Monday, 27 July 2009

Anti-Plagiarism Day: An Update

Remember how so many of us joined forces to fight plagiarism? I've been told that the "writer" who sparked off all that outrage has once again won a prize for a story which seems to owe far too much to someone else's work. And this time, the writer who wrote the original piece might well be considering litigation.

I hope she sues the arse off him.

I've now seen a whole range of allegations against this "writer", which range from a slight overstepping of the "inspiration" line to full-blown plagiarism. I urge everyone whose work has been copied to make everything public now: the "writer's" name, the stories concerned, how it happened, and exactly what he did. I realise that you have many good reasons for keeping quiet: but I don't think it's in anyone's interest to continue to protect him like this. There could be other writers who he has taken advantage of; and all magazines or literary prizes which publish his more worrying fictions are terribly vulnerable to legal restitution or a loss of reputation. By going public, you're giving them a chance to take steps to rectify any damage done before it's gone any further. And if you're still not convinced, consider this: I've heard that he's now working in collaboration with a new group of writers. There'll be rich pickings there, for sure.

132 comments:

Charlie said...

I don't get it. What's the point of stealing someone's work and calling it your own? You're either creative or you're not. Is it simply for money? Then he's a thief, plain and simple.
I'd make my point clearer if I didn't have such a splitting headache. Sorry. :)

Donna Hosie said...

Unfortunately, until this "writer" - and it chokes me to use that word - gets his arse sued, then he/she will continue to steal. Sadly litigation is expensive and there will be no winners here.

catdownunder said...

My furr is up. One of the problems is that litigation can be very expensive - something that a plagiarist all too often relies on for protection as they threaten to counter-sue for defamation.

Jane Smith said...

Until now, the writers affected by this plagiariser have been unwilling to name him because they've been concerned for his wellbeing: I suspect that this latest writer to fall victim to his nasty ways has no such scruples. I hope so: he might be in for a rude, and very expensive, awakening.

I am SO angry about this.

Julia Bohanna said...

I know this writer Jane. I have worked with him, trusted him, even liked him. I was very upset when this all kicked off..I was hurt, angry and confused by the fact that here was a good friend, betraying everyone and stinking up the writing community with his theft and disrespect of other special people. Those other special people were also friends.

Now I am not confused, as this has happened time and time again. I am deeply ashamed of him, sorry that I shared any work with him and thoroughly depressed by the whole situation.

This is not his stupidity. It is deliberate, deceptive, despicable.

Shame on him.

Maggie Dana said...

Are we allowed to know who this scumbag is?

Tara said...

Sooner or later, this issue is going to affect this "writer." We can just hope it happens sooner.

andewallscametumblindown said...

This issue reminds me of the man who was caught stealing where I go folk dancing. He continues to dance. Some people know who he is, but I don't.
Until this "writer" is named, I will be wary of all men who call themselves writers. ~Miriam

Vanessa Gebbie said...

It is possible that, like Chinese Whispers, the situation here is spinning itself.

And it is possible that the writer who has been crossed, had their ideas used, is me.

If that is the case the facts are as follows, and you can make up your own minds about the rights and wrongs.

The writer who shouldn't have (lets call him Fred) was a close writing buddy for over a year. Working in the same small online group, invited by me. I now know he had the unfortunate habit of using the work of others. To what extent, I have no idea.

Earlier this year I went on a long holiday with my husband. Fred and I kept in touch by email, talking writerly stuff, as you do. I was in an extremely inspirational part of the world, and was making notes madly, noticing things, letting myself be fascinated.

I was fascinated by a person I saw. A man who came onto the ship in the port of Ushuiaia, Tierra Del Fuego. A piano tuner.

I told Fred... and can't recall what I said, other than 'isnt he a wonderful character'. And that I would be writing something with this character, and this setting.

I did so. Finally, a fortnight back, I read out the opening to my piece, called The Piano Tuner from Tierra Del Fuego, to my colleagues on a writing retreat. With some trepidation. (My instinct now, having had work copied by Fred, is not to share anything with anyone...) I also mentioned this character inspiration in an interview about a month back, on Nik Perring's blog.

Now I KKOW that ideas are not copyright. I KNOW that once a piece is puiblished, characters, jobs, settings and so on are plunderable for story-seeds, with care.

But I also know that Fred sent me, very fast, a short story using this character and setting idea for himself. Like a magpie seeing something shiny - 'I'll take that, thank you very much!'

I probably said nothing, knowing me, other than 'I won't read it, as I AM going to use this idea myself.'

So it was a bit of a pig, having invested energy both sorts, into this character, to see Fred crowing about having had an honorable mention with HIS story. Which had to have been submitted to that competition while we were still writing buddies.

I can redo my work. I can edit hard. I now feel this mix of character and setting is tainted, and have no wish to use them.

But the point is, I shouldnt have to.

And the point of this post is to say that no, this is not plagiarism. It isnt breach of anything other than a moral code.

And yes, dont say it. I was STUPID to share my lovely character idea at all.


.

Jane Smith said...

Vanessa, while you were posting I was editing my original post. You might want to read what it says now.

While the other writer might not, strictly speaking, have plagiarised your work, he's certainly overstepped the line by stealing a specific character of yours. He has a history of similar intrusions. This is clearly wrong.

And no matter how many times you take responsibility for "being stupid" (which you're not), or for revealling too much, you're not the one who has done wrong here.

Dan Holloway said...

A new group of writers? He's not one of our Year Zeros is he? eek!

Dan Holloway said...

On a serious note, from my work as a uni administrator, I know that peole are petrified to name plagiarisers because 1. they fear countersuits for defamation and 2. they fera for their reputation as a whistle-blower, especially if the person in question is respected (it is a well-documented but often surprising fact that most academic plagiarism happens when senior academics steal their students' ideas - and here things are even worse, because the student is powerless - blow the whistle and their career's over).

It's a personal crusade of mine, but I think one of the things that needs to happen for people to be willing to step forward is meaningful anti-victimisation policy - and not from governemnt, that's there. In practice. The fact is "anti-victimisation" means nothing in the world of school ties and networks, where whistle-blowers are treated as lower than the people on whom they blow said whistle.

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

Although, I feel for what happened to Vanessa and, indeed, Fred is not a good friend, it is not against the law not to be a good friend.

Since everything seems to want to stay hidden and unspoken I must ask -is this what the hoopla is about? If so, I think Fred is not a nice guy. I would not want to confide in Fred, but Fred is not a plagiarist, as Vanessa has pointed out. Fred is just a crapper.

If there is more to this story then let's hear it straight out. Facts and truth will protect anyone from litigation.

I mean let's be clear here- where do you get your ideas? A person tells you a snip of their life story and a piece of fiction spins itself in your head. You knock into a person at the grocery store and start up a conversation which continues on the page when you come home. A boy passes on a red bike, a dog barks at a crow- all of this are stolen bits of real life woven into our stories. Are we stealing? To some extent yes. A continuum with Fred on one end, about falling off, but still there. Still there.

Tania Hershman said...

Lauri,
it is hard to get it without uncovering all the facts, but suffice it to say that there are a number of us who know for certain that "Fred" is way off this continuum - and part of this is because he does it knowingly, he does it even after being told not to, even after being told off for stealing. He continues to do it. And he took far too much from one of my stories - tone, setting, structure, style, content, dialogue - for him to be anywhere near the continuum. Perhaps not the legal definition, but certainly he has crossed moral and ethical boundaries. And continues to do so. Perhaps we are all too afraid to "out" him, I don't know, but I believe things have been put in motion.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Jane

yes, I've read the changed post... It's funny... I must have had this character/incident at the back of my mind when I was drawing up the list of 'things NOT to do when working with other writers' for my Anti-Plagiarism day blog post. Maybe I bloody KNEW he'd have sent it off, and probably did so very fast!

It seems to bleedin obvious, to me. When you work in a closed group, you share this writing world very closely, sharing the ups and downs, writing together, sharing work, sharing feedback, sharing all sorts of 'stuff'. Some people you work with closer than others. You have to trust, to let your guard down over time, for it to work.

What is worse... to take from friends or to take from strangers? Both are bad in my view. But the first is deeply wrong in such a fundamental way. It shows a complete lack of moral boundaries.

jeez. I even helped him close-edit a story for Bridport. It's a strong story. I hope to goodness times a zillion that one wasnt copied from some poor bugger...

Dan Holloway said...

Vanessa, Jane, I'm sure you can understand the concern of the likes of Miriam and me. As founder of a collective, and someone who'll collaborate and share ideas with anyone who'll listen, I am of course now wondering whether I'm feeding ideas to Fred. Are you able to offer any assurance it's NOT someone I work with?

Vanessa, it's a terrible shame that you now feel you can share nothing in advance. One of the ways we have as writers of creating advance buzz is leaking out details of what we're doing to get readers slathering for our work. As a newbie, it's something I do all the time.

This raises a fascinating question on the craft of writing on which I'd love to know people's opinions. We are constantly told by agents, editors, and publishers taht the one thing that matters above all else is voice, and this seems to me the one thing one can't steal. So what I'm intrigued by is how plagiarists get to turn other people's ideas into prize-winning stories if they can't pilfer the other person's voice. To me it suggests either they already have a great voice (in which case, it s so sad that they have to steal to get their story iedas rather than opening their front door and walking down the street), or that many prisze committees have somewhat dicky judges.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Lauri - "A boy passes on a red bike, a dog barks at a crow- all of this are stolen bits of real life woven into our stories. Are we stealing? To some extent yes."

No! we are living and we are writers. Sure, to take someones own life events stories they have told you, and weave them into your fiction, that is different.

Stealing is to appropriate something belonging to someone else. (I think!) The sight of a boy on a bike or the sound of a dog barking at the crow belongs to no one. So they cant be stolen.

Ideas can be taken with/without permission. My argument is that when you are writing in groups together, to seek to use someone elses ideas is one thing... no one can stop the creative mind spinning away. But to then polish and submit when you KNOW a friend/colleague is working on the same thing is wrong.

It smacks of something desperate - 'I have to get mine out there first, use this quick.' which of course, is possibly legitimate in the wider world.

Not when working with mates.

Philip S said...

Naming names on an occasion like this can be scary, because of the libel laws. However, if you merely set out what you did and wrote and what the offending party did and wrote in a way that can be factually verified, then you have nothing to fear. Just don't use the P word!
As a general point: it's a fact that writing groups, whatever their uses, can be big sources of trouble when one or more of its members go on to notable success. Look at Quentin Tarantino. Rightly or wrongly, his entire screenwriting career has been dogged by legal actions brought or threatened by ex writing-group buddies claiming he stole their material.
If you have a good idea for a story, the best thing to do is use it. Then talk about it. Although 99% of the fellow writers wouldn't dream of consciously ripping you off, it only takes 1% to do so and you may have a problem. In addition, people sometimes genuinely forget where their ideas come from. Or they forget the idea itself until something triggers the memory, months or years later. At which point it feels like a new idea, and all theirs. (If you see what I mean.)

Sally Zigmond said...

Speaking generally (although I am all in favour of 'Fred' being hung drawn and quartered) there are two different writing wrongs pin-pointed here.

The one that Vanessa refers to is not out and out plagiarism but it's something that's just not done. Sometimes when I'm chatting or working with a group of writers, one will mention an incident or a person. If they say they intend to write about it some time in the future then no other person present would ever dream of using it--even if they say nothing. It's theirs. They considered it worth noting down. If, however, that person says, 'I don't feel I can use it but if any of you would like to, then go ahead,' that opens it up.

It's a matter of trust and good manners and if anyone breaks that trust and steals an idea (even if it's an uncopyrightable idea) then it's bad and the perpetrator deserves to be named and shamed--and blackballed if it keeps happening.

I'm not a lawyer but what Tania refers to is out and out plagiarism as far as I'm concerned. Of course, in court, things get more complicated and greyer round the edges and litigation is never something to undertake lightly. However, the fact that 'Fred' continues to ignore warnings tells me he has no shame. And until he is outed he'll carry on doing it. We owe it to other writers to warn them.

This guy has to be stopped.

Jane Smith said...

Dan, I'm not at home at the moment so can't email you, and in an hour or so I'll be offline for a few days. But no, I don't think you're working with this person. I'll email you next week to confirm that.

Anonymous said...

http://douglasrdb.blogspot.com/

There's a story about a piano tuner that was commended in a comp....



Mrs Jones

Dan Holloway said...

Thanks Jane. Have a lovely time offline. Oh, and well done for getting your tweetmeme so well-positioned - it's till beyond me. Still, people are using it, which is what counts

Nik Perring said...

Thanks for raising this again, Jane, and Mrs Jones.

(And this is the interview Vanessa mentioned earlier: http://nikperring.blogspot.com/2009/07/vanessa-gebbie-interview.html)

Nik

j purdie said...

The sad thing is it is not only writers who suffer from this:

http://justcreativedesign.com/2008/02/20/graphic-design-plagiarism-rip-offs/

In case the link goes off screen:

http://justcreativedesign.com/
2008/02/20/graphic-design-
plagiarism-rip-offs/

Anonymous said...

I may be an old woman but I can't abide boasting..especially of the dishonest variety. It's like a thief waving all your silver to folks in the street. Ain't I clever..these are mine:

http://douglasrdb.blogspot.com/


Well, they ain't, mate.

Mrs Jones

Dan Holloway said...

Sally, if there's any heart to be taken, it's taht ultimately this is a business built on relationships - with our agents, editors, publishers, readers. Thsoe who make it tend to do so because people can abide working with them. There's no reward just for being nice. But, despicable behaviour is not a long-term career strategy.

Quillers said...

I've been following the latest developments with interest. I recently urged the person in question to tell his side of the story publicly (on the basis that his name is all over the grapevine anyway).

It looks very much like he'll have little choice now.

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

Is this link to Douglas Burton supposed to tell us that he is our guy Fred, or am I being thick? He's a teacher. That would be very sad.

Yes, Tania that is plagiarism. Yes plagiarism is very grey.

Vanessa- Again, I agree what he did was awful.It does indeed smack of desperation and all who deal with him should know he intends to win at all costs. But too as Dan has said, such behaviour will only take him so far.

Douglas Bruton said...

So, a writer called A goes off to South America. While A is away she posts six writing prompts up at her writing club for other writers to respond to. No one at the club responds except a writer called B. He responds because he likes writer A and does things to please her. He responds to all six prompts.

Writer A then sends writer B a private e-mail. In it she says there is a piano tuner in ushuaiai and that there must be a story in that. That is all A says. No other detail, no other words. Writer B thinks he is being enjoined to write yet another story. So he does. For her.

When A returns to UK, B offers to show A the story he wrote for her. A declines saying she wants to write one of her own and does not want to be unduly influenced by B's story which she is sure is marvellous. (her word)

Time goes by. Months. A does not ever refer to the story again. B is rightly pleased with his so he sends it into a competition.

Then B's story is commended in the competition and A, who has fallen out with B, calls 'thief'.

Should B have asked A before subbing the story? Is this a case of real theft. A has still not read B's story and B has no idea if A has even finished hers or what it contains.

As writers we should know not to always believe what we read. Yet so much here has been believed, even when only one side of the story was being presented. So much here is a misrepresentation of what took place. The facts are as above. Now you can judge.

Quillers said...

I think the problem is that few of us would see a set of prompts being posted in a writing workshop, and one idea expressed in a private email as being the same thing at all.

If I say to one friend 'I have just seen a great story idea' and relate what happened, they know without asking that I'm thinking of the idea for myself. If I say to a group of friends on a forum 'I saw such and such today, it would make a great story idea for someone' they know I'm throwing it out to the group.

Then there's the thing that B also borrowed a story idea from C (plus, we're told, another idea from A).

Please be aware that I say this with no idea of any precedents set in the working relationship(s) between A, B and C. For example, have A or C ever used ideas that B shared with them privately? If so, then it does set a precedent. If not, then it begs the question of why B felt this it was alright to take these ideas. Obviously boundaries have been crossed, but were those boundaries clearly set? Or, did A & C feel - as most of us in writing groups do - that it goes without saying that their ideas are not up for grabs?

I'm only playing devil's advocate here and I'm certainly not wanting to make any enemies. I'm just trying to explain how it looks to the outsider.

Tania Hershman said...

I think Sally makes an excellent point here which is: what are the norms of the particular group and is everyone behaving a certain way, or is it only one person? For me as a writer, there are codes of conduct that don't need to be spelled out regarding the work that is shared amongst a group and the ownership of a person's work, every part of it - content, tone, style, structure, voice, character. Perhaps this is more stringent than in the "real world" where ideas can't be copyrighted, because becoming a member of a writing group is, to me, an exercise in trust, to share your unpublished work.

The best course of action is always to ask someone if they will allow you to write about something even tenuously connected to something they have written about, or even just mentioned, if it hasn't been made explicitly clear that they have mentioned it for the purposes of stimulating other people's writing. If anyone is ever in doubt about whether they have in some way violated this trust, these codes, it is preferable to ask the group, to clarify. If a person is warned that they have come close to violating the group's codes of conduct, then all the more reason to be extra careful of not doing it again.

The situation here, as I understand, is that this is no isolated incident but a pattern of behaviour that has been pointed out in the strongest terms, with action having been taken in a previous case. Naturally any further incidents raise suspicion and will continue to do so.

Vanessa said...

So let's get this right, Douglas. You are saying now that you did not send me your story immediately? Within one or two days? Adding an apology for jumping in on my idea? And that I am imagining that you did?

I know I am getting old, Douglas. I am not gaga quite yet.

Whatever...this incident is actually small. It is 'only' a character/setting combination that excited me, opened me up creatively. I was and am happy for anyone I work with to use my ideas for writing exercises, in a closed group.

However, I am certainly NOT happy for them to seek to make money out of my ideas when they know I am also working on them.

But as I say, this is a small incident.

I have just had a string of emails from you, in which it is very obvious that you confuse inspiration with something else on occasion.

You mention my use of a classic story structure, similar to that used in the novel Being Dead by Jim Crace, ie. 'the end in the beginning and the beginning in the end' plus my being inspired by his brilliant description of a sand dune and blood... the seed that turned into my story Dodie's Gift.

You say that is the same as you taking an unusual but classic structure from Tania Hershman's online prizewinning short story, adding it to her rather unusual reversed chronolgical storyline, plus her unusual setting, and her very unusual pivotal device of a central character being struck by lightning. And her character’s breakdown through a failed romance. Among other things. And then calling it your own work.

I would venture that the two examples are not the same.

You mention also my vacuum salesman character in a short story called 'The Collector' written in 2005, and published online later that year. A psychological horror story, this character's occupation was definitely inspired by the wonderful invention of Aubrey in 'Collectors' by Raymond Carver, a writer who I could not even hope to emulate even if I wanted to. Carver was an utter genius.

My character collects bodily detritus from an unhappy couple's home and refuses to give it back. Carver's does nothing like that, thank the lord. And thematically, mine is a cack-handed attempt to show a marriage breakdown through the breakdown of the body into particles down the sides of settees. And fecal matter on cushions.

Yik. My early genius at work.

But you see, what you miss is that whereas I am delighted to have found inspiration from these great writers, Raymond Carver and I were not writing buddies. Jim Crace and I were not working on our novels in a close and trusting working relationship.

And had we been, had I sought to work with them because I admired them as writers - as you came to me for mentorship - I would not have dreamed of abusing their trust, their hospitality, their introductions to a whole writing community, by using their unpublished ideas on any level. I would not have plundered their unpublished work for original combinations of images and submitted those as my own work to competitions. I would not have closely copied a prize-winning piece of work from a mutual friend and again submitted it as my own.

Tania Hershman said...

Exactly. Well said.

behlerblog said...

As an editor, I see my fair share of things that look suspicious, and this irritates me beyond belief. I expect that anyone calling him/herself a writer would/should be able to create their own rich, wonderful characters rather than lift a character from a fellow writer. If they can't, then they aren't writers; they're gifted thieves.

Anonymous said...

A scenario, vaguely (im)pertinent...

An aging piano tuner lives quietly, remotely, the only tuner for five hundred miles. He goes about his business, as he always does. He has his friends, a few at least. He has a cat, I think, and a single pencil sketch of his dead wife as a young woman.

One day the piano tuner receives a letter, translated poorly into his own language. It's from a writer, well known in certain circles so they claim, although the piano tuner has never heard of them. In the letter, the writer implores the piano tuner to get involved in a debate of authors five thousand miles away. They need him to mediate, so says the writer, and they need his views, on himself, on his location, on his profession, on his - and here the writer dithers, unsure of wording that will not offend - on his re-usability.

Nik Perring said...

I would venture that the two examples aren't the same as well, Vanessa. And quite obviously not the same at that. There is such a huge - massive - enormous difference between taking inspiration from something and thinking - ooh that's given me an idea - to taking something of someone else's and passing it off as one's own.

And Douglas, if you wrote the story FOR someone, why is it you who's taking the credit for it? Why did you even send it to someone/somewhere other than the person you wrote it for? I think if someone made or gave me a gift and kept if for them self I'd be disappointed to say the least. And if that 'gift' was owned by the person you were 'creating' it for and then not actually giving it to them but selling it as...? Doesn't make sense, does it?

And forgetting the latest example, because we're not talking of an isolated indecent (I notice this post's title's 'Anti-Plagiarism Day: An Update'); what of what's gone on before? What of Tania Hershman's story? Of passing that off as your own?

I'd very much like to know your side of things.


Nik

SleepyJohn said...

There are some interesting points raised here, particularly now the (or a) perpetrator seems to have stepped forward. As Quillers said, we need to draw a very clear distinction between ideas announced on an open forum, be it on the web or in a Book Club organiser's front room, and those discussed in private. The first must surely be treated as in the Public Domain, while the latter are, perhaps, best treated as private - as they were in the days when a writer retreated into the proverbial garret for six months before reappearing with a book in his hands. A trouble shared, as the cynics say, is a trouble doubled.

If we do not want others to absorb and regurgitate our idea, consciously or otherwise, we should perhaps not tell them about it. If we feel the need to discuss it with others then those others must be chosen with care. Now that the Writers' Circle has increased from ten people in the front room to millions on the internet, the care we take in choosing our confidants must be increased in proportion. The internet has created the most wonderul opportunities for ordinary folk to communicate their ideas but it is still a frontier town - a lawless intellectual property jungle. Until such time as new rules emerge to cope with the dramatic practical changes, we must beware the snakes and the footpads.

Sally Zigmond said...

We are in danger in getting bogged down in the whys and wherefores of writerly inspiration here. I have clear views on who is in the right here...

However, it's Tania's story--the one published in her excellent collection 'The White Road'--that concerns me the most because Douglas's "version" appears to bear too many 'similarities for it to be merely inspiration at work here.

I notice Douglas hasn't answered that accusation.

Come on, Douglas. What have you to say about that one?

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Good post. As the good folk here know, I have been beating myself up about not setting clear black and white rules in my own online writing group. But you see, to say:

'Thou shalt not seek to use a colleague's unpublished ideas or work for your own benefit'

and

'Thou shalt not use the published work of others and pass close copies off as your own'

seemed unnecessary. It seemed blindingly obvious that these things were not acceptable. Especially among a small hand-picked group of strong writers who already had plenty of successes under their belts. Not beginners.

It would have felt a bit like reminding a friend when they go out for a walk, 'remember not to assault the old lady who lives at number 15.'

I would like to remind Douglas (again) to take a close hard look at ALL the submissions he has out there, at competitions and magazines and journals. And to withdraw anything that he knows is based on the ideas of others.

As for the bloody piano tuner. No need to drag him all the way from Ushuiaia to sort this out.

Ideas, titles, settings, occupations arent copyrightable thank heavens, or we'd be in a right pickle. This example was never plagiarism, as I said clearly above. Just the crossing of a moral boundary when working in a closed group of writing friends.

I am now rewriting and not using that occupation and setting in the same piece of work. What Douglas chooses to do with his story is up to him.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

oops, crossed with Sally. My post in response to Sleepyjohn.

Quillers said...

I think Sally Zigmond has hit upon the problem that's troubling us all, Douglas. The 'piano tuner' story isn't just a one off. You'vetaken three ideas (as far as we know so far) from good friends and used them in your own stories. Once from Tania and twice from Vanessa.

Once might (and I stress the word 'might' here) be able to be put down to naivety and enthusisasm, twice might be considered careless/thoughtless. Three times would seem to many of us to be like calculated lifting of ideas.

So convince us that wasn't the case. Explain to us why you felt within your rights to use those ideas.

I should say here that of course Vanessa shouldn't have had to spell out in her writing group that her ideas weren't up for grabs. No group owner should have to state what most of us who have an ounce of common sense take for granted. But I fear that in the future the rule about not using other peoples' ideas will have to be part of many a writing group's constitution.

Elizabeth Baines said...

I'm getting really confused about all this.

There seems to be an implication emerging that to use someone else's unwritten specific idea is not plagiarism, but I think I'd differ.

I know you can't copyright ideas but plagiarism isn't copyright. Surely to use someone else's idea and to publish before them is in practice to deprive them of the use of it, which constitutes an act of theft. Isn't that how one defines plagiarism, as an act of theft?

It seems to me worse than copying an already published story, because in that case the originator of the story can point to their own prior publication and claim ownership of the story and expose the plagiarist.

Quillers said...

Plagiarism involves 'word for word' copying of someone's work, Elizabeth. There is no law to protect unwritten ideas, because there's no way of proving one had those ideas before the other person (though in Vanessa's case, if she's saved the email which originally discussed the piano tuner, she might well have legal grounds).

But whether it's morally reprehensible is another thing altogether and I think the general feeling is that it was morally wrong to use friends' ideas.

Quillers said...

Having just said all that, here's a definition of plagiarism from wikipedia:

**Plagiarism, as defined in the 1995 Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary, is the "use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work."**

But I think that the words and thoughts still have to be written down first. Not just expressed verbally.

Tania Hershman said...

Elizabeth, you are right, I was definitely in the stronger position because the story which this person copied had been published several years before online and is in my book, so there was no doubt who "got there first", for want of better terminology. Someone whose ideas, images, creativity is as yet unpublished is far worse off. What of this business of posting stuff to yourself to establish copyright? Can this be done??

Elizabeth Baines said...

Quiilers, 'word for word' copying concerns copyright, not plagiarism. The very reason that plagiarism is so tricky is that, as you say there is no clear-cut law to protect against it.

As you point out, a definition of plagiarism is the use of another person's thoughts and ideas. As for whether or not they are written down, I think the only difference is that if they ARE written down it's just a bit easier to say they are yours, but I don't think it makes any difference to the moral question of theft which is the basis of the definition of plagiarism.

BuffySquirrel said...

http://www.snopes.com/legal/postmark.asp

Elizabeth Baines said...

Tania,
Yes, if you post something to yourself and LEAVE THE ENVELOPE SEALED when you receive it then you have proof that it was written before that date.

The alternative is to put a ms in a safe deposit box in the bank: that's another way of proving that it existed before the date you deposited it.

It's a load of faff, though, and not something you can do with every ms.

I did deposit a novel ms in a bank safe deposit box but it didn't protect me. I still found that it had been ripped off by a published novelist, but as someone has already mentioned on here, when it came to it I didn't think being a whistleblower would do my reputation or career much good, I could never have afforded the legal costs, and plagiarism is so tricky to prove that I didn't think I stood much chance of winning any case. This is exactly the problem!!

Vanessa said...

But how can writers protect themselves from the attentions of an unscupulous would-be colleague unless they know who it is?

Elizabeth Baines said...

Vanessa, the horrible truth (as I guess you're implying) is that basically you can't (except that I hope that making a fuss about it and generating awareness will act as a deterrent).

As others have said, it's a sad fact but we really do need to be circumspect about whom we talk to about our work, even if this does seem horribly against the spirit of the forum culture which has grown up on the internet.

Vanessa said...

Hi E
I was really picking up on 'not wanting to be labelled as a whistle-blower' because of the damage it can do to one's credibility.
I felt strongly that unless the person who had done these things to me, and to Tania, and who has also used other author's published works, wittingly or unwittingly (I am not party to his decision-making processes) was named, he could cosy up to other writers and the same thing could happen again.

My writing group is the not the first he has used inappropriately, apparently. But I would like it to be the last. And the only way to help there, was to name.

------------------------------

On another nicer subject, the writer and creative writing teacher Susannah Rickards left a few brilliant comments on my blog recently, on the subject of plagiarism, but also talking about how to choose writers with whom to share one's work.

She said this:
"aim high when choosing who to share your work with. If you share work with people whose writing you love and respect, who clearly have their own voice and material, then you're likely to be safe."

I thought that was an utterly brilliant piece of advice.

Susannah and others run a great blog, Strictly Writing, here's the link:

http://strictlywriting.blogspot.com/2009/07/engine-trouble.html

Elizabeth Baines said...

To add to my last comment, and to address Quiller's earlier point about writing group constitutions.

Personally, I'd think one would be on sticky ground if one started making rules about using other people's ideas. Surely one important point about ideas is that more than one person can have the same idea (this is the plagiarist's great defence, and why it's so hard to prove plagiarism). So it's conceivable that I go to a writing group nursing my great idea and keeping it to myself, and then someone else goes and expresses the same idea. Whose idea is it? Is it the other person's idea simply because she has voiced it? Personally, in these circumstances I'd probably just decide my idea wasn't so original after all and abandon it, but I think I'm not sure that I would feel I had lost the right to it, simply because she had voiced it and I hadn't, and that by some constitutional rule I was now unable to use it. And anyway, the same 'idea' can turn into very different stories and end up not looking like the same idea at all.

My policy, frankly, when I am teaching, is NEVER to throw out or voice an idea I'm hoping to write for myself, and all ideas I do throw out are free for anyone to take up.

I'm sorry if this makes it all seem a bit like keeping one's cards close to one's chest, but in the light of the present situation and some very bad experiences of my own down the years, it seems to me the only sensible solution.

Elizabeth Baines said...

Vanessa, re that whistle-blower comment of mine: I didn't in the least mean that I condemn whistle-blowers. As I think I've made clear elsewhere, I strongly feel that when work appears to be plagiarised it should all come out in to the open, along with names.

What I was referring to was the question of power. When the unpublished work of lesser known writers (as I was is ripped off by well-known writers with major companies behind them, that lesser-known writer has no power, and is simply in danger of getting a big black mark against their name, the fate of so many whistle blowers.

This is why I have some doubts about Susannah Ricket's advice. Personally, I have experience of well-known writers entrusted to mentor, and indeed acting as friends, wittingly or unwittingly (I wouldn't like to say!) using others' work...

Quillers said...

I'd agree it would probably be unworkable, Elizabeth. Like you, if I had an idea then someone else expressed it before me, I probably wouldn't use it. Or I'd let a decent amount of time pass before approaching the idea in my own way. And by then I'd probably be able to adapt it so that it doesn't even seem like the same idea.

But I don't think it would hurt any writing group if individuals understood that they can't just take any ideas. That some, like prompts, are up for grabs, but others, voiced by an individual and intended for that individual's own use, are not up for grabs.

But I do think there's a big difference between writing a story using the same idea as someone else - which we've all probably done if we've shared prompts - and writing a story that not only takes the idea but also the 'voice' of the person who originally had the idea. And that's probably what we'd need rules for.

Of course, much depends on the common decency of everyone involved, and whilst most of us have that, no rules can protect against those who don't.

Elizabeth Baines said...

I think I meant 'less well-known', not 'lesser known'! (Or did I?)

Quiller, yes, of course I agree there has to be a code of trust and responsibility, and I guess in the light of eveything, it should be spelled out...

Quillers said...

We know what you meant, Elizabeth :-)

Regarding naming and shaming, that's okay if the person named and shamed keeps that name.

I was once on a writing forum where one member encouraged others to help them write a drama. They all worked together online, meeting up for long chats about it at night, swapping ideas, all of which were supposed to go into this drama that, they were promised, would bear all their names. Then, it was announced by the first member that the play had been performed one weekend, but as only that member's ideas had been used, only their name was put on the credits. Naturally the other members didn't believe this, but as the play was a one off, and not recorded, no one would ever know if their ideas had been used or not. It caused a lot of anguish among people who'd spent many months helping this member with the drama.

Fast forward a couple of years, and this member joined a group I was in, and not only changed names but changed gender. Someone had apparently spoken to them, and confirmed they were that gender, so obviously they'd lied originally, and for a period of about three years. I only found out when they emailed me, using an email address that still had their old screenname. (In case you're wondering, they were ejected from our group immediately).

I've no wish to spread unnecessary alarm, but it does show up the inherent problems of internet groups where people don't know each other and often don't meet. Someone only has to change their name (and gender!) to be accepted at a writing forum where they can plunder more ideas.

Vanessa said...

Oh Lordie Moses. What a sad person that must be to do this! I dunno. I worked online first a while back and then met several of the writers involved. It was great - added something to the working relationships and it was lovely to find that people's face-to-face personalities seemed to fit with their online ones.
When I was involved myself in The Fiction Workhouse ( I am no longer- this business with copying/using/abusing made me change my working life completely) I had met the majority of writers there face-to-face.

Most are exactly the same on-screen as they are off-screen, if that makes sense.

I think it is a v good idea to meet up in person with online writing colleagues if you can.

Bob Jacobs said...

There's no protection in online writing forums, whether you meet people face-to-face or not, whether you have rules against plagiarism or not. The only real protection is not to share your ideas.

I suspect that what makes the examples given above hurt all the more is the sense of betrayal. It's all so very personal.

Ros said...

****Vanessa said...
I felt strongly that unless the person who had done these things to me, and to Tania, and who has also used other author's published works, wittingly or unwittingly (I am not party to his decision-making processes) was named, he could cosy up to other writers and the same thing could happen again.
My writing group is the not the first he has used inappropriately, apparently. But I would like it to be the last. And the only way to help there, was to name.***

So why didn't you name and therefore help? You made it clear on your blog weeks ago that you would never name this person, despite being asked to do so; anyone who wanted to know who this person was (and therefore avoid being 'cosied up to') would have to buy your non-fic book, you said, in which his name appears. If I've missed something, please do let me know.

Orbific said...

Now the names of all the people involved are in the open, would it be possible to give the names and publishing histories of the stories involved?

Please forgive me if that's not appropriate (I appreciate this affair is not strictly any of my business). I've seen it discussed on a number of weblogs I follow, with various attacks on the person accused, and I'd like to have the opportunity to read the stories for myself.

Thanks,

James

Vanessa said...

Ros

The person involved had been a working colleague and subsequently a close working friend for over a year. That counted for something, and actually still does. If anyone thinks this is easy for me, then they couldnt be more wrong. I am caught between several dreadful places - a responsibility to other writers, and real sadness for him as well as a very real sense of betrayal.

Anyone who read my blog, or who knew any of the writers concerned, could find out at the press of a search button or an email who this was. His name s mentioned there many many times. Especially when I kept people up to speed with one of the writing projects I had worked on over some six/seven months - a close collaboration with him. I loved that. And wrote about it often.

And yep. I also selected his work for inclusion in a text book. So yes, sure, anyone who was desperate to know who it was could find out very easily indeed without me playing whistle-blower.

Events moved on. The situation changed. Over the last week, this person called me a bully for trying to give hints. He has been implying I am a liar, and many other things.

And then he outed himself, near as dammit, further up this thread. A huge relief...other writers now know who to watch out for.

But oddly enough, I still harbour this glimmer of hope that although he still says to others that he has done nothing wrong, he will actually admit to himself that it is now that he has seen so many people expressing shock and anger. And that he will stop. Because he has plenty of original ideas of his own, as evidenced by seeing what he wrote instananeously in flash sessions for months and months. Unplanned. And good stuff.

Quillers said...

To be fair, Douglas didn't exactly out himself. Mrs Jones/anon outed him.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

True enough. Shame it was anon.

Tania Hershman said...

Orbific,
in the case that involved my story, the other "story" has now been removed from the competition website, so is no longer available for comparison. I can only tell you that before it was removed, a number of people did read it and were astonished at the similarities. I can't speak about other cases.

Ben B. said...

Douglas. Somehow you have got yourself embroiled in a fascinating but terrible controversy. I’m not a writer. I read about this on Facebook. One of my old friends from University is involved although I’ve not discussed it with them. Let me give you some unasked for advice based on what I know about the internet and small communities. You’ve been accused of doing a bad thing. A rather human thing but a bad thing. We’ve all done bad things at one point or another. I’ve done lots. And you’ve been accused online in a small community. And it’s not looking good and I bet it does not feel good. It probably is turning your stomach or making you angry.
So here is the advice part. I think you have a few choices.

Choice A: Assess whether you did something wrong. Use the mother test. Would your mother be happy with what you did if she heard about it. I don’t know your mother but it is often a good test. Open your heart and make a judgment as to whether it was the right thing to do. Can you understand why some people here are upset? Choice “A” assumes you kind of know that you did something wrong – perhaps you see it as a mistake and you wish you had not done it. So what you need to do is to say that you are sorry and show remorse. I suggest you do it privately and then you do it publicly and you swallow any “ifs and buts” and you just say that you are very sorry and that you want to move on, difficult though it is. Saying sorry is hard but can feel really good. You should probably work out why this has happened and what led to this. I bet if you do that you will come out stronger in the long run.

Choice B: Choice “B” assumes you feel that you have been unfairly accused and have done no wrong and people who are upset have no right to be upset. Choice “B” says that given this is a small world – I’m reading about this from Sydney which is a long way from everywhere – that you probably ought to stand up and give a measured calm and fact-laden response to what has been said. You will need to address all the hurtful and untrue things that have been said. It is important to do that because you have done nothing wrong and you need to put the community right as to what has happened and what has led to this. It should be calm, thorough and fact-based because there has been a lot of emotion expressed and you’ve become the victim of an unwarranted attack in public.

Choice C: Choice “C” is not a good choice but I’ll offer it up anyway. Choice “C” says do nothing. I think it will be hard to be very successful as a writer with this hanging over you. You kind of need to address it because it will return to bite you. Maybe not soon. Perhaps in a few years even when you least expect it. Possibly many times. Don’t go for choice “C” – we live in a very connected world and this will not go away.

There you go. Good luck Douglas.

Sally Zigmond said...

Thank you. Ben B, for your calm, reasonable and measured comments. I shall now wait and see if it elicits any response. I know that if I were Douglas--who is a good writer, as Vanessa says--I would be thinking very carefully right now.

Jane Smith said...

I'm glad that Douglas Bruton has now stepped forward and announced that he's the writer at the centre of this whole controversy. I read both of the stories which began it all--Tania's, which won a prize and was published online in 2006, and Douglas's, which first appeared online late in 2008: and I was horrified by the many close similarities I found. It's in his favour that he's now asked the competition organisers to remove his story from their website.

As other people have now written here (Vanessa?) Douglas's use of Vanessa's idea(s) is worrying as it establishes a pattern of such behaviour. It might be that he really doesn't realise that this is not appropriate: but considering the hoopla he caused on one of my other blogs, Greyling Bay, some time ago, it seems to me that he has very strong opinions about what's appropriate when it comes to other writers using his own work.

(For those of you who don't know, Greyling Bay is a collaborative fiction blog, which anyone can contribute to: when another writer suggested in a new piece there that a character Douglas had created was rather unsavoury, Douglas went into overdrive and objected by email, on my blog, and elsewhere, writing something over 10,000 words on the subject when the piece he objected to was, I think, under 250 words.)

Like Vanessa, I now urge him to consider very carefully the "inspiration" which led to anything else he's got out on submission and if there's any chance at all that he might have strayed again, he must withdraw that piece of work and make no attempt to publish it again.

Finally, a comment on poor man's copyrigh--where you post a copy of your work back to yourself, and use it as evidence should you ever find your work ripped off. As I understand it, this has no legal standing and isn't worth doing, I'm afraid. It offers no protection under the law.

Jane Smith said...

I'm afraid that Douglas feels hard done-by: he's emailed me a few times. He feels that his side of the story hasn't been adequately presented, and that he's been unfairly presented as the villain of the piece: so here's an idea.

This whole thing blew up because of marked similarities between a story by Tania Hershman, which was first published in 2006, and a story by Douglas Bruton, which won a prize late in 2008. Tania's story remains online; but Douglas (to his credit, albeit after some persuasion) requested that the competition organisers remove his story from their website when its similarities to Tania's story were noticed. So no one can read it now.

I'd be happy to post his story on this blog, alongside a link to Tania's story. That way, anyone who is interested can compare the two and decide for themselves if they feel that plagiarism played a part in Douglas's creation.

Douglas, if you'd like me to post the story here please let me know and I'll sort it out some time in the next few days. I'll not post it on the blog's front page: I'll bury it somewhere in the back pages, so it's not too obvious, but I'll post links to it in this thread, so interested parties can read it and make up their own minds. Or you could post it on your own blog, and post a link to it here.

Ros said...

Having read the Greyling Bay 'discussion', I have to say I can't see why you've mentioned it here, Jane. I was expecting to read there that he was upset about having one of his characters stolen, but I didn't - quite the opposite in fact:

"...If someone wanted to take Darius (the idea and the description) and use him in a story and enter him into a competition elsewhere, then that would be fine by me... I do not go so far as to claim that kind of ownership...."

As far as I can see, all Douglas Bruton did there was complain that the rules had been broken, which they had.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but you have cherrypicked a section and this man clearly contradicts himself throughout:

'Darius is mine. He is out of my head and as such he belongs to me. I am a very generous person by nature and have given freely of my work to lots of places. Even when I have been offered money for my work I have more often than not requested that the publication put the money to a local charity. In contributing to Greyling Bay (and to date I have sent in 8 pieces) I am further exhibiting that generosity. If someone wanted to take Darius (the idea and the description) and use him in a story and enter him into a competition elsewhere, then that would be fine by me... I do not go so far as to claim that kind of ownership.

BUT, here in Greyling, he is my creation and if someone is to do anything with him, then surely as part of the collaborative nature of the site, I should have at least been approached and consulted with. This is not Darius Bredwyn, the man who speaks in my head. This is an outsider's Darius, someone who does not truly know him.

You, as reader, might like this little shake up to Greyling... and I do think the complacency of Greyling the place sometimes could do with that shaking up... but where's the collaboration if we can at any moment do something right out of leftfield with someone else's character. Does Doug become an axe wielding murder by night? Does Alice (sometimes called Malice by the kids) pour poison into the milk of babies sitting in their buggies? Does Gideon one day strap explosives to his chest and become Greyling's one and only suicide bomber and blow up the bank or the Gwiddon? And can I do any or all of these without the creators of these characters having any say in what I do? (Joke there is that aside from Doug the rest are also my creations... not the Gwiddon, but the people.)

I remain firm in my protest that this is not Darius Bredwyn and this is not right.'

He is clearly asserting that the character IS his and he has a say in the direction he turns. But he cannot live by his own rules it seems. What a hypocrite.


Mrs Jones

Jane Smith said...

Mrs Jones, thank you for your support.

Ros might like to remember that I wrote the rules for Greyling Bay. I know them inside and out, and I can assure her that they were not broken in any way by the piece which Bruton so objected to. No matter what he might insist.

Anonymous said...

Getting back to the real issue here, of plagiarism.

There are issues coming to the fore now that are perplexing me. According to Vanessa Gebbie's most recent blog, which links to this post, it was found that a story Douglas Bruton submitted to Cadenza magazine's competition was 'closely based' on a novel by Paul Auster. The closure of Cadenza was announced on Vanessa's blog in February of this year, and she suggests in her blog today that the closure was as a result of their 'reputation' taking a knock over this incident. Yet Vanessa continued to work alongside Douglas for some time after that.

Vanessa, if you had evidence that he 'closely based' work on other writers and it practically led to the closure of the long-running and well-respected magazine with which you were involved, why continue to work with him, and allow him to remain in your group where he could continue, it is alleged, to plunder ideas from other writers?

Jane Smith said...

Anon, that's a good question: but you would probably be better off asking it over at Vanessa's blog, rather than here, if you want to make sure that she reads it. There's a link to it from this blog post of mine. I'm interested in reading her answer.

Anonymous said...

Well dear me - I read Ms Gebbie's post and she clearly said that the demise of the magazine was 'Not as a sole result of this one incident.' Perhaps this was the first time that this writer had been picked up on his magpie habits (see his blog and how he boasts about this) and he was after all a good friend and an excellent writer. I have read lots of praise for him on the same blog. You could smell the trust, affection and admiration on both sides. I think that he was forgiven, as he was forgiven time and time again. Simply because it was considered a mistake, an accidental picking up of another writer's ideas. It is easy to read things and forget, after all. I bet too that the subscribers' comments came in dribs and drabs....as people became aware. I bet this took quite a while. Good friends don't blame other friends for mistakes I suppose. Although I would have hung, drawn and quartered him. But that's just me. I've seen too much in life. I'm not as generous as some of these other souls.

I am so sad that this is all so ugly. Writing is a beautiful thing. Writers are usually full of soul. Forgive the use of soul outside bad poetry...but it's apt.

Sigh.


Mrs Jones

Anonymous said...

Mrs Jones, according to Jane's latest blog post

**The editors hadn't read the Auster novel and so didn't spot the many similarities between the two works: but several of Cadenza's readers had. They complained, and some cancelled their subscriptions as a direct result. Cadenza has now closed, as it didn't have enough income to continue.**


If his alleged plagiarism doesn't constitute being a cause of the magazine folding, due to readers withdrawing their subscriptions, I don't know what does.

I would post the question on Vanessa's blog, but like the extremely well-informed Mrs Jones I prefer to remain anonymous. Vanessa's blog doesn't allow for that.

Anonymous said...

A few people watching these events from afar are beginning to sense a stitch up here.

Firstly, Jane announces she's not going to be online for several days, then Mrs Jones, who is clearly in the thick of it, points us all to Bruton's blog.

Because Jane is 'away' the post is allowed to remain there, whilst others digest the information, and Bruton has no choice but to come along and defend himself.

Now we find that Vanessa Gebbie knew all along that Bruton liked to borrow from other writers. It seems, to those watching, that this was perfectly acceptable when the other writers were well-known but not friends of Bruton. Even though, we're now told, it ultimately led to the closure of a magazine. He was allowed to stay in Vanessa's group, and she continued to collaborate with him, and share her ideas with him. It only became a problem when he stole from his friends. Then suddenly he's demonised, and the villain of the piece.

This dpes not condone Bruton's behaviour in any way, but one does begin the culture that led him to believe it was alright to steal other writers' ideas. The first time it was learned he'd overstepped the boundaries in a big way in the Cadenza comp, he was immediately forgiven and allowed back into this fold. He could be forgiven then for not knowing where the boundaries were.

It seems to me Bruton's biggest mistake was in not sticking to stealing from well-known writers.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear..the cynicism in your post is most distressing. To steal is to steal. Or am I old-fashioned. It is also very easy to read influential work and be influenced ourselves. We may forget classic books and write them as our own, only to be reminded later that 'That's Wuthering Heights!' But to absorb friends' work and have it pointed out - then deny/ignore it? Can't you understand that is beyond.

Did he make a mistake stealing from friends instead of sticking to famous writers? It's a terrible thought. But if those famous writers decide to sue, then that's a big and expensive mistake.

There is no stitch up here. A man has done wrong. He has been given the benefit of the doubt but pushed it too far.

I am also not really in the thick of it. I just despair that trust, which is particularly important to young writers, is now going to be questioned. I'm old and I no longer trust...but I would not like to see those traits in younger writers. What about mentoring? What future has that got if the trust goes?


Mrs Jones

Anonymous said...

Mrs Jones, you suggested in an earlier post, most certainly with some insider knowledge despite your protestations, that the information about the plagiarism at Cadenza came in dribs and drabs. Yet Vanessa announced its closure in February of this year, after which she still continued to work with Bruton. To send him ideas and extracts from her work. Either Cadenza closed in February because of Bruton's behaviour and subscribers withdrawing their support, or it closed for other reasons, before his transgressions were discovered in 'dribs and drabs', leading to Vanessa finally realising he was plagiarising others' work. Neither you or Vanessa can have it both ways.

You say that he was forgiven time and time again for his transgressions. My question is why did it take so long for his friends to decide he'd gone too far? It clearly wasn't when he nearly brought Cadenza into disrepute. It can only be conjectured that he was only considered to have passed the point of no return when he stole from friends.

The danger here is that now Bruton has been shown not only to have stolen from friends, but also from well-known writers with the full knowledge and repeated forgiveness of those friends, and is now, it appears, charged with single-handedly shutting down a long-standing, highly respected magazine, he will eventually be exposed as the man on the grassy knoll.

Jane Smith said...

Anonymous, I don't know what your interest in this whole affair is but I am concerned by your insistence that there's some sort of nasty conspiracy going on here. You wrote,

A few people watching these events from afar are beginning to sense a stitch up here.

As far as I know you're the only person who has suggested such a stitch-up but as you don't have the decency to own your own words and post using your real identity, I have to consider that this accusation of yours is no more than an attempt to cause trouble for the people you criticise: namely me, Vanessa Gebbie, and the now-defunct Cadnenza Magazine. Perhaps in an attempt to distract us all from the real wrong that was done here, which is Bruton's repeated plagiarism of other writers' work.

Firstly, Jane announces she's not going to be online for several days, then Mrs Jones, who is clearly in the thick of it, points us all to Bruton's blog.

Because Jane is 'away' the post is allowed to remain there, whilst others digest the information, and Bruton has no choice but to come along and defend himself.


I don't know who Mrs Jones is, but I wish I did. And you'll notice that even now I'm back I've allowed Mrs Jones's comments to remain: they were neither libellous nor misleading and while I'd have preferred it if Douglas had revealed his involvement in this whole affair himself, by the time I came back from my few days away (and I can provide receipts if you don't believe I really went anywhere--but for me to do that you'll have to let me know who you really are) everyone knew what had happened.

This dpes not condone Bruton's behaviour in any way, but one does begin the culture that led him to believe it was alright to steal other writers' ideas. The first time it was learned he'd overstepped the boundaries in a big way in the Cadenza comp, he was immediately forgiven and allowed back into this fold. He could be forgiven then for not knowing where the boundaries were.

Nonsense. Just because Bruton transgressed and was forgiven for those transgressions, that doesn't mean that he automatically thought that it was fine to do it again. People are forgiven for their wrongs all the time, and manage to learn not to do it again. Bruton, unfortunately, learned no such lesson.

Why Cadenza closed, or why you appear to consider Gebbie to blame for Bruton's wrong-doings, are simply attempts to muddy the water and distract attention from real issue here, which is that Douglas Bruton has plagiarised the work of other writers. And I have to question your motives for doing this. What's your interest?

Jane Smith said...

I emailed Vanessa and asked her to respond to Anonymous's comment posted on 2 August at 17.59, but unfortunately she's not able to get onto Blogger to make her reply in person. Luckily her email account is working fine, and she has asked me to post this for her. Over to Vanessa:



Reply from Vanessa

Because I didn't believe it. I didn't believe that the writer I knew, a writer with many successes in small comps, a prolific writer with lots of spark, with whom I had worked closely for over six months by then, would have done such a thing. I had no reason to question his integrity... he was helpful, hard-working and supportive as a colleague, and he worked outside writing as a teacher... I remember thinking the complaint must have come from someone who was perhaps a little jealous - another writer seeking to stir. It's not unknown. After all. he had even used almost the same title - hardly subtle! I alerted him to the complaint, said I was leaving any further communication to the editor, and heard no more. He didn't comment. And we moved on.

At no time did it even cross my mind that he might be looking at the work of his colleagues with a view to doing anything other than critique, feedback, learning, as we were all doing. And to be fair... it is 'only' my work that has been used [from the Fiction Workhouse], as far as we are aware. Tania, although she was at one time a member of FW, had already won and published her story a couple of years previously.

One incident might be accidental. Two looks suspicious. Three and you can draw your own conclusions. And chronologically, it is now obvious that the Cadenza incident (using the work of an unknown published writer) preceded the Tania Hershman incident (using the published work of a friend/colleague) which in turn preceded the 'my novel' incident (using the work of a close colleague, unpublished, sent to him for feedback). There appears to be a progression and a pattern.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

For a variety of reasons, finances uppermost, and a marked drop-off in subscriber levels, Cadenza's editor decided not to publish any further issues, and made the announcement in February. The incident referred to above did not lead to its closure on its own. But it certainly did nothing to help.

Ros said...

Re my earlier comment on Greyling, I was not 'cherrypicking' as has been suggested. It's quite clear that Douglas Bruton was simply complaining that the rules (in his view) had been broken, NOT that he felt his character had been stolen, which is what Jane was trying to suggest to make him look like a hypocrite. And the whole section I copied and pasted from, and which now appears above courtesy of another poster, shows that very clearly. Of course, there will always be people who will deliberately misconstrue someone's words for their own ends, which is sad. Yes, Bruton did wrong, but that's no excuse to drag up irrelevancies, which is what Jane did by mentioning Greyling. And irrelevant it most certainly is.

Anon said: "...This dpes not condone Bruton's behaviour in any way, but one does begin the culture that led him to believe it was alright to steal other writers' ideas. The first time it was learned he'd overstepped the boundaries in a big way in the Cadenza comp, he was immediately forgiven and allowed back into this fold. He could be forgiven then for not knowing where the boundaries were..."

I have to say I agree with anon on this point, and I know I'm not the only one. As Vanessa herself says, Douglas Bruton was hardly subtle. If someone decides to become a plagiarist the last thing they would do is advertise it in the title, surely, as he did when using both Paul Auster's and Vanessa's work. So it seems quite possible that he really had no idea where the boundaries lay. Which is also very sad.

Jane Smith said...

Ros, it's a little disingenuous of you to claim that you didn't "cherrypick", because you did only quote part of his comment here.

In your earlier comment you wrote, "As far as I can see, all Douglas Bruton did there was complain that the rules had been broken, which they had." But no rules were broken. Despite that, he left many comments on my blog and others, complaining that they had, and later, complaining that I'd "forbidden" him to comment further when I'd done no such thing; and of course you're unaware of the numerous emails he sent me which in total ran to several thousand words, some of which I found very disturbing.

Am I trying to make Bruton appear a hypocrite? Not at all. I was simply pointing out that while he sees nothing wrong in using other writers' work for his own gain he went off at the deep end when another writer used something he felt he "owned", regardless of the arena in which that work was presented. I think that's VERY relevant here. You're the one who brought up the word "hypocrite", but it probably suits.

What I don't understand is why you're trying to imply that Vanessa Gebbie helped cause this by forgiving Bruton his sins. She didn't suggest to him that he could plagiarise other writers; she didn't give him Auster's novel and say, "Hey, Doug, paraphrase this for me and I'll stick it in Cadenza": when his plagiarism was discovered she made it clear to him that it was wrong, and moved on. I probably wouldn't have acted that way but I can't be sure: I wasn't there at the time, and I wasn't involved. I find it admirable that she was able to be so generous. With hindsight perhaps it was foolish of her: but she wasn't blessed with hindsight at the time. All she's guilty of is being too trusting. Nothing more.

As for Bruton not knowing where the boundaries lay: I'm with you on that. Judging from the many emails I've been party to over the last few months he either can't or won't understand that he has done anything wrong, and seems convinced that all he's done is to "share". I find that very troubling indeed.

Anonymous said...

A new and different Anonymous here.

I wonder what that other Anonymous's agenda is. He seems determined to place the blame for Douglas Bruton's plagiarism onto Vanessa for not stamping down on him the first time he plagiarised something (and to insult Jane in the process). This to me seems similar to saying that a rape victim "asked for it" because she was wearing a short skirt, or had had a few drinks. It's nasty, it's ignorant and it's no more than an attempt to divert the blame from where it should rest--which in this case is squarely on Douglas's shoulders.

If you read his blog today you'll find that his hard drive has crashed and he's lost a lot of his work. Poetic justice, perhaps.

Chloe

Anonymous said...

What's nasty here is comparing the real and dreadful horror of rape to the fallings out of a couple of pretentious writers over some story ideas.

Let's keep things in perspective.

Jane Smith said...

Anon at 8:16:

That's not how I read Chloe's comment: she didn't equate plagiarism to rape; she used rape as an example to illustrate how victims are sometimes blamed for the abuse which has been directed at them.

Perhaps you need to maintain a little perspective too.

Anonymous said...

'a couple of pretentious writers over some story ideas.'

Maybe, but translate that to a lab where one scientist steals the ideas of another and wins prizes and plaudits (and cash) on the back of his stolen booty, and you might begin to glimpse the similarities.

I suspect that the indignant Anonymous has an axe to grind on Bruton's behalf and, like the perpetrator himself, is conveniently ignoring the facts.The latest pieces on his blog are presumably a lame attempt to justify his actions by suggesting that his 'attackers' (in reality his victims) are 'vicious'.

However,since the literary mafia are now on the alert I doubt he'll find it so easy to regain trust.

And no, I'm not an insider, just an appalled follower of this disturbing story.

Amber Jellicoe

Anonymous said...

If rape must be used as an analogy this is more like someone who knows her best friend has been raped yet agrees to go out on dates with the rapist. Then she's surprised when he goes on to rape her and others.

Jane Smith said...

Oh, for goodness' sake.

Anonymous: I wouldn't mind your pedantry quite so much if it was at all on-topic: but it isn't.

I wouldn't mind your anonymity quite so much if I hadn't already made it quite clear that I don't like anonymous comments: but I have.

I don't ever like petty bickering.

Please: if you want to comment here at least have the courtesy to give us your name, as Chloe and Ros and Amber all have; try to stay just a little bit on-topic; and stop being so ridiculously petty.

Be warned: I am now on the verge of deleting any more off-topic or anonymous posts. You're more than welcome to continue to comment here: but follow my rules otherwise I'm likely to delete you. Along with anyone else who refuses us all those basic courtesies.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Jane thanks for posting the other day. Am now back at creaky PC with hidden passwords.
-------------

I am saddened by the vitriol surfacing here. But not altogether surprised. I am getting it in other forms elsewhere, including from colleagues with whom I worked for a long time.

Am I a ‘pretentious writer’? Maybe. But pretentious or not, perhaps Anon in his/her many guises would like to tell us if it is acceptable in their book for any writer, pretentious or not, to have their unpublished work and ideas used without permission for the personal gain of a close working colleague?

It is implied above that I continued to work with him in the full knowledge that he copied the work of others. I did not. I did not believe it.

It does appear that there is an attempt to muddy the waters here. To deflect attention from the central issue by focussing on my own failings – which are legion -.

The question below can be answered with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

Question: Are this man’s writing habits acceptable to you?

And a second question, less simple but worth considering.

Question: Would it be reasonable to assume that a Teacher of Guidance would know that to copy the work of others is wrong?

Anonymous said...

Call me Jim. Obviously that is no more my real name than Mrs Jones is really Mrs Jones.

First of all, Jane, I apologise to you unreservedly for thinking you had anything to do with Bruton's outing. I do believe that your mention of going away led Mrs Jones to believe s/he had some time to post up a link to Bruton's site, as she might have thought you'd delete it if it did border on libel. And until Bruton came along and confirmed it was him, there was that danger.

I am not a friend of Douglas Bruton. I am not a supporter of Douglas Bruton. His claim that all his work has been lost due to hard drive failure is a laughable attempt to pretend he couldn't possibly have any more stolen ideas. I think the man is despicable, and in answer to Vanessa's questions, no and yes.

This is not an attempt to muddy the waters. Only a suggestion that the waters were extremely muddy to begin with. I'll set out my concerns in, I hope, clear paragraphs.

1) Vanessa announced on her blog in February that Cadenza magazine was closing.

2) A few months later it transpired that Tania Hershman's work had been copied by Bruton, and a little while later, Vanessa said her work had been copied. Both had been entered into competitions where Bruton won prizes. During the time leading up to this, after Bruton's plagiarism of Auster's work was discovered, Vanessa continued to share ideas with Bruton and he still had access to her group.

3) Vanessa then suggested a few days ago that the closure of Cadenza was partly to do with the fact that Bruton had 'closely' copied a novel by Paul Auster. Something which the subscribers of Cadena noticed, and as Jane told us in a blog posting, this led to them withdrawing their support for the magazine, forcing it to close due to lack of funding. That's quite a big thing, don't you think? That the magazine Vanessa helped to edit, and which was run by one of her best friends, Zoe King, a woman who truly put her blood, sweat and tears into running that magazine for many years, was either wholly or partially forced to close as a result of Bruton's behaviour. Yet Vanessa chose 'not to believe it', without even checking the facts. I can't help thinking that Zoe would have been a bit pissed off. I know I would have been.

4) The only conclusion I can draw from the above is that Vanessa knew way back in February that Bruton had plagiarised someone else's work, but chose to ignore it because he was considered one of hers. She says she did not believe it, but a simple reading and comparison of both - as Jane and others have done quite easily - would have proved it to her. Why did she not do that? If only to satisfy herself that Bruton wasn't guilty as charged?

5) Bruton's name was not known as a plagiariser to anyone at that time, apart from the few Cadenza readers who alerted the editor. One might conjecture that Vanessa and others closed ranks around Bruton, so he was not outed at that time.

6) This silence allowed Bruton to continue not only as a member of Vanessa's group, but to join other groups where he could easily have plundered other peoples' work. As a result he definitely stole a story from Tania Hershman, and then stole story ideas from Vanessa.

Hindsight is a great thing, Vanessa. But you had foresight. You were warned back in February what Bruton was capable of, and a few cursory checks, as done by Jane and others, would have confirmed it. Maybe then others would have been forewarned about Bruton's dubious behaviour.


Jim

Ros said...

I see no vitriol here, Vanessa (apart from Jane's to anon); only people trying to understand what could have caused Douglas Bruton to do what he did. So let's get it in perspective, shall we?

Jane, I did not 'cherrypick' (look it up if you don't understand what it means). I 'copied and pasted' a small part of a mega discussion, a discussion anyone could and would have looked at for themselves after you unfairly led them there. (I don't think you'd have been too happy if I'd dumped the whole lot here, would you!!) I'm surprised you still think Greyling is relevant after I pointed it out because it really isn't. However, as an outsider to Greyling until your mention of it, I imagine it's easier for me to see exactly what he was saying there - that he has no problem with anyone using characters he's invented IN THEIR OWN STORIES. (Which appears to be very generous, and might be one of the reasons why he feels he can use other writers' characters, etc. in the same way.) I hope that explains fully now why you leading us to Greyling was unfair and irrelevant.

And so is your surprising attack on anon, as I touched on at the beginning of this post. The rape comparison I've just read is ludicrous, and anon was surely right to say so. Just because anon refuses to give a name doesn't make his/her comments any less relevant or meaningful. It's 'Chloe' you should be having a pop at. I know this is your blog, but you really have been incredibly biased here.

My last point relates to your astonishing belief that Vanessa's only crime re the Cadenza plagiarism issue is one of being too trusting and forgiving. Rubbish. Plagiarising the work of a well-known author is equally as bad as plagiarising lesser known works, but Vanessa (and you) obviously don't think so, and that's the crime. And if you think I'M being unfair now, consider this: If you and Vanessa really believe that plundering well-known writers' works is wrong, then this discussion would concern Douglas Bruton and Paul Auster, NOT Douglas Bruton and Vanessa Gebbie/Tania Hershman. Yes, what Douglas Bruton has done to them is terrible and I really feel for them, but it's no worse than what he did to Paul Auster. Plagiarism is plagiarism, regardless of whether the plagiariser is a friend or not. If you're not convinced, ask Paul Auster.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

I have explained in words of one syllable why I did nothing after the Cadenza 'incident'. I alerted him to the complaint. (I have asked the editor to remind me of the dates she had these complaints - and have not yet had a reply. But it is sometime before Christmas). And, rightly or wrongly, I left ALL further communication on the subject of his story to the editor of Cadenza. And heard no more from her about it. Or him.



Chronologically- Tania's story must have been used mid 2008 and submitted to another comp well before before Cadenza 19 appeared. He did not add that success to the list of successes he posted on The Workhouse.

I was alerted to the similarities between that story and Tania's in mid May 2009. I read them both. And took immediate action and removed him from the group.

I also advised him to withdraw all work that was based in any way on the work of others.

And it was then that he told me that a piece of work based largely on images from my own unpublished work had just won him a prize and would be published.

Now- if you could have handled it better, I am delighted for you.

I don't think anyone has said anywhere that copying elements of my work or that of a mutual colleague is 'worse' that plagiarising an unknown writer.

Seems to me that copying is copying, whoever's the work is.

Doing it to a colleague does add a layer of something else. Betrayal? call it what you will.

There are no laws against betrayal.

Jane Smith said...

Jim: I believe that as writers, we have a responsibility to use words carefully and thoughtfully; and to stand by what we’ve written. When people comment anonymously they take advantage of that separation between words and self and are often less inhibited from making critical or hurtful comments. And that’s not only not grown-up behaviour, it’s spiteful and petty and self-indulgent—qualities I really don’t like. Which is why I prefer people to use at least some sort of name here: it adds a small degree of responsibility to everyone’s behaviour, even if only on a very subtle level (and it helps us distinguish between the various Anons which have commented, especially in long threads like this).

I don’t see how you can profess to know what Mrs Jones believed or didn’t believe: are you psychic? I doubt it. And her post WASN’T libellous: it was truthful, and therefore risk-free. So there was never any danger about her posting: perhaps she just wanted all this out in the open, but felt she was too vulnerable to name him openly under her own name (and here we’re back in the realm of personal responsibility, owning words, and so on: murky depths).

As for apologising for thinking I had anything to do with outing Bruton: there's no need. I’m not upset about that at all, I just wanted to make sure everyone knew that I’m not Mrs Jones. If Bruton had plagiarised my work I’d have named him straight away. The only reason I didn’t name him was that I wasn’t directly affected by this, and the people who were just weren’t ready to name names: they had to get used to the knowledge that a good friend had ripped them off. While I wasn’t plagiarised this time I have been in the past and can tell you from first-hand experience that it’s a painful, miserable thing.

Bruton’s hard drive failure: yes, I’ve read that blog post. Like you I’m not psychic so I don’t know if your suggestion is correct or not: but I wouldn’t discount that possibility. I thought that the various bee/wasp stories that he’s also posted are almost Freudian in their clumsy symbolism; and that they’re nowhere near as good as Bruton’s usual standard. Which is usually good (which makes this mess even sadder, somehow).

We’ve thrashed the whole Cadenza issue out quite clearly, and I don’t think anything is going to be gained by harping on about it now. Will that change anything? Nope. Does Vanessa wish she had the benefit of hindsight when the Auster issue first raised its head? I bet she does.

I take exception to this quote of yours:

“the subscribers of Cadena noticed, and as Jane told us in a blog posting, this led to them withdrawing their support for the magazine, forcing it to close due to lack of funding.”

Nope, that’s not what I wrote. Some subscribers cancelled their subscriptions, and Cadenza later closed because it couldn’t afford to remain open. More subscribers would certainly have helped but if you feel that Bruton’s actions led directly to Cadenza closing and that he was solely responsible for that, then you’ve caught firmly hold of the wrong end of the stick. I'm pretty sure that this has already been pointed out to you. It appears to me that you're trying to lessen Bruton's percieved guilt by transferring at least part of the blame over to Vanessa et al: extraordinary. You're not Bruton, are you?

(I shall continue replying to "Jim" in a separate comment, as I'll overrun the maximum length if I do it all in one go.)

Jane Smith said...

How can you profess to know how Zoe King felt? Please: speculation like this is very dangerous and despite your insistence that you’re not trying to muddy the waters here, that’s precisely what you’re doing by suggesting that you can tell what all these people must have been thinking at various points. If you can provide me with verifiable quotes then I’ll accept these claims from you: but until then, STOP MAKING THEM.

Point four: Of all the points you raised, I do think this one is valid. I’ll ask Vanessa to respond to it when and if she has time, but I wouldn't blame her if she just ignored you completely from here on in because you have made some pretty negative insinuations about her.

Point five: your suggestion that Vanessa and undisclosed others “closed ranks” around Bruton is libellous, and I don’t like it. I am not surprised that you prefer to comment here anonymously if this is what you’re going to say: you’re on very dodgy ground with this one, and an apology is in order.

Point six: I object to your continued suggestions that Vanessa et al were somehow responsible for Bruton’s plagiarism, or colluded with it. They didn’t give him texts and suggest that he rewrote them and put his own name on them: he did that all on his own. No one else is to blame. Yes, hindsight is a wonderful thing but everyone deserves a second chance, you included: I have already responded to you about this, you have chosen to raise the subject again, and now I am telling you to drop it. You’re trying to stir up trouble where no trouble exists, and I won’t have it. Do it again and not only will I delete your comment, I’ll keep on deleting every comment you make here. For good.

Anonymous said...

We simulposted, Jane. So please don't think I was ignoring your warning. I don't think you're Mrs Jones. I've a very good idea who that is.

I will leave this discussion now as I've made my point.


Jim

Jane Smith said...

I shall now reply to Ros.

I see plenty of vitriol here. Mostly from anonymous posters who keep on trying to assign blame to the victims of Douglas Bruton’s plagiarism. And if you find me so vitriolic then you might like to take yourself elsewhere. My blog, my rules, and all that stuff.

We’ve already dealt with the “cherrypicking” thing: as you wrote, you selected a small part of one comment out of a big discussion: that certainly seems like cherrypicking to me; and I still feel that the Greyling Bay point was relevant. You disagree. I get that. I think you’re wrong and telling me you’re not is not going to change my mind on that point. Now move on.

As for the rape comparison: it’s not ludicrous at all. Would you have argued the point so vociferously if a different parallel had been found? Does leaving your kitchen window open give anyone the right to climb in and help themselves to your plasma TV? Nope. It’s careless, perhaps, but it doesn’t mean that you share in the burglar’s guilt.

As for my bias: as you say, it’s my blog. If you don’t like it then you’re welcome to stop reading it. Any time you like.

Finally: your suggestion that Vanessa and I seem to think it’s OK to plagiarise Auster but not to plagiarise anyone else: where on earth did you come up with that? It’s ridiculous. I hate plagiarism of any kind. It’s abhorrent. I don’t care if you’re a complete unknown or the winner of the Booker Prize, your work is your own and no one has the right to use it without your express permission. You’re playing with fire when you imply that we think otherwise.

Jane Smith said...

Jim: I have deleted your comment to Vanessa as it was out-and-out libellous and I'll not have such slurs on my blog. Take some time to cool off, and please don't post here again for a couple of hours at least. If you do then return, make sure you don't make any more nasty allegations because I'll just delete them all along with the rest of your comments here.

Ros said...

The only person here who needs to take time out here appears to be you, Jane. And when you come back, please do me the courtesy of reading my posts properly and thoroughly before replying. If when you're calm you still choose not to see, then so be it.

By the way, if you're only interested in voicing your opinions rather than entering into a debate - in this instance, a debate on how this alleged plagiarism might have come about and the part Vanessa played in it - then why not remove your blog's comments feature?

Finally, and most importantly, you say you removed Jim's reply to Vanessa because it was libellous. Yet (and the irony seems to have escaped you) you've begun and continued a public discussion which in its entirety could be construed as libellous. Far more libellous than anything in Jim's post. Douglas Bruton hasn't been found guilty of plagiarism in any court of law, Jane, so you, as blog owner, are treading on very thin ice indeed.

Jane Smith said...

Ros, my dear: don't worry, I'm entirely calm. As I was when I commented here earlier.

It might have escaped your notice but this one thread has 98 comments in it. That's hardly a sign that I'm stifling debate, no matter what you might try to insist. And as for whether or not this blog post, and the subsequent comments to it might be considered libellous, you have to remember that if it's true, it's not libel. So I can say without fear of legal reprisal that I think Douglas Bruton plagiarised both Paul Auster and Tania Hershman; but Jim isn't free to state things about Vanessa Gebbie which aren't true without risking a libel suit, and if I were to allow his comments to remain here then I'd also be at risk of legal action.

You seem far more interested in insulting me than in debating the issue in hand. Which makes me wonder if you're just trying to distract attention from Douglas Bruton and his plagiarism. I don't know the answer to that one: but I do know that I've given you several chances but have now had enough of your rudeness. I will delete any further comments that you make here.

Orbific said...

I've been following this story since back in May when it first appeared on some weblogs I follow. While I think stealing another writer's work is despicable, I'm also unsettled by the attitude taken against the person accused of plagiarism.

As Ros points out above, "Douglas Bruton hasn't been found guilty of plagiarism in any court of law". I do understand that a story was withdrawn after winning a competition and another was published in a magazine with marked similarities to another work. While I have an opinion on the other accusations, that's mine alone. However, there does seem to be a trial by internet on some of these points.

The post that these comments respond to ends, "I've heard that he's now working in collaboration with a new group of writers. There'll be rich pickings there, for sure." Does that mean all writers are obliged to keep an eye on this person from now on, to make sure they behave appropriately? (Although Sally Zigmond suggested a more extreme sanction, that he should have been "hung drawn and quartered"...).

I'm not surprised the person in question has not defended themselves publicly on all these counts when they've already been declared publicly guilty.

I would certainly now take great care about sharing work with other writers. This is partly because of the horrifying position Vanessa Gebbie finds herself in (as described on her weblog today); but also, in part, because of the situation Mr. Bruton finds himself in.

James

Jane Smith said...

James, thanks for that comment--it's a welcome return to reason here.

The advantage that I have over a lot of the people who are taking part in this discussion is that I've read Paul Auster's novel alongside Douglas Bruton's similarly-titled short story; and I've read Tania Hershman's short story alongside the one by Douglas Bruton. The similarities are many, obvious and substantial, to the point that an editor who read the Hersham story alongside Bruton's commented,

"just read those two stories. Oh come ON. That is daylight theft. FFS."

I suspect that if more people had read the stories concerned, there would be even less sympathy for Bruton than there is now. I've not heard from anyone who has read them and thinks that the similarities between them were all just unfortunate coincidences (if anyone is in that situation, then I'd really welcome their comments here).

Bruton seems convinced that all he's done is use Auster and Hershman for inspiration: so where does a writer cross the line from inspiration into plagiarism?

Anonymous said...

Trial by Internet might seem appropriate for someone who has posted on his blog that he has no idea where his ideas come from, when, sadly, we know otherwise.

However, what concerns me is that Vanessa Gebbie seems also to be on trial, by Internet and in person, for the crime of being naive and trusting. It does seem possible that a groundswell of support for the plagiarist is being orchestrated by a well-wisher and taking the form of accusing Gebbie of being guilty of passive complicity. It seems the plagiarist is claiming that he was perhaps misguided and is now feeling hard done by - attacked by vicious wasps, to quote his own website. This strikes me as a deliberate attempt to elicit sympathy for a 'mistake' or 'misunderstanding' when it appears, from the facts represented on here and on Gebbie's blog, that he was neither mistaken or that he misunderstood anything. What he did was theft.

I know none of these people but the debate is out here in the public domain so I am as entitled to an opinion as anyone else and it's my opinion that Gebbie is in danger of becoming the 'baddie' simply because she has committed the cardinal sin of being too trusting. She presumably has a detailed calendar of the way these events occurred and can refute claims that stories were immediately withdrawn, apologies tendered, etc.

Amber

Anonymous said...

I am absolutely certain that I am not the person anyone thinks I am...because I am Mrs Jones. No-one else. I 'outed' the rather disturbed Mr Bruton under the shadow of anonymity because:

Initially, I might have been sued. I am old, poor and unable to cope with such things.

A wound hidden under a plaster cannot heal. Now this had bled (a lot) but will I hope scab over in time.

I am sure I see a lot of mental anguish in this situation. It's a tale of friendship lost. But true and original work will last and when we are all but bones, other readers will judge the imitators and shake their heads. God, what they did, how many friends they climbed over to be second-best, they will mutter. It doesn't seem worth it.


Mrs Jones

Quillers said...

I am not going to comment on any of the things that have been said, only about the way things have evolved here in relation to James's thoughtful post.

Jane, you've done a great job of moderating and mediating here and I'm grateful you've given us all a chance to have our say. But the fact is that this story and the resulting fallout, once out in the open, cannot be contained by anyone. You are within your rights to delete posts here, but another blogger or forum owner might let the same posts stay. As someone mentioned earlier, the internet is a frontier state. No one can truly control what people ask or the conclusions they come to on reading this story, either publicly or privately. In one of my closed writing groups the discussion on this subject has already run to about 20 pages. What we've said and the conclusions we've individually drawn is a private matter, but rest assured the subject has been soundly thrashed out from all angles. I don't know what's happening in other closed writing groups, but the chatter on blogs and places like Twitter suggests we're not the only ones with an opinion on what's happened.

Personally speaking, Jane, I don't think that you should have had to field this discussion, or have to deal with the resulting fallout of the naming and shaming. I don't think that Douglas should have been outed here. In my opinion, and this is just my opinion, it should have been done elsewhere and by the people most directly affected with his alleged behaviour.

Jane Smith said...

Sally Q, I agree with a lot of the things you've said--and I'm grateful for them, too.

I try to let ALL comments stand here: everyone's entitled to their opinions, and I'm not here to stifle debate even from people who disagree with me very forcefully. I do draw the line, though, at comments which are plagiaristic (funnily enough) or out-and-out libel, and have to delete those otherwise I leave myself open to possible prosecution. Whether other blog or forum owners do the same is up to them: of course.

I agree that on the face of it, this probably wasn't the best place for this all to happen but once "Mrs Jones" put up a link to Bruton's blog, that was it. But in a way, it's worked: for one, it's allowed the people whose work has been plagiarised to keep some distance from the nastier turns of the debate and for that I'm glad (because it's immensely hurtful, finding your work misused in this way, and that's really not been addressed or even understood at all).

I have had the feeling that I've been seeing only half the conversation at times. If it's been heavily discussed elsewhere, such as at your private forum, and then is spilling out here, that explains some of the oddnesses and misconceptions that I've seen cropping up here: for example, the fallacious insistence that Vanessa and I thought it was OK for Bruton to plagiarise Paul Auster, but not OK for him to plagiarise Tania Hershman. I'd love to know where that little nugget came from so that I could have a chance to put it straight: it's entirely wrong, and potentially very damaging.

Quillers said...

I don't know what other groups are discussing, Jane, but in my group you're spoken highly of.

Ros said...

Jane said: "I'd love to know where that little nugget came from so that I could have a chance to put it straight: it's entirely wrong, and potentially very damaging."

The answer is right here, Jane, in your peculiar defence of Vanessa Gebbie. Nevertheless, I'll explain:

You can't possibly know whether or not it's 'entirely wrong' for me to believe what I believe about Vanessa, any more than I can know with absolute certainty that it's entirely right; though the facts speak for themselves, which is why I'm convinced that Vanessa DID feel it wasn't a terrible thing when DB plagiarised Paul Auster and only went berserk when she and Tania were affected by his alleged appalling behaviour. Perhaps you don't have all the facts that have led me to believe this, in which case my (quite natural) assumption that you support her in this view (formed by your vigorous defence of her and then by your removal of Jim's factual and questioning post to Vanessa) is incorrect and I apologise. However, I must point out that all those facts were contained in that post made by Jim which you chose to delete (which wasn't libelllous in any way, people, despite what Jane says). I trust that answers your question.

What I'D love to know, Jane, is how anything I'VE said can possibly be construed as 'rude' and 'insulting'. That's completely untrue. All I've done is point out to you (several times now) that I'm simply interested in examining why Mr Bruton did what he did, and that I'm appalled at the unfair publicity here of all his other alleged faults. And which are entirely irrelevant to this thread anyway. And why it's hard to understand why Jim's factual comments were deleted while your and others snide comments regarding Mr Bruton's other alleged shortcomings are still here. Now that IS libellous, as I've already said, and why you, as the blog owner, are on very thin ice.

YOUR replies to ME, however, (and to anyone who dares to look at this issue from other angles), ARE rude and insulting. You also appear to deliberately misunderstand everything I say (your post on Twitter is a prime example). You're even suggesting now that I'm a friend of Douglas Bruton to make my part in this discussion appear sinister rather than the fair and balanced view it actually is.

I'm not a friend of Douglas Bruton; I don't even know the man, which is, I guess, why MY comments HAVE been entirely fair, well thought-out and balanced; unlike yours, Jane, and those of several other contributors to this thread. I'm still astonished you can't see that.

Nik Perring said...

Ros, of course you're free to think what you think and believe whatever you choose, but I must say that this:

"Vanessa DID feel it wasn't a terrible thing when DB plagiarised Paul Auster and only went berserk when she and Tania were affected by his alleged appalling behaviour."

is simply not true.

He was taken to task about it. And then he did it again. And again. To friends. Had he stopped there and then, at the time, there'd have been no need for all of this. But it was his refusal to see that what he did was wrong, and the fact that he continued to do it, that led to the situation as it is now. I'm sure a good number of the people involved with this would do things differently knowing what they know now, but at the time they couldn't have.

Honestly, Ros, Vanessa isn't the baddie in this.

Nik

Ros said...

Another one of Vanessa's friends steps in to defend her. This is looking more and more like a conspiracy to me.

Nik said, "He was taken to task about it. And then he did it again. And again. To friends. Had he stopped there and then, at the time, there'd have been no need for all of this."

But it was only when he allegedly plagiarised his friends that all this blew up. Why didn't anyone make a similar fuss when he plagiarised Paul Auster? And how do we know he plagiarised anyone at all? We have only Vanessa Gebbie's word for it, and Jane's of course, and they're both so determined to be right here that it's impossible for anyone to make a fair judgement about it at all. That Jane has deleted Jim's perfectly acceptable post is proff that she's got her own agenda here, and if Vanessa did think Douglas had plagiarised her she'd post the extracts, his and hers, somewhere for us all to make up our own minds. But she doesn't and I have to ask why that might be.

Jane Smith said...

Ros, you're seeing conspiracies where they simply don't exist, and you're determined to make Vanessa Gebbie the bad guy here when she simply isn't. Neither of these two points help with your credibility but then you think that you're posting without any comeback, aren't you? There's no link here to your blog, and no indication of who you really are.

What you might not be aware is that each time you visit my blog I can see your IP address--the details of the specific computer you're posting your messages from. I've been keeping track of the IP addresses relating to this thread for some time. And what is very interesting is how similar your IP address is to Jim's.

Nik Perring said...

Oh Ros! No, no no. It's pretty clear you've made your mind up and you're not for changing it, and as I said before you're entitled to think what you will, but I must say, personally, that this has nothing to do with who's friends with who (you might not be aware that I considered Douglas a friend) and everything to do with right and wrong. And I know you don't know me, and that you're simply making assumptions, but if I thought Vanessa, or any of my friends, considered plagiarism an ok thing to do then I wouldn't be friends with them. And the order in which things were taken from people has nothing to do with anything; I think the reaction would have been the same. Honestly, Ros, you've got this wrong.

Nik

Pepper Smith said...

Honestly, most human interactions of this nature work that way. The offender gets a warning the first time he's caught. When it's later discovered he ignored the warning and went right on doing whatever he was warned about anyway, he gets expelled, or fired, or whatever the case may be.

There is nothing unusual about the way events played out here. It wasn't based on whether someone's work was more valuable than someone else's, it was based on the fact that he continued doing it and got caught. He could have chosen to stop the first time he got caught. No one held a gun to his head and made him plagiarize anything. Pretending there was favoritism at work is nothing more than an effort to divert attention from the fact that he's a repeat offender. He made the choice himself. He doesn't need you to hold his hand and make everything better for him.

It is also not unusual for the one caught doing something wrong to make out it's someone else's fault, that he's being punished for nothing. It's much easier to play the victim than it is to own up to the wrong you've done. This is also human nature. Blaming the victim is nearly as old as mankind.

I also refuse to believe that someone in the teaching field would be unaware of what plagiarism is and that it's wrong. He would have to watch for that among his own students.

Anonymous said...

Ooooh cripes, just got back from holiday to find a right old barney going on here. I’d like to make some points, if I may.

1. Since there has been no court case Douglas Bruton’s alleged plagiarism and concept theft is just that; alleged. And anyone who has read the offending works can have an opinion, but it is that, just an opinion. That said, there are a number of posters on here whose opinion is an informed opinion.

2. Would any of you now like to share your unpublished work and ideas with Mr Bruton? I know I would not. I will retreat to my ivory tower and share nothing more online except with a few close and trusted friends.

3. Vanessa Gebbie seems to be on internet-trial for not “outing” Mr B earlier. Ros /Jim has found her guilty by some perverse logic (or lack of it, should I say.). That seems very unfair, but then, when you’ve made up your mind, your brain stops working. Let me illustrate why Ros is wrong. A number of years ago I was at a friend’s, and my bag containing my wallet was in another room. My friend suddenly got up and brought it into the room we were sitting in, explaining that her daughter’s boyfriend was a drug addict and frequently stole stuff from her. Imagine yourself in the same situation. How many thefts do you have to experience before you believe that a friend (or even a family member) is stealing from you and others under your roof? Suppose a mutual acquaintance remarks that they have had items and money stolen from them and suspect the boyfriend, what do you do? What would have happened if my money and credit cards had been stolen and used by said boyfriend? I would then have had to go to the police, surely? But what about friendship? Such a dilemma. I dare say Vanessa Gebbie found herself in the same situation. Now before Ros/Jim whines about me being part of some conspiracy, let me tell you I don’t know Gebbie at all.

4. The rape analogy is entirely appropriate because the person using that analogy used it to illustrate the perception of people “asking for it” rather than suggesting in any way that theft of ideas is comparable to rape. To imply otherwise is either to have missed the point or to be misleading people deliberately.

5. It is noteworthy that some have mentioned that having their work plagiarized left them feeling as if they had been raped. This is, perhaps, somewhat hyperbolical, but does illustrate the intense pain and sense of violation people can feel if their work has been plagiarized.


M

Anonymous said...

6. Plagiarism can be unconscious, or even, not really plagiarism. eg I wrote a short story (which needed more development, TBH) which it turns out was similar in setting and basic premise to a novel which I have not read, but may (and only may) have been described to me some months previously, and then was described to me again after I had written the story and was telling someone about it, which is how I know about that novel. If I had been fortunate enough to have the short story published, people could have said that I had plagiarized the novel, or at least, been unduly influenced by it, but I had not (and still have not) read said novel. Now I feel hamstrung because I can’t work on this short story for fear of being thought of as a plagiarizer.

7. What appears to be plagiarism can be coincidence. A few years back, I was playing silly games on a particular forum and was “punished” for my sins. This meant me writing a daily piece and resulted in a 20K short story, which I later realized, has serious potential as a novel. Unfortunately I have been beaten to the idea by someone else who has written an award-winning novel on the same theme (which I have not read). Now, I have no idea how close my short story and the novel are, but there are bound to be some similarities because we are writing about the same sort of thing, and there is the similarity of concept. If I do expand the story into a novel, I might be accused of copying the published novel, “Jumping on the bandwagon” as it were, and yet my short story came about entirely independently of the published novel. It’s a coincidence. When I was writing it, I never thought that it was a publishable concept, it was just for fun to entertain some friends. Once I realized it has potential, I removed it from the internet, partly because though work is copyright, ideas are not, and I didn’t want my work inspiring anyone else to flood the market as it were. (I really must get down to finishing that novel… so much to write, and stuffed for time.)

M

Anonymous said...

8. I’m not literary enough to understand the arguments surrounding the devices and style-motifs which Mr B is alleged to have copied, but it seems to me that someone can be inspired by a piece of work and produce an entirely new piece of work in the same style, or a new piece of work using the same concepts, and the resulting works are unrecognizably different from the inspiring work; that is acceptable, but when someone does both, and the similarities are so remarkable that people notice, then that is plagiarism. The question is, has this happened with Mr B’s work? Well, we won’t know because if there is to be litigation, then perhaps that is for the courts to decide and not us.

9. The remarks regarding Greyling Bay were appropriate because Mr B did kick up an enormous fuss over the aspersions cast upon his character “Darius” in one exquisite piece. It was not as if the writer had taken Darius and written a piece directly using Darius as the protagonist. No. Instead the writer cleverly picked up on the creepiness that many felt that Darius projected, and implied wrong-doing. This was part of the joy of Greyling Bay, a synergistic growth of characters and situations, but Mr B was so very precious about Darius that he kicked up a stink about someone daring to imply that Darius was unsavoury and so outraged at one might be forgiven for thinking Mr B himself had been accused of impropriety. It is appropriate to bring the tantrums up in this plagiarism debate because Mr B’s words in defense of his own alleged appropriation of ideas and characters is undermined by his behaviour when his own creation was, in his eyes, abused in what is an exciting experimental piece of collaborative, let me emphasize, collaborative on-line fiction.

10. The quote from part of his objections was indeed cherry-picked from all the sour grapes, and quoted out of context, despite what Ros says. (I don’t know what cherry-pick means to you, Ros, but to me it means picking out something which supports your argument and ignoring anything which does not, which is exactly what you did there.) Go see for yourselves if you don’t believe me. http://greylingbay.blogspot.com/2009/04/outsider.html

11. As for there being a conspiracy of wasps, well, I’ve been abducted by aliens and I now wear a tin foil hat in my ivory tower (which cunningly disguises a homing beacon for said aliens) so that my thoughts are shielded from those aliens, just in case...

M

Susan said...

There was a time, before the age of universal internet links, when no writer would talk about unpublished work to anyone she/he didn't know to be a serious colleague. My first literary mentor, who was younger than me but with an older head, warned me against talking about my ideas to anyone other than agents, publishers and editors. That wasn't so very long ago. It was sound advice.

Now, things have changed. Because we can invite unknown people from all over the world into the safety of our homes and private offices, we feel safe, just because we ARE at home. We blog. We tell countless total strangers all sorts of things about ourselves and our families which would have made our mothers faint with embarrassment. It isn't very rational, is it? In fact, it's just like leaving your door unlocked at night (OK I do that sometimes, too, but I live in rural France) and hoping the people who visit you at night aren't burglars. Do you leave your filing cabinet with all your financial documents unlocked in your front garden, for anyone to see?

I'm not saying that this couldn't happen - the plagiarism, I mean - outside the internet community. That would clearly be untrue. I believe it happens far more often than we think, and in places we wouldn't expect it to happen.

I write - I was a Cadenza prize-winner who couldn't be published there because Zoe had to close the magazine down (the story will be antholgized elsewhere, but that's not the point). I edit - and how can we editors know if a story is plagiarized or not? Names and titles change. We have to build trust between ourselves and our writers. Cases such as this destroy that trust and undermine the whole substructure of the writer's world. Surely that needs no further explanation or comment.

I'm a member of a worldwide writing community and I post work there. There are fantastic, writers there -many well-known -and terrific dynamism. My work has been published internationally as a direct result of my membership. But I,too, leave myself open sometimes, simply by posting my work. But at the same time, I'm aware of those who watch. Those who try to get too close to my work - is anyone else REALLY that interested in my ideas and writing for their own sake? Probably not.

As someone said, Douglas Bruton hasn't been found guilty in a court of law; but the literary world might learn a valid lesson from this Edinburgh teacher, the sort of lesson we might give our own surfing children - we have to learn to use the internet in a way which protects us as people and as writers.

Sue Haigh

Elizabeth Baines said...

Sue, I can't help agreeing. I too began writing long before the advent of the literary internet, and in a culture where people WERE very wary of showing their ideas/writing to any but close trusted personal friends and the very well-known and professional, a custom I must say I've tried to keep up. Even so, as I say, I have had ideas plagiarized. I know it seems very wet blanket, but I can't help thinking that this current situation endorses that practice. My policy on the internet is never to show anything that isn't already published (as well as never to say anything I wouldn't say in a crowded lecture hall or a national newspaper!)

Ossian said...

I've just read all of this (took a long time!) and I have to say I agree with the very first post by Charlie.

I'm curious which Paul Auster work was the one mentioned as plagiarised. I imagine that could have turned into an expensive legal problem, easily capable of bankrupting a small magazine, by the way. I have a vague sense of deja-vu (ironically?) about Auster and plagiarism allegations - don't know why.

There is no copyright on ideas, nor should there be, nor could there be. Die gedanken sind frei. But that is a different matter to a squalid ripoff between two erstwhile friends who are both writers. If somebody who's not a writer said to me why not write a story about a piano tuner in Ballygobackwards, I would feel quite in order to do so and show them the result. However, if another writer said they were going to write such a thing, I would have to be a right numpty to take it on myself to write the same thing. It feels fraudulent.

Shakespeare reused old stories as the plots for his plays and that's fine. It wouldn't have been so fine to use a then contemporary writer's storylines though. It's almost the norm for books to be based on other "templates", if only as obscure as Homer's Odyssey for Joyce's Ulysses. However, courts have drawn the line at such things as a sequel to Gone With The Wind from the maid's point of view, called "The Wind Done Gone". In a more recent case J. D. Salinger blocked the publication of a lightly veiled "sequel" by some other writer to Catcher In The Rye, in which Holden Caulfield is portrayed aged 60.

I attended a talk by Bernard Cornwell in which he stated that all a writer had to do find commercial success, which was all he wanted, was to take a successful template, change all the names and settings somewhat and send it out and that that's what he had done by transforming the Hornblower novels into his Sharpe series.

His other "big idea" (from an agent) was that publishers wanted a series, and the example he gave was that if you wrote a book "How to look after your pet dog", one copy could be sold to every pet shop and that was the end of you. So - again templating - his suggestion was write a book called "How to look after your Alsation", then an endless series of almost identical ones called "How to look after your Labradoodle" (etc.)

So back to where I started, I'm with Charlie and not Cornwell.

Sympathies to Vanessa.

By the way I read hundreds of stories every year for a competition and I still haven't a clue what to write when faced with a blank page and haven't written anything for ages. It would never enter my head to bother what anyone else wanted to write. As for making money out of writing - there's more to be made washing windscreens at the traffic lights, mostly.

Thom Brannan said...

Hey-o. New here. Just wanted to say that what JANE SMITH said about the "POOR MAN'S COPYRIGHT" is 100% correct. Mailing yourself a manuscript achieves nothing.

The idea, once set to a medium is already copyright protected. But in order to have any legal standing, you must first register your copyright with the Copyright Office (or whatever it's called if you're not in the US).

Also, to successfully sue (for anything other than a cease-and-desist) you have to be able to show damages. You have to be able to show that the Offending Party took money out of your wallet.

Copyright lawsuits, judges hate them with a passion.

Just my 2¢.

ireneintheworld said...

Wow. What a read. I've been re-directed here from Nik's blog. This has been better than a novel - saying that, it's the longest piece of prose I've read yet this year! My sympathies to Venessa, Tania and Paul...and all writers who find themselves plagiarized.

Doug Cheadle said...

I thought this whole story had died down. And then I read Douglas Bruton's potentially libellous post in which he repeatedly calls his old friend mad. That's a foul thing to do to anyone. I hope he is ashamed of himself.

So long as his offending stories remain away from the public view, he's going to be able to insist he's done nothing wrong. And I've had enough.

So if anyone wants to read them, I've posted them on my new blog. Click on my name to find it, and them. Happy reading.

William Shears said...

Has anyone here bothered to read what Douglas has to say on this matter. It's so easy to take a side when only presented with one side of the story. Vanessa says something vaguely to Douglas, he then writes a story using this vague charachter. His story is written before Vanessa has a chance to, the finished story probably bares no similaritys to what she would have written; other than a vague charachter she mentioned to him, but she accuses him of ripping her off! Get real Vanessa; smacks of envy!

Douglas Bruton said...

Please do read Doug Cheadle (wonder who that could be?) - even if there is a blatant infringement of my copyright in what is done on his blog post.

And, as Jane herself says, do the research and double check the facts rather than believe what others say. And read my own blog, especially the most recent post.

I have never had anything to hide. This is not plagiarism.

D

Jane Smith said...

Thanks to Sitemeter and a few other nice little tools I have at my disposal I can confirm that Douglas Bruton's comment came from this IP address: 86.131.241, from a BTCentralPlus account.

That's the same IP address and BT account which William Shears used to place his comment. They're definitely sharing a computer: what's the betting they're sharing a body and a brain, too? Ha!

Douglas, I understand you don't agree that your use of Tania Hershman's and Paul Auster's stories was plagiarism: but you've got it wrong, you really have. You've seriously misunderstood the rules. If you don't agree with me, you could speak to an intellectual property lawyer and ask their opinion. If it helps, I've already shown the stories concerned to THREE IP lawyers, and they have all told me that what you did is plagiarism, without a doubt.

You didn't copy the work word-for-word, but you DID copy their expression of specific ideas and yes, this is plagiarism. You are doing yourself no favours by repeatedly insisting that it is not.

And no, I'm not going to read your blog, because whenver I've done so and tried to comment, you've refused to approve my comments. It's a waste of my time: I don't see the point in doing it.

(I'll repeat this message in the two other places where Bruton/Shears has commented, so that everyone can keep up to date. Apologies for the duplication.)

Douglas Bruton said...

This is another blatant attempt to discredit me and another blatant lie. I am not William Shears. I do not know who he is. He is not anyone in my house. I have been the only person home for more than 48 hours, so I know William Shears has not come from my home.

Jane's IP address stuff is nonsense. This smacks of desperation that you would lie in this way.

Read my recent blog post on why Jane has reason to not like me, despite her public pretence to being fair.

Ideas are not copyright, is what you have said on your blog. You say they are fair game, in fact. All that cannnot be taken is the particular arrangement of the words. That's what you have said.

Doug Cheadle's theft of my stories has been available for people to read for more than a week and a half. 250 visits have been recorded. Not one comment except mine and this William Shears. Wake up Jane. Wake up everyone and read my b log to see why Jane has every reason to want to slap me.

D

William Shears said...

Now you truely have exposed yourself; at least to me, as a liar! Douglas and I do not share the same computer, or even live in the same country. I'd sort out that'sitemeter' of yours; if it even exists that is!

William Shears said...

Douglas didn't steel a story from Vanessa, he created a story from a character she had remarked on; not a character that she had herself created merely observed, (her words). Douglas then gave Vanessa his finished story for her approval, she wasn't upset at this point that he had written the story, but decided not to read it, so as not to influence her unfinished work. I'm not a writer but I assume you all write for the approval of others and not for yourself; if it was just for yourself, you would keep it to yourself, surely? Having spent presumably blood sweat and tears creating the story, Douglas would have obviously been eager to seek approval of his work; isn't that the case for all of you writers, but he was expected to wait until Vanessa got her arse in gear, (or not as maybe the case); he would probably still be waiting now and his story would have been laying around unread and unapreciated, and for what; a totally different story by a different writer which has yet to surface. She didn't object to him writting it, she just objected to him publishing it, but that's why writers write,so people can read.

William Shears said...

Check your sitemaster again Jane. Douglas has not sent any comments from my computer, nor I from his.

Jane Smith said...

Last night I posted the following comment over at Jonathan Pinnock's blog and at Nik Perring's blog, where The Douglas And William Show has also been running. Forgive me for repeating myself here.

According to Sitemeter, the comments that Douglas Bruton and William Shears left on my blog both came from someone using a BTCentralPlus internet connection, who was based in Edinburgh, using one computer with the IP address 86.131.241.

After I pointed this out on my blog Shears commented again, insisting he was not the same person as Bruton. This comment also came from a BTCentralPlus account, but this time one based in Brentwood, Essex, with a different IP address: 217.44.136. At first I thought that I'd made a mistake and was just about to apologise when Bruton commented on my blog again--this time from the same IP address in Brentwood, Essex, which Shears had commented from.

I live in Sheffield, and when I visit my own blog from my own desktop computer, Sitemeter reflects that. But when I'm out and about and use my laptop and mobile connection, the IP address is naturally different--and my given location changes depending on which wireless connection I'm using. According to Sitemeter I've posted from Manchester, London, and Glasgow when I know I've just been down the road.

You can draw your own conclusions. But it might help you to do that if you know a few more details.

It's likely that Douglas has posted blog comments under pseudonyms before, in order to support himself. I remember particularly a blogger called Amber who, like William Shears, had no previous internet identity when she first appeared and who, like William, commented only on blog posts where Douglas had been criticised. Her posts were always supportive of Douglas and critical the people who were critical of him. Like William, Amber shared an IP address with Douglas and seemed to travel frequently between Edinbugh and Brentwood.

As for the rest of Bruton's increasingly libellous comments: I'm not even going to address them. He won't allow me to comment on his blog, he twists my words, and he misrepresents me at every turn. He's a talented writer and I wish him the very best: but I don't see the point in rehashing this very old, and very unsavoury story any more, particularly when it's clear to everyone but Douglas, William (and probably Amber too) who is in the wrong here.

William Shears said...

Jane, you have obviously not checked your Sitemaster findings; or perhaps you have, but won't publicly admit the truth. The only thing connecting myself to Douglas is the fact that we both have the same internet provider, hardly much of a coincidence as they are one of, if not the largest internet providers in the country. If I'm a figment of Douglas's imagination, then perhaps you could confirm that to Her Majesty's Inspectors of Taxes.

Douglas Bruton said...

Jane, you do not wish me the very best. If you did you would not have so maligned me and continue to malign me. You know all this Ip address is just smoke.

Whoever this William Shears is, he is not me and we do not correspond and we do not share the same computer, Ip address or country. That you insist on trying to say we are is just to undermine anything he or I have to say. That is not the act of someone who wishes me the very best.

That you are not entering in to a rehash of all of this again is fine... a bit surprising for someone who claims to have sued a national newspaper for theft of her work/ideas.

But do not kid yourself that we do not see through what is going on here.

Jane Smith said...

Douglas and William: you insist you're two separate people and yet you both post from the same IP address, you both refer to SiteMeter as "Sitemaster" and you both suggest I "go back and check my machine" when referring to my findings. You've done so here, and on Doug Cheadle's blog.

Yes, I get that you don't think you plagiarised anyone's work but just because that's your opinion doesn't mean that it's true. There are several people who specialise in IP law who disagree with you very strongly about that. I've taken advice on this, and I suggest you do the same: and while you're at it, try to come up with some original ideas of your own instead of relying on other writers to do that for you. There's a good chap.

I also get that you think I've discredited you but it wasn't me who did that--it was you. You discredited yourself when you plagiarised the work of other writers; you discredited yourself again when you refused to accept responsibility for your plagiarism, and denied having done so; you discredited yourself further when you made libellous and vindictinve posts on your own blog and elsewhere about people who had placed you in a position of trust; and you continue to discredit yourself with every comment you make trying to defend those actions.

Your obsessive and lengthy posts only make me concerned for your emotional well-being: they do nothing to convince me that you have even a shred of integrity or honour with regard to this matter. Your habit of making several similar or identical comments to several of my blog posts at once is spamming, and could result in your ISP denying you service; and I find it bizarre that you sent me a nearly-contrite and somewhat-apologetic email on Sunday evening, asking how we could end this whole sorry episode, but then within ten minutes made further lengthy and insulting comments about me on blogs elsewhere.

Douglas, I'm not going to approve any more of your comments here unless you move on from this. You keep on commenting, but you say nothing new and frankly, we're all bored now. If you have anything interesting to say, or anything new and pertinent then by all means say it. But if you only want to carry on complaining about how hard done-by you are, and how we've all got things wrong, then I will not approve a single one of your comments. And yes, that goes for you too, "William".