June 13 2013 Editor Assistance Newsletter
Many editors have written me with great questions based on yesterday's plagiarism email, which is wonderful! This shows why we should discuss these types of topics fairly regularly. We all have questions, and the more we ask and discuss, the more we learn. I learn a lot when I do research based on what you want to know!
For example, as part of yesterday's email discussions I did some testing with online plagiarism tools. Most aren't thorough and just look for entire articles being cut-and-paste. That's useful, of course, but it doesn't find the more insidious types of theft where someone slightly rewrites your content. Google is a master at finding that, though. So what you do is take a sentence that seems like it should be fairly unique, paste the sentence into Google's search box, and see what Google finds. It should find anything that's related to your sentence.
Interestingly, when I did my test with my Sangria Recipes ebook as a lark, I found a match! And not only that, but someone is selling the entire ebook pretty much as-is on ebay, and has been since February 2012! Sheesh. I probably wouldn't have realized that, had I not done this test. So it shows how we all help each other out with these discussions :).
This is the first time I've know about someone actually long-term selling my content for cash. Which means it's the first time I can explore how the legal system works! Our training program goes over copyright in the US, and I definitely recommend reading through that if you haven't taken the course in a while. But here's the gist.
If I had not officially filed copyright on those works, I could have gotten back out of the ebay vendors all profits they made from the sales. So if they sold $200 worth of my ebooks, I could get that $200 back. That is a basic right when you create anything, and you don't need to file to earn that right. The vendors are in Tucson, Arizona so I would have had to fly out to do the case there. People are assumed to be innocent, after all, so you can't make an "innocent person" fly out to you. So I probably would have spent more than $200 on my flight there and back, to get my $200.
However, I **did** file copyright on my content both in 2005 and 2011. Filing is super-easy and can all be done online. All you do is zip up your articles, upload that zip file in a web form, and pay them the $35 to register. Poof, done. So I did, for example, a filing for all content on my LisaShea website. I didn't have to register pages one by one, just like filing for a book doesn't mean you register the pages of the book one by one.
The benefit of filing is that you now are due PENALTIES for the act of violating that copyright. According to the US Copyright Website: "Anyone found to have infringed a copyrighted work may be liable for statutory damages up to $30,000 for each work infringed and, if willful infringement is proven by the copyright owner, that amount may be increased up to $150,000 for each work infringed. In addition, an infringer of a work may also be liable for the attorney's fees incurred by the copyright owner to enforce his or her rights."
So the attorney's fees are completely covered - AND a lot of money is available. Of course the person has to be capable of paying. If you sued an elderly grandmother on social security she probably couldn't pay the money even if you won. However, if the person violating your copyright is doing this as a business, they might have ample funds to go after.
In my case, the ebay seller has hundreds of ebook listings. So I would bet it's not just my ebook they took. I bet there's a lot of people being violated here. That won't look good in court.
So I am talking with a lawyer in Tucson to see what my next step is. My hope is that they do the work without any payments on my part, since it is fairly cut-and-dry that the violation occurred and that my filings took place long before this theft did. I will revenue share with them so they have incentive to win. I will keep you informed!
In the meantime, though, if you're in the US I highly recommend taking a look at the copyright website, compiling all your work into a directory structure on your hard drive, zipping it, and submitting it. If you have any questions about any of the steps you can email me or post in the editor's forum and we'll help out.
Lisa Shea, owner
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