Sunday, 22 June 2014

Adventures in Copyright Infringement, Part 1

There aren't many careers these days where people can rob you so casually, so effortlessly or so unapologetically as fiction writing.

To put that in perspective, the first pirated e-book copy of my first novel Giant Thief went live on the evening of the day it was released.  (I know this because I got an e-mail from the the Google alert I'd set up while I was drinking celebratory champers with Lee and Marco from Angry Robot.  Cheers, pirates.)  Now I'm not going to get into the piracy debate here, partly because it's not what I want to talk about and partly because if you happen to be pro-piracy and ever find yourself in a position where your livelihood depends on people having the decency to not steal your work then I'm confident you'll come round to my way of thinking pretty quickly.  No, this post and it's sequel - because, be warned, this is a long story I'm about to tell here! - is about one particular incident, and I'm telling it for educational purposes only.

The lesson is: writers are not powerless to defend their work.  And also, if you're a writer then yes you have powers but use those powers carefully, and for good rather than evil, lest the whole thing explode in your face.

Late last year I stumbled across one of my stories on the internet.  It was one I'd sold to a good market a few years before - actually, I don't know why I'm being coy here, it was The Desert Cold in Flash Fiction Online - and the place I'd found it was certainly not the one I'd sold it to.  Oddly, it was accompanied by the bio I'd used back then, which was some years out of date, and more worryingly the webpage attributed copyright to the site rather than me and had buttons encouraging readers to share my story through a variety of online routes.

I wrote a polite e-mail to the publisher asking that they either take the story down or pay me appropriate for using it.  The publisher wrote back and said that it was okay because another page on their site gave the contradictory information that copyright remained with the author and that when I'd submitted my story I'd chosen to waive the option of payment.

I wrote back and explained that I hadn't submitted my story and explained how and where it had originally been published, explained too that the bio was desperately out of date, explained that the copyright notices were at best contradictory and stated that (having checked their pay rates and found them to be a princely sum of $3 a story) I'd rather have my copyright not being infringed than be paid.

When I week and a half later I hadn't had an answer, I wrote again.  The publisher wrote back apologizing and said that they'd removed my story.  I checked and all they'd done was take the link off their home page, leaving the page with my work on untouched.  I wrote back explaining this.

This time I didn't get an answer, and just couldn't be bothered at the time to press any further.  I'd written four e-mails, I  dislike writing e-mails at the best of times, and writing e-mails to people who are pirating my work and claiming my copyright and don't understand piracy, copyright or how to take things off their own website is just a whole lot of a slog when you have better things to do.

I mention this only as partial justification for what I did next ... which we'll cover in part 2, when the kid gloves come off, doors are opened with hand grenades and lessons are learned, not all of them for the better.

1 comment:

  1. David
    Please visit my site THE CENTER FOR COPYRIGHT INTEGRITY. I brought my IP/Commerce theft to Congress. I am making headways. Please link on LINKEDIN. I told the Legislators we are coming with greater numbers. We are....
    Carrie Devoah