Friday, October 30, 2015

Got my Ranty Pants On

I should change the name of this blog to "Eden Rants" because that seems to be the only time I blow the dust off this joint and invite y'all over for a cup of coffee.

And ranting is exactly what I'm doing, so if you ain't in the mood for me at my bluntest, pass this one up. If you dare, then pull up your big girl panties and let this old southern broad serve up a helping of truth.

I started Gas or Ass off with a rant. And today, I'm ranting again, and for the same goddamn reason. Author drama.

Now, let me say right up front, that when I use the term, it's not necessarily pejorative.


The romance community is astir again, this time about plagiarism. A prolific author has been caught re-writing (that's the kind term) a male/female romance into a male/male romance.

And guess what happened next?

Yep. My Facebook feed lit up like bottle rockets in July.

Post after indignant post about this heinous act has wallpapered my feed in the last week. (That's true, if the author being accused did the deed, it is heinous.) I have over 1000 writers in my personal FB feed, so when I say 'wallpapered' I mean, enough words to cover the Biltmore House, and have enough left over to paper the servants shed, have been written on the topic.

And, it's not the first time this has happened, but it could be the last.

Why do I say that? Well, consequences. See, fourteen months ago, a similar thing came to my attention. An author I do not know, nor do I have have any social media contact with, had her Christian romance stolen by a woman who turned Rachel's sweet romance into ....drum roll, erotic romance.

Rachel Nunes went through some shit in order to figure out who had stolen her work. That hideous person actually tortured her via social media and made outright threats.

But, Rachel decided to fight. She started a GoFundMe campaign. The original theft, as well as subsequent threats made by her plagiarist, designed to intimidate this author, is all laid out in Rachel's GFM campaign.

Today, she's raised about half of the money needed to take her fight to court. Her case is in the discovery phase. In practical terms, that means the amount she has raised is G-O-N-E. Used up to pay her lawyer to get to this point.

I donated then, and continue to donate whenever I can. But, why is she going begging? I mean, her win can only benefit every other author.

So, I watched all the posts go by last week about the NEW incident, but....dammit, money talks and bullshit walks. I've started to feel that the romance writing community would rather talk than DO.

So, here's the ranty part. If you know there's a GFM in the works, and you believe in the issue--as evidenced by the blizzard of posts on the matter in my feed--then, at what point do your posts stop being about raising awareness and start being just a twisted form of self-promotion?

And..if you weren't aware of Rachel's GFM, here is is. Now, ignorance is no longer your excuse. 

See, I still believe the thing I said at the beginning of Gas or Ass. We, as women, and particularly as women writers, can say, "Take my hand, I'll help you. I'll support you. I'll fight for you." And this can be done for the mere price of a goddamn dollar, or five, or twenty. Or, you can share her campaign. Because, we we well know from all the posts in our feeds doing giveaways, sharing is valuable, too.

We, as a community, can help end the plague of plagiarism by helping fund say, the next five GFM's by authors who have had their work stolen. I dwell on the magic of crowd funding, because I don't know many authors who can write a check for 25K to defend their stolen works. Ergo, we MUST stand united, or fall one by one.

Donating to Rachel's GFM is the cheapest goddamn insurance you will ever buy against having your work stolen. Much cheaper than that $35 copyright protection, that frankly, ain't worth the paper it's written on unless you ALSO have the 25K to back that shit up in court. Because, contrary to what some idealists in my feed seem to believe, that copyright protection ain't gonna speak for itself. Waving it at your thief won't slow their roll. You gotta hire an attorney to assert those rights given you by that piece of paper.

And he's gonna want more than most of us earn in five or ten years.

So, we can write blog posts. We can rant and bleed for our friends who've had their work stolen, and hope it never happens to us. Frankly, I think that's just noise pollution--which, incidentally, is why I rarely blog. I figure most any topic I think up has already been done, so I just decide I'll put those words on my work in progress and call it a day.

But what we cannot do is hope like hell that it's a NYT bestselling author who's work is stolen next, and not one of us indies who barely earn enough to eat ramen noodles four times a week. We cannot hope and pray that the kind of person who'd stoop to steal another's words is also stupid enough to pick a fight with someone who can afford to kick their ass in court.

But, we can help this author out with some hard cash or helpful publicity, and when she prevails in court, and is awarded ...cha ching! COMPENSATORY DAMAGES that cost her thief everything they could ever hope to earn...then the next asshat who decides to take a shortcut will think twice. In this day and age, you can run but you cannot hide. Plagiarists have to leave a money trail, else, why steal?

We can swarm the next, say five GFM campaigns to fight plagiarism, fund them in a red-hot hurry--remember, we'd individually be out of pocket, say, $25 bucks, if we gave Rachel AND the next four authors suffering this plague a $5.

But the cumulative benefit to each and every one of us is massive.We can put the fear of our community in the heart of the next would-be thief, by sticking together. By giving that five bucks or making a dedicated, ongoing publicity effort on those authors' behalf.

Anyone recall the blogger who was sued by a photographer because he found his copyrighted image on Google and he sued the blogger for damages--and won? Yeah. what happened next was a blizzard of posts about why bloggers needed to respect copyrights.

And... bloggers and authors stampeded to sign up at stock image sites. Or we found awesome free sites like Pixabay, where I got the images I used in this post.

 Most of us didn't realize that what this blogger did was wrong. but we damn sure understood the 8K it cost that blogger to learn the hard way.

And any compensatory damages Rachel wins would far outstrip that 8K for using a single image without permission...because...ta da! There is the little matter of intent. Book plagiarists INTEND to profit. Rachel's suit is asking for, I believe, $150,000 in compensatory damages.

And honey, 150K will give the next thief pause. Believe it.

We, as romance writers can either intend to help, or intend to benefit by means of the self-promotion garnered by toothless rants about plagiarism in general. Really, people already know it's wrong. Whatever you happen to write off the cuff on Facebook ain't eloquent enough to stop the next thief, much as it pains me to say so.
Because, this is one of those deals where, if you ain't part of the solution, you just might be part of the fucking problem. When we post so many heartfelt things, but never act, well, that, my friends, is all it takes for evil to triumph. (paraphrasing Edmund Burke)

Rant ovah. As you were.