Liz Fielding plagiarized*, TJ Klune plagiarizes*: Just another day in romancelandia

by Sunita

Behold the power of Twitter. Author Liz Fielding discovered that someone was passing off  one of her short stories as original work on Smashwords. Within a day or so, the story had been pulled and the plagiarist’s various Facebook, Twitter, etc. accounts were gone. The stated reason for doing it:

“Kay ManningFeb 24, 2012 06:17 AM
Smashwords responded to NOTHING. I took down the story because of my mistake. I know no one would believe it but it was an honest mistake. I put this story in the wrong folder on my computer and actually thought it was mine that I started a long time ago. If I really wanted to ‘steal it’ do you honestly think I would have put it up for free? What do I benefit off it?”

That’s a good one, don’t you think? And apparently it happens to her often, because Jo Bourne discovered another example.

While we were twittering about this and patting ourselves on the back about the power of collective outrage, I ran across another tweet about yet another book.

TJ Klune’s Bear, Otter and the Kid was one of the most popular m/m books last year. It has loads of 5-star raves at Amazon and Goodreads and was named one of Amazon’s Best Gay and Lesbian Books of 2011.

However, as Ann Somerville pointed out and linked to on Twitter, the book’s plot, characters, and setting are lifted wholesale from a 2007 movie called Shelter. W.F., a Goodreads member, lays out the incriminating evidence in his/her review:

I saw the movie a couple of years ago and this book has the same characters, same story development, same guy-gives-up-scholarship-to-take-care-of-small-child plot. Both the movie and this book even start with the same scene — he’s driving to the airport to pick up his wealthy best friend who is coming home from college for the summer. I watched the movie again after reading this book and there is no mistake that complete scenes, situations, etc. were copied — some almost exactly.

His best friend’s older brother comes home from southern California after a bad breakup in both the movie and the book. The scene where the hero and his best friend arrive at the best friend’s house to find the older brother there is nearly the same. The same tension and awareness between the older brother and the hero are there in the book as was in the movie.

In the movie and this book, his on-and-off girlfriend since grade school works at the same grocery store with him — the book even mentions a bench and table outside the front entrance of the store which is in a scene in the movie.

There’s more. When Klune was asked about the similarities, s/he brushed off the question without denying it and called the questioner “funny.” S/he then deleted the comments.

I don’t have screencaps, but I believe the commenters who were erased (the link in this screencap goes to Klune’s blog):

Some of Klune’s defenders on GR have argued that since this is plagiarism, it’s not a crime. This is true. However, it does appear to be at least skirting the line of copyright infringement (if not long-jumping right over it), which makes the infringer subject to criminal and civil penalties if s/he is prosecuted and found guilty.

Dreamspinner has been notified and I don’t believe they have offered a response yet. This does not surprise me, given that they publish a ton of fanfiction; they may see this as similar, or even less problematic if they don’t understand copyright protection of movies. And one of their editors recently wrote a post about how to turn fanfiction into “original” work. Among the expert tips:

First, come up with a new name for all of your characters.  If one of them is named Jack or Will, you can potentially leave it, but don’t leave more than one because someone will probably know that Jack and Will are from “Pirates of the Caribbean.”  Use the search and replace tool, but please go back and read through it afterward.

And my personal favorite:

From a publishing perspective, what I think publishers don’t want to see is something that’s a screaming red flag of copyright infringement.

Um, yes.

TJ Klune is apparently hard at work on a sequel, which DSP will publish. That should be interesting, since there is no sequel to Shelter.


*allegedly [ETA because it is good to be precise. Nothing has been proven.]

ETA 2: Ms. Manning has a very large folder. Click on the link to Liz Fielding’s blog to find even more examples of “her” work.

ETA 3: W.F. has an updated review with an even longer list of comparisons. Click on the link if you haven’t look since I first posted this.

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