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Alien Alliance; Stolen

 

Alien Alliance: Stolen

This is the account of the theft of my book;

Alien Alliance by Maxine Millar

 

The Theft

Alien Alliance was first published, by me, on an eBook website (sites are not permitted to be named as this could be misconstrued by other sites as advertising), on Sunday 9th September 2016. Up to now all was good. I could go on to the author’s section and watch, excited, as I saw the increasing graph on how many people were looking at the site page and how many people were downloading my book. The book I had been working on for years. The first in a series. It was published for free at first, to see how it went.

Two days later on the Tuesday, I arrived home from work to find that the website had upgraded my book to premium status, which in effect means that the book is of a professional standard technically and is judged as readable ‘by a Human,’ i.e. somebody read it and gave it a pass.

According to the information on their website, I understood that that meant they would now distribute my book, on my behalf to other websites.

Well, not quite.

Later that Tuesday night, I found my book on another website. I assumed the original website had uploaded it there.

A day or so later, I found another name attached to my book and angrily emailed that site demanding as to how another person’s name had been added as a co-author to my book.

That site sent me forms to fill out to legally state that I was the sole author and was claiming that my book was being plagiarized. Thinking this was simply someone claiming co-authorship and not understanding what was really going on here, I filled out their forms but things got worse. I was unable to access my book on the author’s site and the site said it wasn’t my book. Angry and confused, I contacted the original website to be told my book had not been uploaded to that site and I finally realized my book had been stolen.

The Investigating

The correct legal term is plagiarized but I prefer to tell it as what it is; stolen, by a thief. When I was at university, plagiarism was defined as using some else’s work in your assignment without acknowledging the author; i.e. by implication, claiming their work as your own and this was only part of their work, not their whole book.

He had stolen the whole book, with the cover page showing my title and name, and with my ISBN, which was in my name only, still attached to the book. Not only had he stolen the book, he was selling it.

Once I realized my book was stolen, apart from panicking, I made an error, jumping to the conclusion that my book on all the sites I was now finding it on was another copy distributed by the thief. This was because these copies did not have my ISBN. I had not read the fine print; or not all of it. I was wrong.

I had recruited friends to help me find it and contacted these websites to report it as stolen.

One friend searched and found the thief who, according to the Internet, is a 17 year old Russian who is a hacker and it is inferred from his website that he intends to make his living via crime.

Please note, this is absolutely not a victimless crime.

And to add to theft he was claiming co-authorship which infuriated me that this uncreative thief could claim to have created something. He is clearly not a creative person. He is a negative and destructive person.

My difficulties up to this point were that I was new at all this and it had therefore taken me four days to correctly figure out what had happened to my book. Please note; other authors also included in this theft spree had not realized. My enquiries tipped off the original website which had not known of this theft until I brought it to their attention and at least one of their staff then started to investigate and, presumably, notified the other authors involved.

The Impact

I was extremely distressed to the point of feeling devastated. This series was something I had been working on longer than this horrible thief has been alive. I had had two dreams; one was to write and get it published. This, I had achieved although not via my preferred route. I would have preferred ‘in print’ publishing. For a start, it pays instead of costs…

But my second dream was to write full time and this was now threatened right at the start by this horrible little thief. My optimistically hoped for second career was threatened and by someone else; someone with no conscience and no morals.

Finally, I discovered from the original website that they had distributed Alien Alliance onto the other websites but with another ISBN while I had been searching for it using mine. At this point I realized it was the reverse situation to what I had thought; stolen on one eBooks’ website and mine on the other fourteen.

By this stage, I had taken annual leave from my job to try to get all this sorted out. It was distracting me at work and I needed to deal with my distress and deal with the issue here which was to regain control of my book; the first in a series and thereby gain control of the series. This whole mess was doing my head in; I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t concentrate and I had to sort it out myself as there was not a legal recourse I could see or afford.

There are few penalties that I can see for this particular crime.

Finding that Alien Alliance was mine on fourteen sites meant that I could go ahead and publish the sequels but I delayed doing that until I had managed to get him off the website he was published on in order to stop him simply stealing and then publishing the sequels there himself. I couldn’t stomach that possibility. I would rather decide to never publish them than to keep having them stolen. I wonder how many other authors have been in that predicament and how much good work has been lost because of it with authors deciding it wasn’t worth publishing. Particularly in the area of images. We all know how bad this problem is for the film industry and how disheartening.

When the original website I had complained to finally started to act, on 19th October, they then contacted me to tell me the ISBN I had quoted them was no longer attached to the book. I checked, it wasn’t.

I immediately contacted them back to let them know that they were correct, he had now changed the ISBN and, I asked, what would he change next? I told them that if they did not move quickly, he would change more things, like the cover page, and it would be difficult if not impossible to find it. I also gave them the details of the other books he was claiming co-authorship of and told them that according to the original website, he had hacked these off as well.

I’m assuming that by this time the other involved authors were complaining as well and I’m assuming they did check with the original website who had told me that they had figured out how he had done it and to whom else.

A Resolution (of sorts)

It appears they agreed with me that he was likely to start changing other things because the next email on 22nd October was to tell me that they were acting to remove him from their site. This last set of emails were going to and from in hours instead of days or weeks.

I kept checking and when I found he had been removed as an author, I immediately published Alien Alliance there myself in order to block him. And then to my amusement I received an email from the website checking that I was who I said I was.

I told them to check my email address which was the same one their plagiarizing site was getting all the frantic emails from. And the same one that had done the original publishing on the site it had been stolen from.

They evidently did that and a few hours later Alien Alliance was published, in my name only and available to me on the author’s site. Huge relief; apart from one oops. As I filled out the publishing page I was asked for the editors’ name. I had put that and then when I checked the page later, I found the editor was now listed as what looked like a co-author. It was late at night and I’d had enough. I fixed that a couple of days later. At least it was my error this time.

The Cost

The consequences of the theft were that it took time for various people, mostly me; lots of time, to work out what had happened and then more time to get it sorted. It cost me two weeks of my precious annual leave. So this horrible little thief wasted a good deal of other people’s time cleaning up his mess.

This whole mess took just over six weeks to correct; mostly.

Contributing to the Problem

One help for the thieves is that the eBooks’ websites make the assumption that the material sent to them is sent by people who have the legal right to do so. They are either the writer or the agent or in some other way are entitled to publish this work.

In most cases, this is true and probably in almost all cases. As usual, it is the underbelly of Humanity making it difficult for all the rest of us.

The websites also indemnify themselves against being sent stolen goods and they also indemnify their readers from unintentionally buying stolen goods. This means it is legally not their fault which negates their legal liability to prosecution which is just as well or I shudder to think of the consequences for the industry.

However their authors have an expectation that when presented with a claim, the website will investigate said claim. In the long run, thieves add to the cost of the books you read because people are employed by the websites to investigate plagiarism. These costs must come from somewhere and they do; my pocket and yours.

What does the website’s indemnity policy mean in practical terms? It means that the onus of proof is on the author especially for the beginners like me with no staff.

So, what is the Situation Now?

The case now, is that he still has a stolen copy of my book copyrighted to him and if he finds a website where I haven’t published it, he can publish it there himself. Galling in the extreme!

So all you readers, could you please do me a favor and if you find a book that looks suspiciously like mine, please inform the website that you believe it be to plagiarized and that goes for other books as well; mine and other author’s books. Readers could help to police this.

If you report this, the website will investigate as it is in their best interest to keep the site as honest as possible and thus keep the confidence and trust of their authors and readers.

So how can you prove ownership?

I am not an author who can sit down and write, nicely and sequentially until I finish and do it in a few weeks. Try now months but originally years.

This is the ‘proof of ownership’ I offered them.

I started writing this series in 1998 and have the written proof of this.

I was doing a course through a writing school.

So as ‘assignments’ and in their original form I had the chapter introducing Li, Stella, Mahmoud and Donny written as a (compulsory) children’s story.

The characterizations of Sarah and Mathew were written for another assignment teaching how to characterize properly.

I outlined the whole plan of the book to complete another assignment.

In addition I had the sequels which, I felt, further proved I wrote the first one.

At the time this theft happened, in this series I had;

- Alien Alliance published

- Alien Backlash with my editor

- Alien Checkmate was in the process of being finished

- Alien Deception was about three quarters written

- the fifth as yet unnamed book had been started

- another several had been planned,

- one more was mostly written, very ahead of sequence (because I felt like writing it and I was stuck figuring out where I was going with the one I was writing at the time).

So in summary I had all the earlier versions; all the steps to the completed book. I had planned out the whole book as a process of learning how to write in an orderly fashion which I have now abandoned and now I just wing it. No plan; just a vague idea. And sometimes I write the ending first.

Social Media

The other proof I offered the website was a bit of luck. I had not uploaded a picture of myself and nor had I done the bio. So this horrible thief knew nothing about me except my name and even that could be a pen name. I told the website he did not know my location, profession, age nor any personal details about me and he had no contact details for me nor any other way to contact me (and thank God for that). Given that, how could he be a co-author?

I also told them that I am not on any form of social media and in fact I avoid it like the plague. I’m not on Face book, blogs or twitter. I am not a member of any author’s organizations either.

I told the website that I had found two other authors with the same name as me and he probably assumed I was one of those, probably the one with the Face book page. Not me.

So if you are an author and this happens to you what can you do about it?

Watch your books.

If you spot something like this immediately challenge it, in writing or emails. If you use the phone, follow this up with something in writing like email.

Keep the earlier versions, the steps to the finished work which is excellent proof. The writing school I went to cautioned students to never throw anything out and this is a prime example of why housekeeping is often not recommended. I had the earlier versions.

My choice is to avoid social media as I work full time and write part time and given I also live on a lifestyle block (small farm) that doesn’t leave much time and the few hours it does leave I need for sleep etc. So I don’t have time for social media and I am a private person so it isn’t my thing.

But I can see the sense in being in social media and if you are you can use it to advertise your book and encourage friends to buy your book, go ahead, good thinking. And if you get into trouble, ask your Face book friends to help.

I asked friends and work colleagues to help. Most have a lot more skills than I have in web searching and several went way beyond what I asked them to do.

So how can you prevent this happening to you or optimize your chances of resolving it?

Write offline to minimize the chances of being hacked. I do. I started to do this because a friend of mine had lost his book due to his computer crashing and he had no hardcopy and was not backed up. My laptop has never been on line; I use one flash drive to transfer the competed copy onto my main computer and I hardcopy.

Use other people who know what you are writing and, preferably, have read it. Your editor and cover page designer can back you in your claim to own the book. After all, you are the one paying the bills.

My accidental idea is that, in my books, I have used unusual words and phrases and these can be ‘searched’ for if the book has been changed or altered. However, these are in English. I do not know how they will translate.

You can do an image search to look for the book cover if your book has been auto translated and remember it is still your book if it is in another language and you can use auto translate to complain to a foreign language website.

In my case, he stole the whole book with my cover page and my ISBN attached which made searching easy.

More difficult to prove are those cases where part of a book has been stolen and even more difficult to prove is where images have been stolen. I did some web searching on plagiarism of images and found this is way more difficult to prove.

The sad point is that there are those who create, those who legally use and purchase and enjoy the creations of others and those who steal and destroy and vandalize. So learn to minimize the risks to your work.

To protect the sequels, my next books will be uploaded in a type of ‘protected mode,’ which I have organized with the website and it will then be distributed all at once to minimize and to hopefully prevent this type of thing happening to me again. And I check my book, daily.

Don’t despair, I suspect my experience is rare but I don’t know. Most plagiarism, I suspect, is people downloading and then claiming material as their own rather than hijacking a whole book like this horrible little thief did.

So what can I do to prosecute this thief?

Annoyingly, probably nothing. According to the web, he is in Russia, the website is in America and I reside nowhere near either. There also isn’t much in my bank account.

And what can the websites do, maybe in future?

Can they start a policy of notifying other websites on discovering stolen books that have been uploaded to their sites?

How about a list of stolen books?

How about a list of plagiarists on the basis that once dishonest, such people are probably suspect in future. A person’s history is the best predictor of what they will do in the future.

All of the EBooks’ websites, if they did these three things, could stop this practice in its tracks.

In addition when informed by irate readers that a book reads remarkably like another one they have read, if the two books were on the same website or even if one was on another site they could be run through a plagiarism program. There is a program and probably more than one, used in Universities, which checks for plagiarized materials. These are able to check for PARTS of a book that have been plagiarized in order to detect cheating. So surely it would be relatively easy to check for where a book has had just a few changes (like title and author!) and then republished as another book. So why can the websites not use such a program to do this when tipped off by readers and other websites? Should they do so, it is possible that this would; detect substantially more plagiarism and save the websites a lot of staff time in the long run.

Other suggestions;

- have a location on each website for bright ideas on detecting plagiarism, locating the thieves and reporting them.

- run competitions for readers to report plagiarism and get free books as prizes!!

As an author I would be delighted to contribute free books to any sharp eyed reader who picked up plagiarism of my hard work. And of course those books could be awarded as presents to friends if you already have them.

And What about those who bought the stolen books?

I was concerned that readers who bought the stolen book have overpaid as the thief (of course) charged more than I do. I enquired from the website whether they would get a refund but I didn’t get an answer.

I had also thought that if their policy was not to refund under these circumstances that they could let these readers have the next book free but I got no answer to that either.

What can Readers do about this?

My whole point here is that just as dishonest people can find a way to steal, surely honest people can find a way to detect and counter these thieves and remember there’s more of us than there are of them! Like 90-95% more.

And these are only the ideas I have had. I am not the only one this has happened to and others must have had similar ideas, more of them and hopefully even better ones. Just a few thieves, everywhere, cost of all us in all spheres of our lives. This includes costing all of us an estimated 20% extra that we are all paying on retail items because of the financial impact and extent of theft. So it is the interests of readers and authors and the websites to find ways to catch these thieves.

And I am not naming the thief. I have renamed him the horrible little thief. I hope that will annoy him and I do not want to confirm anything he can then boost about.

 

 

The Niseyen Galaxy Series

You now know I have spent since 1998 working, part time, on this series. I started writing the first book properly in about June 2009, finishing this first one in 2012 and learning how to write properly as I went.

So there is;

Alien Alliance, published September 2016

Alien Alliance: Stolen, due out late November, early December 2016

Alien Backlash, due out late November, early December 2016

Alien Checkmate, hopefully late December 2016

Alien Deception, due out early to mid 2017

And now you can see I could be planning 26 if I keep having ideas and live long enough…

I have now, mostly, figured out where the series is going, which is not necessarily where it will end up. (My friends would tell you I frequently don’t end up where I intend to go which is a bit of a common problem for me as I am dyslexic. Among other things, I have no sense of direction and the normal navigational ability most people possess to some degree or another is entirely lacking in me and I don’t understand how anyone can do it; not get lost all the time I mean. And don’t ever ask me for directions as I frequently can’t tell right from left either).

My stories will all be complete in themselves and will be able to be read a bit out of sequence but given these are eBooks, reading them in order won’t be a problem and just go in alphabetical order. The joy of eBooks is that the bookshops don’t run out of copies!

The stories weave in and out of each other and sometimes tell the same story seen from a different character’s perspective.

I tried, of course, to sell this first book to publishers but they were not interested. I was a new author, unknown, too financially risky, they were not interested. One publisher clearly didn’t even bother to read the 250 word synopsis which I thought was a bit rude.

So that left eBooks which was a scary prospect and as you can see it rapidly got even scarier.

My practice of having several books on the go at the same time, as well as getting the timeline right, also solves the problem of ‘writer’s block’ or in my case ‘where am I going?’ Or ‘how can I get to there?’

There are themes in my books which come from my job and my knowledge and from my interests in Science Fiction, Science and Medicine. These will continue.

The writing school I attended tried to teach an organized and methodical way to write but that doesn’t mean it is the only way and it is not how I write now. In my opinion there is no one way.

 

 

I write in the fashion that I invent the characters and then they write the story. Sometimes, generally late at night, I have been writing while half asleep and suddenly noticed what I have been writing and wondered, “where did that come from?” But it is always in character. Always.

And frequently a book starts from big chunks tossed out of the previous book as that book is getting far too big (as happened with Alien Backlash where Alien Checkmate was originally the subplot of Alien Backlash).

All of these books and all these works are based on the first one. All the characters who survived the first book are planned out in the following ones; they are all interconnected. The Alien races, introduced in Alien Alliance are to form the basis of future books and there is a reason for each race and their part in future books is required.

By withholding this first book until I had written the others, I was able to change my mind, change characters, change what happened and what is going to happen but the minute a book is published, it is set in concrete and any ‘mistakes and inconsistencies’ (and they will be there and I will get told about them) are also set in concrete.

But this whole series was built on the foundations of the first one. So now you can see the significance to me of having not only a book stolen but for it to be the first one in the series. The whole series, all those already written and all of those planned; years of work, dreams and hopes, were threatened because I had lost control of the first book in the series. Think about that. It was bad enough that I had a book stolen but for it to be the first one in a series was truly devastating for me.

 

 


Alien Alliance; Stolen

This is an account of the theft (plagiarism) of my eBook Alien Alliance, how this was partially resolved and what to do if this happens to you or someone you know. Also, how to reduce the chances of this type of theft, some information as to the legal issues and hints as to how to 'prove' ownership. I have some suggestions for the websites as to how to police this as it is a growing issue, not only for written material but also for images. It is also a brief description of the series and what is coming next.

  • ISBN: 9781370696017
  • Author: Maxine Millar
  • Published: 2016-11-28 19:20:07
  • Words: 4413
Alien Alliance; Stolen Alien Alliance; Stolen