.There is a big difference between exactly matching a few words in a search engine and finding substantive similarities in an 80,000 word book compared to another 80,000 word book.

Again, you guys aren't comprehending how hard, and how large, a computing problem this is.

Once!
11-04-2015, 06:22 PM
Again, you guys aren't comprehending how hard, and how large, a computing problem this is.

I don't know. I am not a computer expert. I do know that internet search engines use "bots" to collect information about individual websites. The information harvested from these bots is then tabulated and recorded. So when we use google or bing or whatever, the search engine isn't searching the entire internet just for our new search. Instead it is searching its already tabulated and indexed information. That's how search engines cope with more than 4.6 billion web pages and still return results in less than a second.

So I guess anti-plagiarism software would work like this. When someone uploads a new book to Amazon, part of the acceptance procedure would be for a bot to crawl over the text and collate information about the book. This could include random word strings, average sentence length, frequency of common words cropping up, that sort of thing. It could be as simple as counting how many z's there are in a book. All of this information would then be stored in a tabulated database somewhere. Call it that book's digital fingerprint. I imagine that Amazon would keep its algorithms a secret so scammers couldn't get around it by changing names or using synonyms.

This is doable because the bot is only looking at one book at a time. You would need to introduce it for all new books from a certain date, and then roll it out over existing books by setting the bots loose when the internet is quiet.

Then for the plagiarism check, you would check each new book uploaded against this database of digital fingerprints. That would also be part of the acceptance process for uploading a new book. And again you are only dealing with one book at a time and checking it against a pre-indexed database.

Do it this way and you would never need the many to many checks. That would indeed generate a huge number of possibilities, but we don't need to go there. Indexing bots rule out the "many to many" problems.

Google "anti plagiarism software". There are several programs out there claiming to do exactly this.

Captcha
11-04-2015, 06:59 PM
But that's comparing one essay to all those web pages. It's not a matter of comparing all those web pages to each other. Comparing one thing to N things involves N searches, but comparing N things to N things uniquely involves N! (where N! = N-factorial) searches.

To put it in perspective, 10! = 3.6 million and 15! = 1.3 trillion and 20! = 2.4 trillion trillions. The numbers go up that ferociously fast.

There is a big difference between exactly matching a few words in a search engine and finding substantive similarities in an 80,000 word book compared to another 80,000 word book.

Again, you guys aren't comprehending how hard, and how large, a computing problem this is.

Well, it's millions of essays a year at TurnItIn.com. I assume they're compared one at a time, just as books at Amazon would be.

If going through the back catalogue is too much, they could just do the search for all new books added to the site. Yes, there are lots of new books put on Amazon each year, but not nearly as many as the millions of essays submitted to the educational institutions that use TurnItIn. Yes, essays tend to be shorter than books, but there are so many more of them, I'd think it would be roughly equivalent.

brainstorm77
11-04-2015, 07:11 PM
Amazon will never do any of this. They have themselves covered when you agree to their terms to self-publish and there's that report button on every page to report stuff like plagiarism among many other things. It will never happen. Sadly, plagiarism will always be a problem.

Milenio
11-04-2015, 07:36 PM
When I edit, I have to double-check facts, names, dates, etc. Granted, the documents I do don't come near the 80,000+ word count of a novel, and certainly not the volume that Amazon deals with. However, I can generally find what I'm looking for, even if it's very old or in a book format - take Google books as an example. It will give me an extract from the book with the information I'm looking for, even if it is clear that it's a scanned text (OCR). Even "closed" sites will give me a hint of what they have available, even if it isn't the full text. All this means that the information is there, and it can be matched.

So I also don't see the problem in this.

Once!
11-04-2015, 07:37 PM
Amazon will never do any of this. They have themselves covered when you agree to their terms to self-publish and there's that report button on every page to report stuff like plagiarism among many other things. It will never happen. Sadly, plagiarism will always be a problem.

Maybe. I suspect that Amazon aren't in a rush to do too much about plagiarism because it isn't yet hurting their bottom line. But they might do something if there was a public outcry or they started to lose customers. In theory it ought to be possible to design plagiarism out by using vetting software. One day this might be commonplace and routine.

So I wouldn't rule out the possibility of plagiarism being dealt with, but I'm not holding my breath.

Milenio
11-04-2015, 07:41 PM
Amazon will never do any of this. They have themselves covered when you agree to their terms to self-publish and there's that report button on every page to report stuff like plagiarism among many other things. It will never happen. Sadly, plagiarism will always be a problem.

I have a client who I've helped to self-publish on Smashwords. When I did my research into file formats, they had a very good article about plagiarism. Basically, if somebody wants to steal, they will find a way, so trying to protect your contents with anti-copy file formats, is really a waste of time, AND it limits you to only a few file formats (end published book). I type quite fast - copy type about 100 wpm - so I can do screen shots and just copy type the text. Yes, it will take awhile, but it can be done. Then there is very sophisticated OCR software. So if somebody wants to steal from you, there is really very little you can do about it. It's a sad reflection on us humans.

brainstorm77
11-04-2015, 07:43 PM
They won't lose customers. They're Amazon. I'm sure it's possible for them to do something, but I cannot see it ever happening. They do what they do. When it comes to their attention they take the books down. I do wonder if they suspend accounts?

- - - Updated - - -

Milenio: Yup! A thief will do what they do.

Weirdmage
11-05-2015, 02:01 AM
I think it is very simple. Put legislation in place that makes it required for anyone that sells(/distributes) more than x e-books a day to check for plagiarism. -Anyone who doesn't want to comply gets their website closed down.

I do honestly not understand at all why people who have signed up to a writers's site would oppose any measures that would secure them from having their work stolen/illegally exploited.
Surely the discussion whould be "what can we do to stop plagiarism" rather than "this is the reason the biggest online retailer in the world should not be required to check for plagiarism"...

Kylabelle
11-05-2015, 02:25 AM
Weirdmage (ETA: and everyone) please cease reviving contention. People are welcome to their opinions and to express them here whether we think well of those opinions or not. As long as we respectfully disagree, the conversation remains fruitful.

Thank you.

DancingMaenid
11-05-2015, 02:48 AM
Well, it's millions of essays a year at TurnItIn.com. I assume they're compared one at a time, just as books at Amazon would be.


Well, the issue with software like Turnitin is that it comes up with false positives. This is inevitable with a computer program, and in my experience, Turnitin is pretty good. I had a professor who had us submit our own papers and had it set up so that we could see our reports. My papers would get somewhere around 6% on the plagiarization scale just from stuff like referring to plot points in a story (there are only so many ways to do that without naturally using some of the same language others have used). I assume my professor took a peek at the report to judge, and I also assume that if I actually plagiarized my paper, the percentage would likely be higher.

But I do have reservations about Amazon, considering one of their methods of enforcing their content rules has been to remove erotica books with the word "virgin" in the title just in case it's an underage story, without actually checking. I'm all for trying to prevent plagiarism, but I suspect that cases of plagiarism may be less common than cases of authors having their books taken down in error if Amazon is lazily aggressive about responding to reports. I would want Amazon to proceed carefully and have a human review reports.

Viridian
11-05-2015, 02:56 AM
I do honestly not understand at all why people who have signed up to a writers's site would oppose any measures that would secure them from having their work stolen/illegally exploited.
Because it's prohibitively difficult.

Okay. So. Let's say you need to cross-check ten books. In order to do that, you need to compare every book with the other nine books. The equation for that is n(n-3)/2 where n is the number of books. That works out to 9(9-3)/2, which equals 27. You will need to compare 27 pairs of books to ensure there is no plagiarism.

Now let's say you have one hundred books. So 100(100-3)/2 = 100(97)/2 = 4850. You will need to compare 4850 pairs of books to ensure there is no plagiarism.

Now let's say you have a thousand books. 1000(1000-3)/2 = 498500. You need to compare 498500 pairs of books.

Now let's say you're Amazon, and you have over three million books. 3,000,000(3,000,000-3)/2 = 44,999,955,000,000. In order to check every book for plagiarism, you need to compare the full text of over 44 trillion pairs of books.

So let's say Amazon does that. They check all of their books for plagiarism just once, and then they continue to check each book as it comes in. Let's pretend Amazon only gets one new book a day. It now has to check that book against three million other titles. And it has to do that every day, for every book that comes in, forever.

I just don't think it's possible.

(Disclaimer: that equation is not totally right. I'm actually underestimating the pairs of books a little.)

AW Admin
11-05-2015, 03:08 AM
Well, it's millions of essays a year at TurnItIn.com. I assume they're compared one at a time, just as books at Amazon would be.

If going through the back catalogue is too much, they could just do the search for all new books added to the site. Yes, there are lots of new books put on Amazon each year, but not nearly as many as the millions of essays submitted to the educational institutions that use TurnItIn. Yes, essays tend to be shorter than books, but there are so many more of them, I'd think it would be roughly equivalent.

Yes, and if you check 100 student essays at TurnItIn, you'll have twenty or more false positives.

This is not something you can do with software. You need a human. Moreover, you need a human with a very specific set of skills in terms of being able to distinguish from conventional language for a conventional reason, and plagiarism.

The problem is with people who do unethical and stupid things. That's what we need to address.

Once!
11-05-2015, 03:34 AM
I don't think it has to work by brute force. An index should do the trick.

The first thing to accept is that we probably don't need to invent a 100% foolproof system. What we need is to make it so likely that you will get caught that the plagiarists don't bother trying. We don't need perfection. The software won't necessarily be the last word in determining whether something is copied or not. It just needs to flag up books with a high likelihood of being copied, which humans can then read.

Each book could be scanned once by an indexing program which will summarise the key features of the book. This will count things like how many times a particular word is used per chapter, sentence length, key phrases, etc. These would then be converted into numerical scores and stored in a database.

When you want to check a book for plagiarism you wouldn't manually check every other book. Instead you would compare the book's scores against the index in the database. For example, if you are checking a book which has an average sentence length of 30 words you would instantly discount any books with average sentence length of say, less than 25 or more than 35. You don't need to look at those books at all unless other checks flag up a problem.

Then imagine this process acting as a series of filters. You can use more elaborate and time consuming checks as you drop more books from your search. You don't do the exhaustive word by word search until you have narrowed down the possible matches to a manageable size.

That's how google works. It doesn't compare every web page against your search. Instead it uses spider bots to harvest the information from individual websites and indexing programs to manage it.

Imagine that you wanted to see if someone was the same height as you. You could go out and measure everyone's height. Am I taller than Fred? No, move on. Am I taller than Betty? No, move on. That's when you get into your umpty trillion pairs. But you wouldn't do it that way, would you? You would measure everybody's height once and once only and you would feed that information into a database. Then all you would need to do would be to look in the database for anyone with your height.

Indexing is the magic ingredient which means we don't need to do brute force searches.

AW Admin
11-05-2015, 03:43 AM
Indexing is the magic ingredient which means we don't need to do brute force searches.

No, really, this is not something we can implement at this time.

It's much larger of a problem than you think.

I say this as someone with considerable expertise in writing code to do literary analysis and pattern matching—and someone who has been working as an expert witness in copyright cases since 1986.


Moreover:

1. Plagiarism is not a crime; copyright infringement is, and they are not the same thing.

2. It is already a Federal crime—one that can lead to doing time—to violate copyright.


Even if we had the technology, there's no cost benefit to Amazon or a publisher in doing this. It's investment that will not create profit.

And, on top of that there are some legal implications to a publisher doing this; what if they fail to catch a plagiarist and publish the book?

Have they thus completely invalidated their indemnity clause? I can see a defense based on that premise, that the publisher failed in due diligence.


Again, the problem is with people, not with books.

DancingMaenid
11-05-2015, 06:09 AM
Yes, and if you check 100 student essays at TurnItIn, you'll have twenty or more false positives.


Right, and the average college class might only have twenty students, meaning it's not too prohibitive for a professor to look at each TurnItIn report to examine the stuff that gets flagged.

And almost everything is going to have some stuff flagged, because some sentence constructs are very common. Any book that contains common phrases/cliches like "Better safe than sorry" or "I should have known better" could have instances like that add to the overall percentage of "plagiarized" words. So Amazon would have to decide how much "plagiarism" needs to be detected before it's worth investigating. And what might complicate things is that having a high percentage of "plagiarized" sentences might not mean that the book was copied from a single source. If 10% of the sentences in your novel match another novel, that may be a red flag. But if there's a 1% match to one novel, 3% to another, 4% to another, and 2% to fourth, that might tell a different story.

In theory, I could write a short story with a ton of cliched language like "It was a dark and stormy night" and "He knew she was trouble the moment she walked in" and a program like TurnItIn could decide that it's very likely to have been plagiarized. But no one book is likely to have all those "copied" phrases.

Once!
11-05-2015, 11:41 AM
Again, the problem is with people, not with books.

Agreed, that is the cause of the problem. And I don't see that software would be able to replace the role of a human in making the final determination of whether a work is plagiarised or not. But I don't see why software couldn't be used to flag works that need to be examined. That capability exists already in products like TurnItIn and the bot technology which underpins search engines.

I don't see a problem with the legal implications. Due diligence does not mean that every fact has to be uncovered before a contract is signed. It contains the concept of reasonableness. So Amazon would quite easily write a section in their terms of reference which said that while they do carry out some checks for plagiarism they cannot guarantee to uncover all instances of copied work.

As you say, it is not clear whether Amazon have a financial incentive for taking action on plagiarism. I suspect they would only do something about it if there was an outcry and/ or if they started to lose sales. That doesn't mean it is impossible or will never happen.

For the time being, we need to rely on human intervention to spot plagiarism and take action against it.

Captcha
11-05-2015, 03:27 PM
Of course the problem is with people. That seems self-evident - books aren't plagiarizing themselves.

But it seems simpler to find ways to prevent plagiarists from getting their plagiarized books published than it does to change their personality/morals/motivation.

If we take the "the problem is with people" approach, what does that look like?

I can see harsher penalties for plagiarists maybe being a deterrent - right now, the only deterrent seems to be the public shaming. It would be nice to see more being done in that area. But, going back to the Amazon doesn't care about plagiarism because preventing it won't make them money argument - I don't think we can expect the harsher penalties to come from the book sellers, unless public opinion forces them into it. Criminal charges? I don't know - I imagine there'd be some pretty serious jurisdiction issues, not to mention problems with identifying culprits. We could end up with a system where plagiarists in some countries are caught and punished, while plagiarists in other countries go free. Not my favourite set-up.

And, of course, before we even get to those challenges, we have to find the plagiarists.

So, do other people have suggestions, or do we just resign ourselves to the status quo?

Liosse de Velishaf
11-05-2015, 11:31 PM
No, really, this is not something we can implement at this time.

It's much larger of a problem than you think.

I say this as someone with considerable expertise in writing code to do literary analysis and pattern matching—and someone who has been working as an expert witness in copyright cases since 1986.


I'm curious as to what the major issues are. Is it a matter of not having the algorithms designed yet? Is it avoiding false positives based on common phrasing or syntax?

(I'm asking because this happens to be an area of interest for me, not to dismiss your point, which I'm pretty sure is correct at this time.)

jjdebenedictis
11-06-2015, 01:07 AM
I do honestly not understand at all why people who have signed up to a writers's site would oppose any measures that would secure them from having their work stolen/illegally exploited. I don't think anyone opposes the idea; the implementation would just be a nightmare and possibly even impossible.

For one thing, whose content are you checking against? Your own, or some external reservoir of data? Because an online bookseller might be capable of checking all the books they carry against all the other books they carry and still miss blatant plagiarism of some book they don't carry. And giving out access to everyone's electronic books for the sake of stamping out plagiarism will make a new economy of pirated ebook content.

veinglory
11-06-2015, 01:21 AM
Amazon clearly already has some kind of matching system to detect large scale duplication. How else are they finding and sending those chiding emails to people enrolled in Select whose books are partially available online? They also often pick up rights-rebuyers automatically when they try to add books. It is more a matter of refining the system than inventing it.

AW Admin
11-06-2015, 01:50 AM
I'm curious as to what the major issues are. Is it a matter of not having the algorithms designed yet? Is it avoiding false positives based on common phrasing or syntax?

(I'm asking because this happens to be an area of interest for me, not to dismiss your point, which I'm pretty sure is correct at this time.)

We've already got the simple method in place; Amazon uses an internal "look inside the book" feature to spot the most obvious kinds of plagiarism, that is, when entire sentences are lifted without change. They also pay attention to books flagged for plagiarism, and honestly, I suspect that that's what triggers a computer search, but I'm speculating.

That part isn't the issue; where that system falls short is that it takes time for the cluster to check books, so an obviously plagiarized book may be available for as much as six months before its tracked.

Where it's tricky are the books where a small percent of the total words are blatant word-for-word entire sentences plagiarized. The recent book is a case in point.

A computer has a really really literal approach to pattern matching; changing a punctuation mark can be enough to defeat the "match sentences" or "match key words" or "match word frequency tables"—these are standard techniques.

But if a human deliberately plagiarizes intermittently—say a Doris Kearns* or Janet Daily—it's much harder to spot via a computer. It takes more cycles, and it become prohibitively expensive in terms of both $ and time. This kind of plagiarism—where passages are cobbled together with a writer's own words, and, often, with several other writers' words, not just one, is a much higher level of magnitude of difficulty in terms of spotting the plagiarism.

It gets both expensive and time consuming—and it's not financially worth it to Amazon as a publisher or as a retailer. The onus is on the author, not the publisher. That's the point of the indemnity clause; the author is responsible.

There's a separate issue too, which is often overlooked: Anyone who has ever taught college will tell you most students are repeat plagiarizers. If you look at the cases of trade published authors who were found out, they almost always have a track record of theft. Think about that, and think about how long it took Janet Dailey and Kerns to be caught. They've both sold many thousand books. And many more readers than books sold.

Now think about how man computer cycles it would take to track down just the the sources used by one plagiarizer, one who only intermittently lifted entire sentences, or complex phrases.

And then think about how often you'd have a book flagged to be checked by a human; as a case in point, Turnitin is particularly useless in terms of papers written for history or English classes, because the papers depend on analyzing quotations from primary sources, whether a work of literature, a primary source or a secondary critical source.

Also, here's a thing to think about: We don't here about the mss. rejected by agents or editors or slush readers who spot the plagiarism before the book is published, and I assure you, it's dishearteningly common. And yes, that goes for scholarly journals and publishers as well as for trade.

So again, the issue is not to have better methods of catching them, it's to have a better set of community standards and ethics. And this is not, at all, a new issue. Coleridge was infamous in his lifetime for plagiarizing. Wordsworth stole from his own sister.


*Kearns says she inadvertently incorporated verbatim quotes from research notes made by her assistant. I'm particularly dubious about a scholar who uses RAs to read for them, and then relies on the RA's notes. That is, at best, exploitive. And I say this having been in the position of being an exploited RA, so yeah, I'm biased.

AW Admin
11-06-2015, 01:58 AM
I can see harsher penalties for plagiarists maybe being a deterrent - right now, the only deterrent seems to be the public shaming.

Well, no, actually, it's not. U.S. law provides for jail time for copyright infringement (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2319). The difficulty is convincing a jury that it "willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain. (http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/copy-corner66.htm)"

But then think about it; who looks bad for sending a writer to jail? The victim, and or, the victim's publisher. And going to court is hugely expensive, even if your publisher takes the bill on, and even if you win.

So I think actually the approach taken by Nora Roberts is the correct one.

Once!
11-06-2015, 01:37 PM
I don't think anyone opposes the idea; the implementation would just be a nightmare and possibly even impossible.

I am not so sure that it would be either a nightmare or impossible.

False positives are not a problem. No-one is suggesting that we would give the final determination of plagiarism to a computer. The software would be used to flag up suspicious books, but the final decision would be made by human readers and courts, just as it is now.

The "many to many" issue isn't a problem. The methodology exists in software like Turnitin to compare large numbers of works by using indexing bots. You simply would not do a one to one comparison of every book against every other book. Instead you would index the books and compare each book against the index. Turnitin call it their "similarity index".

The "we can't catch everyone" argument doesn't hold water. We can't catch every counterfeit dollar bill or ten pound note, but that doesn't mean that we don't do anything to detect counterfeits. We can't measure every car's speed, but that doesn't stop the police from carrying out random spot checks or using speed cameras. The first objective would be to make it much more likely that a plagiarist would get caught so that they are less likely to try.

"Whose content are you checking against?" Well I guess that Amazon would start with its own books, which seems a pretty good place to start. And if that doesn't capture every book, does that really matter? The goal is not to catch every single instance of plagiarism, it is to act as a deterrent by making it more likely to be caught. Turnitin estimate that the number of unoriginal submissions has reduced by 33% in the last eight years.

Anti-plagiarism software would not replace the human checking that would need to be done. It would not be (or need to be) 100% perfect. It is perfectly doable and exists right now.

The issue I think is how to persuade Amazon to take the problem more seriously and to invest in developing the technology. The difficulties are economic and not technological.

Captcha
11-06-2015, 03:55 PM
Well, no, actually, it's not. U.S. law provides for jail time for copyright infringement (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2319). The difficulty is convincing a jury that it "willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain. (http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/copy-corner66.htm)"

But then think about it; who looks bad for sending a writer to jail? The victim, and or, the victim's publisher. And going to court is hugely expensive, even if your publisher takes the bill on, and even if you win.

So I think actually the approach taken by Nora Roberts is the correct one.

I wasn't saying that there were no criminal prohibitions against copyright infringement, although as I said, jurisdictional issues will be a challenge. But even when there ARE criminal laws, we're back to being dependent on someone else to enforce them, and governments seem about as interested as Amazon in making a serious attempt to enforce the existing laws. There shouldn't be any court costs for the victim in a criminal case, of course, so I assume you're referring to civil suits in your second paragraph? So no one would be going to jail based on that...

Quick summary of the options I'm seeing presented and the issues with each:

Criminal prosecution - requires that the government actually pursues the prosecution, may make the victim look bad? (I don't actually think it would, but maybe), may be difficult to prove all the elements of the crime (although for the current case, I see no challenges in proving "willfully" or "for private financial gain"), punishes the plagiarizer but doesn't do much to compensate the plagiarized, jurisdictional issues;

Civil case - takes a lot of money, good chance of plagiarizer being "judgement-proof" due to limited assets, jurisdictional issues;

Combination of the above - the civil case might be less expensive if the evidence had already been gathered/organized for the criminal prosecution, and the double-whammy approach might allow punishment of the plagiarizer while compensating the plagiarized, but still hardly inexpensive, and still issues of "judgement-proof" defendants, and still jurisdictional issues;

Better controls at distribution points - possibly difficult or prohibitively expensive, no incentive for Amazon or others to spend the time/money;

Shift in cultural expectations - but most writers, as evidenced by this thread, already loathe plagiarists, so I'm not sure how much more room there is for a shift in the group most likely to be affected;

Turn the other cheek, ignore it - blech! May be the only option, but certainly can't be seen as a solution!

jjdebenedictis
11-06-2015, 08:58 PM
I am not so sure that it would be either a nightmare or impossible.

False positives are not a problem. No-one is suggesting that we would give the final determination of plagiarism to a computer. The software would be used to flag up suspicious books, but the final decision would be made by human readers and courts, just as it is now.

The "many to many" issue isn't a problem. The methodology exists in software like Turnitin to compare large numbers of works by using indexing bots. You simply would not do a one to one comparison of every book against every other book. Instead you would index the books and compare each book against the index. Turnitin call it their "similarity index".

The "we can't catch everyone" argument doesn't hold water. We can't catch every counterfeit dollar bill or ten pound note, but that doesn't mean that we don't do anything to detect counterfeits. We can't measure every car's speed, but that doesn't stop the police from carrying out random spot checks or using speed cameras. The first objective would be to make it much more likely that a plagiarist would get caught so that they are less likely to try.

"Whose content are you checking against?" Well I guess that Amazon would start with its own books, which seems a pretty good place to start. And if that doesn't capture every book, does that really matter? The goal is not to catch every single instance of plagiarism, it is to act as a deterrent by making it more likely to be caught. Turnitin estimate that the number of unoriginal submissions has reduced by 33% in the last eight years.

Anti-plagiarism software would not replace the human checking that would need to be done. It would not be (or need to be) 100% perfect. It is perfectly doable and exists right now.

The issue I think is how to persuade Amazon to take the problem more seriously and to invest in developing the technology. The difficulties are economic and not technological.Quoted for general awesomeness. I've been especially interested to hear about indexing, and was glad someone who knew more about how to code for these sorts of problems popped into the thread. Thanks Once!

Chipotle
11-07-2015, 06:54 AM
The issue I think is how to persuade Amazon to take the problem more seriously and to invest in developing the technology. The difficulties are economic and not technological.

The issue isn't technological to the degree that this is theoretically feasible, but I think people may be seriously underestimating the implications of "the difficulties are economic." People keep making comparisons to Google without really acknowledging that indexing vast amounts of information is Google's primary business. The better they are at that, the more time you spend with them and the more ads they show you (and, at least in theory, the more relevant the ads they show you are). Being good at this impacts their bottom line in a positive way.

Amazon implementing a massive Google-like distributed search algorithm to find plagiarism is an entirely different scenario. It's actually technologically more challenging; while the indexing is loosely similar, the searching is not: when you do a Google search, it's comparing the keywords you input against the index it's built. What Amazon would likely need to do in this case is lexically analyze the document being checked for plagiarism to find "key phrases" and then check all of those against their corpus to get a list of probable hits, then do a more thorough comparison scan of documents above a certain match level. This would be more computationally intensive than a Google search.

That's why I suspect you can't expect Amazon to really look into this. Being good at algorithmically catching plagiarists impacts their bottom line in a negative way. It would cost them money to do this work, and that cost won't come with any increase in revenue. And that's not even getting into the sticky questions of just what they do when their algorithm catches something. They can't just presume the author with the earliest publication date wins. They don't have a real compelling business interest to pull stuff based on this algorithm (as has been pointed out, plagiarism is not the same as a copyright violation). And what happens when their algorithm generates (or is accused of generating) a false positive and that goes viral? That's a huge headache for them. All for something which, again, costs them money to run on every book.

Once!
11-07-2015, 04:17 PM
Maybe, maybe. I am certainly not holding my breath for Amazon to do this. As you say, there is little economic incentive for them to do it. But that doesn't mean that someone might do it. The movie and music industry spends a lot of time and effort trying to crack down on piracy. It is so easy these days to copy and distribute files and avoid having to pay the artists.

So maybe it's not Amazon who does this but one or more of the big publishing houses? They are the ones that stand to lose from plagiarism.

But I really don't believe it would be as technologically challenging as people think. You wouldn't design a system to perform an exhaustive check against every possible match. Instead you would use a series of filters to cut down the number of potential matches that you need to consider. It would be very easy to assess each book for average sentence length or readability score, for example. That could be used to filter out possible matches and reduce the time taken to do a keyword search.

False positives? They would be dealt with in exactly the same way as human claims for plagiarism. Any positive matches would need to be checked by a human. Which is exactly what Turnitin say about their system and it is exactly what Amazon do now.

I think we need to stop confusing "I don't know how to do it" with "It can't be done." If we talk this down we are making it less likely to happen, which is not in any of our interests.

Hapax Legomenon
11-07-2015, 07:09 PM
I would be concerned about it turning the other way. If it becomes more economically viable for Amazon to refuse to publish things that tick some plagiarism, they might just shrug off people who protest this, creating a bizarre barrier of entry. I mean, ultimately Amazon is not obligated to publish anything, and you're shifting the burden of proof away from the copyright holders even though it does belong on them. The only thing that would make sense is for Amazon or any other ebook publisher to maybe send a notice to the publisher that there may be infringement and have the publisher choose whether or not to check it out for themselves, and to push their own legal action if they want to.

Weirdmage
11-08-2015, 05:06 AM
I would be concerned about it turning the other way. If it becomes more economically viable for Amazon to refuse to publish things that tick some plagiarism, they might just shrug off people who protest this, creating a bizarre barrier of entry. I mean, ultimately Amazon is not obligated to publish anything, and you're shifting the burden of proof away from the copyright holders even though it does belong on them. The only thing that would make sense is for Amazon or any other ebook publisher to maybe send a notice to the publisher that there may be infringement and have the publisher choose whether or not to check it out for themselves, and to push their own legal action if they want to.

I don't see it as any kind of problem that "suspicious" content is flagged and that those that publish that should be required to defend what they publish.*
It's not a "bizarre barrier" to prove you have the rights to sell something before you are allowed to. It's pretty much how business works.



*It's only a problem if Amazon continue to do what seems like not having actual people checking things before reacting.

brainstorm77
11-20-2015, 02:57 PM
http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?312404-Plagiarist-Alert-in-M-M-Romance!&p=9637464#post9637464 It looks like Laura Harner has received a lifetime expulsion from RWA(Romance Writers of America) for plagiarism as reported in the thread linked.

Ken
11-20-2015, 04:31 PM
seems like someone is in need of a lashing

Filigree
11-20-2015, 05:43 PM
That's actually a pretty serious lashing. Even if there are no legal consequences, she may have to resort to a new pen name.

Sheryl Nantus
11-20-2015, 05:49 PM
That's actually a pretty serious lashing. Even if there are no legal consequences, she may have to resort to a new pen name.

I'm thinking she probably doesn't give a crap. Given that she thought it was perfectly fine to plagiarize in the first place, being dumped by RWA probably doesn't matter much.

Still, excellent move by RWA.

Cobalt Jade
11-20-2015, 10:06 PM
I am glad there has been some kind of consequences for the author who behaved badly.

brainstorm77
11-24-2015, 09:03 PM
https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1664803357101295&id=100007149408271&fref=nf Another case of plagiarism has popped up in the mm romance community.

Samsonet
11-24-2015, 11:46 PM
Nooooooooo

jjdebenedictis
11-25-2015, 12:14 AM
https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1664803357101295&id=100007149408271&fref=nf Another case of plagiarism has popped up in the mm romance community.That's pretty brutal, and so much worse, too, because it's obviously copy-and-paste perpetrated by someone using a fake name. The author should be able to get the books taken down by any website hosting the copies, but there's nothing stopping the thief from just ghosting away and starting over with a new pseudonym. This is straight-up theft.

Captcha
02-13-2016, 04:17 PM
We've got the apology from Laura Harner, posted on her Facebook page (but not, that I could see, on her website...)


Thank you for your patience. Here is my official statement:
I apologize for plagiarizing Becky McGraw’s book and for all the pain and suffering I’ve caused her. The book I published as “Coming Home Texas” was copied from her book “My Kind of Trouble,” and I had no right to rewrite the story. I take full responsibility for my actions. I made a mistake and if I could undo it, I would. I appreciate the opportunity to make things right. I am truly sorry.
To my readers, family, and friends, I apologize for letting you down.
I have made a life-altering mistake, leaving me in the darkest days of my life. I am unsure of how I will go forward, except to promise you this will never happen again. I realize I have broken a trust and hope that some of you will be willing to give me a second chance.
To those of you who have reached out to me privately to offer forgiveness and support, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Ravioli
02-13-2016, 04:30 PM
Thank you for your patience. Here is my official statement:
I apologize for plagiarizing Becky McGraw’s book and for all the pain and suffering I’ve caused her (you didn't care you would when you did that tho). The book I published as “Coming Home Texas” was copied from her book “My Kind of Trouble,” and I had no right to rewrite the story. I take full responsibility for my actions (in practice meaning what?). I made a mistake (which you'd make again had people not torn you to bits, and deliberately copying other peoples' stuff for profit isn't a "mistake", just as murder and theft aren't "mistakes" but deliberarte acts of selfishness; mistakes are made BY mistake) and if I could undo it, I would. I appreciate the opportunity to make things right (doing what exactly?). I am truly sorry (because you did wrong or because you got caught?).
To my readers, family, and friends, I apologize for letting you down.
I have made a life-altering mistake, leaving me in the darkest days of my life (sounds like self-pity rather than admitting to having wronged someone else). I am unsure of how I will go forward, except to promise you this will never happen again. I realize I have broken a trust and hope that some of you will be willing to give me a second chance (lol nope if you gotta plagiarize it's usually because your own work sucks).
To those of you who have reached out to me privately to offer forgiveness and support, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. (you know why they did so privately? Because they're embarassed of being associated with you in public - you embarass them. Also, the only forgiveness that matters, is your victim's)
What a load of crap.

eqb
02-13-2016, 04:39 PM
It's on her website now.

Captcha
02-13-2016, 05:32 PM
It's on her website now.

Oh, you're right - I was looking on the main page, but it was on her blog page.

brainstorm77
02-13-2016, 06:54 PM
It was a long time coming. I hope she means it and changes her ways. I'll keep an open mind.

Laurasaurus
02-13-2016, 07:07 PM
So she's just apologising/acknowledging that one book?

Captcha
02-13-2016, 07:12 PM
So she's just apologising/acknowledging that one book?

Seems like.

I'm wondering if it's the terms of an agreement or something. Posting the "apology" twice, after such a long period of silence, seems strange to me. I'm wondering if it was part of a deal with one victim.

A true, from-the-heart apology would, to my mind, mention all the misdeeds, not just one, and would focus more on the harm done to others rather than how this has impacted on her.

I don't know - I'd never heard of either author before this came up, so I have no real skin in the game. But... I'm curious, and fairly sceptical.

jjdebenedictis
02-13-2016, 11:22 PM
This sure smells like something imposed by a legal settlement.

It's nicely written. Sounds very contrite. I tend to judge these things by the actions thereafter rather than the apology itself, however; I'll try to keep an open mind.