Plagiarism plague

What would you do?shodou-calligraphy.gif

A commercial trade magazine ($32/yr) took one of my stories, acknowledged me as the original author, rewrote portions but added no new material and put it in their magazine and on their website. I did several interviews with experts who were hard to find and wrote a pretty good story on a new discovery that would benefit farmers. I own the copyright to the story and they didn’t ask and they didn’t pay me to use it.

It is tempting to either use someone else’s writing or make some cosmetic revisions and feel free to profit from it. But its wrong, illegal and adds nothing. Better by far to express your thoughts and research — even if poorly written.


Any ways I asked this publication (which may or may not make this theft a habit) to take the story off their site and compensate me for the use of my material.

So far I’ve been ignored.

What would you do?

6 thoughts on “Plagiarism plague

  1. Ridiculous! I have more tolerance for bloggers than professionals.

    Coincidentally, I’m in a similar situation, but I think the onus is more on me (for not drawing up a contract) so at the moment, I’m just calling it a learned lesson for the future.

    Since both you and this magazine are professionals however, I don’t necessarily recommend this route. You could 1) sell the piece to another publication and then show them they were plagiarized 2) send a C & D (look it up on Wikipedia if you’re not familiar with it) (here’s a template from U of Texas: http://www.utsystem.edu/OGC/INTELLECTUALPROPERTY/contract/cease.htm ) or 3) let it slide and never work for them again.

    Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful. Hope it works out for you!

  2. Thanks for the C&D link — sent something like it already but story is still up and no reply. I never did work for this publication, they just grabbed it from the original publication.

    Too bad about your situation. If you have an email agreement on story details and payment then that’s the same as a contract. I’d bill them.

  3. Are you a member of Access Copyright? The Creators’ page on the website says:

    Benefits of being an Access Copyright affiliate:

    * it costs nothing to affiliate
    * you receive royalties whenever your works are copied and this copying is reported to Access Copyright
    * you will become eligible to receive the annual repertoire payment. For more information on this royalty payment, please click here
    * Access Copyright may act on your behalf to protect your rights, by following up on reported infringements of your copyright and taking action if it is necessary and advisable.

    Access Copyright is probably the biggest enforcer out there (although more for publishers than for creators, apparently). PWAC, the Professional Writers Association, sometimes handles grievances on behalf of non-members. And of course, if you happen to know a lawyer who is willing to send a letter (which you might want to draft) — nothing gets attention like a lawyer’s letter. Problem is, often the lawyer’s fee is as large or larger than the amount you bill the infringer for. But — you could ask compensation for damages to your professional reputation too, because they rewrote the piece, and most likely did a poor job of imitating your voice.

  4. Hi Penney, I am an AC member and have been for more than 10 years. AC has had a number of successful prosecutions but mainly of copy shops reprinting textbooks. It is very much driven my publishers and does not pursue individual writer’s complaints about violations.

    I have a pretty good series of lawyerish letter since I usually find a dozen illegal commercial uses every year. Takes up a lot of non-creative time and is a major pain.

    And in the end the very big publishing corps (frequent copyright abusers) dump their lawyers on me and commence a paperwork/documentation war that I can’t afford to fight.

    Then there are the small-time sleaze operators like this one, who know it will be difficult to collect even if I won a small claims court judgment.

    Fortunately most folks are reasonable, didn’t realize or don’t understand copyright and do the right thing in the end.

    And yes that often involves compensation for past use.

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