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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey All

I'm slimming my original post down in edit. I had noticed two authors plagiarising some of my work in various ways, unmistakably and without doubt, and I wondered if it's something that could mean lawyers. One was about a very specific and unique plot device being used and the other involved names and locations.

I'm guessing there's nothing I can do, but any anecdotes might help??? I don't really fancy self-publishing ideas for richer more famous writers just to steal. Thanks :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Brian, appreciate it. I don't think there's much room for doubt about my character's names being used as that is straight-forward and obvious to anyone, and the story setting is the same too, but my concern is - does any of this count as actual plagiarism? Can someone write a book about a military cop drifter called John Reacher? Or is that infringing on Lee Child's copyright?

I would never go public with this anyway - it would be a private matter between lawyers.
 

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Thanks Brian, appreciate it. I don't think there's much room for doubt about my character's names being used as that is straight-forward and obvious to anyone, and the story setting is the same too, but my concern is - does any of this count as actual plagiarism? Can someone write a book about a military cop drifter called John Reacher? Or is that infringing on Lee Child's copyright?

I would never go public with this anyway - it would be a private matter between lawyers.
Plagiarism is hard to prove. A name can be Trademarked - which in Child's case, I think it's likely Jack Reacher is. But whether changing the first name is enough to avoid an infringement case....beats the hell out of me. Child might not feel it was worth pursuing. For example: If someone ripped off one of my books and was making a lot of money from my work, I'd sure as hell go after them. My agency would have a team of lawyers on their ass quicker than you could say "thief". But if they were only selling a few books here and there, it wouldn't be worth the effort. I might send them a message to let them know that I know and that if they don't remove it from sale, my fans might get upset. And I can't control what they do.
 

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If you have an attorney or agent, yeah, I would at least inform them. If I were in that situation, I would.
 

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As I understand things, you cannot copyright an idea, so it is (sadly) probably legally okay to do some of the things you might object to. But, as far as plagiarism is concerned, there is (as I recall) something within copyright law that says that if the spirit of the original work has been replicated, that could count. It is definitely a grey area and one for which you really need proper legal advice.
 

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As I understand things, you cannot copyright an idea, so it is (sadly) probably legally okay to do some of the things you might object to. But, as far as plagiarism is concerned, there is (as I recall) something within copyright law that says that if the spirit of the original work has been replicated, that could count. It is definitely a grey area and one for which you really need proper legal advice.
I'm not a lawyer, but clearly you can't copyright an idea, or you wouldn't see so many book descriptions that point them out: "James Bond meets Jack Reacher on Battlestar Galactica." So, I agree it would hinge on them stealing enough specific plot elements to make a case. And I imagine the character name would be a trademark issue, not plagarism. Still isn't any fun to be ripped off. I hope contacting an agent or literary lawyer can help you get some recourse.
 

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I see it happen a lot in the film industry—people saying a plot was based on their idea; but I never hear of anyone actually winning. You might want to do a little research and see if there’s any cases of people winning and what it actually took. My guess is you need to have it pretty well documented—like emails where you shared your idea. In any case, valid as is may be, it would be a hard case to win.
 

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It would probably be hard to prove, but like people have said, talking to a lawyer is ideal. At very least you should contact this other author and make it known that you saw this happen. If someone ripped you off once and saw nothing negative head their way, they will do it again. You may not be able to do too much about this (I hope you can!) but at least you can keep it from happening again by making sure that they know you are watching.
 

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There are a lot of cases, many of them fought in court so you could find them, of writers who shopped scripts around Hollywood and then a few years later a movie comes out 'just like theirs'. That's also why three different studios all make blockbuster movies about asteroids hitting the Earth the same summer. They don't hold up in court from what I've seen. Specific legal help will be necessary.

Many of the 'big name authors' actually have a fleet of ghost writers churning out the words for them -- and the ghost writers are looking to shave their creation costs so it's easy to see them lifting and borrowing things.

There are also many instances of parallel invention like telephones or pistols that happen because many of the same cultural triggers are out there springboarding both creators to if-then-solution their way to identical conclusions.

If you have both works in digital form you can upload them to one of the sites high school English teachers use to compare kids' essays. Find significant passages the same and then you can have a strong case. Otherwise it's probably more productive to write a new story, perhaps incorporating a copyright abusing villain.
 

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Sounds mercenary, but it's not plagiarism unless you're reading your own work when you crack open their book. Same subject, similar names, same genre is no problem. By all means, contact your agent and consult lawyers, but cheater brands usually get away with it.
 

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You can't copyright ideas. Your best bet is to make public the people who have been copying from you. I don't mean here, but in other appropriate venues like a blog post on your website, a post on twitter, etc.
 

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Well, you’ve got three options here:

1. Take legal action if possible.

2. Stop associating with people who steal your work.

3. Stop being so goddamn brilliant. It seems all the bestselling authors come to you when they need ideas for their new book.
 

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Hey All

I've seen some very specific ideas of mine concerning the solving of a murder case recently pop up in another (quite famous) writer's novel, a writer who knows of me in the genre and certainly knows my book. There's no way this was coincidental and is clearly just stealing my idea, but I won't go into why I know this as it's not important to the point. I seriously doubt I have any case so I'm just letting it go.

However, more recently, another fairly high-profile writer has created a pastiche out of two my main characters, putting their names together in a story about the same subject and in the same genre. Again, the author knows of me within the genre, and my books and it's clearly a deliberate act. The book is professionally published, not indie. I appreciate this area is very loose, and proving plagiarism of a storyline is tricky, but this author has outright stolen my characters and put them in the same genre as well. Say Lee Child had another character called John Becker, then it would be like me writing a book about an ex military cop called John Reacher who goes around beating up drug dealers.

I'm guessing there's nothing I can do, but any anecdotes might help??? I don't really fancy self-publishing ideas for richer more famous writers just to steal. Thanks :)
I'm not sure I like the distinction between indie published and professionally published. We indies are just as professional as anyone else, more so in fact.

Sometimes ideas pop into a writer's head for a story or a character and that writer has no clue where that idea came from. They might have read something similar, but they wouldn't remember. You can't copyright an idea and there is no such thing as an original idea when it comes to fiction.

If these famous writers are basing their work on something of yours, that means they must be reading your books. Is that likely? If so, aren't you pleased with that?
 

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Thanks Brian, appreciate it. I don't think there's much room for doubt about my character's names being used as that is straight-forward and obvious to anyone, and the story setting is the same too, but my concern is - does any of this count as actual plagiarism? Can someone write a book about a military cop drifter called John Reacher? Or is that infringing on Lee Child's copyright?

I would never go public with this anyway - it would be a private matter between lawyers.
On television there are two medical programmes. Both have a lead character named Mark Sloane, both Mark Sloane's are doctors - should someone be suing?

I've just read an admittedly poorly written so-called horror story that had three situations that were outright thefts from three of Stephen King's books. Will he bother? I doubt it.

Perhaps this is how these famous authors get their ideas, by finding an independently published book in the same genre and switching around the names and places. Has anyone ever written a novel about a monster who dresses as a clown, lives in a sewer and eats little children? :eek:
 

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There are also many instances of parallel invention like telephones or pistols that happen because many of the same cultural triggers are out there springboarding both creators to if-then-solution their way to identical conclusions.
This is an excellent point! If Leibnitz and Newton could both come up with calculus, then anything is possible.
 

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This is an excellent point! If Leibnitz and Newton could both come up with calculus, then anything is possible.
That's very true. Convergent evolution definitely happens. Tigers and zebra both have stripes, but that doesn't mean they are related. Maybe sometimes I've got more faith in calculus and tigers than I do in all those writers out there :LOL: I guess it's just hard to really gauge. There are absolutely people out there who are actively looking to rip you off, but at the same time, there are only so many names and only so many kinds of characters. Ultimately, it's probably only the writers on both sides who know if it's a rip job or not. But if you think it is, I still think that you have to let it be known. Anybody who does plagiarize will have no reason to stop unless you give them at least something that makes them pause.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks to all helpful replies! I've thought it over and it's not something I'm taking forward. It's frustrating and unethical, and also, of course, pathetic, but after research I doubt it's illegal. So, no lawyers, but then as the saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat.
 

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Thanks to all helpful replies! I've thought it over and it's not something I'm taking forward. It's frustrating and unethical, and also, of course, pathetic, but after research I doubt it's illegal. So, no lawyers, but then as the saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat.
I hate that phrase, but yes. If you have the receipts take them public, just make sure it's indisputable before you take your shot. Good luck!
 
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