Jack Sparrow They Ain’t   2 comments

A rather hot topic that finds its way into writer’s forums from time to time is also a touchy one. The topic is plagiarism. Of all the acts of theft and piracy on the internet, this one stands out as the one that elicits the deepest emotions. Small wonder there, when you consider the act can be seen as nothing short of emotional rape, and here’s why.

To give him credit, that loveable character from the Disney movies, Captain Jack Sparrow, has a sense of honor. True, it’s a bit bent, but it is there. Plagiarists have no such compunctions. While Jack Sparrow may seemingly betray a friend, he always makes up for it in the end. Plagiarists offer nothing short of a backhanded apology, more often than not a lie, when they get caught. And, you can bet they never offer to make things right. Their only concern is to make as much as they can from another’s hard work and toil. The only thing they really feel sorry for is getting caught.

Given how easy the digital revolution has made it for plagiarists, it is becoming a far more common occurrence than it was before. True, you can steal a movie, or a CD and sell illegal copies on the web, but only writers are subject to having the work put in someone else’s name. Could you imagine the flak if someone put Star Wars on the web under a name other than George Lucas?

Let’s look at some of the things a writer goes through for our non-writing friends who may read this, and maybe they can see why an author would consider plagiarism right up there with rape.

A serious writer starts with an idea. Usually it is something he hopes has not occurred to someone else, and if it is he/she can do a different take on the subject. (If you think a fresh idea is easy, you obviously haven’t tried to come up with a new handle on Yahoo, or Gmail in the past twenty years.) Once that is set, we need a plot. We have to come up with ways to keep a reader interested in what comes next. Is it exciting enough? Are we giving out the right clues? Will anyone, other than our mothers, give a shit? Then we need interesting characters to bring that plot to life. Ever watch a boring movie with horrible actors? The problem is a thousand times worse in print. Then we have to come up with a satisfying, and hopefully moving/surprising, end to the tale. Think writing that high school essay was a pain in the ass, try making it 50,000 to 100,000 words long sometime.

After spending hundreds of hours working all of that out, hundreds more actually typing it. Then go back and re-work parts that just flat out suck. Worry some more about whether or not the dialog feels real enough, and what harebrained mistakes you’ve missed. Beg for a few beta readers to point out your harebrained mistakes so you can spend a few hundred hours trying to make them work, or replace them all together. Lose untold hours of sleep trying to figure out how to get out of the hole you so cleverly wrote your hero into. (Starting to get the picture, yet? And I haven’t even touched grammar, spelling, syntax,or pacing.)

Then, after all those hours of blood and sweat to turn out a story you hope people will like, along comes the plagiarist who does nothing more than copy a year, or more, of your life into a word processor; hits find and replace; changes the title, and puts it out as theirs. A grand total of an hour, if that. Just to make a buck off your work without having to do any of it themselves.

Lowest of the low doesn’t begin to describe this sorry excuse for a human being. I’ve far more respect for the anyone-can write-a-book crowd filling up Amazon than I do for a plagiarist.

The main problem, I hate to say it, is actually the sites that give the plagiarist a place to put his stolen booty up for sale. Without a format to sell on these low lifes are about as effective as a super soaker against a forest fire. And, no, I don’t believe the, “We can’t check every book to see if its been stolen,” excuse. How hard is it to check your own data base? My gods, I can do it in a few hours with Copyscape, and Google. And I’m on dial-up! So that excuse doesn’t fly any better than a lead balloon.

As usual it is up to us writers to do something about this problem, and as long as we allow the sellers to hide behind that excuse, it will continue. They don’t really care, because they get their cut regardless. The only way this will change in anyway for the better is if we do something about it. Trust me, forgive and forget is the same thing the school bully counts on. As long as you let him, he is going to take your lunch money.

As Jack Sparrow would say,”Savey?”

I put quite a few links in this article, they’re the darker blue text, and none of them are BS advertising sites. Spend the thirty some odd dollars to copyright your work properly: and check out the links. Then be prepared to do something about it if it happens to you. If not, well, that’s your business. But, why complain if you allow the bully to bloody your nose?

Later, Gang.

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2 responses to “Jack Sparrow They Ain’t

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  1. Exactly, and thanks for the Copyscape site.

    • You’re quite welcome, Misty.

      Copyscape is a good tool to find out if ant of your work is showing up on the web elsewhere. Since it was designed to sniff out plagiarism on the WWW, added to Google, it becomes a darn good aid in helping writers keep tabs on their work.

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