When Plagiarism Hits Home

Last December I was on Guru.com searching for ebook formatting clients. I noticed one project came up looking for someone to write a short manual on Sigil ebook editor. Since that program is the foundation of my eBook Formatting Guide, I was curious. I knew the book would eventually end up in Amazon.

I had been writing my own “The Lost Sigil Ebook Editor Manual” for several months so curious why someone would hire a person to write a manual if they never used the program themselves? How would they know it was accurate?

Well, the book eventually showed up on Amazon (May 2012), so naturally I bought it. The first 78% of the book was fine — clean and well written, if not completely accurate. The “ghost” writer just took the basic instructions provided from the Sigil site and wrote the book. I know from using the program that there have been a lot of changes and a few annoying bugs (which I will include in my book).

When I got to the last three chapters of his book I was stunned. There, staring back at me were my own words, verbatim.

A clumsy thief

To make a long story longer, I discovered the “real identity” of this writer (he used a pen name on his book). Turns out he was a customer of mine, who purchased my Ebook Formatting Kit in March 2012. I provide various reading formats in my Kit (epub, mobi and PDF). All he did was copy and paste content from the PDF version of my Guide. He didn’t bother to correct the resulting odd formatting (converting PDF to an ebook format creates odd sentences breaks which require fixing) and to top it off he even copied my typos.

I immediately contacted Amazon on the matter. At the bottom of every Product page is a blue box labeled Feedback. One choice is Do you believe that this item violates a copyright? Click here. Of course I do!

I faxed the Copyright Agent in Amazon’s Legal Department all the required information. I then contacted a copyright lawyer acquaintance. Her comment was Amazon didn’t care about taking down books that make them money. I was deflated. Did that mean this bugger was going to get away with stealing my work?

Fortunately, she was wrong and about 4 days later I received an email from Amazon stating:

Hi Suzanne,

Thank you for your message. Please be advised that we are in the process of removing the following Kindle titles from all Amazon sites:

[[THE OFFENDING BOOK AND ASIN NUMBER WAS HERE]]

It typically takes 2-3 days for a listing to disappear once it has been removed from our catalog. We trust this will bring this matter to a close.

Garth Skovgard

Copyright/Trademark Agent
Amazon.com

I removed the name of the book and ASIN number as I don’t want to give any more “air time” to the thief. I am putting in the Copyright and Trademark Agent’s name as I think Amazon did a fantastic job protecting the rights of (this) author.

As of today, May 22, 2012 — the book is gone, out of the Amazon system – history! Will he do it again? Probably. Will I get restitution? Probably not. Only a part of the book was plagiarized (yet in that small book my content consisted of a whopping 22%.)

A stupid thief

What surprises me is why he even put my content in his book in the first place? Not just plagiarism, but the information didn’t fit. One chapter of my content talks about creating a Linkable Table of Contents and provides the actual code for creating one. But earlier in his book it states you didn’t need to make a linkable TOC because epubs use the NCX file for the table of contents.

This is true — for epubs. But the Kindle/mobi do not use the NCX file for the table of contents, it requires a linkable table of contents page.

Sigil is an ebook editor for creating epub files, so the “ghost writer” wrote from that perspective. The thief, who knows nothing about the Sigil program, or formatting, for that matter, took my three chapters (2 specifically for Kindle) and just threw them in.

If the entire thing wasn’t so sad, it would be laughable.

Conclusion

Essentially, since my book is a how-to, and a niche, I purchase several books/month. I don’t review (and definitely do not steal), but I do read them. This isn’t possible for everyone and every book. I am sure my book is plagiarized somewhere else and probably in its entirety. I don’t sweat it. I can’t stop thieves, but I can deter them.

I register a copyright ($35/US) for every book I write. It is better legally for protection and well worth it. I also assign an ISBN number to every book. (I bought a block of 100 ISBN numbers, so that should last me a while.)

They say that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” I just wish he had chosen to copy my red robe and UGG slipper look.

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