Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Dealing with Plagiarism

Last week, just as I was attempting to head off to Poland for a friend’s wedding, I had a message from Steph at Cuddlebuggery book blog, alerting me that I’d been plagiarised.

Whilst I was insanely glad that’d she’d alerted me and was so incredibly supportive and awesome all the way through the last few days, what followed was a few days of hellishness when I was supposed to be happy and celebrating the marriage of two awesome people.

Let’s start at the beginning. By the time I picked up Steph’s message the plagiariser (Samantha) had already removed over forty plagiarised reviews from both her goodreads page and her blog, having stolen from over fifteen other book bloggers that we know of, and potentially many more. Now if you visited either you were greeted by a ghost town of dead links and empty pages. Luckily Steph had screen grabbed as many of the plagiarised reviews as possible and was able to send me mine. 

Note to self: Don’t read reviews someone has stolen from you on a train travelling across Poland, you will either a) look like you might murder the person opposite, b) cry or c) both.

Perhaps it’s just as well I opened it then because my wifi was so patchy that it meant I couldn’t do any of the knee jerk reactions that I probably would have done had I been at home. I had time to think and stew and generally fume until I was in bed in the hotel that night after sixteen hours of travel and unable to sleep.

Working my little fingers like crazy across a phone keyboard that was definitely not built for long email writing, I fired off an email to Goodreads alerting them and adding my voice to the cacophony of bloggers who had been hit.
I talked to friends and other bloggers, and then I (foolishly) went on Samantha’s new twitter page. After she’d been found out she’d shut down her old twitter page and started a new one, where she had in the last few hours been talking to author Kate Scelsa about how much she was enjoying reading ‘Fans of the Impossible Life.’ At that point my rage kinda overflowed, because I was in the middle of reading ‘Fans’ too, and Samantha’s last tweet re-sparked all the outrage I had felt on the train.
I replied.

Since I was then on a roll, I drafted an email to send to Samantha. By the time I was finished, but hadn’t yet sent, I had an email from Samantha in my inbox.

At the time I felt gratified she had finally bothered to apologise and I sent a surprisingly nice response back. Since then it has emerged she sent the same email to anyone she discovered she had plagiarised from, she also lied repeatedly in follow up emails she sent to me, and openly admitted she didn’t know who she had plagiarised from. That’s how many people she’s stolen from, she genuinely can’t remember it anymore.

The reviews were down, she’d apologised and promised never to do it again and I was feeling slightly calmer about the whole thing. I thought that things were on their way to being resolved.

I went to the wedding, I partied.

I came home to another message from Steph – Samantha was putting the plagiarised reviews back up again with odd words tweaked and other bits of my review plagiarised instead.

Shortly after she set her goodreads profile to private so only friends of hers would be able to see the reviews she was putting up.

Around twelve hours after that Steph posted an expose on Cuddlebuggery detailing everything that had happened.

Twelve hours later Goodreads removed Samantha as a user.

So why am I telling you all this? Two reasons.
Firstly because I have never had my work plagiarised before and when Steph first told me what had happened I had no idea what to do. Did I just stay quiet and seethe? Did I make a fuss? Did I need to contact anyone? Without Steph’s help I would probably have done nothing, as it was she guided me through all the various things I could do to try and rectify the situation. Who needed to be contacted, what needed to be handled. She was amazing, and I cannot thank her enough.

And I know that other bloggers would be equally stumped if put in this situation, so this is in part to make people aware of steps you can take if you find your work has been plagiarised.
Contact the plagiariser, try to get it take down. Contact goodreads and alert them. Don’t keep quiet about this sort of thing. Plagiarism is not ok and should not be glossed over. Samantha is most likely having a bad time of it at the moment with so many book bloggers outraged at what’s happened, and I do feel sorry for her, but I also feel she really didn’t help herself with how she handled it. So at the end of the day, other bloggers needed to be made aware of the situation and to keep an eye out for more plagiarism more than her feelings needed to be protected.

And secondly, because I needed to talk about it. Like I said, this is the first time something like this has happened to me, I have lived in a fairly drama free corner of the blogosphere, and I was shocked and angry and I felt violated.
These were my words, my hard work, being stolen and passed off as someone elses. Not only on her blog, but her facebook page, her tumblr, her goodreads page and (perhaps the most upsetting part for me) on Netgalley. These are books she cited she had received from Netgalley which meant that she was sending my reviews to publishers and saying they were her own.

I keep oscillating between being furiously angry and horribly depressed and upset about the whole thing. I have a stack of books I need to review and I cannot motivate myself to get on and write the reviews because there’s this terrible little voice in the back of my brain saying ‘what’s the point if someone is just going to steal them?’ Then there was the other little voice in my brain that was just laughing hysterically because why would she steal my ramblings?! Should I be flattered in some weird way? I think that's the part of my brain that has had too much caffeine.

My blog has been my project (my baby) for five years, I have invested thousands of hours perfecting the layout and design, building up my readership and contacts in the publishing world, reading the books and writing the reviews. And some girl has come along and reduced all of that to Ctrl C + Ctrl V – LOOK AT WHAT BEAUTIFUL WORDS I WROTE.
That is a horrific feeling.

So if you find out you have been plagiarised, know that there are others that know what horrible feelings you’re having, and do not stay quiet and let them get away with it. The blogging world is a place where we are able to express ourselves, share our love of books, make friends and bring out our creativity, and no one should be allowed to take that away because they didn’t much fancy writing a long review for themselves.


  1. Wow! I cannot believe someone would copy SO much of your content! I'm glad you found out about it happening! Thanks for the post; it's definitely opened my eyes! Happy reading! :)

    1. I'm glad it was helpful :) I was just so thrown when I first found out and then seeing just how much of it had been taken - definitely an eye opening experience! Thanks so much for reading :)

  2. Omg, this is so awful. I can't understand people who steal like this. Like how do they think it's okay?! HOW. And what does it matter that they "don't know who they stole from". I MEAN YOU STILL STOLE??! Gah. I'm so sad this ruined your trip, too, Rosy. I know how this stuff totally eats one's brain up. I had my twitter stolen. Like someone took my bio and profile pic and everything...although they weren't tweeting what I was tweeting (just like random gibberish) so at least there was that. D: But still. It. is. the. worst.

    1. URGH NO, I'm so sorry you've had people steal stuff too, it really isn't on. I don't understand what they think they gain from it?! It feels really wrong and weird and kinda violatey (which is totally a word) because this is your stuff and HOW DARE THEY. I am slightly less of a rage bucket than I was, and thankfully copious amounts of vodka meant I still had a fab time at the wedding, but still. Kinda reeling from how much of a ridiculousness it turned into. The first part was bad enough but then to PUT THEM BACK UP?! WHY? JUST WHY.

  3. OMG, that is so horrible! I read Steph's post on the whole incident, and I felt so angry for you guys, it must of been so horrible and like you said violating! Hope everything is sorted out permanently! *hugs*

    1. Definitely a very unpleasant feeling. I was surprised by how I felt actually. The anger I was expecting, but the violation was an un-fun surprise. Fingers crossed it looks to all be sorted now, but there's an odd sense of always looking over your shoulder, because what's to stop her setting up accounts under new names and starting again. SIGH. Thank you for the huge, they are most appreciated. :)