1. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I'm being plagiarized... advice?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by agentkirb, Jul 24, 2013.

    So I have an account on fictionpress.com (here's the profile), and I haven't made any 'real' money off any story I've written... mostly because I consider what I do to be a hobby still. I log on to my email account to discover a PM from the website. Someone tells me that someone has plagiarized my story "The Charity Case" and gives me this Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1490532684/?tag=postedlinks04-20 . Which when I click on it, (and click to preview the story), it's actually my story. And my name isn't Jessica Beckwith, it's Jeff Chambers.

    But that's kind of the issue. I don't attach my real name to the story or my profile on that website. My email is attached to the story... which is a recognizable variation of my first and last name, but that's not public. I have the story in a folder as well and I imagine there is some kind of "Date modified" tag on it. So none of the evidence to link that story with my name is slam dunk other than the fact that I'm probably the only one that can log onto that fictionpress account, but I imagine if there was a lawsuit filed they could figure out based on all of the circumstancial stuff that it was me who wrote it.

    Can anyone give me advice on what steps I need to take to deal with this? I'm not necessarily poor, but at the same time realize that spending more than 200-300 dollars in court costs/lawyers is probably not worth it other than it being an issue of principle.

    Thanks in advance.

    Edit: I see, they changed the names of the characters a bit too. Otherwise it's exactly the same word for word.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You might try to contact Amazon.
     
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  3. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_14061711_claimcopyright?nodeId=201140760

    Thank you for the advice. Now, I didn't really understand a lot of that legal-ese, but there was an email address at the bottom that I'm hoping someone checks that I sent a polite message to.

    Fortunately for me, I keep everything I've written in a folder (and the date modified on some of those files goes back to 2011), in addition to the records from fictionpress. Once they are able to confirm that "agentkirb" is me, it should be pretty easy to convince a reasonable person who's the real author. And I'm sure amazon cares enough about their image to intervene and make sure this person is legit if there is someone else claiming she isn't.

    I was afraid I would have to grab a lawyer or something. But if this thing can be solved with a simple email message then that's great.
     
  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I suppose imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but not when it goes this far. Hope you are able to nail this thief, whoever he/she is.
     
  5. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Contact 'Jessica Beckwith', demand the proceeds or you're setting a solicitor on her.
     
  6. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    How do I go about setting a solicitor on someone though, is what I'm asking.
     
  7. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    If all you're really interested in is getting them to stop, a lawyer might be able to get that result with a simple cease and desist letter. That itself wouldn't cost very much. If that doesn't work, though, you'd have to decide whether you want to spend the money to pursue it.

    You should also be able to contact some administrator of the fiction press site. I'm sure they have a policy to deal with this sort of thing. It would probably only involve, at the most, something like taking down the infringer's work and banning him from the site. It's not legal action and it won't get you any money or compensation, but it might give you some satisfaction. It will also help others to rid the site of a person who is willing to steal.
     
  8. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    You would need to find an attorney or firm who practices in intellectual property, or literary or publishing law. I'm sure there are plenty in Houston. Try searching out the local bar associations -- in Houston or in the county, or Houston chapters of Texas bar associations. Also check out any law schools in the area, maybe even calling UT. Those organizations sometimes have legal referral services, or have committees composed of lawyers in a particular practice area, or may have groups of lawyers who will take on your case pro bono. Law Schools might have clinics where law students could help you or give you some direction.

    Edited to add: I see from your profile you are a student at UH. You could start there -- I don't know if they have a law school, but if they do, ask someone there. If not, ask someone in the English/writing department or journalism department if they have some suggestions. Since you're a student there, that's probably the easiest place to begin.
     
  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's probably something you should be consulting a literary lawyer over, not this forum. I'm sorry and shocked to see that idiot had the indecency to actually steal an entire novel though :( This is why I'd never, never in a million years, post novels online. Page-long stories and stuff that I wrote within the space of 2 hours, sure, whatever. But an entire novel? Dream on.

    Anyway, for yourself - make a screen shot of Jessica Beckwith's amazon page with your book, and maybe a screen shot of a snippet of the sample before you contact her. Then try and get in touch with her and request that she removes it. If she doesn't, then your next port of call is Amazon. And you say you've already emailed. Wait for a response and if there's nothing in 2 days or so, I'd see if there's a number you can ring. Then take it one step at a time from there. A lawsuit is likely not worth it, but it probably can't hurt to research on literary lawyers anyway, and if it escalates, contact a lawyer and seek his advice. There's likely some sort of free lawyer's advice on copyrights out there.
     
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  10. Orihalcon
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    Orihalcon Active Member

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    It seems that this Jessica Beckwith has stolen several stories from fictionpress.com as is apparent from her Amazon site. A handful of reviewers have commented on this, and she has self-published eleven books in less than seven weeks.

    I can only imagine what it must feel like to see your own story essentially stolen by someone else. I hope you manage to get your story taken down, and I hope that Amazon requests that she takes down all those books. Unfair to the writers who have put in a lot of hard work into finishing their stories, and I mean that in the strongest sense. After all, she is charging $9.49 for each book that she's wrongfully and dishonestly published.
     
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  11. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm shocked she's charging that much. I know of a lot of authors who write some very good stuff and charge less than half of that, sometimes even offering it for free or for 99 cents. $9.49 is awfully expensive for an e-book that isn't from a big publisher. I'm amazed anyone buys those stories.
     
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  12. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is shocking - 11 books in 7 weeks - what a scam - this person needs to be stopped.

    Remember though that a cease and desist letter is not legally binding, it's just a scare tactic so you needn't spend a fortune on getting a solicitor to type one out which may cost you a lot of money. Check this out http://thompsonhall.com/cease-desist-letter-template-example-sample-forms/ and send your own.
     
  13. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I have a strong feeling this is going to get resolved without me having to find legal advice. It seems like there are enough people pitching a fit about it, the second someone investigates they'll figure out that something is up and take care of it. I'm trusting a bit here that amazon.com actually cares about these sorts of things. If it was a lot more circumstantial, I could see them not being willing to do anything, but there's a lot of smoke in this case.

    Eh... it's not a "novel" sized novel though. I think it might span around 100 pages if that.

    I don't really mind posting my stories online because I'm fine with other people reading them for free and hopefully giving some kind of feedback. Right now I'm not really in it for the money, it's just something fun for me.

    And honestly, I'm not really upset that someone is making money off of my story (which, let's be realistic here, it's probably less than 100 dollars). I'm more upset that someone was saying they wrote it when they didn't. If they get praise and recognition for something that I did, that's not cool IMO.
     
  14. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    You've every right to be mad! This person should be strung up.
     
  15. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You might look around to see if the same person is offering the story through sites other than Amazon.

    Hiring an attorney to send a cease and desist letter might be effective, particularly because of the potential damages in a copyright infringement case (you don't have to rely on actual damages, and you can get attorney's fees back, with caveats - see below). If you were going to file suit for infringement, remember that you generally need to have registered your copyright with the copyright office (or have at least submitted the application, depending on the jurisdiction). Also, depending on how long the story has been published by you on fictionpress.com, you may give up some rights if it is not already registered (for example, the statutory damages and potential attorney's fees mentioned above; you want to register within three months of publication because you don't know when an infringement might occur). Proving actual damages can be tough, and they're likely to be much less than the cost of bringing an action.
     
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  16. B93
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    The $200-300 mentioned MIGHT get you the cease and desist letter. Actual legal action will cost a lot more. And even if you win, don't expect to recover legal fees from somebody somewhere else in the country/world who is probably also using a pseudonym.

    Since there are several people complaining, you may have some hope. If it were you alone, it might be better to take your own story down so nobody accused you of plagiarizing the copy. Even though that fight could be won, it would be expensive.
     
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  17. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Yeah, I never bothered to do the copyright officially because perhaps it was a little bit of my self-deprecating thinking "no way would someone try to steal my crappy stories and sell them". I don't know if I'd have a claim for any damages seeing as I had posted the story for free on another site. But it would be nice if amazon would take the book down from the store.
     
  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That's your best bet. If this person were making a lot of money on selling the book on Amazon, you could build damages that way. But Amazon is pretty good about responding to these sorts of issues. You might check sites like Smashword, B&N, Kobo, etc to see if they are up there as well. Maybe Amazon will ban this person's account.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    have you contacted beckwith and demanded she remove your story from everywhere she's claimed it as her own and that she make restitution for any money she's gained from sales?...

    if you want help drafting a letter, i've done a lot of paralegal work and have helped others with similar probs that can be solved short of hiring a costly attorney... many perps like this one fold as soon as they realize they can be hauled into court and put their family at risk from serious financial consequences... email me if i can help...

    love and consoling hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Only problem in this case is that there probably aren't any serious financial consequences, because the work wasn't registered. I wouldn't allege statutory damages, knowing they're not available. And you want to avoid anything that could result in a filing for declaratory judgement. A well-written cease and desist could be helpful, if the address of the infringing person is known. I'd still go to Amazon and any other marketplaces necessary, with the goal of getting the material removed as soon as possible, whether a cease and desist letter is sent or not.
     
  21. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I posted a rating asking* if the author plagiarized the piece. The book site should be flooded with such reviews. I'm curious to see if Amazon actually posts the review. I'm guessing they won't because it's bad for marketing but someone there has to read it for it to be censored.

    Also, I do hope people look for additional outlets for this person because if he/she is successful, even modestly, the practice will take off like spam. Maybe it already has.

    *Ask, don't accuse, it's safer legally. Also I cited Agentkirb with a link to the original story and added the first 3 paragraphs to the review as evidence.


    I see this on the site, "Out of Print--Limited Availability," and "Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (June 26, 2013)"

    You should look into the publisher's rules on submitting plagiarized work and contact them as well.


    On the brighter side, it is flattering. :)
     
  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Seeing as that thief has stolen other work, what you could do is contact the other authors whose work has been stolen and team up together ;)
     
  23. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Yep, contact the publisher, you may need to register at the site to do so.
    I bet you can at least get the book removed from Amazon and the publisher may have a response to the author for such matters.
     
  24. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Yes, all you have to do is take a fairly unique sentence and search for it in quotes. I found the OP's original work easily.
     
  25. GingerCoffee
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