While it is a rare occurrence, there have been times when people have stolen other people’s writing through whatever means and published it as their own. Personally, I don’t think this is something that needs worrying about on a larger scale. That being said, what do you do if it does happen to you?
Firstly, I’m not trained in law so, if you wish to pursue legal action, please consult an appropriate solicitor who is experienced in copyright law in your area.
As a layman’s guide, however, the first thing you should do is contact the publisher or distributor of your stolen work. For example, if someone has plagiarised you and self-published through Amazon, then you contact Amazon. If they’ve gone the traditional route and have got an agent and/or publisher, then you contact those relevant parties.
Essentially, what you say to the publisher or publishing facility is:
- The name (or pseudonym) of the plagiarising writer;
- The name and ISBN of the book which contains your plagiarised work;
- The relevant chapters, stories, or poems which contain your plagiarised work;
- The page numbers within the book which contain your plagiarised work;
- The publication date of the book which contains your plagiarised work;
- The date when you wrote the original piece;
- Reference to the original piece if it has been published, along with identifying information.
You also need to include a short statement, much like the following:
The above work contains extracts that are very similar to mine and I suspect that the author has infringed upon my copyright. I have proof that I was the original creator of the work and will supply this. Please advise what the next steps are to pursue the removal of this title.
Agents, publishers and distributors like Amazon will take these kinds of claims very seriously and will investigate. If you have done everything properly and have proof, they should remove the title and, often, remove the individual responsible from whatever platform they can. This doesn’t mean that you’ll get any money that has been made up until this point, however. For that, you’re probably going to have to take the person to court.
If they don’t publish it through a well-established platform, but instead simply place the book on their blog to download, then you follow exactly the same process. You just contact the company that is hosting the website. To do this you do what is called a ‘Whois’ lookup and search for their website domain. This is a very easy process, and it tells you who hosts the website. Contact them with the same information.
If you wish to take anything further—such as trying to get any lost earnings or legally reprimanding the person—then you need to consult a professional. This will cost, and there is no guarantee that your claim will be successful. This is because copyright law varies a lot depending on where you are in the world, and certain territories have requirements before you can do anything legally. In America, for instance, they have changed the law to now say that you have to register your copyright with a governing body if you wish to pursue any infringement cases. And taking people to court, especially if they are in different countries, can get complicated and expensive.
© 2019 Davina Chime
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Davina Chime is a Thanet-born hopeless romantic.