Tuesday, April 05, 2016

More thoughts on book piracy

by Rick Blechta

The story I featured in last Tuesday’s post (Plagiarism in the 21st Century) seems to have really resonated with a lot of people. For one thing, it’s all over Facebook at the moment, mostly on timelines of authors (with surprisingly few publishers picking it up). I also heard privately from several people.

The article also really resonated with me (not that I’m expecting people to be snapping up my deathless works of art left, right and centre). The thing that sticks in my craw is the sheer audacity of these pirates.

I wish I had time to research this more completely, but I’m sure it’s all hidden in a carefully-crafted labyrinth of internet befuddlement. The person posing as Joanne Clancy is really rather accomplished. Think about it. She was giving interviews, albeit with questions sent to her. It would have been interesting to see how she would have handled a spot on TV.

It’s so easy to be anonymous on the internet. You can quickly create multiple people, in much the same way that a writer creates characters. I’m still willing to bet that “Joanne Clancy” also has other names under which she operates. If she didn’t when this whole thing blew up in her face, she does now. Why not? Like any scammer, you just fold your tent, disappear to another place, and set up shop again. Hell, she could even be peddling the same books again under different titles.

The thing to remember is that Eilis O’Hanlon only found out about Joanne Clancy by accident. Her whole series could have been plundered and she might have never found out. The other revealing thing is that she obviously has a very kind heart. How else can you explain someone being so understanding to a person (an anonymous one, at that) who is ripping them off for a substantial bit of money? While that says much about the quality of Eilis’ character, the fact is this Joanne Clancy person probably had that sob story she told Eilis well-rehearsed and ready to go. Sadly, it was swallowed and Ms O’Hanlon allowed herself to get scammed further.

But the really big idea to take away from this is that there is little an author (or publisher) can do. Find a good novel with mid-range type sales, rewrite a bit of it (easy to do if the scammer uses the global search function in a word processor, and you’re good to go. A company as big as Amazon can’t possibly be expected to uncover something like this and that size works in the scammer’s favour.

If they’re really smart, they’ll translate the novel into another language and further obfuscate the trail — especially if the language in which they market the book didn’t have a translation of the stolen book. Clancy big error was placing her versions of the O’Hanlon novel’s in the same country (Ireland). If she’d set them in Canada or the US, even England, she might have escaped detection for a long time.

The fact that the story is getting such wide coverage makes it almost certain other people will jump on this particular scam and the problem will spread. Everyone of us here on Type M has to be wondering if we’re being ripped off and don’t even know it — especially in foreign countries in other languages

That’s a pretty scary thing — especially since none of us are making pots of money writing crime fiction. Every dollar earned is precious.

But I ask: what can you do?

1 comment:

Rick Blechta said...

For those who are interested, here's an update on the whole story, penned by Eilis O'Hanlon: http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/eilis-ohanlon-my-tale-of-a-book-thief-sparked-an-online-frenzy-but-what-happened-next-34593825.html