Three announcements before I talk about a REALLY important issue in the art industry that I recently – and very personally – experienced. Normally, this day is reserved for “Website Wonders.” But I have made an exception. You can expect February’s Website Wonders next time, but I hope you will read what I have to say today.
- Inkwell & Paper reviewed Seconds Before Sunrise (book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy) and you should read her full review to find out why she said, “Shannon A. Thompson will one day be a famous New York Times Bestselling author.“
- As if that review wasn’t marvelous enough – YA Book Reviews ALSO posted their review of Seconds Before Sunrise, because she “started this book today… and finished it today. This was the perfect addition to the first in the series. I loved the first one and found that I loved this one even more.” Read Aubrey Joy’s full review by clicking here.
- And in case you’re just now checking in, don’t worry: The Book Babble interviewed me on the same page that the reviewed Minutes Before Sunset, the first novel of The Timely Death Trilogy. Click here to find out why I read medical journals or learn how my book is “filled with imaginative characters, teen angst, teen romance, an intriguing plot, and parents who just don’t understand.”
Thank you to all three of these lovely readers.
So, today is going to be a rather serious day, because – as you can tell from the title – I will be writing about a legal issue: Copyright infringement. You know that little © inside the book? That. We’re talking about that, and we’re talking about that because it’s important for authors, writers, and readers. (I do not normally differentiate between writers and authors, but for the flow of this post, I am. Writers = unpublished, not copy written work, Authors = published, copy written work.)
If you follow my author Facebook page, then you already know what happened to me this week. I was emailed by one of my followers who then directed me to a few people who have used my quote in their recent writings – without my permission, without talking to me, and definitely without any label that told readers where the quote came from. In fact, they didn’t even put quotation marks around it. The writers have placed my quote inside their own prose and acted as if it is their own, violating the U.S. Copyright Law.
At first, I was shocked – I couldn’t believe it, but I couldn’t deny it either – and then I was mad – because I worked REALLY hard on my stories, but these writers caused their readers to think that my quote came from them – but, ultimately, I became overwhelmed with sadness, because I couldn’t fathom how a writer (who knows the struggles of writing) could do this to another writer (because authors are writers, after all.)
Aren’t we supposed to stick together? I know I try to help other writers, so that’s why I’m sharing my story. To be honest, I wasn’t originally going to blog about this, because I thought it was better to handle it in a silent matter, but I cannot stay silent because – sadly enough – this happens all too often.
I’m sharing my experience because I need to. I do not want to get anyone in trouble, but it is difficult when someone is literally breaking the law by stealing what one owns. In fact, I’ve already taken measures with everything because I have to. I spent years writing my novels, and they were properly copyrighted for this exact reason. That is my right as an author, but I have to practice that right if it is going to mean anything. I cannot simply sit back and be “the bigger person” because that causes this to happen more and more and more. By sharing my story, I hope to show authors why they should take all necessary precautions in order to protect their work. I also hope to encourage readers to quote authors properly, but I REALLY hope that this post discourages writers who are blatantly stealing from others and acting as if it is their own. I will get to all of these points below.
Let’s start at the beginning:
If you follow my author Facebook page, then you saw this photo on Valentine’s Day:
(Here’s the full quote, “I was falling in love with her, and she was falling in love with me. It was fated, decided before any of us were born, and I hated it as much as I loved it. I could barely stand it.” It can be found on Goodreads here. The reason I add the full quote is because the full quote is the one that was stolen.)
If I hadn’t posted this photo, I doubt I would’ve ever found out what had happened, because that picture is why my follower recognized the quote later on. This quote has been used on numerous websites in different books. Not just once. The writings were mainly fan fiction stories that are not focused on my novel or even my genre, but one person was charging for their story. On top of that, not a single person put quotations around my quote nor added a footnote that explained where my quote came from. Every single one was published AFTER Minutes Before Sunset was published as well.
Now, since I have already filed, it has been removed, but below is an image from a Google search that still shows one of them: (Just for clarification reasons: I am not trying to attack this person for using my quote, but it is an honest example. Please, do not harass them as I have already spoken with them.)
You might notice that there was a very SLIGHT change in the quote. While I wrote “falling in love with her” this says “falling in love with him.” You will see another, similar instance below, where this writer simply changed the pronouns to names as well as first to third person:
Although Charles Caleb Colton once said, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, I still feel very strongly about this as an issue that is wrong, not to mention a violation of the U.S. Copyright Office. You cannot change three words in an entire paragraph and claim it is yours. In fact, that is what is called “close imitation” and that is defined as plagiarism. On top of that, I do not understand why a writer who has already written books themselves would steal from an author at all. No one wins here. Writers won’t gain their own voice by stealing, readers won’t know who they are even a fan of, and authors will be giving up a piece of them for free because everyone tells them, “It’s nice that they look up to you.”
You know what is nice? It’s nice when they look up to you and share it with people – not steal. There is nothing “nice” about stealing. That’s like me telling my neighbor who’s house was broken into that it was “nice” because the robber was envious of their things.
It’s not okay, and we need to speak out about it instead of pretend it isn’t happening all over the World Wide Web, so here are some things to do:
For Authors Who Want to Protect Their Novels:
Take the necessary precautions. This means getting your novel copyrighted. This also means taking action when your copyright is violated. This could either be contacting the writer and asking them to either quote you or to remove it. Hopefully, it was a mistake. If they refuse to do either (or even ignore you) take action. File when your copyright is violated. On most writing websites, there’s a form right at the top. Please, do not sit back and allow people to use entire paragraphs from your stories by placing them in their stories. (Just for clarification, we are not discussing quoting someone on Twitter. We are discussing someone trying to pass your writing off as their prose.) If we sit back, it will continue to happen.
For Writers Who Want to Use An Author’s Quote in New Stories:
Go for it – WITH permission. Visit the author’s website, try to send the author an email, ask them if it is okay and/or how the author would like you to go about using it in your story. The author might be excited for you to use it as long as you use a footnote or some other identifier. Remember that authors are writers, too. They understand how long it takes to write a novel and how hard it can be. Most of us will want to help you. We just don’t want to be taken advantage of either. Mutual respect is the key. In fact, here’s this to help you: “How Do I Get Approval to Use Other People’s Quotes in my Book.”
However, if you continue to do this, I just want to add one thing from the U.S. Copyright Office, “Under certain circumstances, the infringement may also constitute a criminal misdemeanor or felony, which would be prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.” There are criminal charges, but no one wants to do that to anyone. Stealing a few sentences isn’t worth it. You can write on your own. Just believe in yourself.
In the end, this can be a sensitive issue, but we must face it together – writers, readers, and authors. Writers who have done this don’t want to get in trouble for it, but authors who have been victims of this don’t want to continuously be taken advantage of. As an author myself, I would help any writer who came to me and asked if they could quote me in their novel’s prose by either allowing something like a footnote or helping them find a way to word how they feel in their own words instead of just using mine.
We all share the same love for words. Just share the same love for each other.