Tags:
  1. Manny
    Offline

    Manny Member

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2007
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    England and Estonia

    How likely is content theft?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Manny, Dec 26, 2007.

    Some time ago, I submitted an unsolicted article to 'Punch' magazine. I never heard a peep from them but guess what? Two weeks later my article appeared, rewritten a little but clearly recognisable to me as mine without a shadow of a doubt. As the article itself was not my finest work, I put it down to experience.

    Today upon following a link from this forum I saw on a Publishers website the comment 'Further, in receiving a submission, we do not assume any duty not to publish a book based on a similar idea, concept or story' which I translate as 'we may steal it.'

    Now I have been putting a book together for some time and it is nearing completion, my concern is if I send it out to publishers, especially if I send it to a few, and it gets rejected but mysteriously reappears later on, what protection is there against this? (Apart from cost prohibitive attempted enforcement of copyright law)

    How common is content theft of this nature?
     
  2. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,529
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    I don't know much about Punch magazine other than it's now closed, or the content/subject of your article and the probability of a vastly similar article being submitted. In the vast majority of situations the odds would seem to be pretty darn long for something to be randomly so similar, even with a current topic and the other author using similar sources to support their points, etc. Impossible? No. Likely, not hardly.

    Maybe instances similar to your situation mentioned are part of the mix that led to its demise. Who knows? I don't. There are a lot of magazines that eventually fail, even long running ones.

    Although I think it is highly unlikely, if you're concerned about such a situation with a novel you're completing, sticking to well established markets is the way to go. With many of them, it means getting a reputable agent to represent your work as unsolicited manuscripts are not accepted by many major markets.

    I am not sure about the quote you mentioned, but one cannot copyright ideas, themes, even titles. Most reputable publishers receive so many submissions (by unpublished and midlist/established and even successful authors), it would be pointless for them to pick out a submission that shows promise, find another author to 'rewrite' it, and then to publish it. While it is not unheard of for an editor to be an author as well, it is not all that common. And any reputable publishing house and/or editor wouldn't risk their reputation.

    Why would a reputable novel publisher/editor 'steal' an idea/novel when they could simply sign the original author who could then produce more saleable works?

    There are a number of places to check out to find reputable publishers/agents and those that are not:
    Preditors & Editors Check out the agents and publishers

    Absolute Write Water Cooler Check out their beware/background check section

    I also have a few publishers on my website that you could look at: Novel Markets

    Those are just a few places to start.

    Hang in there getting your novel ready for submission and hoping you find and agent to rep your work and/or a good publisher to bring it to market!

    Terry
     
  3. Edward
    Offline

    Edward Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2007
    Messages:
    312
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Virginia
    I've heard if you keep the original and someone copies your work that it's pretty much No Contest in court, but that all seems relatively easy. Simply copyrighting your work shouldn't be that expensive though, and until it is copyrighted just tacking the copyright c seems to work all over the internets, though technically anything you see that's got the c and isn't legally copyrighted can still be stolen. Who knew?
     
  4. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    ...not very... as all work is automatically protected by copyright as soon as it is completed and exists in any reproducable form... examples of out and out plagiarism are actually quite rare, which is why they make the news when they do happen... and why they don't happen more often...

    ...sorry, but i can't believe a staid and respected venue like punch would steal your work... if it actually was printed, i suspect since it was sent in unsolicited, it was published as a 'letter to the editor' and not as an article... articles have to have by lines, so if it was printed as one, whose name appeared as the author?... and how much was it 'changed'?... if there was an article similar to yours, it's entirely possible someone else had the same idea, as that happens all the time...

    ...that is not what it means, because they don't 'assign' ideas to writers and pay them to write the books... what it means is only that if someone should submit a ms that is similar to yours, they will still have the right to accept it, even if they rejected yours... this happens all the time, so that is a standard disclaimer...

    ...that's what's called 'amateurs' paranoia'... the reality is that no reputable publisher is going to risk being sued for stealing someone's work... so the way to protect yourself is to make sure you only query/submit to reputable houses...

    ...next to never happens... in fact, i can't think of a single case of a complete ms being stolen by a publishing firm and published under someone else's name...
     
  5. Lord Midol
    Offline

    Lord Midol New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2007
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    2
    Edward, in Australia anything you write or create (as in art, software design) is all instantly copyrighted. You don't have to pay for the copyright here.

    Are you sure it's not the same in America?

    I've never seen content theft myself... But the number of authors who I do see carry on about copyright and people stealing their work but then consider it perfectly fine to steal another persons art for the cover picture is astounding.
     
  6. Manny
    Offline

    Manny Member

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2007
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    England and Estonia
    Mammamaia, for the record, it was not published as a letter to the editor, it was stolen and reproduced, reworded only very slightly. Many phrases were totally intact. However, to argue about what Punch did or didnt do after the event is not my intent here.

    I quoted it merely as an example based on my personal experience. It was not my intention to sound off about it nor harp about it.

    It does bring me around to my next question though; is there a guideline where usage of part of something one finds elsewhere ceases to be copyright theft or plagarism and becomes merely a source? I would imagine that to be quite a grey area?

    For example, if I was writing an article or non fiction book, and I used a few topic related forums as research. If I copied a paragraph to my notes for reference, and later reworded it to suit my purposes and used it, would it then be mine?

    I read somewhere that excerpts from multiple sources, reworded into ones own style, as long as they differed by more than 20% were OK?

    Further; again in non fiction, if one wants to quote some facts, or a well known list of something, and one uses a source such as Wiki to find it, must one reword it or can that be attributed to fair use?

    I shall reiterate that I am talking of non fiction 'how to' books/articles here.
     
  7. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    whose name appeared on the article as the author?... if it actually was your piece that was used as the basis of the published article, it's much more likely that a mail reader or some other minion did the stealing, than being done with management knowledge and the editors were not aware of the dastardly deed... unfortunately, as i'm sure you've learned the hard way, sending unsolicited material is not a wise move...

    not all that grey... if you quoted a source and the other person quotes the same source, of course it's not plagiarism of your work... but if your exact original wording is used and the article is structured in exactly the same way as yours, then there's no question but that it's plagiarism...

    the problem is that with non-fiction especially, more than one person can have the same idea at the same time and will use the same sources, so two articles written entirely independently of each other can well end up being disturbingly similar...

    if it wasn't reworded significantly, you could still be charged with using their work illicitly...

    the only reading that you should put any stock in is the actual copyright law... in the us it is laid out and explained here: U.S. Copyright Office

    again, don't ask here... either check it out for yourself at the government website or consult a literary attorney for valid info... and i wouldn't take anything from wiki as gospel, unless i checked it out elsewhere first... remember that wiki info is supplied by anyone and everyone and not vetted before being added to the site...
     
  8. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    whose name appeared on the article as the author?... if it actually was your piece that was used as the basis of the published article, it's much more likely that a mail reader or some other minion did the stealing, than being done with management knowledge and the editors were not aware of the dastardly deed... unfortunately, as i'm sure you've learned the hard way, sending unsolicited material is not a wise move...

    not all that grey... if you quoted a source and the other person quotes the same source, of course it's not plagiarism of your work... but if your exact original wording is used and the article is structured in exactly the same way as yours, then there's no question but that it's plagiarism...

    the problem is that with non-fiction especially, more than one person can have the same idea at the same time and will use the same sources, so two articles written entirely independently of each other can well end up being disturbingly similar...

    if it wasn't reworded significantly, you could still be charged with using their work illicitly...

    the only reading that you should put any stock in is the actual copyright law... in the us it is laid out and explained here: U.S. Copyright Office

    again, don't ask here... either check it out for yourself at the government website or consult a literary attorney for valid info... and i wouldn't take anything from wiki as gospel, unless i checked it out elsewhere first... remember that wiki info is supplied by anyone and everyone and not vetted before being added to the site...
     

Share This Page