Friday, 17 July 2009

Anti-Plagiarism Day!

Before I start, I have to point out that I don’t want to scare anyone here. Despite the fears of many novice writers, plagiarism doesn't happen often in the professional arena. Very few jobbing writers would ever even consider it as an option, and the odds in favour of a publisher or agent stealing the work of an unknown writer are almost infinitesimal. It’s more likely when you’re dealing with people who don’t know the rules, or who don’t have respect for other writers: as ever, if you take some care when deciding which company to keep, you’re unlikely to ever encounter a plagiarist.

Having said all of that, I've known a few writers who have fallen foul of plagiarists and every single one of them has been significantly hurt by seeing their writing so misused. Few have received a proper apology, let alone decent compensation for their distress: they've lost money, publishing contracts, and years of their life to plagiarism and despite it being recognised as wrong, it seems that little action is taken against those who commit this crime against their fellow writers. Having spent most of May and June watching as a new case of plagiarism unfolded before me, I announced two weeks ago that today would be Anti-Plagiarism Day, on my blog at least, and invited anyone who cared about it to join in.

I had intended to use this post to provide my own definition and discussion of plagiarism and copyright infringement—what each one is, where the two transgressions overlap, and how to avoid committing either—but discovered that it had already been done far better than I could manage at Dear Author. So instead, here is a roundup of some of the more notorious and entertaining plagiarism cases that I've heard about, for you to boggle at and enjoy.


In January 2008 those lovely girls at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books revealed how New York Times bestseller Cassie Edwards appeared to have plagiarised others in her novel Shadow Bear. A reader had found several passages of exposition in the novel which seemed very different in tone to the rest of the text. When she typed those passages into Google eerily similar passages turned up, all of which were attributed to other writers including one piece which concerned black-footed ferrets (and if you click on none of my other links you MUST go to that one: it’s priceless).

Further investigations revealed similar problems in other Edwards titles. Edwards appeared to have been caught red-handed but in a letter to the Smart Bitches, Edwards' publisher Signet was at first rather bullish.
Signet takes plagiarism seriously, and would act swiftly were there justification for such allegations against one of its authors. But in this case Ms. Edwards has done nothing wrong.
Signet later repositioned itself in a somewhat coded fashion when it wrote to the Smart Bitches again to say,
Our original comments were based on Signet’s review of a limited selection of passages. We believe the situation deserves further review. Therefore we will be examining all of Ms. Edwards’ books that we publish, and based on the outcome of that review we will take action to handle the matter accordingly. We want to make it known that Signet takes any and all allegations of plagiarism very seriously.
As far as I know Edwards is still being published, and her books—complete with the dodgy bits—remain available: and when it comes to borrowing words from others but remaining in print, she's not alone. “Wired” editor Chris Anderson found himself in a spot of bother last month when it was discovered that his book Free included at least a dozen unattributed passages from other works, including several from Wikipedia (which is renowned for its shifting and often unreliable content). He has at least responded with some grace by admitting the mistake and apologising for his error; his publisher, Hyperion, has stated that it intends to correct future editions; but that first edition of his book is still on the shelves, complete with the plagiarised passages.

Kaavya Viswanathan's novel was dealt with more appropriately. She was only nineteen when she reportedly received an advance of $500,000 for her novel How Opal Metha Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got A Life. Soon after her book appeared on the shelves it was noticed that it bore some striking similarities to two books: Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings, both by Megan McCafferty. A print-run of 100,000 copies of Viswanathan's book ended up being recalled and while her publisher, Little, Brown, originally promised that a revised version would soon appear on the shelves, that new edition never materialised and nor did the second book which Viswanathan was contracted for. Whether she was ever required to repay her advance remains uncertain.

Not all writers who plagiarise get paid advances for their efforts or have a publisher with a legal team on hand to guide and advise. When a fan of Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight series announced earlier this year that she was going to write an unauthorised sequel to the series I blogged about it briefly here (if you’re interested in the fan-writer's many press releases and internet hissy-fits they’ve all been linked to, and discussed in good detail, at Absolute Write here and here). While Meyers’ publishers don’t appear to have taken any significant action against this ill-informed writer it’s important to remember that she’s not yet published her book: she's announced that it will be published in September 2009 and my hunch is that if she does go ahead with that publication she will very soon afterwards feel the full weight of Meyers' publishers' legal department on her shoulders. And if that happens, it’s going to get very nasty and very expensive for her, very quickly indeed.

If you are now convinced that all books either will be plagiarised eventually or are themselves the results of plagiarism I direct you to Neil Gaiman, who provides a welcome interlude of calm and reason to the debate; and from there, you might like to go to Jonathan Lethem's thoughtful and witty essay on the subject, which appeared in Harper’s Magazine (to get the full impact of this piece make sure you read down to the key: I loved the joke but admit to being a sad obsessive about such things).

In an attempt to provide a little balance to my rant, I have found a few pieces which suggested that plagiarism isn't always carried out with malice in mind. My favourite among those essays appeared in Newsweek when Russ Juskalian discussed the suggestion that unconscious plagiarism, or “cryptomnesia”, could be to blame. This excuse has been used by several writers who have been accused of plagiarism but, like me, Juskalian is not completely convinced:
Unconscious plagiarism does exist, but writers who don't take proactive steps to avoid it are often either being lazy, or they have a diminished fear of being caught.
In my view, Juskalian’s opinion is reinforced by the Edwards case. When such large chunks of text appear to have been borrowed, it seems to me that a writer would have to have a very capacious unconscious indeed in order to retain so much text in her memory. If it wasn't plagiarism, then sloppy record-keeping is far more likely to have been the cause; but that since several of Edwards' novels have been found to contain many such “borrowed” passages, her sloppiness appears to be more of a confirmed habit than an occasional lapse.

Not everyone agrees that plagiarism is a bad thing: I've found countless articles online which argue that our works should be made widely available and distributed freely: but they all seem to ignore that writers have to earn their livings somehow; and the terrible hurt and anger that plagiarism can cause. Not only can it mean that a writer who has worked for years on a book sees it suddenly valueless if a plagiariser steals from it before it's published: there's also the senseof intrusion and violation which the plagiarised writer feels:
I feel as if he's broken into my house, stolen my computer, defaced all my family photographs and crapped on my bed. I've lost the better part of two years' work because of him and now it's been made public he's not had to pay back the money he has been paid for my work, he's had no more than a slap on the wrist. He's been boasting that all the publicity he's received has put the sales of his other books through the roof. And he's not even bothered to apologise to me.
I'll give the last word to Nora Roberts, a best-selling and highly prolific writer who endured a two-year-long legal battle after it was discovered that fellow romance writer Janet Dailey had plagiarised her widely and often. When the court case was over Roberts wrote,

Until we, the writing community, take a strong, public and no-nonsense stand against plagiarism, the publishing community will, I think, continue to downplay it, to keep violation after violation quiet--or attempt to. And the reading community will go on largely in ignorance.




Many people have supported Anti-Plagiarism Day, and here are links to their pieces, in no particular order. Let me know if you'd like me to add you to the list.

Tania Hershman happens to be a brilliantly gifted writer, a lovely woman, and a birthday girl today (happy birthday, Tania!). She has chosen not to dwell on her recent plagiarism trauma and instead discusses inspiration and intent in her characteristically engaging piece, This Day.

From Manuscripts Burn, a personal account of plagiarism and being plagiarised, which ends with this great quote: The moral of the story, kids, is that plagiarism hurts people. It might seem like a victimless crime, but when you steal someone else’s ideas they sit in their metaphorical elementary school chairs angrily not getting their metaphorical extra credit.

From Quiller's Place (the blog of writer Sally Quilford), a useful discussion of plagiarism, fan-fiction and betrayal with a useful list of links at the end.

The incomparable Nicola Morgan exhorts us all to not copy her, and reveals her own amazing story of not-plagiarism.

Even without adequate doses of ginkgo biloba, Sally Zigmond cuts the mustard: If another writer is generous enough to allow you access to their work in progress, then it’s wrong to ‘rewrite’ it for your own gain... that is not homage. That is not zeitgeist. It is a betrayal of trust. It is theft. Pure and simple. And it stinks.

Dear Author's Top Ten Tips for Plagiarists.

Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware provides a little history and perspective.

Dan Holloway points out that although he chooses to give some of his work away for free, you're not automatically allowed to take the rest without asking.

Catdownunder gets to grip with a hairy issue.

Miriam Drori supports Anti-Plagiarism Day.

Teresa Ashby tells us how she discovered that her own work had been plagiarised: "She said that she loved the stories so much she just wanted to write something similar."

Editorial Anonymous discusses how publishers are unlikely to plagiarise.

Marion Gropen beat me to the finish line, and covers a lot of ground with her post about the causes and limits of plagiarism.

Karen of Get On With It decides that enough is enough!

Nik Perring lightens the tone with a great interview of a brilliant writer, has a short rant against plagiarism and plagiarists, and remembers to wish the great Tania Hershman (read her book NOW) a very happy birthday.

At (W)ords and (W)ardances Jodi Meadows feeds her own ferrets duck soup, and sends her best wishes to the black-footed variety.

At Crawl Space, Sarah Hilary discusses how voice, influence and plagiarism can sometimes overlap, and lists some of my favourite short story collections.

Authonomists discuss Anti-Plagiarism Day.

Lisa Gold discussed academic plagiarism on her blog last week.

iThenticate congratulates us at Twitter!

David Tulloch draws us a cartoon. I hope he didn't copy it.

49 comments:

Dan Holloway said...

Just posted mine, Jane:

http://agnieszkasshoes.blogspot.com/

hurrah for anti-plagiarism

Dan Holloway said...

And a serious engagement with your wonderful, informative, and full of priceless (black-footed ferrets - has anyone sent this to the lovely Jodi Meadows, delightful agent and avid ferret-oholic?).
Your comment:
"Not everyone agrees that plagiarism is a bad thing: I've found countless articles online which argue that our works should be made widely available and distributed freely: but they all seem to ignore that writers have to earn their livings somehow"

It's no secret that I both make my work widely available (not the same, alas, as widely-read :p) for free, and that I believe free content giving is a very good business model (I've commented enough on this in the light of Chris Anderson's new book that I wpn't bore people again, that's not the point of this day). But I abhore plagiarism - that's the issue I deal with in my APD blog. I make my content available for free because I CHOOSE to.

There's also a big difference between someone distributing my work for nothing - I'd rather they asked in the case of my non-fiction, in the case of my fiction I've made it clear people are not only free to do so but encouraged to do so - and someone nicking it. Distribute it for free by all means, but ALWAYS leave my name on it (that's the whole point of the free business model!)

Jane Smith said...

Dan, I'll edit in a link to your piece now. Thank you for joining in!

As you say, there's a huge difference between a writer deciding to give his work away for free, and someone deciding to just take it. Thanks for pointing that out--it's a useful distinction.

Dan Holloway said...

Thank you.

A practical question. I work in university admin, and academics run assessed work and applications through sophisticated anti-plagiarism software (for a tech-savvy bunch students are very unsavvy! That or they think we all think hi tech is a room-sized adding machine!), which is very good at catching them out.

The question is, whether publishers use an equivalent kind of software for books they are considering - either fiction or non-fiction, and whether such a thing would be useful. Would it actually be a hindrance, to the extent that if they had detection software and didn't detect, the wronged author would pursue them not the plagiarist.

Which leads to my second question. As someone who compiles websites at work that sometimes use old photos and so on, I am very used to havig to carry out extremely thorough due diligence procedures. I was quite surprised, therefore, by your Signet story. What are the due diligence requirements on publishers? I know sleepless nights about this almost stopped me starting the Year Zero collective. I was, literally, kept awake at night in a panic thinking, what if one of our authors posts plagiarised content? Am I going to be taken to court for it personally? I made all our lovely Year Zeros (and these are people I know and trust) sign almost tyrannical Articles of Association (http://yearzerowriters.wordpress.com/year-zero-articles-of-association/) before I'd let them post anything in a bid to protect myself. Are "mainstream publishers" not even more terrifed of their authors plagiarising?

Nicola Morgan said...

It's a minefield out there. As someone once said ....

Nik Perring said...

Great post, Jane. I've added my two-penneth here: http://nikperring.blogspot.com/

Nik

Tania Hershman said...

Excellent post, Jane. My own contribution, focusing less on theft and more on inspiration, is here.

emmadarwin said...

Great post Jane. Twas ever thus: Heyer was much plagiarised by Barbara Cartland and others, but never succeeded in bringing a case to court. On the other hand Daphne du Maurier was sued by another novelist for breach of copyright but won the case. Interestingly, her feelings at having to expose her creative self in court in order to defend herself from the charge of plagiarism echo those which writers (including Heyer) who've been plagiarised express.

But I want to problematise the question a bit. In academic and non-fiction work it's easy not to plagiarise actual prose and/or others' ideas unintentionally - it's largely a matter of good working habits. And borrowing someone else's creative work to save doing your own is even easier NOT to do.

There's a tricky intermediate area, though, where we use published non-fiction in researching our fiction. Though I hold no brief for the quality of either book, we did all heave a huge sigh of relief at the outcome of the Da Vinci Code/Holy Blood, Holy Grail case. There's no copyright in ideas, which is why Dan Brown succeeded in defending himself from the charge (plagiarism is not a crime in law, breach of copyright is). Though in academic work the idea's originator must be acknowledged if you're to avoid the charge of plagiarism, academic work is essentially analytical, and loses nothing if the separate parts are identified.

But writing fiction is a process of synthesising parts into a whole, and showing the parts up in the novel would be like sticking labels all over a Rembrandt giving the chemical composition of each colour. Interesting for the art historian, but pretty disastrous to our experience of the picture. And that's always supposing that one knows what the parts are. As a novelist I deal with what comes from my unconscious all the time - letting the bucket down into the well, as Forster put it - and I genuinely don't know where much of what appears originally came from: something read twenty years ago, an out-of-copyright play, or the common stock of human narrative, on which we all draw all the time. Although of course word-for-word and detailed plot-for-plot copying are morally wrong as well as illegal, if fiction is to survive then it must have the freedom to synthesise material whose source the writer doesn't know. Of course the question of where the lines are drawn will always have to come down to individual cases, but there is a public-interest question of creative freedom at stake, as well as an equally important one of intellectual property: as a writer, I have an interest in both. Plagiarism is wrong, but plagiarism is not a stable concept, nor are the boundaries easily defined.

It's just occurred to me to wonder whether the ever-expanding Acknowledgements in fiction, against which I rail every now and again, aren't, as I'd always thought, either a piece of self-aggrandisement by the author, or an unwise attempt to claim greater factual and intellectual legitimacy for the novel (when in fact it does the opposite). Maybe it's actually all about avoiding lawsuits?

Dan Holloway said...

Emma, Sally Zigmond's post (linked to in Jane's post here) deals with precisely these issues, including the knotty one of acknowledgeemnts. It's one of the really fascinating slants on this debate.

dan powell said...

Hi Jane, great post and interesting links.

As others seem to have covered the whole definition and examples of plagiarism far better than I could have done, I have posted here about the sources used in my #fridayflash fiction piece posted today. An effort to illustrate the importance of acknowledging sources.

Hope that fits the idea of Anti-Plagiarism Day.

SueG said...

Jane, thank you for organizing this. I have added my thoughts in my blog at: http://sueguineyblog.blogspot.com

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

Great informative post about a very serious issue. Here is my contribution to the day-http://thoughtsfrombotswana.blogspot.com/2009/07/anti-plagiarism-day.html

Lauri

Karen said...

Bit late in the day, but I've done a little post over at mine :o)

Sarah Salway said...

Thanks for doing this, Jane. i've joined in the conversation too - http://sarahsalway.blogspot.com/

Teresa Ashby said...

Excellent post Jane - I've said my bit in support. Thank you for doing this!

http://teresaashby.blogspot.com/2009/07/anti-plagiarism-day-17th-july.html

Sara Crowley said...

I've added my tuppence here:http://asalted.blogspot.com/2009/07/anti-plagiarism-day.html

(Gosh, tuppence, that must have come from the somewhere deep down - I'm sure there are some who have never heard that phrase before, I seem to be turning into my gran!)

Vanessa said...

Thanks Jane.. my post will go up later tomorrow, and as I said somewhere before, will focus on how to avoid upsetting colleagues in writing groups, respecting boundaries and so on.

One thing struck me about the 'excuses' I was given when I had my own work plagiarised recently...there were many, but among them, was this:
'I don't mind anyone using my work themselves. So I can therefore use theirs.'

That was quite frightening to hear. He'd created a sort of quid pro quo in his head, that justified what he was doing.

Trouble is, what he didn't understand (or didn't feel like understanding) is that no other writer I've ever met would dream of taking someone else's work...! He was and is right out there on his ownsome.



.

Terresa said...

Excellent thoughts here. Neil Gaiman is one of my all-time favorite authors. I like the calmness he adds to the debate.

As an aspiring writer, my greatest fear is that of being plagiarized. Hopefully that is a bullet I will be able to dodge, but sadly other writers are not so lucky.

Marion Gropen said...

I jumped the gun a tad, and posted mine yesterday.

(It's here.)

I'm more interested in the ways that novices can run aground than in those who are deliberately doing wrong.

Jane Smith said...

I've edited in a lot of the pieces which have been written for Anti-Plagiarism Day, but am now defeated. I'm overwhelmed by the response, and really appreciate all the support and enthusiasm which has been generated by this; thank you all!

I'll add more of your links over the next few days and if you've not been linked to, by all means email me and let me know, or post something here. I don't want to leave anyone out.

HelenMHunt said...

So sorry, Jane, I really wanted to support this great initiative but a week of work and health problems have caught up with me. I'll try to post about it over the weekend and link to some of the wonderful pieces that other people have written.

jjdebenedictis said...

Wow: synchronicity. I just finished documenting plagiarism on the part of one of my students last night.

Here's my thoughts:
http://jjdebenedictis.blogspot.com/2009/07/anti-plagiarism-day.html

Thank you for championing this! Anti-Plagiarism Day is a fantastic idea.

Erastes said...

Excellent idea and excellent post.

We at Meta Writer have posted in honour of the day, Gehayi has written a villanelle for it.

http://community.livejournal.com/meta_writer/30911.html

Enjoy!

Julia Bohanna said...

This is a wonderfully informative post. Let's get some discussion about this but also make writers realise that writing should be about originality and a pure love and joy for the craft. Anything less spoils so much.....

lacer said...

Hi Jane

I've posted my thoughts on the matter here
http://lacer.wordpress.com/2009/07/17/anti-plagiarism-day/
I talk about my experience of falling naively into the non-fiction plagiarism trap and my concerns about truly knowing where my ideas come from in fiction. Plus issues of plagiarism elsewhere in my life, notably in creating original crafted designs.

catdownunder said...

Hair raising issue indeed! (Thankyou Jane.)

asakiyume said...

Enjoyed your article and the links very, very much. Plagiarism stinks!

(Here via jmeadows at livejournal)

Redleg said...

Thanks for the link! Yaay, plagiarism. No, wait, that doesn't seem right. Boo, plagiarism.

Ebony McKenna. said...

Fantastic topic.
Thank you very much for motivating everyone.

Sadly, I think Anti-Plagiarism Day will have to be an annual event. I wish it wasn't needed.

Keep up the good fight*

*A phrase a great many people have probably said before me.

Welshcake said...

I posted on this from the angle of fear of committing plagiarism...

Elizabeth Baines said...

Jane, thanks for posting on this. I think the best thing we can do about plagiarism is make a noise such as this about it: it's much easier to plagiarise when people aren't generally aware of the problem.

I have to say I feel more cynical than you about the chances of unpublished writers being plagiarised by professionals. I don't want to scare anyone either, but also I wouldn't like to give anyone a false sense of security. I've witnessed and experienced several instances of well-known professionals plagiarising from unknown, unpublished writers, to the extent that I am now very cautious about sharing my unpublished work at all, and no longer read my unpublished work at readings unless there will a permanent record such as a recording or film of the reading. I've added my bit at http://fictionbitch.blogspot.com/2009/07/anti-plagiarism-day.html

Debi said...

Excellent debate. My contribution here. http://debialper.blogspot.com/2009/07/anti-plagiarism-day.html

Mad Scientist Matt said...

Wow. That ferret one felt like shades of Atlanta Nights.

denise said...

contributions from brazil:

http://naogostodeplagio.blogspot.com/2009/07/17-de-julho.html

http://naogostodeplagio.blogspot.com/2009/07/plagio-tolerancia-zero.html

http://pontodetraducao.blogspot.com/2009/07/17-de-julho-dia-mundial-do-antiplagio.html#links

http://traduz-se.blogspot.com/2009/07/nao-ao-plagio.html

cheers
denise

debbie said...

Any discussion of plagiarism should include our responsibility to be proactive teachers and mentors such as in this article Guiding the Gifted to Honest Work

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Yes. Teachers have a duty to not only educate their chasrges (at whatever level) about the issues being discussed here, but also to be good role models.

Elizabeth Baines said...

I've blogged in more detail about my thoughts today: http://fictionbitch.blogspot.com/2009/07/plagiarism-proof-and-power.html

David Tulloch said...

Thanks for suggesting this, and making it happen. For a low-brow and short take on the whole thing ... http://someonewrotethat.blogspot.com/2009/07/foot-in-mouth-notes.html

BuffySquirrel said...

I know cryptomnesia can happen, because it happened to me--I started channelling rather too freely from a book I'd read and loved as a child. Fortunately, the similarities were pointed out to me at an early stage.

I was pretty damn frightened when I reread the book, you can bet! But what can you do to avoid copying something you don't consciously remember?

Jane Smith said...

The writer whose work sparked off Anti-Plagiarism Day has now commented on my blog, here.

He feels that he's been misrepresented, so I've suggested (on my blog in the thread linked to above, and by email) that he put the story in question online somewhere, to give everyone who is interested the chance to compare it to Tania Hershman's story which it's alleged he copied. I've offered to host his story here, or to link to it if he posts it on his own blog. I look forward to his reply.

The Bogside Artists said...

Here is probably the worst example of plagiarism in the entire history of literature. It was perpetrated by J.K.Rowling on the work of an Irish author William Kelly. No newspaper will touch it for fear of reprisals from Rowling's shoot-to-kill lawyers. You can check it out here;
http://www.travelswithlipo.com

Jane Smith said...

Bogside: I've had a look at your link and can find no evidence of plagiarism in the rather wild allegations which are made there.

I suspect that the lawyers who "won't touch it" didn't even consider reprisals when they refused to take on the case: they probably found the idea of a prosecuting a case based on opinion rather than law far more disconcerting, along with the many libels which are made against Rowling by the site's writer(s).

Of course, I'm not a lawyer. You can't rely on me for any sort of legal advice and nor would I offer you any. I will say this: if you have anything to do with that site you really should delete it right now, and stop trying to spread your nonsense across the internet. If you don't, you're likely to end up with a lawsuit against you and then you really will be in trouble.

Douglas Bruton said...

Please do read my stories on Doug Cheadle's blog (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 comments in support of Bruton on other blog posts of mine in the last day. 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...

And now Jane's lie. William Shears says he is not even in the same country... his picture shows you he is certainly not in the same decade as me.

Look him up and see.

Jane, You have lied... or, to give you the benefit of the doubt, your whatdoyacallit machines have given you misinformation in saying that our IP addresses are the same.

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.

Douglas Bruton said...

You continue to lie, Jane. About me. That is not the act of someone who wishes me the very best. This is hypocrisy, to add to your character blemishes!

Vanessa from Fidra said...

Hi Jane,

Coming a bit late to this I know, but I'm always amazed both that people actually try to get away with plagiarism when it's so easily identified but also how some people accuse others of plagiarism in the hope of garnering some publicity for their own cause.

Our dear friends The Bogside Artists who dropped in here a few days ago are prime examples of the latter group. They first came to my attention back in late 2008 when one of them wrote to me claiming that back in the early 1990s I had colluded with JK Rowling to help her plagiarise his book about a boy wizard and his magical puffin.

Apparently I had said that I would publish it but instead she and I plotted to steal the key elements of the story. Apparently, I then claimed to have a terminal illness and said that I wouldn't be going ahead with it but it was too late by then and the first Harry P book appeared soon after.

All this was, obviously, news to me but the boys from the Bogside claimed in 2008 that their book was about to be published and that there would be a preface denouncing my duplicity unless "you, your husband or Rowling have a good reason why I should not". Somewhat threatening to receive out of the blue don't you think? Or an attempt at blackmail?

Since then, they have been ranting away on their own website, issuing press releases and no-one has taken any notice. Obviously, as they have not a single shred of evidence for any of these claims - not a contract or letter from me or Ms Rowling, no proof that the MSS even pre-dates Harry Potter, not a single rejection letter from a publisher - no newspaper will run with the story. All it amounts to is defamatory statement after fantastical claim after defamatory statement.

Lately, the Bogside Artists have renewed their Lear-like ranting at the storm of silence that has met their claims. They've been careful not to mention me by name, just making insinuations and sly digs about an 'Edinburgh publisher' (although a pdf file on their website that's now been removed was clearer - I have a copy saved though) but I've really had enough. I don't have a team of legal advisors and lawyers ready to leap to my defence but I do know what they say to be lies. It's time for the Bogside Artists to either front up some evidence and demonstrate what I've done or sod off - bog off really - and get on with their lives. That's what it comes down to really - step up to the plate and show your evidence or accept that no-one believes a word of your crazy story.

One of the negative aspects to the internet is that people believe that they can make whatever lunatic claims they wish and that it doesn't count. It does and it can be used in a libel or harrassment case just as much as the physical written word can.

Jane Smith said...

I find it quite bizzarre that someone with a history of plagiarism, bullying, dishonesty and libel feels justified in condemning me for having a blemished character just because I made public some information about his IP address, but there you go.

Douglas, I'm not going to approve any more of your comments here unless you move on, and find something new to say. Please tell your friend William that that goes for him, too.

Moving on: Vanessa, it seems that all the best people attract attention from The Internet Crazies. If it's any consolation you're in good company (!).

As you can see to my earlier comment to the Bogside Artists I found no evidence whatsoever of plagiarism on their website, and they're in danger of getting themselves in very deep water with Rowling's notoriously good solicitors if they carry on like this. I found their site to be disturbed and dull, and didn't take anything they'd written seriously: as you said, I think the time has come for them to put up or shut up. Internet Crazies are interesting only to themselves: Bogside must now show their proof, or lose all credibility. And I think we both know which way they're going to go.