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Harper Collins stealing from Authonomy author?

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ghost

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It's not the title that's in question. The author in question believes there are similarities in the plot.
 

waylander

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Neither of those plots sound desperately original
 

Katrina S. Forest

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I have to say, I don't think anyone can make a call without actually reading both books, and my reading list is pretty packed already.

A few observations that could explain what this author is going through:

1. When I'm critiquing, "This has great potential" is not my highest compliment. It usually means I like the idea or the characters, but the writing needs work. So it's possible the editor did not think as highly of the work as the author believes.

2. It's also possible that the Haper Collins author who said "this kind of thing happens a lot" was referring to two people having the same idea at the same time, not to the idea that big companies steal from display sites.

3. The concept is not totally original. I also wrote a series about time travelers in middle school. (Or rather, I wrote the outline for one.) My characters visited ancient Greece, and I'm pretty sure ancient Egypt as well. I was never into pirates, so I never created a character named Blackbeard, but I'm sure there were many kids my age who did.

Overall, I feel like the author needs much more evidence than what's been stated already to really prove anything was stolen. Even if HarperCollins read the author's book and went straight to a book packaging company and said, "Time traveling kids! To Greece and Egypt! Now!" that's not exactly illegal. And it's not yet clear to me they even did that much.

I do hope the author is able to settle things, whatever that looks like.
 

Corussa

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I'd agree: my instinct is that it's coincidence. I sympathise with Carl Ashmore, but as he himself says in his post, you can't copyright ideas.

As waylander says, the plots aren't particularly original. And if you have kids time-travelling, it seems very likely that they're going to end up in ancient Greece, or Egypt, and so on. They're trendy hotspots for time-travellers. ;)

I also think 'Time Hunters' isn't a great title for either (what are they doing, hunting time itself?), but that's by the by... :)
 

Terie

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Why on earth would HarperCollins knowingly steal something from a public site? Does anyone believe they're so stupid as to put the company at such obvious risk of legal action?

Of course, individual authors have famously plagiarised and infringed copyright, but never with a major publisher's knowledge.

I met a picturebook author at a retreat who had a book about a famous artist come out at the exact same time that another picturebook author also had a book about the same famous artist come out. The books even (originally) had the same title! And neither knew about it until relatively shortly before the books were due for release. (IIRC, the release dates were in the same month, possibly even in the same week.) One of the publishers decided to change the title, and all else went forward as planned. Nobody suggested at all that it was anything other than a cosmic coincidence.
 

Buffysquirrel

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There seems to be much in the Ashmore books that is derivative of known sources. Will Scarlet? The Golden Fleece? Blackbeard (Edward Teach)? All these are freely available for anyone to write about, as are Greece, Egypt, etc, whether ancient or modern. There's nothing he cites that couldn't have been culled by the work-for-hire author from exactly the same sources he used.

The writing is very different.

There's no evidence that the editor who saw Ashmore's book at Authonomy has any connection with the editor who bought the series from the book packager. HarperCollins isn't a one-office outfit.

As for all those internet lawyers weighing in....
 

AnneMarble

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I'm going to say no. I looked at both books and I think it's a coincidence. But I'll let the rest of you judge for yourself.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/forum/meet ...TKKJQSTRPGM&cdPage=1&cdThread=Tx2MVCHWF2NKP84

Carl's book
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/095685950X/?tag=absowrit-20

Harper Collins' book
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0007514093/?tag=absowrit-20
Sigh. I don't know, and we don't have enough information to go on. Sure, a lot of people on the Amazon thread support the author. But how many of them know copyright laws? :)

There are already lots of children's and YA series about children traveling through time. For example, the Gideon Trilogy. Many involve the same settings because those are the historical settings people know and love. Heck, there are ay least two children's/YA books involving time travel and Richard III alone.

Most importantly, we don't know when the Harper Collins series was developed. It could have been developed before the Asmore series, or at the same time, wih of course no relation to the Ashmore books. Authors (and yes, book packagers) come up with similar ideas all the time. Does no one remember the time when Jonathan Kellerman and another author published thrillers about a serial killer in Israel within months of each other?
 

Alitriona

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Better take the time travelling teens and Will Scarlet of of the book I'm writing now I've seen his post.
 

Torgo

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Anyway, this month saw the publication of a new children's series by Harper Collins. It's called (I'm sure you can see where this is going) 'Time Hunters' . And the plot - well, it's about a boy and girl who embark on a series of fast-paced adventures in a treasure hunt through time for powerful ancient relics. Now, in many ways, that is where the similarities appear to end, but they don't. In Book 5 of their Time Hunters they encounter `Blackbeard' (I meet him in `The Time Hunters and the Box of Eternity' (2011)). In Book 4 of their series, they visit Ancient Greece, I do it in `The Time Hunters' (2010). In Book 6 of their series they visit Ancient Egypt and battle mummies, I do that in `The Time Hunters and the Spear of Fate' (2013).

I know full well you cannot copyright a title or idea, but this seems more than that. My series has been exceedingly visible across the Internet since 2010, so why on earth would anyone publish a new series under the same name, particularly when the general premise, some storylines and target audience are identical?

"Time Hunters" isn't an amazingly novel premise and any series about kids travelling through time is very likely to touch on Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt (with mummies to battle). Blackbeard isn't desperately unlikely either. I could also cite the recent "History Keepers" as another book with a very similar premise. I think this is most likely to be pure coincidence.

Oh: I've just noticed the HC book is via Hothouse Fiction, a packager. What will have happened is that Hothouse came up with the series idea, did some samples and some synopses, and sold it to Harper. The books will likely be written as work-for-hire projects by writers under the direction of the editors at Hothouse. That means it's very unlikely that the Authonomy connection has anything to do with it.
 
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AnneMarble

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Oh, and here is another post...
http://suddenlytheyalldied.com/2013...y-reaction-to-the-recent-authonomy-kerfuffle/

All I can say is... Argh! Stop! We don't know the full story. And could people learn what intellectual property laws are before accusing Harper Collins of theft and acting as if they are "experts"? Aaaiiiieee

I wonder if this will hurt Authonomy and similar sites? Not that I was a fan of the concept, but I know some people found it useful, and I hate to see it "go away" because of this, and I'd hate to see members leave because some guy with a blog said "OMG, Harper Collins is a thief!"

It reminds me of the scene in the Claude Rains Phantom of the Opera, where his character thinks his music is being stolen and starts to strangle someone. Hope no one gets hit in the face with a tray of acid. But just in case, keep an eye on your chandeliers...
 

Axordil

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The entire Magic Treehouse series is about time-traveling kids and historical (or quasihistorical) figures. They did pirates, ancient Greece and ancient Egypt in the 1990s. I submit their visibility is rather higher, and I don't see Random House or Mary Pope Osborne coming after HC.
 

lolchemist

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I mean... He has more of a case than the lady who wrote Rah and the Muggles that's for sure! But... I don't know. I DO feel bad for him though, it has to suck to work on something for that long just to get your wig snatched from you all of a sudden like this!

And Harper Collins is a HUGE company. How sure are we that the human being who told him the story had potential all those years ago has anything to do with the human being who farted out this idea and hired people to write it? I think they would have to investigate that for sure.
 

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How sure are we that the human being who told him the story had potential all those years ago has anything to do with the human being who farted out this idea and hired people to write it? I think they would have to investigate that for sure.

They almost certainly work for two different companies. The former works for Harper, the latter for Hothouse Fiction.
 

Terie

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How sure are we that the human being who told him the story had potential all those years ago has anything to do with the human being who farted out this idea and hired people to write it? I think they would have to investigate that for sure.

They almost certainly work for two different companies. The former works for Harper, the latter for Hothouse Fiction.

And even if it is the same person (no matter how unlikely), it still isn't theft.

YOU CAN'T COPYRIGHT IDEAS!

The age-old axiom holds true: Give 10 writers the same idea to work into a manuscript, and they'll produce 10 unique treatments, none of which are thefts of each other.

To be anything worthy of possible litigation, the plot treatments would have to be extremely close.

Boy learns he's a wizard and goes to a private magic school is not plagiarising JK Rowling.

Boy was almost killed by an evil wizard as a baby, was raised by horrible relatives, learns he's a wizard and goes to a private magic school where he befriends the smartest girl in his class and the youngest son of a wizard family, becomes a champ in the wizarding world's sport, and battles the evil wizard who tried to kill him.....that might well be actionable.

The level of detail I've read about in this thread doesn't come close to actionable, although I haven't read the posts or any of the books involved.
 
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Weirdmage

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I took a quick look at this after a friend posted a link to the author's post yesterday. The HarperCollins novels is a six part series - one story in six parts. It seems like the books of the complaining author is standalones.

One thing I also noticed, and that seemed a bit off to me, is that the author's story doesn't completely make sense. In the original post he links to this interview to prove the Authonomy link. In the September 2010 interview he talks about wanting to be published, and that he's sent his manuscript out to agents. Apparently he self-published his book in October 2010. He could of course have had a change of heart for a good reason, but to me it looks like the actions of a type of person who does things on the spur of the moment. I really doubt that he has read the HC books before making his claim, because I think he would have stated that. And from cover copy alone, it's very easy to make claims of similarities in books. Large parts of Epic Fantasy could be seen as copies of eachother if you only check that.

As has already been said, time travel isn't something new. I read some choose-your-own adventure books in the 1980s were you were a time traveller in different time periods. One of them was in a pirate setting.
You'll also note that in his original post he glosses over how common the term "Time Hunters" is, and "forgets" to mention the Doctor Who spin-off series "Time Hunter" that came out before he started working on his book(s). (According to his timeline.)
I don't see the premise of the HC books as original, but that premise stopped being original long before the turn of the century. I don't think the author has a claim to being copied unless he can prove that text has been copied directly from his books.

Someone said in one of the posts about this:
"I’m going on the assumption that Mr. Ashmore is telling the truth because after all, what would dishonesty get him?"
Well, he certainly has gotten a hell of a lot of publicity.
-Not that getting publicity necessarily was his motive for this. Taking the interview mentioned above, and the publication dates of his book as a guide, I'd say he just has gotten impatient and jumped the gun. He's making his claim without doing the necessary research.
 

Polenth

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I wonder if this will hurt Authonomy and similar sites? Not that I was a fan of the concept, but I know some people found it useful, and I hate to see it "go away" because of this, and I'd hate to see members leave because some guy with a blog said "OMG, Harper Collins is a thief!"

One of their staff members said: "We believe you have to put yourself out there and take risks to be discovered, and that the risk is ultimately worth taken[sic]. In this instance, whatever the reality, the risk was no different from any author sending a manuscript out to agents and editors."

Something like, "Trawling the list for ideas and hiring writers to write them would be an abuse of our system," would have been a lot more reassuring than the implication that it's one of the risks of submission. It shouldn't be a standard risk of submission that agents/editors take an idea and title and get one of their authors to write it.

So even if this case was coincidence, which it might be given the generic concept, the response suggests it's not seen as really a problem. I can see why writers might be cautious after hearing that. I would be.
 

Wisteria Vine

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I feel for this author - there's nothing worse than that feeling that someone has nicked your ideas. (Okay, I'm sure there are SOME things worse, but still.)

But when you write about time travel, OF COURSE you're going to pick the fun parts! Pirates, mummies, ancient Greece... Those are the adventurous things that kids want to read about. Heck, I like reading about that!

It's like those folks who believe in past lives - they always had such glamorous past lives. No one ever says, "Wow! Cool! I was Joe Shit, the Ragman in a past life!"
 

lolchemist

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And even if it is the same person (no matter how unlikely), it still isn't theft.

YOU CAN'T COPYRIGHT IDEAS!

However, you CAN limit who can make derivative works from your copyrighted thing and who can't. Of course I'm not a lawyer so I have no idea if this is the route a lawyer would choose but if they do, the crux of the argument would have to be whether Harper Collins's book series is derivative of the other guy's series.
 

lolchemist

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Something like, "Trawling the list for ideas and hiring writers to write them would be an abuse of our system," would have been a lot more reassuring than the implication that it's one of the risks of submission. It shouldn't be a standard risk of submission that agents/editors take an idea and title and get one of their authors to write it.

THIS exactly! Even if this was just a simple coincidence, it still makes me wary. They should be working harder to reassure us instead of basically just shrugging and going "Meh. It happens."
 

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Without reading and analyzing the books in question, it's impossible to say if any infringement happened. In general, I think a lot of folks will point to the fact that you can't copyright ideas. Some folks may even say it in all caps and add an exclamation mark.

YOU CAN'T COPYRIGHT IDEAS!

And that's true. You can't copyright ideas. You can only copyright expression.

However, that doesn't mean infringement only occurs in regards to verbatim copies. Infringement can be found when works share a substantial similarity. And that's where the whole mess gets tricky.

I don't know what, if any, case the author in question has. Without having read or analyzed the books, commentary seems to be mostly speculation.
 

amergina

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Heck, I have a friend who wrote a time-travel kids book along similar lines.

It's nothing new. (Mr. Peabody and Sherman from the Rockey and Bullwinkle show, anyone?)
 
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