Plagiarism and You – How to Respond When You are Plagiarized

I pretty much exclusively write, and pay attention to, genre fiction. I’m a proud resident of Genretopia, and don’t look outside of my own little subset very often. However, today when I hopped on Twitter, I came across #copypastecris, and discovered that someone had committed the absolute worst crime possible for writers over in Romanceland.

They’d plagiarized other romance author’s books.

Plagiarism is, hands down, the worst thing an author can do to another author. You are hijacking someone’s words, someone’s ideas, and presenting them as your own. Given how much a labor of love writing is for most authors, it’s absolutely gut-wrenching to find you’ve been plagiarized. I know – it’s happened to me before. Someone started posting my original work, presented as their own, over on Seemit, under a different title to try and hide it.

As far as I can tell, I was the only victim of this particular individual, mainly because this got caught early before they had a chance to plagiarize anything else. This puts me in the minority as far as plagiarism goes. As of 9:14 PM yesterday, this tweet from CaffinatedFae on twitter documents, in their words – “27 books from 24 different authors, 2 recipes, & 1 article (rumor of a second one) that were all plagiarized by Cristiane Serruya”

(Note the funny little upside-down commas around those words? That’s how I indicate I’m quoting someone else, because I’m not a scum-sucking word-thief.)


So, now that I’ve read the punchline, let’s talk about what happened here.

Wednesday, historical romance author Courtney Milan posted a blog with the delightfully unflinching title of “Cristiane Serruya is a copyright infringer, a plagiarist, and an idiot.” Normally, I’d never use something that directly calls someone out like that, but for plagiarism…yeah, I’ll happily join in the naming of the person behind it. In her post, Ms. Milan details a litany of plagiarized passages between one of her books and one of Ms. Serruya’s books. It’s pretty blatant if you want to go check it out.

Oh, and for the record, Courtney Milan is a best selling author. So not only did Ms. Serruya plagiarize, she made it as easy as possible to get caught in this case.

Whenever plagiarism happens, it’s almost inevitable that the plagiarist has stolen work from other books. The moment Ms. Milan made her announcements, romance authors and their fans descended on Christiane Surruya’s books, combing through them for any evidence of plagiarism. And, of course, they found it. Every time this happens, more plagiarism is found, unless the person in question has published nothing else but the initial plagiarism. Here’s a youtube video detailing a similar case, only it happened in the video game review community:

Again, other plagiarism was found. Ms. Serruya, who has since deleted her twitter account, did not immediately slink into the shadows to await the coming well-deserved lawsuits. No, of course she did not. If you’re already shameless enough to commit the act of plagiarism in the first place, you of course are going to be shameless enough to try and ‘defend’ yourself from it.  She first took to twitter and herself with the following tweet:

Since her twitter has been deleted, that above is a screenshot taken from this article over on BookRiot, which I mention because I cite my damn sources.

As BookRiot correctly points out in the above linked article, “I had ghostwriters” is not a defense against plagiarism. Legally, when you hire a ghostwriter, you are paying them to grant you copyright over their books. (The whole ethics of hiring ghostwriters to crank out a huge number of books is an entirely separate issue, which is covered by Kilby Blades over here. It’s something I’ve been meaning to talk about for awhile, but that post summarizes it so well, I might not have to anymore.)

Now that I’ve caught you up on what’s been going on, I wanted to take a moment to talk about what you should do if every author’s worst fear comes true, and you find that someone’s been plagiarizing you.

1) Don’t Panic

This is the first and most important step. Remember that you are 100% in the right here, morally, ethically, and legally. You have everything on your side, and no one besides trolls are going to stand up for the plagiarist. Everything is on your side, and the worst thing you can do is freak yourself out.

Deep breath. Someone moron just handed you a baseball bat and announced they killed your father – you get to beat them and no one will judge you for it.

2) Talk to a lawyer

Don’t do anything else before you take this step either. You don’t want to risk anything you do putting your own case against this individual at risk, and a lawyer will be able to confirm that plagarism actually did occur in some of the more nuanced cases. Do not skip this step, no matter how blatant the plagiarism is. Even if you don’t intend on pursuing legal action, at least have a lawyer confirm that you were plagiarized. This is very important because your next step is to do exactly what Ms. Milan did here and…

3) Name and shame

Normally, I’d never, ever suggest you do this, and for 99.99% of cases, you don’t want to do this. However, plagiarism is one of the few cases where it is okay to call someone out for what they’ve done on social media. Why? Because as we’ve seen in this case as with so many others, plagiarists almost never only commit their crime once. They’ll do it over and over again. By naming and drawing attention to what happened, you’ll help other authors find out if they were a victim as well.

4) Report to the appropriate sites

Most of the time for authors, this is Amazon. I don’t really see any reason to go further in explaining this one – report to the appropriate sites, so they take the plagiarized work down. (Or, as in my case, ignore you and leave it up and never respond to your emails, but at least you tried.)

5) Stay classy

As much as you may want to, you should not actually beat the asshole that stole your work. 

Congratulations, you’ve won. There may be a lawsuit to follow where you get to rake the plagiarist over the coals for every cent they earned off your hard work, but at this point, you’ve won. Just stay classy at this point. Don’t tell people to harass the plagiarist, don’t attack the plagiarist, don’t even engage with the plagiarist. For starters, they’re going to be vanishing off the internet soon – they always eventually do. On top of that, you’ve won. They are no longer worth your time and energy. Finally, and most importantly, you don’t want to accidentally commit libel or engage in cyber-bullying at this point – you don’t want to open yourself up to a counter suit.

Want to read my 100% original book? Check out Weird Theology on Amazon.

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