When Plagiarism Hits
Plagiarism isn’t common in the writing world, but when it hits, it can be deadly. This was a sad week in publishing, as a popular author was caught stealing content from several bestsellers, including Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, and Bella Andre. Below is a recap of this theft, along with steps you can take to protect your novel.
THE NEWS: Cristiane Serruya
Cristiane Serruya is a Brazilian author who allegedly plagiarized books from almost a dozen authors, including Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, and Bella Andre. I use the word ‘allegedly’ lightly, the evidence is pretty damning, and certainly inexcusable. Cristiane had an interesting con… she’d take the original novel, do a sloppy hack job of the content, then send it to a ghostwriter or editor and have them smooth it over and add enough content to disguise the book it came from. This ‘rework’ often included changing character names and locations - then retitling, recovering, and publishing the book under her own pen name. These new novels were very successful, rising to the top of Amazon charts.
In February, a reader discovered the similarities between Cristinane’s book Royal Love and Courtney Milan’s The Duchess War, and brought the plagiarism to Courtney Milan’s attention. Some items of interesting note - The Duchess War was a wildly successful book, by a New York Times Bestselling author who is ALSO a trademark/IP attorney. Of all of the books and authors to steal from, Cristinane picked a terrible option. As news of Cristianane’s plagiarism became public, readers descended with magnifying glasses on Cristianane’s novels, and quickly discovered that most, if not all, of her books were stolen from popular and established novels.
ACTION AND OUTCOME: Cristiane Serruya
Upon verifying and documenting the intellectual theft, Courtney Milan contacted the retailers and the author directly and reported the plagarism. Within 48 hours, the books were removed from retailer shelves and Cristinane had deleted her social media accounts and website. Before she left social media, she did blame the theft on her ghostwriter and claimed ignorance of the plagiarism. This defense quickly fell apart as infringement was found on all of her titles, and her past ghostwriters and editors came forward and shared details of their process (rewriting stolen content provided by Cristinane).
I’m guessing that Courtney Milan and the other affected authors will be suing Cristinane to recover income earned off of their titles. I’ll update this post when there is a conclusion.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PROTECT YOUR OWN WORK?
First off, you should ALWAYS copyright your work. I suggest getting a US copyright, despite your country of citizenship. I’ve got a step-by-step video on the process in my Easy Guide to Protecting Your Book, but you can also view it here.
Second, learn the basics of copyright laws, especially if you are a non-fiction author. You might be plagiarizing yourself, and not even realize it!
Third, if you become aware of someone plagiarizing your work, stay calm. Contact the author, contact the retailers, and/or file a complaint with DMCA. Plagiarism isn’t always in published novels, and could easily be on fan-fiction sites, blog sites, or piracy sites. Each instance should be approached in different ways. If you want to be fully prepared, I encourage you to check out my Easy Guide to Protecting Your Book.
Also, if you’re attending INKERS CON, be sure to attend Attorney Mike Farris’s presentation on Legal Issues for Authors! He’ll be covering copyright infringement and much, much more! Find out more about Inkers Con here!