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Friday, November 30, 2007

Who plagiarized whom?

So, there's some stuff happening in blogland these days. A person named Amanda claiming an epublished author JJ Massa plagarized her work, Another Time, Another Place, retitled the work and had it published...twice.

You can read side-by-side excerpts from both the fanfic piece by Amanda and the published book by Massa on This Blog. If you check the comments, you'll find Amanda's comment a few down from the top.

I'm in no position to say (or even guess) who is the plagiarizer and who is the plagiarizee (probably not real words, but you get my drift). But I will say the excerpts are similar enough to convince me there's something shady going on. Either way, it's very sad that someone felt they needed to borrow another's work and pass it off as their own.

How will this end? We'll have to wait and see. Amanda claims she's taking the issue to court. And that may happen. But call me a cynic, I doubt anything will come of it. From what I can see, the work was fanfiction. It cannot be sold and therefore I can't see her suffering any financial damages. I'm no lawyer, but from what I understand, if she did not file a copyright (highly unlikely, although not necessary), there are limits to what she can expect to receive, even if she wins a court case.

From the US Copyright site:
Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?
Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration” and Circular 38b, Highlights of Copyright Amendments Contained in the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), on non-U.S. works.

Copyright Registration

In general, copyright registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record of the basic facts of a particular copyright. However, registration is not a condition of copyright protection. Even though registration is not a requirement for protection, the copyright law provides several inducements or advantages to encourage copyright owners to make registration. Among these advantages are the following:

  • Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.
  • Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U.S. origin.
  • If made before or within 5 years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.
  • If registration is made within 3 months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney's fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner. (boldface added by moi)
  • Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U. S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies. For additional information, go to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website at Click on “Intellectual Property Rights.”

Registration may be made at any time within the life of the copyright. Unlike the law before 1978, when a work has been registered in unpublished form, it is not necessary to make another registration when the work becomes published, although the copyright owner may register the published edition, if desired.


I'll be watching this, to see how it all works out.

posted by Tawny Taylor at 11:08 AM |


Commented by Blogger Kristen Painter:

It's interesting to see how this will turn out. Seems plagierism is on the rise.

8:10 AM 
Commented by Blogger amanda:

You're absolutely correct that the chances of me winning any financial settlement is low (though actually, I'm English and British Law on copyright is somewhat different to that quoted) but the bottom line is that it's going to cost me a lot of money to pursue this and it's unlikely that I will get that money back.
So why am I doing it?
Quite simply, because there is a principle involved here. Money was never my motivation for writing. Therefore 'losing' money is not sufficient reason to allow someone to do something as immoral as to plagiarise my work and then sell it to the unsuspecting public as their own work. Any writer, in any medium, should be able to see why I have to take a stand on this matter. After all, today it's my story... tomorrow it might be yours.

1:24 PM 
Commented by Blogger Tawny Taylor:

Hi Amanda,

Thanks for popping by and commenting.

It's sad, but Mwriters who plagiarize probably count on the fact that most authors (particularly fanfic) won't have the resources to pursue an expensive legal battle.

In many respects, I consider the fact that I have blogged about the matter (and MANY other people as well) a success for you. No, you aren't getting any money out of the deal, but the word is being spread and the parties involved are being called out, to either give their defense or keep their silence.

I guarantee, if Massa did plagiarize (Sorry, but I can't comment either way since I don't have enough information to make that judgment), her reputation is now ruined. It's trial by blog, and so far she's the loser.

In addition, it's rumored the book has been pulled. I haven't checked so I can't say for sure.

Good luck with your legal proceedings. I genuinely hope you get what you deserve. Sadly, I don't expect you'll receive enough compensation to even pay your legal bills, but I do understand your reasons for pursuing the case anyway.

3:30 PM 
Commented by Blogger Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan:

It still boggles my mind that any writer would take such a chance and steal work from another author. Maybe the odds are against anyone reading both works and realizing the similarities, but obviously it can happen and when it does that flushing sound they hear is their career going down the toilet. How could it possibly be worth it?

7:46 AM 
Commented by Blogger Tawny Taylor:

I totally agree with you Jennifer! Makes me wonder how many other people are plagiarizing out there...who haven't been caught.

9:29 AM 

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