Tag Archives: copyright

Plagiarism in self-publishing is an older problem than CopyPasteCris case


person holding stack of books in hands
Plagiarism is a nasty problem that hides in the dark corners of self-publishing. In essence, it is a shortcut where a wannabe writer steals authors’ published works, and labels the result as their own work. An advanced plagiarism scheme where a person produced a number of books by mixing real authors’ original works has recently been revealed. It is called CopyPasteCris.

The name for the case was derived from Cristiane Serruya who is been accused of copy-pasting entire paragraphs and sections into her own books from at least 90 copyrighted books. The most renowned author who accuses Serruya of plagiarism is Nora Roberts. Roberts has filed a lawsuit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil against Serruya for plagiarism.

Just when Serruya, who claims to be a Brazilian lawyer, was closing all his social media accounts and author pages in February 2019, Lucas Mota managed to get in touch with Serruya and interview her. She answers Mota’s direct questions but doesn’t give direct answers.

A number of ghostwriters and editors who had edited a few of Serruya’s books have shed some light on the way the scheme worked. It looks like Serruya (or someone working with her or for her) put together a sloppy manuscript that wasn’t quite complete. Serruya hired ghostwriters and editors to create a book with a storyline from that manuscript. Once it was ready, she hired someone to create a cover image with Serruya’s name as the author, and started marketing her new book. She published several books, but they should be unavailable by now.

When tweets about plagiarism were posted on Twitter, Claire Ryan, an author and a programmer, did a clever thing. She created a program that read popular books and compared the content to Serruya’s books. Bingo. Results were obvious. The worrying thing was that she had discovered more copied sections from more books than anyone had expected. Entire paragraphs and sections were copied from copyrighted books.

Serruya will have to explain in court what she did. It will be interesting.

This process – a wannabe author, hint of plagiarism, suspicion, proof of plagiarism – reminds me of what happened to us a while ago. Here is our story.

What to do if you suspect you are working with a plagiarist?

A few years ago, we worked with a writer who needed our help to publish his book. It wasn’t rocket science, but a straightforward guidebook. Our team dutifully edited the manuscript, produced an ebook, and submitted it to bookstores for sale. First, we delivered it to Amazon that said: no, thank you. Amazon rejected the book, saying they suspected plagiarism.

What? None of us had suspected anything. It was an ordinary project, although the manuscript required plenty of work. The person who had delivered us the manuscript had acted normally, signed a contract with us, but denied plagiarism when asked. So, we wanted to do some research of our own to understand if Amazon was right, and what was going on.

I remembered some businesses that provided plagiarism checks for academic papers for educational institutions who had advertised with us earlier. There had to be online services that could verify any written text for plagiarism.

Sure enough, I discovered a few businesses that were specialized in detecting plagiarism. For instance, Grammarly, PlagScan, and Viper. I chose PlagScan. The report was thorough and easy to read.
Plagscan: plagiarism analysis results
The results were condemning. The analysis service indicated that paragraphs in various sections of the manuscript were copied from other sources, mostly from web pages. No algorithm can produce 100% correct results based on an automatic analysis. If a sentence or a paragraph is an exact duplicate, it is easy for an algorithm to recognize. Our plagiarist had made minor tweaks here and there. A good algorithm can spot them as well, but not every item. Algorithms also may discover sections that are not copied from other sources. So, manual research is required as well to allow thorough understanding of the scope of the suspected plagiarism.

After this episode, we stopped working with the person who had put together the manuscript. It was like a plague. Avoid contact, don’t distribute it.

In this case, we have to thank Amazon’s review process that pointed us to the right direction (potential plagiarism discovered). Until that point, we didn’t have any reason to doubt that there would be anything wrong with the project (except for sloppy manuscript).

In the end, no harm was done. Amazon intervened, we stopped the production and distribution process. We spent a little extra money and did some extra work, but it was a lesson for us.

In CopyPastCris case, the accused plagiarist probably managed to take economical advantage of other people’s copyrighted works. If proven, it is serious. That’s why Serruya will answer to the judge what she did during her dubious writing career.

The thing with #CopyPasteCris is that there will always be people who try to find a shortcut to success. In book publishing, they often need professional help from honest freelancers and businesses. Avoid these shady characters like a plague.

Ebook news digest: slow news, first time at a book fair, writers need a Plan B


News on ebooks, writing and self-publishing

man reading old bulletin board news. Photo by Filip Mishevski.
Why slow journalism and limited amount of news is growing a following

Nieman Lab has a story that you should read slowly and digest properly because a new trend is developing: slow journalism. Information overload and excessive screen time is reaching a point where many digital citizens simply want to slow down and manage the continuous feed of news and media content that is flooding at them. Media startups have emerged that provide slow and reasonable amount of news.

A First-Timer’s View of the London Book Fair

Every book lover and, especially, author has mulled over of visiting a big book show. Just to see what all the fuzz is about and perhaps to encounter a famous author or two. Well, primarily big book fairs, like Frankfurt are for publishing professionals, but London is targeting at self-publishers as well. Here is a first-time visitor’s story from the London Book Fair.

The EU parliament approves far-reaching changes to digital copyright law

The legendary Article 11 and Article 13 have made history. The European Union Parliament approved a new set of laws, including clauses 11 and 13, that set stronger and better defined limits to the use of copyrighted material on the internet. Feelings ran high for months before the vote, but now the new era is reality. EU member states have two years to implement the copyright law into their own legislation.

Travel guide to the city of Valencia in Spain

This guidebook shows the most exciting sights, places and events in Valencia on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Download and get the tips from the ebook before heading to sunny South Europe.

What to do if your nonfiction market disappears into a black hole?

Jay Artale tells a fascinating story in the life of a nonfiction writer, when her market suddenly disappeared into a black hole. She raises an important point for every full-time writer: always have a plan B.

Nearly one-in-five U.S. resident now listen to audiobooks

Pew Research has conducted a 2018 survey of reading habits of U.S. residents. Ebooks and print books remain steady, whereas consumption of audiobooks is still growing relatively strongly.

Newspapers haven’t joined the Apple’s News+ subscription service

Apple introduced Arcade, a gaming service with monthly subscription, TV+ movies and television shows, and News Plus magazines and newspapers for a monthly fee. Whereas magazines have joined the News+ service, newspapers are avoiding it. I have been waiting for a service like this, but since it is unavailable outside North America, the rest of the world still has to wait.

A fun online tool identifies the bestseller book for each year

Mental Floss discovered a neat program at Wordery bookstore’s web page that shows the bestselling book for each year. The idea is that you enter your age and it displays the most-talked-about book for the year you were born, but you can scroll back and forth through the years. The books are from The New York Times bestseller list, primarily reflecting North American market.

Pew REsearch: book reading habits in the USA 2018

Ebook news digest: myths of publishing, ebook subscription service hacked, download free audiobooks


News on ebooks, indie publishing and copyright

mechanical typewriter, close up on keyboard
Myths Versus Facts in Book Writing and Publishing

Booher Research Institute makes good points in this article about common urban tales in book publishing. The only thing I would like to remind our readers across the world is that an agent is not required for publishing a book with a publisher in many countries. Most companies – big and small – have instructions on their web pages how an aspiring author can approach the publisher.

50 Publishing Resources from Editing Services to Web Marketing Tools

Self-publishing a book (an ebook or printed book) requires a lot of work. A writer can try and cope with many of the tasks herself, but help is often required. This list gives pointers to cover design, distribution, marketing, and to many other items a self-publisher needs.

Klaava Travel Guide to Valencia, Spain

The city of Valencia in Spain is renowned for paella, the Holy Grail, and a massive fiesta known as Fallas. The festivities started at the end of February, but the key events are in mid-March. Travelers who want to enjoy a genuine Spanish fiesta with locals, and tour an original, unique city, here is the guidebook for download.

Bookmate e-book subscribers’ account details on sale on the internet

It is unfortunate, but sooner or later – it seems – almost all web services are hacked. This time, The Register reported that 8 million accounts were stolen from Bookmate, an online book subscription service. The data was on sale on a hacker site. Change your Bookmate password if you have one.

An Essential Summary of Copyright for Indie Authors

Every writer has his own idea of what copyright means for writers, but it is more complicated than many – even professional writer – believes. If you have signed a publishing agreement with a publisher, take a long hard look at the copyright clause. What intellectual property rights you have sold? For an indie publisher who doesn’t sell the rights to anyone else, it is important to know what could be sold without losing control over the work. This article is based on a book about copyrights from the US perspective. Every country has its own copyright laws, but the universal concepts are the same all over the world.

Seven Places to Listen to and Download Free Audiobooks

The big news in the book publishing industry last year was that the sales of audiobooks was growing like a storm brewing in the horizon. Most ebook stores sell audiobooks as well, and some subscription services, like Storytel, have hit the big time with audiobooks. Here is a list to seven online services that provide free audiobooks. Many of the books are classics in public domain.

How to activate secure two-step authentication security for online services

Every writer, reader, publisher, traveler, photographer, and internet user has accounts on online services. Maybe an Amazon account, Facebook login, New York Times, or something else, but many services store confidential and private data that you don’t want to give to criminals. This article has a step-by-step guide for activating strong login mechanism to online services that is nearly impossible for hackers to break.

To make the Blade Runner game, Westwood first had to create the universe

The basic concept of the movie Blade Runner was loosely based on Philip K Dick’s book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. The next adaptation of the same concept was for a video game. So, first there was a book that was transformed into a movie, and then the movie was developed into a game. A video interview tells the story of the game how it was created in 1997.

beaches of Valencia, Spain - sample from guidebook Valencia, SpainSample page from Valencia, Spain travel guide.

Ebook news digest: library on the border, authors and videomakers disagree, Notting Hill bookshop


News on ebooks, writing and self-publishing

Haskell Library, photo by nekonomist.Haskell Library by nekonomist.

How to Write Even When Life Gets in the Way

Writing long works, like books requires persistence and patience. Excuses don’t advance a project. Write Nonfiction Now has tips for writing even when difficult situations in life challenge all good intentions to work.

Separated by travel ban, Iranian families reunite at border library

Reuters tells a fascinating story of a small library that happens to be located on the border between the US and Canada. The library has two entrances: one from Canada and another from the US side. Families or friends separated by the border can meet in the library without having to carry passports or visas.

The 10 Most Frequently Looked-Up Words

Merriam-Webster online dictionary know which words are difficult for writers who look those words up from a dictionary. Daily Writing Tips has listed the top 10 words, so you don’t have to search them from the dictionary.

The Honest Tribe by Max Boyle

Max Boyle decided to find out the truth about a country where the earth’s most honest tribe is said to be living. He made multiple journeys into this Scandinavian country where encounters and adventures taught him a lot about the Nordic culture. Here is the book where he tells it all.

Authors criticise YouTube’s rallying cry against Article 13

EU is in the process of passing new laws that will make existing copyright laws stricter and above all, more straightforward on the internet. Whereas writers tend to favor the new regulation, video makers and viewers are not necessarily happy about the changes. This article explains the contents and consequences of EU’s new copyright laws.

Notting Hill Bookshop is inundated with requests as location for marriage proposals ahead of film’s 20th anniversary

In 2019, the world’s most famous bookshop celebrates its 20th birthday in London, UK. The bookshop is way older than 20 years, but the movie Notting Hill was released then, and we all know how central location The Travel Book Co is for the movie. A recent trend witnessed by the shop owners is couples from across the world who make a pilgrimage to the shop and get engaged or even married between its bookshelves.

Out of Print: Glamour Is the Next Magazine to Go Strictly Digital

The iconic Glamour magazine won’t be printed anymore, but will be published online only. The magazine’s editor-in-chief arguments: “This is my plan, because it makes sense. [Digital is] where the audiences are, and it’s where our growth is. That monthly schedule, for a Glamour audience, doesn’t make sense anymore.” This is remarkable because a glossy magazine like Glamour is made for browsing, but naturally, video clips and images are attractive on a digital publication as well.

Margaret Atwood and other authors have penned novels that won’t publish for 100 years

In the northernmost continental Europe – Norway, Sweden and Finland – cities are few and forests are vast. There is plenty of space, for instance, to grow trees that will be used for creating paper books in 2114. An art project in Oslo, Norway is archiving one story each year written by established authors. The stories will be published in 2114. Margaret Atwood was the first writer to save her new story into this forest archive.

The new EU copyright law takes a stance for rights owners like authors and publishers


The Parliament of European Union has accepted the new Copyright Directive proposed by the Commission. The EU Parliament, Commission and Council will negotiate the details, aiming at having the law proposal ready for EU member states by the end of 2018. Although some details may still change, the overall purpose and objectives have been accepted by the Parliament. What does the new EU copyright directive mean for authors and book publishers?

boy reading in library, books on a shelf
The article 11 and article 13 are the most discussed items in the copyright directive. The directive includes many other important items, like making digital content product available across borders (inside EU), making it easier to deal with data mining in research institutions, and other clarifications for use of copyrighted material in academic and educational environments.

Author/publisher relationship in the article 12

The article 12 deals with author-publisher relationship directly, aiming at giving publishers more rights for compensation when a work is licensed, for instance, to a library. In many countries, libraries pay small fees to authors for book loans. Publisher don’t usually benefit from this. The directive wanted to make it possible.

Some national author organizations were concerned about the article 12 that it would have restricted author’s copyright, but the wording of the article was changed to clarify it before the Parliament voted.

Change of business model for news aggregators indicated in article 11

Some European countries, like Germany and Spain have already tried to make big internet service platforms pay for the content they extract from newspapers and other news sources. Often this involves the title, a snippet and a link to the page where the news was published. So far, attempts to charge news aggregators like Google have failed.

It may appear an innocent activity, but when companies, such as Google and Facebook do it on a massive scale, it is actually a good business case for them. Valuable free content that an algorithm only has to sort and display to visitors.

The new directive gives news publishers a strong negotiating position to charge news aggregators and other internet services that use publishers’ news items in newsfeeds and other functions of their sites.

Authors and book publishers who have blogs where they comment on news and link to news sources need to follow closely what the exact requirements and practices for free linking and referring to news sources will be as EU negotiations proceed. Linking to an external web page, and extracting text or photos from an external web page are two completely different things.

I have not been able to find anything in the EU Directive that would restrict linking to web pages, be it a newspaper or anything else.
Tavira, Portugal: a non-digital nomad in a park

It is business as usual for authors and publishers despite article 13

In the EU, a creator of a work (author, composer, film maker) always owns the copyright to the work. He or she can transfer (sell) the rights or partial rights to someone else, like a publisher. Anyway, the owner of the rights decides where, how and who can read, listen or view the work.

This basic principle of copyright law hasn’t changed at all, but EU wants to adopt Article 13 that enforces the rights owner’s rights specifically on the internet. The article more or less directly addresses dominant internet services, like YouTube, Facebook and Wikipedia “service providers that store and provide to the public access to large amounts of works or other subject-matter uploaded by their users”.

EU’s point seems to be to make it absolutely clear that an internet service platform is responsible for all the content available on the service – user-uploaded or otherwise made available. It also makes it clear that all copyrighted works shared on a platform must have the rights owner’s explicit consent.

There are no grey zones anymore. The rights owner is entitled to a decent compensation if he or she has agreed that the work is made available on an internet service.

The curious thing in the article 13 is that it mentions “effective content recognition technologies” as a measure for preventing unlicensed content on a sharing service. Why on earth does it have to mention how a monitoring task can be executed? Leave it to the innovative businesses to create a solution. Hopefully this will be changed or removed during the negotiations.

For an author or book publisher, the article 13 is not earth-shattering news. If a copyrighted ebook has been uploaded to a sharing service, it has always been a copyright violation and the rights owner has been able to ask officials to intervene.

Online encyclopedias that have borrowed lengthy pieces of content from nonfiction books should look into their practices before problems arise. Also some fan fiction services may have content available extracted from fiction books. Right owners’ consent must be sought in each case.

The big fuss about the EU copyright law primarily concerns mixing and sharing culture

Most music makers, photographers, film makers, writers and publishers are happy to see a strong stance in favor of copyright protection, but some artists see risks in restrictions. The EU directive is trying to level the playing field between the rights owners (who can be a self-published author without any legal help) and internet giants that dominate search, advertising, social media and sharing services.

New works – music, films, books, photos – can be, and always have been, created using existing works more or less directly in the process. In the digital era, a new song can have the tune of “Every Breath You Take” but with new words and beat. Digitally merging old and new photographs or video clips is easy.

Sharing exciting video clips and funny photos or pieces of texts on social media is so common we don’t think about it anymore. Sometimes, someone has done a lot of work to produce that piece of work.

Loud advocates who want the current fuzzy situation to continue argue that preventing sharing or mixing is against freedom of speech and harmful for the entire internet.

It is true that EU’s new directive is straightforward with copyright owners’ rights, and eventually it will have an impact how sharing, mixing and news aggregation services operate on the internet. The services must change their processes so that all new content that becomes available on the site has cleared ownership checks, and if it is a copyrighted work, an agreement with its owner is in place.

Very little, if anything, will change because of EU’s new copyright law for an author who is writing his or her next book, or for a publisher that is investing in the production of a new book. The business model, after all, is still the same for them: produce an original work and market it to an audience that pays for the product.

Ebook news digest: peer support for writers, how traveling professionals avoid loneliness, free ebooks


News on ebooks, writing, photography, copyright on April 13, 2017

bricks-and-mortar, book shop in Gothenburg

5 Reasons Fellow Writers Are Essential to Your Writing Life
Writer’s Digest

Peer support, sharing experiences and information can help every writer at some point of a writing life. Writers are not always extroverts who are happy to chat with anyone, but finding colleagues is definitely worth the effort.

Travel Photography Tips
National Geographic

A long article worth reading that doesn’t explain the techniques of travel photography, but, for instance, the importance of research. So, read a travel guidebook for your destination first.

3 Benefits Ebooks Activate For Your Business
Atomic reach

The author arguments that ebooks work particularly well for companies that operate in business-to-business markets.

Six Digital Nomads Share Tips For Tackling Loneliness On The Road

I would add the most important tip: Learn as many languages as you can. Usually, however, it is too late because you are already in Bucharest or Lisbon and realize no one speaks English. At least, then you should learn the basic local greetings and shopping terminology.

Read 700 Free eBooks Made Available by the University of California Press
Open Culture

Free ebooks are mostly one way or the other related to North America, but they are adding new titles all the time.

Copyright expansion plans would kill EU startups
Julia Reda

Important copyright laws are being prepared in the EU. Consequences are far reaching and potentially restrictive if you are not a big publisher arguments EU MEP Julia Reda.

Do You Trust the NYT Bestseller List?
Lindberg Books

It is strange that every organization that collects and publishes bestseller lists show different ranking. The writer may want to have a look at Author Earnings reports as well.

Julian Assange: WikiLeaks has the same mission as The Post and the Times
The Washington Post

Google won the US Supreme Court case for making book extracts available for searching and viewing online


On April 18th, 2016 the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Google in its long legal fight against the Authors Guild organization. The April 18 ruling means that the Supreme Court will not review the case that originally was filed in 2005 against Google by the Authors Guild.

The Authors Guild initiated the court case 11 years ago because the association believed (and still believes) that Google was violating copyright laws.

In 2004, Google started scanning books stored on the shelves of libraries, archives, universities and other places that had large book collections. The objective was nothing more or nothing less than to scan all the books of the world and make them searchable online. For Google, it was a mission of making all written information the humankind had created available to everyone. On the side, it could serve ads to visitors who were browsing the indexed books and make a profit.

Google started the project without asking for permissions from anyone. Google’s savvy engineers simply built clever and fast scanning machines for the job. Company’s huge data centers were ready to index and store everything that could be recovered from old (and new) books.

In the early days of the project, the U.S. based Authors Guild organization that looks after the interest of writers tried to negotiate with Google. The Guild wanted Google to stop scanning books or start paying royalties for authors whose books were not in public domain. Google declined, stating it only makes extracts available, but since then, the company has been in court in the US and in some other countries.

It has been estimated that Google had scanned 30 million books in 2012, and the work continues.

Now, however, Google has won the case, and that should be the end of it in the U.S.

google books herders boots

From the book The Herder’s Boots. http://klaava.com/the-herders-boots/

You can take a look at how Google Books works by visiting the Google search page and choosing Books. When you search, the results will be extracted from books only. This means not only old pritn books but also new ebooks. When, for instance, Klaava makes a new ebook available at Google Play online bookstore, it also automatically becomes searchable in Google Books. You can read random pages of a copyrighted work, but not the whole book in Google Books.

In Europe, EU kicked off the Europeana program in 2005 to preserve the cultural heritage of European countries. Europeana stores digitally works that have entered the public domain. It has archived more than 52 million books, artworks and other items so far. If you are interested in history, cultures or art, it is a highly recommended destination.

Europeana is run by the European Commission and hasn’t been in court because of suspected copyright violations.
europeana homepage

What does the Google vs. Authors Guild court ruling mean for authors? Not much. Perhaps some out-of-print books will be made available as ebooks because there is enough interest among audiences to read them. It should not be harmful for authors that brief extracts are available for searching and viewing. It helps book discovery and probably silences the urge to demand a share of revenue that Google makes from ads it may some day display with the book extracts.