What happens when you find out someone has filed the serial numbers off your novel and is selling it (at a brisk pace, or at least an amble) at Amazon? Eilish O’Hanlon can tell you, and she does at The Independent. We’re not talking mere plot similarities, of the sort you’ll find in any genre; we’re all shuffling the same Tarot deck of archetypes, and similar hands will be dealt fairly often. This is wholesale lifting, tweaking the phrasing enough to try to dodge a Google search, the sort of thing I call malicious plagiarism, as opposed to mere accidental plagiarism (poor documentation) or what I call stupid plagiarism (No, Freshpeep, paraphrasing is not enough.) An example:
Everything about it was the same, from the plot to the protagonist’s sarcastic manner of speaking, to the jokes, to the very structure of the sentences and paragraphs.
Saxon had been turned into Elizabeth Ireland, and the reporter she meets at the start, Nick Elliott, was now Brendan Mahon; the story, too, was told in the third person rather than the first; but these were mere details – window dressing to conceal what was little more than a straight-up theft.
Here is the original: “I glanced up as the door chimed and saw him coming in, looking round, shaking off the rain violently like a dog, as if offended by the very business of being wet. I quickly turned my gaze back to the coffee, a moment before his eyes would have found mine. I knew he was looking for me, because Nick Elliott wasn’t the sort of person who could feign an accidental meeting even if he wanted to – he didn’t have the subtlety or intelligence to carry it off – but I ignored him in the hope that he’d take a hint and leave me alone.”
This was [the plagiarist’s] version of the same scene: “She glanced up as the door chimed and watched the man violently shake off the rain. A moment before their eyes met, she averted her gaze, knowing he was looking for her; Brendan Mahon didn’t have the intelligence or subtlety to feign an accidental meeting. She ignored him, hoping that he’d take the hint and leave her in peace.”
O’Hanlon handles the situation with admirable curiosity and grace — more than I think I’d show. Give her story a read.
A tip of the Mondo Mortarboard to a couple of folks on Facebook.