WritersWeekly.com (May 2005) Seeing my name in print gives me a boost to keep writing and to keep pitching. On a whim, several months ago, I Googled my own name along with the words “Rome” and “Italy” to see if anything I had written was still online. I lived in Rome for two years and most of my published work has come from that experience. When two unsold entries popped up in two different publications, I was shocked, then furious. My work had been stolen!
According to my query record, I had submitted one of the pieces almost a year prior. Never having received any acknowledgement, I had forgotten about it. The other article was posted by a publication I had never even heard of, without my knowledge and of course without payment.
Remembering I had seen an article on the subject of protecting writers’ work some time ago on WritersWeekly.com, I quickly was able to locate “How to Deal with Online Media Pirates” by Alicia Karen Elkins (http://www.writersweekly.com/this_weeks_article/000521_06112003.html). Elkins thoroughly outlines the steps necessary to rectify these exact situations so I wasted no time in following her advice.
First, I carefully crafted short, polite, yet firm e-mails to each editor. Then I waited until the next day to send them, not wanting to act rashly and regret anything I would say while my temper was still hot.
In the first instance, I gave the editor the benefit of the doubt by suggesting this must have been an oversight and that I knew he would rectify the situation quickly. I stated the date I had sent the query and my asking price, which was double what he normally pays for pieces of this length. I received a quick response with an apology and the assurance that a check would be forthcoming. It arrived within two weeks.
For the other editor, I asked for the original price that was paid for the piece. Normally, I have sold reprint rights for much less. I probably could have asked for more, but I wanted this settled swiftly and thought the price was fair. The first response to my e-mail was polite but puzzling – asking me to send the URL in question. I thought it was strange but I complied. Her next response was completely unacceptable admitting they did reprint my work without permission and adding, “This is pretty common practice among reputable Internet sites…” She then offered to remove it from the site.
My reply was again polite but firm. “While this may be a common practice, it doesn’t make it ethical.” I appealed to her sense of decency and the fact that she is someone who also makes her living from her writing. It took a few weeks longer, but I did receive the payment and in the amount I requested.
My focus was on getting remuneration without spending any money to do it. Luck was on my side in a couple of respects. First, the editors used my name when they posted the articles. If they had left off my byline the search probably would not have been successful. And secondly, both editors responded to my missives. Elkins thoroughly explains what steps are necessary if your check is not as forthcoming.
Another writer, Kathy Belge was successful with a different approach after finding her work had been plagiarized. The site was a non-profit which she didn’t mind helping so rather than ask for payment for reprint rights, (which would have violated her first sale rights agreement), she requested the article be removed from the site and replaced with a link to the original website publisher.
When searching the internet for possible copyright infringement, check more than one search engine. Also, besides inserting your name, subject matter or titles of your work, you can also type in unique phrases putting quotations around them. This may also locate your work where your name or titles were left off or changed.
Writing can be hard work, and while it may be flattering to be copied, don’t allow someone to steal your work. You deserve to be compensated every time your work is published.