Recently I came across an article from 2010 about a German writer whose first book, a bestseller, was proven to be plagiarized from a novel of another author. What shook me more than the act itself, was the author’s defense. “It’s not copying, it’s mixing”, even though supposedly whole passages were copied from another author’s work.
Just a week later I witnessed online a similar situation: a young Polish author publishing with a vanity press openly admitted that his book is a fan-fiction set in one of the bestselling fantasy author’s world and using her main character. This time the excuse was similar: “it’s only inspiration and it’s ok if I use the main character’s name, because it’s not the same character”. I didn’t get to read an excerpt from the book, but the book’s description suggests the main character is a dragon, just like in the bestselling series.
There is a third case as well: a girl who copied a story from a fan-fiction blog and after some alterations published it as an original story under her own name. And her publisher allegedly said that copying from a blog is a minor thing compared to copying from another book.
In all three cases the approach is the same and it might be the first sign that the next generation, so used to freedom of the Internet and its free, instantly available content, will start spreading it. “It’s nothing wrong. It’s alright to take other people’s stuff.” But it is not. Stealing will always be stealing, whether you take someone’s apple, their watch or their creation. There is also a difference between writing fan-fiction as a homage to the author to re-live the story and trying to profit through someone else hard work, but it seems that some aspiring writers don’t want to see it.
We all enjoy free content that Internet provides us and we all should know the line between being inspired and claiming someone else’s work. It’s not about pointing fingers at people who plagiarized others’ texts, pictures, music. It’s about making them aware of it being a crime. It’s about showing that there is no acceptance for such behavior. No excuses.
Otherwise one day we will wake up in a world where there will be no blogs with free content, no work-in-progress excerpts, no sharing of the creation process. In a world where years of your hard work (be it professional or amateur) can be taken by someone and turned into profit without your approval.
Let’s talk about it. Let’s make people aware.
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.