New Copyright Provisions Possible

Copyright infringement cases, like all court cases, can be very expensive and time consuming. Because so many authors, particularly self-published authors, make very little money on their work, a “small copyright claims” bill is being supported by the Authors Guild.

The legislation, H.R. 5757, introduced in the House of Representatives “establishes in the U.S. Copyright Office a small claims board to serve as an alternative forum for parties to voluntarily seek to resolve certain copyright claims”  and would consist of two attorneys and three claims officers. The bill is now with the Committee on the Judiciary where it will either be the subject of hearings and markup or it will “time out” at the end of the Congressional session.

The Authors Guild stated, “The costs of obtaining counsel and maintaining a copyright cause of action in federal court effectively preclude most individual copyright owners whose works are clearly infringed from being able to vindicate their rights and deter continuing violations. Moreover, sometimes authors want to put an end to infringements that are causing a relatively small amount of economic damage. In such cases, the prospect of a small recovery dissuades some copyright holders from filing a suit that costs more to file than the potential recovery.”

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Most people probably think about plagiarism in regards to academics or journalism because that is where it is talked about most frequently. But there is an increasing trend in ebooks to plagiarize and make a quick buck. It’s an ongoing problem and is usually done outside the US where a ripped off copy of an ebook can be renamed and reuploaded for sale for a few days before the take down notices arrive. Wash, rinse, repeat.

But recently there was a situation in the romance community that has rocked the authors and readers. A member of the community – who had been welcomed and assisted by other members – was discovered as having plagiarized a number of novels from other romance authors. Many posts and stories have been published on this so I won’t rehash it here.

I will simply say that, in this instance, it hits too close to home for many of us. The romance community has long been known for its inclusivity and welcoming atmosphere for fans and aspiring authors alike. While there are always bad apples, the majority are friendly, helpful, and encouraging to everyone. I fear that this recent plagiarism situation will make the romance community less welcoming and inclusive and more suspicious and insular. That would be a tragedy and I certainly hope it doesn’t happen.

That said, plagiarism is just another word for theft. We all know stealing is wrong and illegal. Just because we have a fancy term for it in the world of writing doesn’t make it less wrong or illegal. If you ever suspect plagiarism, please notify the author immediately so that the theft of their hard work can be investigated and addressed.

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