Thursday, August 27, 2009

What!? You Forgot to Credit My Blog!?

Dearest, darlingest, G.P. Putnam,

Right now I am so upset that my hands are shaking. My mind is racing, my heart is pounding. I can hardly type.

On the one hand, I am flattered, G.P.! Flattered that Debra Ollivier chose to excerpt my blog in her soon-to-be published-by-you book What French Women Know. On the other hand I am having a heck of a time calming myself down. Pacing. Rattled. Why? You may have guessed. She didn't attribute a full page of well-crafted prose to me.

Nope, she instead simply said "Take this typical blog posted by an American woman in a Parisian grocery store," then proceeded to quote one of my most popular blog posts on French Flirting.

How popular is that post, you ask? Excellent question, G.P. Putnam. It is very, very popular. You know how to Google, don't you, G.P.? Try googling the phrase "French Flirting" and see what pops up first. Not merely on the first page of Google hits, but THE number one. Why, goodness me, that's the very post she used in her book. Look, look, G.P.!

A bit of history. A few weeks ago I was flattered to receive an email from Debra Ollivier, asking me to review a galley proof of her book, and to apologize for inadvertently failing to attribute a quote from my blog. "At last I found you!" she said, with a drawn-out story about how it had been too difficult to track down and credit the source. Neither she nor her editor (your editor) had been able to find me! Pourtant, G.P. Putnam, I am no shrinking violet. No Writing Wallflower! Polly-Vous Francais is anything but anonymous.

At the time I assumed that she had perhaps made a vague reference to one of many insightful posts on my blog. Debra promised to "make up for it" by mentioning me in her blog. (Naive moi, I even responded by offering to HELP her with her blog. You know, we writers lending a hand to each other and all. Ha!)

O excuse me, G.P. Putnam, but Debra's blog gets how many hits? And tell me, G.P., is that how publishers and authors make amends these days for failing to give proper credit to a source? By a follow-up mention in their blog? (FWIW, G.P. Putnam, my blog gets a quarter of a million page pageloads annually.)

And here is my quandary, G. P. Putnam. As soon as FedEx delivered the book today, I kicked off my shoes, got my reading glasses, and guiltily ignored the pressing need to send out more job applications. I wanted to dive right into the book; I knew it would be a tour de force. I had actually forgotten about the pesky attribution issue Debra had mentioned weeks earlier. "Hmm, this book is really, really good," I was thinking to myself as I read. "So intelligent. So well written." Then I reached page 25, and saw the quoted text. "Oh goodie, this is me!" was my first reaction. Yes, she had quoted it properly, precisely. The section of my blog post (the original is here) continued on page 26, taking up a full page of her book. "Wee! She likes me!" I first thought, glowing with pride. I continued reading for a bit, but a nasty feeling started creeping over me. Wait a sec. Wait a sec. This isn't RIGHT!

And that, G.P. Putnam, is when I started shaking in anger. This wasn't just a little blurb. It was a full page! Dear, dear, G. P., I think you must have copy editors who know how to check quoted text by inserting it into a Google search and seeing what pops up. And then to give FULL CREDIT to the writer. Don't you?

Alors, now what, G.P. Putnam? Do I keep blogging away, unpaid, my work unattributed in your book? Do I jump up and down and scream and say "How about me? How about MY writing?" for a while? Do I point out the little copyright sign at the bottom of my blog and start calling dial-a-lawyer?

I don't know.

But I'm not going to take this lying down.

43 comments:

beiderbecke said...

I'm sure Waldo would be happy to help, Polly.

GoingLikeSixty.com said...

I am without words.
I'm sorry this happened to you.

Alison said...

I've read that book, and I remember that passage. I wondered if that was you!

Do NOT take it lying down!

Isabelle said...

All of your faithful readers are backing you up, Polly!! Ne te laisse pas faire surtout...

Annie Donwerth Chikamatsu said...

No, don't take it lying down!

jan said...

Lawyer time

Lora said...

You go, girl!!

Ksam said...

Oh wow, a full page??? That's flat-out plagiarism!

Renee said...

Perhaps you should leave a review of the book on Amazon.com and the other sales sites and explain the theft. Just an idea. Good luck! I would p'd as all get out!!!!

Aloysius Horn said...

ça ne va pas. They have no excuse.

Michelle said...

Oh, that is utterly disgusting.

Jump and down and make a fuss. A short quote could be an oversight. A whole page? That is straight out plagiarism.

Harriet said...

I can't believe this! There is NO EXCUSE! Call Oprah! Or somebody important. Let the whole world know.

Karen said...

Keep bugging them. One of our other bloggers had her photo lifted and used by Virgin Airlines.. She kept at it and has gotten compensation, an apology and some commission work from them. Don't let it just fade away. Keep at 'em.

Meg said...

Mr. Tousled Hair is no longer flattered and amused... this is terrible news! I am so sorry to hear this.

betsyboo said...

ICK. So unhappy to hear this happened. I'm glad you're being loud about it.

Jennie said...

Hmm, it wasn't too difficult to copy your entire post, but yet it was too difficult to "track down" your blog again later on because she didn't keep the source at the time of the original "quoting"? Isn't that basically admitting to plagiarism? Her excuse is total BS and you definitely need to fight her on this.

I'm so sick of people copying blogs and websites and passing them off as their own to make money. I've been dealing with people copying my website for years and selling it as an ebook on Ebay. It's a battle I know I will never win though. Once it's out on the internet, anyone can steal anything and claim it as their own. How can you prove that it was indeed you who "published" it first? And what happens when the thiefs flat out lie and claim that you are in fact stealing from them?

C said...

That is hporrible...I just pre-ordered this book and am now thinking of cancelling the order..You are a fantastic blog writer and bring lots of joy! Do not take this sitting down!!

La Grenadine said...

Oh ! I'm really sorry for you. I actually hope everything wil be okay soon, because that's a very bad thing to steal work of another person. I say steal because when you don't credit and when you earn money with work of another person, that's a theft ! =(

Steve Scottsdale said...

Polly, you're my favorite Paris blogger. I was saddened to learn that you were moving back to States.

But despite an ego-blow, please keep this in perspective. The incident is the consequence of the high speed, broadband world we now live in; filled with deadlines. She didn't pass it off as her own so it wasn't plagiarism. The original was available free so it wasn't theft. Failure to credit you was a breach of etiquette. To her credit, she belatedly discovered the error & tried to make amends but after the train left the station, there wasn't much she could do.

You're at the point where you have to ask yourself, is this incident worth fretting and obsessing over, knowing that every negative thought carries with it a self-imposed squirt of stomach acid that you don't need.

My advice (which is worth what you're paying for it) is to move on and continue to do good things in your life.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Un grand merci to everyone for your support! I can't even re-read this post because it makes me hopping mad.

It's not plagiarism per se because she didn't claim the words as her own. Anyway, it's probably best for me not to comment too much right now.

But as my sister pointed out, what would a publishing house do if the tables were turned? It would be T-R-O-U-B-L-E from the get-go.

Stay tuned!

BJ Lantz said...

I don't blame you for being upset; that is outright thievery (whether she claims the words as her own or not) and even worse because she knows who she "borrowed" it from!

Starman said...

You may have inadvertently given her permission to use your work when she contacted you about not providing your name as the source of the blog. So as infuriating as it may be, there probably isn't much that can be done legally. But it should, at least, encourage you to get your book on the shelves asap. Perhaps you could even include this little incident as a warning to others.

pct said...

Polly,

It must be infuriating to see your wonderful words unattributed in Ms. Ollivier's book. As your other commenters have said, there is a distinction between plagiarism, an ethical breach for which you can be expelled from school, and copyright violation, an actual tort for which you can be sued. Unfortunately, legal redress is an expensive and iffy proposition, so calling out the author in your blog post might be the best revenge.

Be sure to write the publisher and ask to be credited in future editions, though.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

This is really a blogging issue.

If I had published that article in a magazine, newspaper, or book, would anyone think it was acceptable for her to use it without attribution or permission?

pct said...

Are you sure a "blogging issue" isn't really a resources issue repackaged? Had the article appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, you would have had Si Newhouse's lawyers running interference for you. When it appears in Polly-Vous Francais, you don't.
Had it been Arianna Huffington's blog post, do you think she would have dared use it without attribution or permission?

Jake Dear said...

Polly,

At first I was thinking that "pct" is right -- "it's a resource issue."

But then I was reminded of the incident in May, when NYT columnist Maureen Dowd copied, verbatim, a substantial passage by Josh Marshall, published in his blog, Talking Points Memo -- a blog with power similar to Huffington's. See:
http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/talk/blogs/thejoshuablog/2009/05/ny-times-maureen-dowd-plagiari.php

So -- maybe you are right, perhaps this is a "blogging issue." Maybe some feel it’s OK to simply copy from blogs without attribution. Or maybe, as in your case, they feel that if they acknowledge, generally, that they took it from "a blog," they feel that's sufficient. It's obviously not sufficient, but until popular culture respects the work found on blogs equally with that in traditional publications, we may see more incidents like this.

This reminds me that, although not on the scale that you've suffered, we've also seen some online material that strikes us as suspiciously similar to our own writing on our own blog. But as a practical matter, what can be done?

-- Jake Dear ( http://parisandbeyondinfrance.blogspot.com/ )

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Jake and pct,

I agree. Copyright infringement code is very specific and applies to the actual work. So if another online or other source cribs your (our) fabulous ideas, too bad -- we're out of luck. But the code does definitely protect the specific content of the work that we have created, including text and art work/photos. Here's the boring-but-fascinating legal code.

http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.pdf

I have a feeling that it will take a few shake-downs such as Maureen Dowd's (and maybe this one?!?) before it's recognized that you can't just lift anything you find on-line without attributing the author. On-line, that recognition usually amounts to a short intro and a simple link. However, if web content is reproduced in a print-only publication, it requires permission and attribution, at least as I understand the law.

I'm no lawyer, though. (But I was a legal proofreader for 2 years in my youth! Does that count?)

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Then this evening I had a probably unfounded epiphany. I said to myself, "What if she did this on purpose, a stunt to stir up an internet/blog kerfuffle to add to the publicity and promotion of her book?"

"Nahh," I answered back to meself. Too vain a thought.

patoo2 said...

Polly - I work in publishing, and this glaring omission could be easily corrected for a possible future reprint. It won't make up for the books already printed, but at least you could get future credit. I'd press the case directly with the publisher, and not just the author.

Meg said...

And if you do need counsel, I can refer you to an intellectual property attorney.

Mo said...

I think you should press forward with the publisher as patoo2 said. Give them the opportunity; fix the problem, if they don't, see if there is any legal recourse.

pascal said...

you have every right to demand to be paid for your material... my recommendation is to write the publisher informing them of their copyright violation, request what you would like done (i.e., remove the material, attribute it to you, payment), and state that if the issue is not resolved amicably w/in a specified period of time (30 days is typical) that you will be seeking legal counsel.

best of luck.

Virginia said...

Well I'm fighting mad for you! Just today I told a friend that I was sure that there are folks out there downloading mine and others' photos from our blogs. I added, "Would you walk into an art gallery and lift a painting off the wall and walk out without paying? NO! Well why do people think they can politely lift our photos or our words without paying or at least asking permission. Don't you give up! I"ll check back and see how things are progressing with G.P. !
V

YSLGuy said...

That is just awful! I hope you get some sort of proper resolution from this!

marie*jolie said...

Every blogger's worst nightmare (or at least one of them). I hope this is made right in the smoothest way possible. You are right to be angry... any of us would be. When will people learn that--just because something is posted online--doesn't make it free-for-the-taking? Geesh.

go4itcoaching said...

I am sorry you were plagiarised by Debra Ollivier, it wouldn't have taken anything from her book to credit you and makes no sense. I hope the publishers make amends to you. By the way, how did you find my blog? Am new to blogging and not quite sure how things work...

GloriaBrame said...

Polly, the issue here is "fair use." Writers are allowed to use snippets of other work without permission to do so, although even then an attribution is a minimum courtesy. What this author did is illegal. The publisher presumably had someone copyedit the ms., and apparently they did not realize that an entire page of copy had been lifted from you or they would have required the author to get your written permission for its use. The publisher is liable for this error. You can hire an intellectual property attorney or you can call the book's editor directly (not too hard: call the publishing house, ask who the editor of that title is) and complain. I suggest you ask for a "permissions fee" for the use of your text. If they agree to pay it, not only will you at least get a fee for the use of your writing but the sum will come out of any royalties the author sees from this printing. You've gotten a lot of great advice here so I hope you can sort this out to your satisfaction.

yours for a more honest publishing environment,
Gloria
(who's published multiple books and obtained multiple permissions in the process)

Meg said...

Awful! This makes me not want to go anywhere near that book. Fight it!

Cécile Qd9 said...

eh bien !
Allez Polly, courage et obstination !

J said...

@ steve scottsdale: Even if the original was "free," it IS theft for D.O. to use Polly's work without proper credit and (if Polly demands it) compensation. It's called "intellectual property," which may be different from material property, but no less legally protected. I say go after them!

james said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
james said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Polly-Vous Francais said...

james, please stop putting advertisements for templates in my comments section. merci.

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