Plagiarism in the Internet Age
Darren Di Lieto, the operator of the Little Chimp Society web site, has blogged about a troubling incident in which the series of interviews of illustrators, which he conducted for the LCS web site, were stolen wholesale and published in book-and-CD form, along with the sample illustrations he included with the interviews. Luc Latulippe, one of the illustrators whose work was ripped off, has blogged about it as well.
The publication is called Colorful Illustrations 93°C, and the publisher is (if you can believe the information in the book) called “Great Creativity organization”. The interviews and illustrations are copy-and-pasted directly from the web site, and to compound the theft, the image files are all included on a CD with the book, as if they were clip-art bundled with the price of the book.
This is an open-and-shut copyright infringement case - even without registration of the copyright it would be trivially easy to show where the material came from and that it was used without permission - and a good lawyer could probably include some additional complaints, perhaps involving “right of publicity” (the included illustrators didn’t give permission to be profiled in this book). In theory.
The main problem is that the publisher is in Hong Kong. As part of the People’s Republic of China - which as a communist state for a long time didn’t recognize the legal concept of private intellectual property at all - copyright enforcement there is… weak. If you think suing someone in Czechia or Colombia or even Chad would be challenging, China is an especially challenging venue. Even though China is a signatory to the Berne Convention covering international copyright, even Microsoft has a difficult time getting the Chinese government to enforce copyright law to protect bootleg copies of Windows that are being produced in that country. For a bunch of working-class illustrators going after a small publisher sneaky enough to use a fake ISBN… it doesn’t look good.
This sort of thing - at least something this blatant - doesn’t happen often in the tightly-knit, in-bred world of comics publishing. If there’s a silver lining to the Diamond monopoly on distribution to the comics-shop market in North America, it’s the fact that you could successfully cut off a plagiarist’s access to that market by contacting one company (and I have no doubt that the folks at Diamond would do that if presented with evidence of something like this). But as the global market for comics shifts to other channels (the bookstore distributors, print-on-demand and other direct sales, online publishing, etc.) the chance of this increases.