Writers Have Souls and Plagiarism Sucks
"The pen is the tongue of the soul; as are the thoughts engendered there, so will be the things written."—Miguel de Cervantes
If the pen is the tongue of the soul, then the act of plagiarism is akin to the act of stealing one's soul.
Because I am very protective of my soul, I enter lines from BDTR every so often into Google to see if anything else besides my story comes up. Being optimistic, I never actually expect it to. A couple weeks ago, it did.
What I found was a story posted on fanfiction and tumblr that begins like this:
"Taylor Swift stood to [Snape] like an illusion in his peripheral vision, so that he turned his head but saw nothing tangible. She was pretty, but there were students more beautiful than her from whom he desired exclusively their potions essays. She was a brilliant writer and critical thinker, but in fifth year Potions being brilliant denoted being above average. And though she made thought-provoking insights in her essays, she was a quiet sort of girl. Rather than thrusting her limbs into the air like The Granger, she preferred fading into the sea of her peers the way a dandelion fragmented into a breeze."
(If you're one of the many people who do not read BDTR, it's almost word for word taken from one of the paragraphs in the first chapter of my story.)
I'm not going to describe my initial reaction because it was unoriginal and involved several F-words used in humorless ways. One bizarre thing that popped into my head, though, was this episode of The Simpsons when Homer gets Snake's car. At one point Snake sniffs the gasoline and chases after Homer, saying, "Hey, that smells like regular! She needs premium, dude!" I am not at all suggesting that my writing is close to premium quality, but I do take pride in it, and when it gets mutilated to fit around a story about Taylor Swift and Severus Snape (? ! ? [dafuq] ! ? ! ? ? ? ?), well, let's just say I've acquired a newfound camaraderie with Snake. Oh, and did I mention that Snake vows to destroy Homer? There may have been a parallel there as well.
For writers, what I learned:
1. To paraphrase Alastor Moody: constant vigilance is a must.
2. Contacting support at fanfiction or fictionpress or using the "Report Abuse" button is completely unreliable. I once reported a plagiarism case for an author who posted something from Shakespeare's Macbeth, and it was dealt with in twenty minutes. Perhaps it's because the staff is busy going through a site update, or perhaps they care more about established writers, but I sent emails and reports every day for a week and received no help when my own work was plagiarized.
3. Passive-aggressive (mostly aggressive) PM messages to the plagiarizer are much more effective in getting the work removed.
4. I was completely prepared to file a DMCA Copyright Infringement report. It involves providing your name, address, phone number etc, and I have not read the entire legal code, but I don't think your private information will be made public on the internet. Both fictionpress/fanfiction and tumblr (and most other hosting sites) have a separate email for filing legal complaints, so I imagine they pay more attention to those cases. It can't hurt to have a filled copy of the report on hand and ready to go if worst comes to worst.
5. Losing faith in humanity really puts a dampener on motivation for writing.
1. The time spent copying and replacing your characters in someone else's work would be better allocated to practicing original writing. There are all sorts of wonderful people online willing to give writing tips. Does it feel good to know that if people like your plagiarized story, it's not actually your work they like? Does it feel good to know that the more people like your work, the more likely it is for people to discover it's plagiarized, the worse the consequences will be when it's discovered?
2. Ugly things happen to plagiarizers- Joe Biden's plagiarism in law school was part of a major controversy that caused him to lose the 1988 bid for candidate for presidency. Of course, while politicians are constantly being blamed and forgiven, I imagine that plagiarism is a much more serious and permanent blemish to the records of people who want to be recognized for their writing.
3. The writer you plagiarize from may just happen to be a tech-savvy stalker and demonic nutcase.