Home / Features / Self-Publishing and Plagiarism – A New Place to Hide?

Self-Publishing and Plagiarism – A New Place to Hide?

Having reviewed as much non-fiction as I have, you are bound to come across those who have “borrowed” other people’s work and not given them credit for it. It doesn’t happen often in traditionally-published works, but it does happen. As a green reviewer early on, I missed one that was a direct rip-off of another authors work. It was embarrassing, to say the least.

Plagiarism happens in many genres of non-fiction. Older material is out of print or in limited issue and someone thinks no one will notice. These titles can be run through software that checks for plagiarism and have been found to not be “properly attributed.” Publishers are spending money on software that specializes in tracing work to identify plagiarized material, because it will cost the publisher heavily in dollars and in reputation if it is discovered they missed a plagiarized work and allowed it to get out on the open market.

My own recent experience with some plagiarized material turned up an author who, when discovered and rejected by a mainstream publishing house, turned to self-publishing their work to circumvent the process. They skimmed off the Internet and produce e-books of gleaned material, and are selling it to the unsuspecting public. And while we can point it out, there isn’t much else we can do.

When the self-publishing firm was made aware that the material was indeed plagiarized, it was removed. But the works reappeared at the same publisher. It probably would continue even if it was mentioned to the publisher again. And, of course, with all the various self-publishers out there, this material could continue in publication regardless of how often it is identified and removed. All the plagiarist does is move on to another self-publisher.

This also happens with fiction. While we can allow that, say, works on vampires will include similar treatment of the vampire to have it fit the description, how about the love scene that is just about word for word from an older work, or from a different work of fiction all together, slapped into the vampire book. Love scenes, plots; oh there is so much that can be gleaned from other well-known authors and then plugged into a fiction e-book and sold on the Internet with no one really checking.

There are some real questions that are going to rise in the self-publishing industry. As these incidents are brought to the surface, and eventually make the front page of the New York Times book section, how is self-publishing going to stand up to accusations of fraud and/or plagiarism? We want this field to open doors for authors who would never have been given a chance to present their work to the public because the publishing houses don’t see enough money in sales or do not have enough funding to publish all the really great books out there. And we have the ultimate question of how is the public going to know if the work is just a rip off of another person’s work?

Reviewers on the Front Lines

The person who is going to be in a position to even get a hint of this is the reviewer. An experienced reviewer in a particular genre will notice a change in writing style within a particular novel. They may be familiar with the various authors within that genre and know their styles and the content of some of the better known authors. It very well may be the reviewer who recognizes a style or a scene or something familiar that will put them onto a possible case of plagiarism.

Having discovered plagiarized work and exposed it in the past, I also know what dishonorable authors (read: con-artists) will do when they have their backs against the wall. Some of them lash out and attack viciously. Others just take the money and run. Someone has to say something, and there is never a “polite” way of saying “the material in this book is copied from other copyrighted sources [insert sources here] and therefore is plagiarized.”

But who do you complain to? What agency will even care? And will it be worth it to the author who has been plagiarized to pursue this? And as a reviewer, do we also become the plagiarism police? It is not something I really want as part of my job description.

What is needed is a service that will check all books issued (notice I said ALL books) and report these plagiarized works. What we also need are self-publishers that will use this service and remove titles that have been so indicated. Where would the funding come from? Well, I would suggest all the publishers involved, including big houses, would also benefit from this. It would probably boil down to pennies per book, but in the long run, it would protect the copyrights of legitimate authors, it would protect both publishers, self-publishers and vendors from issues with plagiarized work, and it would discourage plagiarism and copyright theft. And in the long run, give the public honest work.

I am sure a few services would be able to work in this field, specializing in particular genre, offering services to the industry. A standard could be set as to the percentage of the book that would be allowable to contain similar content. It is possible for us to quote popular ism’s and that will probably show up in many books at a particular time. But the industry could come with some guidelines. While we may not like the concept of regulation, it is always better that we regulate our own than have someone else mandate it for us.

The self-publishing field will suffer if we find it being used as a haven for pushing rehashed and in some instances identical copies of other people’s works. And self-publishing will be treated as “vanity” presses are treated; as a frowned-upon method of fleecing the public with hackneyed authors turning out junk. The legitimate self-published authors will suffer.

Update: Fast Company takes on the problem with plagiarism in erotica self-publishing:

This penchant for plagiarism shouldn’t surprise us. Self-publishing has become the latest vehicle for spammers and content farms, with the sheer volume of self-published books making it difficult, if not impossible, for e-stores like Amazon to vet works before they go on sale. In 2006, 51,000 self-published titles were released; last year there were 133,036 self-published books, and that number is destined to climb. 

Writing a book is hard. All those torturous hours an author has to spend creating, crafting, culling until nonsensical words are transformed into engaging prose. It’s a whole lot easier to copy and paste someone else’s work, slap your name on top, and wait for the money to roll in. This creates a strong economic incentive, with fake authors–Sharazade thinks it’s possible they are organized gangs based in Asia–earning 70% royalty rates on every sale, earning far more than a spammer could with click fraud. The new self-publishing platforms are easy to use and make it possible to publish a title in as little as 24 hours. There’s no vetting, editing, or oversight, and if your work is taken down you can always throw up more titles or simply concoct a new pen name and start over. There’s even a viral ebook generator that comes packed with 149,000 articles that makes it possible to create an ebook in minutes.

Legislation has been proposed that would give content holders more leverage in dealing with etailers: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). It would award copyright holders wide-ranging powers to run websites that host infringing material off the Internet without needing to acquire a court order. If it becomes law credit card companies could be forced to suspend financial transactions, search engines required to de-link ecommerce sites, and DNS providers made to hobble access. It’s the kind of law, well-intentioned as it might be, that could have serious negative repercussions, opponents say. No wonder Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, and Yahoo! have reportedly been considering a coordinated protest against it in the form of a blackout day.

There is, I believe, a simpler solution. Why not require an author to submit a valid credit card before she can self-publish her works on the Kindle? If an author, who could still publish under a pen name, were found to have violated someone else’s copyright Amazon could charge that card $2,000 and ban her from selling again. Amazon could also run content through one of the many plagiarism detectors that are available–such as Turnitin or iThenticate–before an ebook is put on sale.

Perhaps, though, Amazon doesn’t care if it sells plagiarized works; it benefits from the sale whether it holds back an author’s royalties or not.

  • http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/members/ronfritsch/ Ron Fritsch

    Boudica, I share your concern that self-publishing might provide cover for plagiarists. But I’m also interested to learn that some people are developing software to sniff them out. After reading your post and thinking about it, I realized that using computers to catch those pathetic individuals shouldn’t be difficult or expensive. The computer would just take any new writing and compare it word for word with everything previously written. (Isn’t Google trying to digitize everything ever written? Maybe we should applaud it, or anybody else who is making that attempt, for doing so.) The standards for possible, probable, and obvious plagiarism shouldn’t be difficult for reasonable people to agree upon. So writers, for a nominal fee, or no fee at all if they agree to their exposure to advertising, can gain a valuable link their prospective readers can click on and receive a respected organization’s certification that the writing they otherwise wish to read is genuinely new. Those of us who write honestly will have nothing to fear.

  • http://peggyireland.blogspot.com/ Peggy Ireland

    Indie editors are often the first line of defence. We usually see a manuscript before anyone else – we are even sent work for polishing before submission to the big 6.

    We are uniquely equipped to pick up signs of plagiarism signalled by a number of diverse writing styles within a document, or parts of a document which require no editing at all.

    Yeah, been there. It’s distressing to have to kick a manuscript back, lose a client and return a deposit, but there is no way any reputable editor wants their name on such a book.

  • http://vickihopkins.com Vicki Hopkins

    I use a website called Grammarly.com. It’s great for not only grammar, but it highlights text that matches anything on the Internet or elsewhere. It also gives you the reference to add, if you need to give credit where credit is due. It’s somewhat helpful.

buy cheapest prednisone levitra 5 mg fiyati xenical bula generico lisinopril 10 mg effects nyari viagra 50mg erythromycin digestive disorders levitra generic 2.5 generico lexapro 10mg diflucan 150 mg buy zoloft 100mg 3 weeks propranolol 10 mg bijwerkingen propecia 0.5mg cipro 500mg generic real cialis online cialis 20 mg etkisi levitra 20 mg lasix 500 mg viagra jet 20 mg tadalafil cialis 500 mg buy dapoxetine cheap augmentin tablets 875 mg generic zoloft images viagra generics paypal 25 mg nolvadex 20mg lisinopril brands cialis diario 2 5 mg cheap periactin buy clomid montreal forum generic viagra nebenwirkung metformin 850 mg cialis 20mg 4 kamagra polo cheap buy nexium ireland nexium 40 mg prospecto doxycycline 100 mg orally cialis online order lexapro 10 mg citalopram cialis money order celebrex become generic viagra 25 mg etkileri nexium generic availability nolvadex mg ml wellbutrin vs generics viagra online genuine nome generico cipro viagra generico gratis celebrex liver disorder metformin ratiopharm 850 mg 500 mgram viagra uk metformin dosage 1500 mg pfizer zoloft 50mg 200 mg propranolol buy clomid discovercard generic viagra tescos cialis 2 5 e 5 mg valtrex 200mg cialis 5 vs 20 mg doxycycline 100mg cmd levitra 5 mg dosierung cialis buy cro tesco cheap viagra propranolol er 120 mg lasix 40 mg daily viagra 2.5 mg doxycycline 100 mg acne viagra cheap genuine kamagra gold cheapest lexapro nz generic zoloft dissociative disorder cialis 5 mg take 2 prednisone 50 mg dose 40 mg nexium price cialis 20 mg pret nexium 10 mg granulat 50 mg clomid success viagra cost buy viagra generic 150 mg cialis 20 mg 12 compresse cheap 150 mg viagra buy viagra ebay viagra cheap store zoloft dose 25 mg cialis 20 mg overdose generic metformin hcl generic valtrex available zithromax 500 mg sport viagra 100 mg white lexapro delusional disorder priligy order levitra 5mg purchase buying doxycycline online valtrex 1500mg tid cialis and generic online viagra cheap xenical 120 mg capsule celebrex 100 mg image nolvadex buy sydney legally viagra online generic wellbutrin works stopping prednisone 20 mg levitra 5 mg price wellbutrin 20 mg lisinopril 20mg tab cialis 20 mg description cialis adderall online diflucan 150 mg breastfeeding ervaringen clomid 50 mg where viagra buy buy diflucan capsules buy prednisone pills 30 mg prednisone daily glucophage 1000 mg kullanimi zoloft 100 mg levitra de 10 mg propecia o generico generic wellbutrin lawsuit cheap viagra online free generic cialis prednisone 50 mg lek 20 mg prednisone lot erythromycin 400 mg uses cipro registrations online metformin 500 mg nausea prednisone 10mg x160 propecia brand 5mg taking 10 mg cialis lasix comprimidos 40 mg cialis online 1.00 nexium 40 mg online cialis 100mg cheap viagra 100mg prix clomid 100 mg daily lisinopril 40 mg lupi cheap original viagra 7 mg prednisone taper buy viagra york propranolol 10 mg migraine generic viagra supplier viagra buy sample generic cialis tabs buy zovirax 200 mg wellbutrin generic pill 141 overnight generic levitra prednisone buy uk 120 mg strattera high doxycycline hyc 50 mg online zovirax canada cialis buy jakarta viagra generico curitiba wirkung viagra 50 mg 2 pills 10mg cialis generic valtrex wiki lasix 40 mg rezeptfrei levitra 10mg lutschtabl viagra 100mg men valtrex cheapest zoloft generic problems cialis acquisto online lexapro 5mg week 3 ert generic viagra cipro 500 mg bid 40mg cialis cheapest levitra generic bactrim dosage viagra 100 mg endikasyonlari levitra orodispersibile generico cialis 7.5 mg antibiotico augmentin generico viagra 100 mg pricing reliable propecia online buy cheap cialis cialis 5mgaustralia generic viagra shop wellbutrin mg amounts cialis 20 mg cheapest viagra tablets cheap valtrex mgs 1000 clomid 50mg pregnancy buy metformin cheap lexapro 5 mg forum cheap professional cialis 600 mg of wellbutrin periactin 4mg notice buy himalayan viagra prednisone 9 days 60 mg phenergan generic promethazine xenical 120 mg funciona viagra cost generic cialis generics safe buy doxycycline internet viagra vegetal 200mg viagra online farmacia rualis 20 generic cialis xenical venta online cialis 5mg prostatectomie order levitra 30 pills levitra profesional 40mg buy brand zoloft cheapest clomid buy bactrim pills using 40 mg levitra 25 mg of strattera zithromax trockensaft 1200 mg viagra online opinioni amoxil 500 mg uses generico de lexapro buy bactrim dose nexium 40 mg nebenwirkungen zithromax online consultation 600 mg of zoloft glucophage 500 mg daily kamagra cheap price cheap clomid uk wellbutrin sr cheapest buy doxycycline 50 capsules cialis 20mg wiki viagra buy montreal erythromycin 333 mg afbouwen lexapro 10 mg ordering generic viagra augmentin duo buy pharmacy generic viagra viagra 150 mg notizte prospecto strattera 25 mg lasix 20mg iv generic nexium availability lisinopril 40 mg viagra freeonline opinioni cialis 2 5mg online prednisone 10mg alcohol prednisone 50 mg tabs lisinopril hctz 40 mg discount cialis online viagra 50mg sverige generic zovirax online generic lexapro medicine jual viagra 50mg cost cialis 10 mg finns viagra 200mg lexapro generic of 40 mg nolvadex gyno harga zithromax 250mg buy cialis 200 mg generic zovirax uk levitra 10mg avis cialis soft buy propranolol 25 mg uk viagra generic zithromax generic online lexapro 20 mg depression prednisone 1mg buy tetracycline 500 mg viagra retail 100mg 200 generic cialis softtabs help buying nexium powder zithromax 300 mg nombre generico cialis prednisone tablet 5443 50mg buy clomid cheaper dosage amoxil 500 mg wellbutrin cyclothymic disorder nexium 40 mg canada pret diflucan 150mg cheapest cialis tablets viagra generic 25 mg viagra 8 100mg 75 mg wellbutrin xl order brand zithromax drugstore cialis 40 mg zithromax 500 mg fungsinya highest mg buspar wellbutrin generic study zovirax online uk buy viagra phitzer generic viagra now nebenwirkungen kamagra 100mg tetracycline hcl 500 mg medco generic propecia order cialis men cialis buy quebec nexium 40 mg harga buy viagra africa cialis tadalafil 2.5 mg cheapest valtrex generic comprar levitra generico fungsi glucophage 500 mg cheap quick viagra name generic cialis diflucan 50 mg prospect propecia generic coupons wellbutrin generic canada buspar 30 mg tablet augmentin 400 mg junior metformin 1000 mg bid free cialis 5mg erythromycin purchase online cipro 500 mg siprofloksasin prednisone 50mgm viagra generic 100 mg controindicazioni lasix 25 mg buy levitra 100mg 100 mg lisinopril hydrochlorothiazide usp 25 mg clomid 5 mg kamagra 100mg cena buy 1 diflucan pill cheapest kamagra 100 about zoloft 50mg plant viagra 6800mg generic 50mg cialis rayh. viagra online metformin hcl 750 mg doxycycline 200 mg iv kamagra gel 100 mg propecia generic online amoxil online prescription lexapro generic 20mg buying celebrex mexico buy zithromax pills xenical 300 mg werking cialis 20mg telmisartan 40 mg hydrochlorothiazide generic cialis online prednisone 60 mg dog nolvadex india 50mg nebenwirkungen celebrex 200mg lexapro 10mg onofre 500 mg of metformin viagra coupons online prednisone deltasone 20 mg viagra online efficacy farmaco generico augmentin celebrex 200 mg kaina take 40mg levitra cialis reviews generic augmentin 250 mg dawkowanie safest generic viagra augmentin generico propecia online america levitra 10 mg reviews bali viagra buy cialis 5mg fta beschreibung viagra 100mg cialis cheapist buying viagra hongkong cialis online eu reliable clomid online buy zithromax 1200 strattera 10mg hinta propecia generic discount buying viagra us propecia 5mg prices zoloft 50 mg precio zovirax cream 20mg quick order cialis cialis cvs generic lexapro generico vaistai nexium 20mg cheap strattera canada cialis 20mg cheap viagra online american cialis 10 mg wirkungsdauer propecia 1mg london cheapest generic viagra 150 lexapro 60 mg dose doxycycline online mastercard buy lasix injections overnight generic viagra 80mg prednisone dogs kamagra max buy buy clomid ebay 50 buy nexium boots prized viagra online hydrochlorothiazide 25 mg india propranolol hct 80 25 mg celebrex generic names tab erythromycin 500 mg diflucan 150 mg indications viagra kauf online 600 mg wellbutrin xl 60 mg prednisone taper levitra buy discount apotik online cialis strattera mg doses augmentin 500 mg dosis nakup viagra 25 mg buy doxycycline online generic cialis 10 pack hamilelikte amoxil 500 mg wellbutrin 300 mg fiyati cialis 10 mg halbieren buy 1 mg propecia buy viagra brighton buy prednisone 20mg viagra online billigst 5 mg cialis pricing cialis 5 mg cpr levitra price online celebrex 200 mg uk walmart levitra 20 mg cialis 5o mg generic viagra pattaya 50 mg zoloft reviews cialis 20 mgr generic line viagra lexapro 10 mg espanol 200 mg generic cialis viagra generika 20mg online cialis prices viagra online manly bactrim 40 mg nexium 40 mg bivirkninger buy nolvadex india cialis 5 mg efectos metformin 1500 mg daily cheapest propecia buy zithromax 600 mg sirop buy 500 mg zithromax cipla viagra generics doxycycline 100 mg kat generic gout synthroid costo viagra 100 mg buspar 10 10 mg 30 comprimidos 45 mg buspar cheap viagra 50p viagra 25mg enough 20 mg propranolol anxiety viagra generic cialis zithromax 1000mg dosis glucophage 500 mg mims cialis 10 mg avis lasix 25 mg controindicazioni viagra 50 mg etkileri cialis order 5 mg cialis mg cialis 100 mg fiyati generic priligy cheap taking 12.5 mg viagra cialis 50mg wirkung valtrex 500 mg gsk viagra 50 mg dosage doxycycline monohydrate 20 mg propecia online prices lasix cp 25 mg doxycycline caps 100mg 14 cialis sklep online levitra generic forum doxycycline cheap bayer levitra cheap montreal viagra online prednisone 15mg much viagra online levitra 20mg .doc doxycycline buy paypal cipro xl mg levitra 10mg price cheap vegetal viagra buy priligy dapoxetine augmentin tabs 375mg buy amoxil online cheaps cialis glucophage 1000 mg beipackzettel kamagra 100mg paypal prezzo celebrex 200 mg buy viagra portland prednisone 7 mg bactrim 800 mg online 2 original cialis 20mg generic viagra delhi metformin hcl 250 mg buy cheap nolvadex lisinopril 20 mg 100 priligy generico comprar levitra 20mg doctissimo buy propecia steroids doxycycline 500mg buying nexium 40mg diarreia nolvadex 10 mg ginecomastia generic alternative viagra generic substitute strattera cialis tablet 5mg kamagra 160 mg gold dapoxetine cheap uk prednisone 5 mg dosage prednisone mg tablets diflucan 150 mg dosage horse viagra buy prednisone 50 mg pl cialis cheap prices cheapest generic valtrex generic viagra sverige zithromax 9 pills 1000mg levitra 20mg cena propecia 5mg review cialis 5mg davkovanie cialis 800 mg black cialis online europa cialis 5 mg gabapentin celebrex 200 mg pret buy cialis melbourne