General chatter - Oprah is being sued for $1 Trillon!




cbmare
08-06-2009, 07:25 PM
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ent/celebrities/6562882.html

I don't know if I've ever seen a suit for that kind of money!

It will be interesting to watch this play out if in fact this guy has a claim.


Haley8203
08-06-2009, 07:42 PM
wow that's crazy!

kaplods
08-06-2009, 08:54 PM
As a writer (albeit with only one short story published), I consider plagiarism serious business. One one hand, a trillion dollars seems exorbitant, but if as the article states, he's basing it on her profits he would have a strong case.

On one hand, a person could argue that the sales were based on her reputation, not the merit of his poetry (if she in fact had plagiarized from it), but I believe that in copyright law not only is the potential profit the true author would have received considered, but also the profit that the author accused of the plagiarism received.

So even if her lawyers can prove people did not buy the book because of the poem in question, she can't legally be allowed to profit from a book containing plagiarized work. There would also be potential punitive damages, justifying the size of the lawsuit.

Even if the plagiarism is determined to exist, but to be unintentional (she read his poems, forgot them and wrote her poems thinking them original), he'd still have grounds for the plagiarism case and claim to every dollar of profit the book earned Oprah now and in the future.

I'm not saying his claim is necessarily legitimate, and I didn't read whether he filed the lawsuit himself or an attorney is representing him. I would hope that if there's no merit to the case, that no attorney would touch it, but in this day of "no publicity is bad publicity" I wouldn't bet money on that.


Deana
08-06-2009, 09:01 PM
Do you know what $1 Trillion could do for our economy if it was handed out equally to every US household? *sigh* Anyway, I have never even heard of the book the author is suing over, but if Oprah indeed plagiarize then I certainly think he deserves something, but $1 Trillion? riiighhhhht.

kaplods
08-06-2009, 09:14 PM
Do you know what $1 Trillion could do for our economy if it was handed out equally to every US household? *sigh* Anyway, I have never even heard of the book the author is suing over, but if Oprah indeed plagiarize then I certainly think he deserves something, but $1 Trillion? riiighhhhht.

The author is arguing that Oprah made a trillion dollars from the book. If that is true, then how much profit should she be allowed to keep from a book containing plagiarised material? I believe the current laws say none of it, and that it would go to the author(s) of the original work that was plagiarised (or the judge may have the discretion to award it to a third party for punitive damages such as the county or a charity or charities).

If indeed she did plagiarize AND if indeed she did make more than a trillion dollars in profit from the book's sale, then any judgement less than that rewards her for theft (whether or not it was intentional). That certainly doesn't seem fair. If partial profit is allowed, then it removes the disincentive for plagiarism. "If you get caught, you'll just have to share," doesn't seem a very reasonable resolution.

If she did in fact plagiarize, that he would legally be entitled to every bit of profit she earned so far and in the future from the book (or if she plagiarized from more than one author, then he and the other plagiarized authors would be entitled to split all of her profits).

mygritsconfessions
08-06-2009, 09:16 PM
Hey Mare, hope your doing well. I never did hear back from you, so I hope all is alright. I didn't realize she was being sued, quite shocking, as with all writers at hand she could have easily had her own material written!

sakurasky
08-06-2009, 10:05 PM
I know I'm not necessarily the best at math, but 650 million copies X $20 does not equal over $1 trillion. It's more like 13 billion. So where does the other $987 billion come from?

Not only that, but the entire U.S. population is about 305 million, so that's like every man, woman, and child (and then some) in the U.S. buying Oprah's book..twice. None of it makes sense.

In any case, plagiarism is awful, and I can't help but notice the hypocrisy of someone who plagiarizes, yet gets all huffy when some guy lies that his memoir is actually fiction.

I never really liked Oprah, personally. :/

JulieJ08
08-06-2009, 10:06 PM
Not that I rule anything out, but I suspect he's just some guy throwing it up on the wall to see if it sticks.

kiramira
08-06-2009, 10:06 PM
And prove the sales...and I'll bet this will go to jury (if at all) and will be appealed if successful and the award will be reasonable and not a trillion dollars...

Kira

iskatya
08-06-2009, 10:24 PM
Seems pretty wacky to me. Not only is there no way that book made $1 trillion in sales, Oprah herself is worth only (and I use the word only lightly) a couple billion. :dizzy:

kaplods
08-06-2009, 11:07 PM
I know I'm not necessarily the best at math, but 650 million copies X $20 does not equal over $1 trillion. It's more like 13 billion. So where does the other $987 billion come from?

In any case, plagiarism is awful, and I can't help but notice the hypocrisy of someone who plagiarizes, yet gets all huffy when some guy lies that his memoir is actually fiction.

I never really liked Oprah, personally. :/


The numbers could either be based on laws regarding the maximum calculated in comparison to sales (sometimes punitive damages have a set max such as 10 times or 100 times actual damages), or for projectected future sales based on current sales. Or he may be pulling a number out of the air, as a bargaining point for an out-of-court settlement.

I admit I didn't do the math at all, but regardless actual damages awarded (if any) are likely to be based on actual profits. I don't really see a judge or a jury pursuing the maximum damages, even if proven.

More likely (I would guess) is an out of court settlement, assuming there is any shred of evidence of plagiarism - which is going to be fairly straight forward. Either he has proof that his poetry was written prior to Oprah's or he doesn't, and Oprah's poetry is either going to strongly resemble the plaintiff's poetry or it won't.

happy2bme
08-06-2009, 11:21 PM
this is EXACTLY why I gave all my money away :lol:

EZMONEY
08-06-2009, 11:24 PM
this is EXACTLY why I gave all my money away :lol:

So, does this mean I'm out of the will? :?:

happy2bme
08-06-2009, 11:48 PM
Gary, if you leave me the shuffleboard trophy, I will make sure my sister fills it with as much as is left over after I kick the bucket. Deal? (Note to others - watch how his trophy grows to Stanley Cup proportions... )

sunflowergirl68
08-07-2009, 12:03 AM
Yeah, the guy's an idiot because Oprah does not take in all of the money from every book sold. She doesn't get paid $20 a pop. Most of the money goes to the publisher. She did NOT make a trillion dollars on the sale of the book. If she did, she would be the richest person on the planet, and she's not. No one is worth a trillion dollars.

Considering this, I believe the guy is lying. Any legitimate writer knows that they don't pocket all of the proceeds from book sales. His book isn't even on Amazon, which probably means it's out of print.

If he's just suing her personally, and not her company or the publisher, then he's just doing it for publicity. People file lawsuits frivolously all of the time. It's frivolous and it will be thrown out of court. And this is coming from a writer.

kaplods
08-07-2009, 12:32 AM
Yeah, the guy's an idiot because Oprah does not take in all of the money from every book sold. She doesn't get paid $20 a pop...

Actually he might be right. This wasn't a publisher-produced print book, it was an e-book. If it was sold only on a website owned by Oprah, she (at least in theory) received 100% of the profit. Even if it is an e-publisher, unlike print books, a much higher percentage of the profit from e-books do go directly to the writer (up to 80%, sometimes even more). The "average" I believe is around 30%, however I suspect that Oprah, given her power and fame would be paid at the highest end of this spectrum. So the plaintiff may not be too far off in his estimation of her profits.

That the website selling the book is no longer available seems a bit suspicious to me. Especially if Oprah was the owner of the website. I'd be curious to know whether the website was removed in response to the controversy?

Also, I disagree that suing her personally means he's doing it for publicity. When plagiarism is charged, it's generally only the person who plagiarized who is legally responsible (unless you can prove that the publisher or company participated in the plagiarism in some way independent of the writer plagiarizing), so suing a publisher or company would be the idiotic move. Assuming the publisher isn't Oprah herself, which we can't assume either way, the publisher couldn't be held liable for the plagiarism unless the publisher is Oprah or the publishing house owned by Oprah, or it could be proven that the publisher had reason to suspect plagiarism before the book went to print, or that they continued to allow the book to be sold (either in print or by download) after evidence of plagiarism was discovered.

sunflowergirl68
08-07-2009, 03:32 AM
Yeah, but since it's such an exorbitant amount of money, I find it extremely suspicious.

Honestly, 9 times out of 10, it's not plagiarism. It's very difficult to prove that she did in fact steal from his book, considering that I couldn't find it anywhere. I looked on ABEbooks.com, Amazon, etc, and I can't find him anywhere. He has to prove that Oprah first knew of the poetry volume that she supposedly stole from, and that she actually lifted passages from it.

Mark my words, it'll be thrown out.

In other literary news, Stephenie Meyer is also being sued for plagiarism. I've read a few articles about it, and to be honest, what she is being sued for is pretty frivolous as well. This author is claiming that Meyer stole from her obscure novel, and put passages in about a wedding between a vampire and a human, sex on a beach, talking about being turned, and calling the wives "love."

I find this to be ridiculous, because there have been plenty of books involving vampire-human weddings and sex on a beach. If she has passages that are word-for-word or are very similar, she has a case. Otherwise, she doesn't. How many vampire-human stories are out there? Tons. And how many books are out there where husbands call their wives "love"?

Plus, she'd also have to prove that Meyer had access her novel. You can't plagiarize something you have no knowledge of. If she can prove Meyer bought it and read it, then she has a case. And if she can provide similar passages, she has a case. But similar themes, not really. They sound like they're books of the same theme.

So needless to say, I'm always skeptical when someone sues someone who is high-profile of plagiarism.

JK Rowling was sued for plagiarism.

http://chattahbox.com/entertainment/2009/06/17/harry-potter-writer-jk-rowling-sued-for-plagiarism/

Well, here's a Google search of "sued for plagiarism." You'd be surprised how many high-profile people get sued for plagiarism.

http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=sued+for+Plagiarism&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

I do remember a case where someone plagiarized a few books and published the book. In that case, it was clear that the author actually lifted passages from the alleged books. In the wikipedia page it shows very similar passages, and that's what needs to be shown in the Oprah case for the prosecution to be successful.

In a case where there is legitimate plagiarism, it's both the fault of the writer and of the publisher. Part of their job is to ensure that there

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaavya_Viswanathan

I just happen to know about this a little because I studied publishing in college. They take it very seriously in the publishing industry, and publishers are very, very careful to make sure that their writers aren't plagiarizing. I also guess a part of me has faith that 99% of writers aren't thieves.

sunflowergirl68
08-07-2009, 03:57 AM
Continuing on from my last post, here's the letter and the detailed excerpts in which Scott is saying Meyer stole. I have to say, I don't see it.

http://www.aolcdn.com/tmz_documents/0803_meyer_infringement.pdf

If you look at the wikipedia page, *that's* plagiarism. What i see here is similarities in themes, which is also probably what the guy is suing Oprah for.

JulieJ08
08-07-2009, 10:38 AM
Actually he might be right. This wasn't a publisher-produced print book, it was an e-book. If it was sold only on a website owned by Oprah, she (at least in theory) received 100% of the profit.

Uh, servers and bandwidth aren't free. Ask the lovely ladies running this site.

Tomato
08-07-2009, 10:50 AM
Boy, I would really love to see her lose.

kaplods
08-07-2009, 11:23 AM
Uh, servers and bandwidth aren't free. Ask the lovely ladies running this site.

True, but how is the guy suing and his lawyer supposed to know and calculate all of this? Rather he will sue for the maximum, and let the courts figure it out.

Also, this IS Oprah, and advertisers will pay huge money to advertise on anything she owns.

The guy may be a nutjob, but if he isn't and there was plagiarism involved, I can see where anger would cloud his judgement. Or, if he requested a reasonable sum, it could be something that Oprah could easily pay out of court. He may not want an out-of-court settlement, or even for the case to be decided quickly, because any way that could be done quietly or quickly would also be easily forgotten by the public.

Yes, I do think the desire for publicity is mostly behind this. No matter how it is settled, this guy will get his 5 minutes of fame, but I can't say that I blame him. If it were me (not that I have anything Oprah would want) I'd just be so hoppin' mad that more than money, I'd want people to KNOW.

I also agree that cases of plagiarism FAR outnumber true cases of plagiarism (unless you want to count plagiarism in college papers). So it will be difficult to prove unless the theft is extremely blatant.

kaplods
08-07-2009, 11:37 AM
Continuing on from my last post, here's the letter and the detailed excerpts in which Scott is saying Meyer stole. I have to say, I don't see it.

http://www.aolcdn.com/tmz_documents/0803_meyer_infringement.pdf

If you look at the wikipedia page, *that's* plagiarism. What i see here is similarities in themes, which is also probably what the guy is suing Oprah for.


Nope, that's ONE KIND of plagiarism. Lifting ideas is also plagiarism, but it has to be a LOT of lifting, not just a little inspiration. When I read the passages in the link, I didn't see it in the writing at first, either. UNTIL I read the plot headings. They started to add up in my mind, and it does start to seem implausible that one author wasn't influenced by the other (and of course the later author couldn't be influenced by the previous).

If I write a book with an extremely similar plot as another book, movie or comic book, even if my writing style is different and I change some female characters to males, and change some of the events, and rewrite every scene....(you get the idea), it would still be plagiarism.

The example you give doesn't sound like plagiarism in any one scene. The similarity could be coincidental - BUT "coincidences" add up, and there's a point at which coincidence no longer seems likely.

It's actually very common for new writers (whether of fiction, nonfiction, or college papers) to ask "how much do I have to change, for it not to be plagiarism?"

It's a misguided question, because if you're changing the words, but stealing the idea then it very well could still be plagiarism. Using an author's work as inspiration is a lot different than "changing the words." It's a very gray area when you're not dealing with literal lifting of passages with the original author's words intact.

My guess is that (unless it's settled out of court), this will either be very quickly settled (if either party is obviously in the wrong), or will drag on for a long time.

kiramira
08-07-2009, 01:40 PM
Oprah has enough money to out-lawyer any claimant.
As for plagarism in its many forms, here is a great article from the New Yorker concerning the matter:

http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/ethics/purloined.html

[T]he number of great writers who were plagiarists has often been noted. Shakespeare loved to poach words from his surprisingly limited sources, among them Sir Thomas North's translation of Plutarch: Volumnia's plea to her son, in "Coriolanus" (V, 3), is, Harry Levin says, "eloquently massive" but still "scarcely more than a metrical adaptation of North's prose." A little like Sumner, then, Shakespears copied it out and rearranged it a bit, as one might do to refit a suit stolen from J. C. Penney. To Shakespeare could be added Montaigne, John Webster, Ben Jonson, Sterne, Dryden, Lessing, Diderot, Coleridge, De Quincey, Charles Reade, Plato, and thousands more. So many that we might start to wonder, as we compile our list, whether "plagiarism" has always meant what it now means to us

and

"The problem is originality and the difficulty of saying anything new," Bowers concedes. "To a great extent, all of us who write are simply repeating those who have written before us and, occasionally, duplicating one another."

Her lawyers will outlast his lawyers; money talks in the legal system, unfortunately despite the outrage of the complaintant. And trying to prove originality in this age of cyberinformation will be almost impossible.

Kira

Beck
08-07-2009, 02:07 PM
Boy, I would really love to see her lose.

:yes:

I agree. I'd like to see her get her comeuppance. *donning flame suit*

sunflowergirl68
08-07-2009, 03:55 PM
Nope, that's ONE KIND of plagiarism. Lifting ideas is also plagiarism, but it has to be a LOT of lifting, not just a little inspiration. When I read the passages in the link, I didn't see it in the writing at first, either. UNTIL I read the plot headings. They started to add up in my mind, and it does start to seem implausible that one author wasn't influenced by the other (and of course the later author couldn't be influenced by the previous).

If I write a book with an extremely similar plot as another book, movie or comic book, even if my writing style is different and I change some female characters to males, and change some of the events, and rewrite every scene....(you get the idea), it would still be plagiarism.

The example you give doesn't sound like plagiarism in any one scene. The similarity could be coincidental - BUT "coincidences" add up, and there's a point at which coincidence no longer seems likely.

It's actually very common for new writers (whether of fiction, nonfiction, or college papers) to ask "how much do I have to change, for it not to be plagiarism?"

It's a misguided question, because if you're changing the words, but stealing the idea then it very well could still be plagiarism. Using an author's work as inspiration is a lot different than "changing the words." It's a very gray area when you're not dealing with literal lifting of passages with the original author's words intact.

My guess is that (unless it's settled out of court), this will either be very quickly settled (if either party is obviously in the wrong), or will drag on for a long time.


Even if the plot points are similar, she still has to prove that Meyer read her book. And considering that it's an obscure and now out-of-print, that's going to be difficult.


And, I added up the sales of the book for the Oprah case (someone also pointed this out)... it's 13 billion. Sure, he might have clouded judgement, but that's where lawyers come in.

He's not going to win a trillion dollars even if it is plagiarism.

sunflowergirl68
08-07-2009, 03:57 PM
Boy, I would really love to see her lose.


Well that's kind of mean.

If she does have to pay him that much money (or even a billion dollars), she and her show will go bankrupt and all of those people who work for her will be unemployed. This doesn't just affect Oprah, but her company and her employees. And it'll also weaken the economy. Her endorsements are helping the economy, believe it or not.

kaplods
08-07-2009, 09:03 PM
Even if the plot points are similar, she still has to prove that Meyer read her book. And considering that it's an obscure and now out-of-print, that's going to be difficult.

Actually, it's not going to be all that difficult, because the burden of proof is "by a preponderance of the evidence," not (as with murder and criminal cases) "beyond a shadow of a doubt."

Preponderance of the evidence basically means that "it's more likely than not," that the first author was influenced by the prior. Again it's the number of coincidences that will determine the outcome. I don't know if the material listed in the link was "the whole case," or just a sampling of the instances of similarity in the novels. It will make a difference, because if there are a dozen similarities, a case is going to be a lot shakier than if there are 200 similarities.

The prosecution will not have to prove that the defendent read the book or had access to the plot information, only that it's more likely that she did, than she did not. The defense will have to prove that she could not have possibly have read of or heard of the book or it's plot, which will be much more difficult to prove (because it was in print at one time, and therefore accessible to the defendent).


If someone gives me the entire plot sequence of the movie "The Runaway Bride," and I write a novel and include basically unaltered scenes that were described to me, that's still plagiarism, even though I haven't read the screenplay or seen the movie myself.




And, I added up the sales of the book for the Oprah case (someone also pointed this out)... it's 13 billion. Sure, he might have clouded judgement, but that's where lawyers come in.

He's not going to win a trillion dollars even if it is plagiarism.


I agree completely, the lawyers, the judge, and even possibly a jury will have a role in the ultimate decision, but it's far, far more likely for a defendent to end up with less than he asked for than more, so most will start with a crazy amount, just so that a reasonable request doesn't get cut. If he sues for 13 billion, it's likely that he would have to settle for far less, suing for the maximum does two things for him. One publicity for himself and his case, and gives him bargaining leverage when it's time to cut it down.

I have to say that I'd do the same thing (again noting, there isn't anything that I have that Oprah would want). I think it's the logical "David" move. When you're fighting Goliath, your attack has to be big and bold or you'll be squished like the bug you are to Goliath.

JulieJ08
08-07-2009, 09:10 PM
Sure, he might have clouded judgement, but that's where lawyers come in.


It's been known to go the other way around a time or two.

kaplods
08-07-2009, 09:12 PM
That's an interesting point. It may not have been the plaintiff who determined the figure, but his lawyer.

kiramira
08-07-2009, 11:26 PM
Plagiarism lawsuits are rarely successful in the literary world in any event --- just look at the Dan Brown fiasco concerning his first book. I read the first book and the one it was cribbed from (Holy Blood, Holy Grail) and IMHO there was no doubt--the central theory and themes were indeed ripped off without credit nor reference as in a bibilography.
http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/04/07/uk.davinci.court/index.html
BUT even though the issue was the ripping off of the central IDEA and not the WORDS:
The trial centered around allegations that Brown ripped off a key theory from their book -- that Jesus survived his crucifixion, married Mary Magdalene, and had children -- a controversial storyline that has intrigued readers.
and Dan Brown admitted to reading the original book to boot:
Brown has said that he and his wife, Blythe, read "The Holy Blood, the Holy Grail" while researching the book,
the authors of the original book (which was quite well read prior to Dan Brown's) couldn't make it stick.

There isn't much hope for an obscure author claiming against an obscure eBook.

Kira

kaplods
08-07-2009, 11:50 PM
There isn't much hope for an obscure author claiming against an obscure eBook.

I don't think that obscurity is going to be nearly as much of an issue, as you'd think. I think the type of plagiarism alleged will be most significant issue. If you look closely at the cases that are lost, they're usually ones in which people are talking about "general ideas" being stolen. Stealing general themes and ideas isn't plagiarism (The book "Steal this Plot," makes that case very well), stealing specific plot components are, but generally t there's a lot of gray area here - if you steal "enough" ideas and themes (from the same source) it can become a clearer (and more successful) case of plagiarism.


The easiest to prove (and having the far higher lawsuit success rate) are cases in which the material is directly "lifted" from the original material regardless of the obscurity of the author making the accusation.

If this is a "theme or theory" litigation, he will fail. If it's a direct theft of entire phrases, he probably will prevail. And if it's somewhere in the middle, his chances of success probably also lie somewhere in the middle.

Plagiarism has a lot of gray area, so it will depend largely on how close the case is to the extreme ends. Even if it's an open-and-shut case in that regard, he could still lose but it is less likely (at least if he's able to stay in the fight). Oprah would have the resources to keep it unsettled and in the courts forever. I'm assuming this guy's lawyer is taking the case on contingency, but unless the attorney has unlimited resources, Oprah could stil "win" just in the waiting game.

sunflowergirl68
08-08-2009, 02:41 AM
But the thing is... there aren't any original ideas anymore. There are tons of vampire-human love stories, TV shows, etc. Scott wasn't the first to write about it. She's also not the first to write about a husband who calls his wife "love," she's not the first to write about a vampire-human wedding, nor sex on a beach.

If it was specific details, then she'd have a case, but from what I saw, it's more generic. Plus, why'd she wait a whole year? It's a very popular series, everyone in the US has heard of it practically.

There's a difference between stealing words and specific ideas and plot themes. But vampire-human isn't specific. The Dan Brown thing is more specific, but that rumor has been around for a loooong time (that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had children).


There's also appropriation and satire. For example, there is a book that has been published called "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" which is basically a satire of Pride and Prejudice written with zombies. It's not plagiarism, and is appropriation. But the thing is, everyone knows what Pride and Prejudice is, so it's OK. And Austen is dead and has been for a long time.

sunflowergirl68
08-08-2009, 02:46 AM
I don't think that obscurity is going to be nearly as much of an issue, as you'd think. I think the type of plagiarism alleged will be most significant issue. If you look closely at the cases that are lost, they're usually ones in which people are talking about "general ideas" being stolen. Stealing general themes and ideas isn't plagiarism (The book "Steal this Plot," makes that case very well), stealing specific plot components are, but generally t there's a lot of gray area here - if you steal "enough" ideas and themes (from the same source) it can become a clearer (and more successful) case of plagiarism.


The easiest to prove (and having the far higher lawsuit success rate) are cases in which the material is directly "lifted" from the original material regardless of the obscurity of the author making the accusation.

If this is a "theme or theory" litigation, he will fail. If it's a direct theft of entire phrases, he probably will prevail. And if it's somewhere in the middle, his chances of success probably also lie somewhere in the middle.

Plagiarism has a lot of gray area, so it will depend largely on how close the case is to the extreme ends. Even if it's an open-and-shut case in that regard, he could still lose but it is less likely (at least if he's able to stay in the fight). Oprah would have the resources to keep it unsettled and in the courts forever. I'm assuming this guy's lawyer is taking the case on contingency, but unless the attorney has unlimited resources, Oprah could stil "win" just in the waiting game.


I totally see what you're saying, and I'm not seeing it with the Breaking Dawn-The Nocturne issue.

There are no direct phrases stolen like in the Wikipedia article I mentioned.

And obscurity is fairly relevant. The people who used JK Rowling sued based on a very limited print of a 45-page or so booklet that their father (or grandfather, I can't remember) wrote about a boy wizard. If it's a very popular book, it's very easy to prove that the alleged plagiarizer read it and had access to it. But if it was a book that, say, was only published limitedly in Canada, then they really won't have a case. If the author in question had zero access to it, you can't plagiarize something you've never heard of.

kaplods
08-08-2009, 12:16 PM
There's also appropriation and satire. For example, there is a book that has been published called "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" which is basically a satire of Pride and Prejudice written with zombies. It's not plagiarism, and is appropriation. But the thing is, everyone knows what Pride and Prejudice is, so it's OK. And Austen is dead and has been for a long time.

Actually, satire is a legal exception to plagiarism law. Copyrights expire after a certain amount of time (I think it's roughly "a lifetime," somewhere between 60 and 80 years), although it is possible for the heirs to the authors estate to renew the copyright (indefinitely, I believe).

Many people think that out-of-print means "free to steal from," but it doesn't.

Still, many authors never pursue plagiarism cases, either because they never discover the plagiarism, or because they don't care to pursue the matter for a variety of reasons. The more famous the work, the less likely the author is to pursue it (filing a plagiarism case can hurt a well-liked author because it may make them appear to be vindictive or a poor sport).

Also the more a work is stolen from, the more it becomes a part of the culture. Companies with trademarks fight this all the time (not exactly plagiarism, but an off-shoot of copyright law), because once their brand name becomes common usage, it can no longer be copyrighted, so companies such as Kleenex and Xerox fight to keep their trademarks from being used as generic words (mostly unsuccessfully) in books.

In some genres (especially science fiction, fantasy and romance) there's so much plot-recycling that goes on, that plagiarism is the most difficult to prove because it is so commonplace. Once a plot-device or even a particular scene becomes an "acceptable practice in the genre," then it no longer meets the criteria of plagiarism.

One of the criteria for plagiarism is "originality," if the material can be proven not to be original, but rather a common plot devide, that diminishes case for plagiarism. In the case of the vampire novels, I think that's exactly what the defense will shoot for - trying to find other vampire novels that contain those elements to prove that it isn't an original idea (or is no longer an original idea - naming a vampire Dracula for example, was once, but is no longer, original). If the defense cannot find books with the same number of similarities, that would actually hurt their case. Because the number of similarities "in combination" is also considered. If your book contains one scene very similar to another author's, that's a lot different than 2/3 of the scenes being very similar. It's a case of coincidences adding up to the point that coincidence is no longer a reasonable explanation.

It's a stereotypical view, but I think most prolific authors largely ignore plagiarism issues, because it would cut into their writing time, and the risks/consequences of pursuing the case aren't worth the potential benefit. Although this stereotype hurts authors, because any that DO file plagiarism lawsuite are often thought petty and vindictive.

LadyfromFL
08-08-2009, 09:12 PM
Wow!!!

sunflowergirl68
08-08-2009, 10:02 PM
I definitely agree and understand everything that you said, but just one question: wouldn't they have to prove that Meyer had actually, in fact, read The Nocturne? Because if she hadn't read it, then she couldn't have plagiarized from it. If it was a popular book, I think it would have been easier to prove.

I just hope this whole thing blows over, you know? I'm not the biggest Stephenie Meyer fan, but if she really didn't plagiarize, then she doesn't deserve this.

Oprah, however, isn't really a writer. And it's doubtful she actually wrote the poems that she sold herself. If someone from her company did in fact steal, then they should pay for it. But definitely NOT a trillion dollars. I doubt her company is even worth that much.

kaplods
08-08-2009, 11:12 PM
I definitely agree and understand everything that you said, but just one question: wouldn't they have to prove that Meyer had actually, in fact, read The Nocturne? Because if she hadn't read it, then she couldn't have plagiarized from it. If it was a popular book, I think it would have been easier to prove.


Not at all, because how exactly would one prove she has read any book, even a very, very popular one?

In essence the proof is in the number of similarities. Can coincidence explain the similarities or are there so many similarities that coincidence is not a likely explanation? Whis is the most reasonable explanation, coincidence or having access to the source material.

Of course the source material being obscure makes coincidence more likely, but how much more likely? Again, it will depend upon how many and how striking the similarities, and that will all have to be taken into account. Now, if they find the book at the local library in the town where the newer author resides, that is a piece of evidence that would work in favor of the possibility of plagiarism. If they subpoena library records and find out the newer author checked out the book, that's more evidence. If she wrote a fan letter, or belonged to a book club that discussed the book, or if she told a friend or blogged about the book...... countless pieces of evidence can come into play that she had access to the book - but it can boil down to how many similarities are there. Are there too many similarities to reasonably conclude that she did not in any way have contact with that book?


For example, if I write a relatively long poem that's published in my high school literary magazine (about 1200 students each year, and only a small fraction buy or read the literary magazine/ When I was a student we rarely broke 200 copies) and an identical poem shows up on a teenager's website 20 years later, what is the most likely explanation - that the 19 year old came up with an identical poem coincidentally, or that she somehow had access to my poem?

The number of similarities is actually part of the evidence that she did in fact have access to the original work. The jury (or judge) has to decide which is the more logical explanation. Of course the liklihood that she had access to the book is considered, but it's only one factor. There doesn't have to be proof that she read the book, only that it is a more reasonable explanation for the similarities than coincidence.

As a one-time vampire-fiction fan myself (actually I now prefer werewolf fiction), and having met many vampire-fiction fans as fanatical (pun intended) as myself, I know that there's a large number of us who hunt down the books in our genre. About 20 years ago, I was so into vampire fiction, that obscure or not, if it was a vampire romance, I was more likely than not to have read it, and 90% likely to have the plot summary in the database I used to compile a listing of vampire books I had read, and wanted to read. I even bought out-of-print issues of "Romantic Times" magazine as resource materials (and copied the plot summaries into the listing). It printed out to about 30 pages, and I'd take the listing with me to used bookstores in search of the ones that I wanted most (I used a five star system).

Sound crazy? Yeah, well I got the idea from other sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal fans (and even bought another woman's list to add to mine). I also subscribed to several fanzines and romance review magazines. Again, it will boil down to which is the more likely explanation coincidence or plagairism. It's not at all impossible, or even unlikely that an obscure out-of-print novel (especially one that was actually published) would not be well-known by a fan of the genre. In fact, I knew many people who also voraciously read material submitted to writer's groups, fan fiction groups, fanzines (in print or online).... Obscure doesn't mean what it used to.

By the way, the poem incident did happen to me, though the girl didn't try to pass the poem off as her own, she listed me as the author of the poem (I only found it by googling my own name).

I emailed her, because I thought it was so cool, and asked where she'd read my poem, because there weren't that many options (I thought maybe she'd found it in her parents' stuff and that one of her parents might be an old friend), but it turns out that she had been a student at the high school I graduated from, and was on the literary magazine staff (as I had been) and that the mentor for the magazine was the same teacher I had had, and she'd read all the old literary magazines and had loved the poem and illustration (the illustration was drawn by a boy I was dating at the time, brought back a lot of memories).

Sadly, I may have creeped her out, because she removed my poem from her website soon after. Or she may just have outgrown the poem. It was a really dorky poem (the title was "The Unicorn," and I don't remember all of it, but it was five or six stanzas and the first line was "Out of fantasy he's born, the proud and valiant unicorn," and the last line was "Who dwells in reality, is it I or is it he?) Yeah, super dorky (anyone wanting to plagiarize is free to, blegh).

kiramira
08-09-2009, 11:10 AM
Unless the paragraphs, sentences or word sequences are lifted directly from another source, the issue of plagiarism becomes quite grey. According to Thomas Keneally:

If it is sufficient to point to a simultaneity of events to prove plagiarism, then we are all plagiarists, and Shakespeare is in big trouble from Petrarch, and Tolstoy stole the material for War & Peace.

It isn't enough to show the similarities in word structure or theme. It isn't enough to point to similarities. It comes down in legal terms to whether or not intellectual property was stolen and to copyright infringement issues. Plagiarism in and of itself is not strictly illegal. The copyright infringement issues are. These are terrifically hard to prove, because even though it may seem obvious to us, judges consider things like the whether the central themes abstracted are general, or of an insuffient abstract level to be protected by copyright law. For example, IF you read a book about a historical event, then write a fictional account of the same historical event and don't cite your source, you will not be found guilty of copyright infringement. Can you copywright history or non-fictional historical interpretations? The general theory is "no". This is what happened in the Dan Brown case. Although the central themes were lifted from Holy Blood Holy Grail and the judge acknowledged this, his decision said that the themes were not of sufficient abstraction to warrent protection under copyright laws. And since Holy Blood Holy Grail was passed off by the authors as a non-fictional historical interpretation, the judge further decided that a work of fiction was not required to cite the use of historical background documents.

And another issue that is paramount is the decision to conceal the source -- if cited, you can use whatever you like. It becomes a copyright issue IF you attempt to conceal the source.

Unless you do something blatant, like republish an entire book under your own name, as Wolfgang Koepmann did when he took a published holocaust memoir and republished it as a work of fiction under his own name, there is sufficient grey area to cause massive confusion.

Perhaps this says it best:http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/11/18/1100748128612.html
The last thing a literary critic should be is literal-minded when looking for plagiarism beyond direct furtive copying. Perhaps, more than ever, it is necessary to bear in mind G.K. Chesterton's caution against losing sight of the imitative element in the creative process: "To see the similarities, without seeing the differences, seems a dangerous game."

Kira

Ufi
08-09-2009, 02:31 PM
As a writer who has been a victim of word-for-word plagiarism, it's more about the outrage than the money. A cease-and-desist approach was acceptable to me, although the situation was nowhere near on this scale.

My thought is that it is a publicity thing, as odds are that people will recall the name later on but not the reason, if this guy publishes later. He may also be hoping for some settlement cash, as companies sometimes settle out of court to avoid the hassle. Oprah has lawyers to fight the lawsuit ... and also to tell her that it would be really stupid to put her name on someone else's work. The chances of her getting caught are astronomical. There are ways that writers can protect themselves from their work being stolen and establish a record of their drafts. All of my work that isn't available to the public yet is either safely on my own computer or has gone through the process of creating a legal record of it. Since it is a DRAFT that he claims was stolen, there is even greater burden to show that Harpo had access to it and it truly is stolen.

I was a lot more worried about theft of my writing when I was a new writer and probably not writing much worth stealing. But I think that kind of belief that you can write to that level is what keeps a writer from giving up.

The way I've come to believe is this: I'm a writer. If I'm a good writer, people will want to read my stuff, thus bringing me income. I don't want someone to profit from my hard work, but theft of my work is also an affirmation of my writing abilities. Because I'm careful, I can prove that it IS my writing should someone take it. Because I'm a writer, I can always write more ... which isn't necessarily true of the person who is a thief.

sunflowergirl68
08-09-2009, 05:13 PM
thanks kaplods.

I just don't see that the Meyer situation is so similar to the other book that they would be confused with one another. i want to see the Oprah situation though.

sunflowergirl68
08-11-2009, 03:37 PM
Yup so it was dismissed. Apparently an Oprah spokesperson said that they weren't even served, but that a judge had dismissed it. So now we just have to see what happens with the Stephenie Meyer deal.

Duchesssammi
08-11-2009, 05:14 PM
I also can't wait to see how this plays out in the courts.
I really doubt that he is going to win that much money.

kaplods
08-11-2009, 06:33 PM
thanks kaplods.

I just don't see that the Meyer situation is so similar to the other book that they would be confused with one another. i want to see the Oprah situation though.

But being confused with one another has nothing to do with plagiarism law. So often, I've read a book and thought the plot was great, but I would have written it differently (and in my mind, better), but I can't do that - because it's plagiarism. It doesn't matter if I rewrite a better book, and rewrite every scene and include different scenes - if there is enough similarity, it's still plagiarism.

As for the link that puts the scenes side by side where the alleged plagiarism takes place, I do think that there were enough similarities to warrant a second look, but if there aren't a lot more similarities than were posted (if that's all there is), I agree it's unlikely that the suite will be successful. However, if what was in the link was just a "sampling" of the similarities, and there are indeed many more, then that would make the plagiarism case much stronger.

I have to admit that the controversy does inspire an impulse to seek out both books, and read them to see what I think. As a result, I think both authors are likely to see an increase in sales as a result - I know the suing author's book is out of print, but the controversy could pique the interest of the publisher (or a different publisher) to reprint the book.

sunflowergirl68
08-11-2009, 10:25 PM
I also can't wait to see how this plays out in the courts.
I really doubt that he is going to win that much money.


Did you see above? A judge dismissed it today.

http://www.thresq.com/2009/08/oprah-trillion-dollar-lawsuit-poet.html

Apparently the guy never registered the copyright on his poems, thus his suit which was copyright infringement, was invalid. It was "lack of subject matter jurisdiction."

sunflowergirl68
08-11-2009, 10:30 PM
@kaplods: As far as I know, that's it in terms of what the Nocturne author is complaining about.

kiramira
08-11-2009, 10:35 PM
It isn't enough to show the similarities in word structure or theme. It isn't enough to point to similarities. It comes down in legal terms to whether or not intellectual property was stolen and to copyright infringement issues. Plagiarism in and of itself is not strictly illegal.

Told ya...even if I haven't published a short story nor am in publishing...it is a legal issue as although plagiarism is considered immoral it isn't strictly illegal. Copyright law prevails...

Kira