It goes to prove how unregulated the internet is, with corporations such as Google and Amazon happy to take money from unscrupulous traders without checking what it is they’re selling. Just think of the plagiarism scandal on Amazon books.
I’ve previously mentioned how plots, characters and whole stories get stolen. There are unimaginative dolts, plagiarists and organised fraudsters out there, happy to rip you off.
Even if you’re an honest writer, it’s still possible, indeed likely, that what you’ve created has been done before.
As it says in Ecclesiastes 1:9—
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun. Where we get our ideas from is a mixture of memory, observation, imagination and sometimes appropriation. Even famous writershave filched storylines.
I’ve just read Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist, which I recommend, as it’s full of common-sense wisdom and has lots of thought-provoking quotes, such as this one from film director Francis Ford Coppola:
“We want you to take from us. We want you, at first, to steal from us, because you can’t steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and that’s how you will find your voice. And that’s how you begin. And then one day someone will steal from you.”
I haven’t deliberately stolen plots for my five novels, but who knows where I got my ideas from? After all, I’ve read thousands of books in my 65 years, so I’m sure there’ll be similarities between my work and previous authors.
Subconscious plagiarism happens, even to a member of The Beatles:
It’s easy to worry about someone copying your plotline, or of having inadvertently borrowed key elements from a novel that you read ten years ago and had largely forgotten about. There are only so many stories under the sun, and it’s reckoned that there are only seven (or five) basic plots, so there’s bound to be some coincidences.
It’s quite likely that someone has written a thriller that contains elements of my first Cornish Detective novel, which is about a war-hardened mercenary who’s killing victims as part of some twisted role-play game. After all, there’s been much reporting on how computer games induce violent acts in real life, and more people are aware of the ongoing trauma of PTSD for veteran soldiers. I was more concerned that another author would get their book published before mine, with the same title of The Perfect Murderer.
I like catchy titles, and though there’s nothing crucial about my narrative that would prevent me from changing the title, I’d still be a bit miffed that someone beat me to it. Mind you, I was a bit surprised that a famous crime novelist, H.R.F. Keating had written his first Indian detective story featuring Inspector Ghote with the title The Perfect Murder. I probably read it when I was in my twenties, forgetting the story but storing a form of the title in my memory banks.
Some theft does occur with books. It’s impossible to take legal action against those who’ve stolen your entire story if it’s in the Far East – unless you’re a major corporation, and tough to do so even then. A writer friend who published a series of romance novels as ebooks in the U.K. went to visit friends in India. They’d read her books, and tentatively showed her some pirated versions of them, which had been printed as paperbacks with the Western names changed to Indian, along with other cultural details referring to clothing, food and religion.
There was absolutely nothing that she could do about it, and the supposed author looked to be a made-up identity for an online search found nothing about them. My friend moved on through Asia, as part of her post-retirement backpacking adventure, ending up in China. She wasn’t entirely surprised to find her romances were on sale in street markets, again altered to represent the country.
She hadn’t used Digital Rights Management for her ebooks, not thinking that such foreign piracy would ever occur. DRM is easily removed anyway.