Letters To The Editor For March 29th

I’m A Victim, Too!

Hi Angela,

I’ll add my name to the list of people whose work has been stolen. Quite a while back, I found an article of mine listed on a website in India without my byline. It’s part of an article stolen from another website. (The article also appeared in a print magazine, for which I was paid.)

I wrote to the webmaster, then sent a note through the website, neither of which generated any response. That was well over a year ago, I think. I’m sure they think that since I’m not in India, I won’t/can’t pursue it. I guess they’re right. It would cost much more to pursue it than it would to just try to ignore it. I hate to allow this illegal activity to continue, but I don’t know what else to do.

Vonda Skelton

Another Way To Know If It’s Selling

Regarding your advice on How Do I Know If It’s Selling or Not?:

There’s another approach, too: Assuming she’s like most writers, she’s broke and doesn’t have money for an attorney. Once she has the proof via friends/family, she can contact her nearest law school to see if the school’s legal clinic can take on her case pro bono. The legal clinic can issue subpoenas duces tecum (subpoena for documents) to get the firm’s business records, and maybe, if the school has funding, a forensic legal accountant to go through the firm’s books. (Most law schools have legal clinics that are funded by private donations and the state bar’s public interest law funding.)

The reason I raise this is that the only way to truly get to the bottom of the problem, once you can show that you’ve had a sale but no commission, is to really pore over the firm’s records. And you are not going to get the actual records by complaining, even when you have proof, because the firm knows that if they admit to it, you’ve got a lawsuit.

On the other hand, for people inclined to try a DIY legal approach, a subpoena duces tecum usually requires the court’s signature if you don’t have an attorney. The court won’t sign the documents in many cases unless there’s a lot of proof because the court has to pay witness fees and other costs associated with enforcing the subpoena. So, once again, the self-represented person is left cold.

Each state has its own laws, and this is only my understanding
of how it works in general in most states.

-Name not published on request

Either Obtain Permission Or Don’t Use It – It’s That Easy!

Dear Angela:

That was an excellent article about the guy who insisted that you print stolen material. (Hey! He was paying for it!?!?!) One of the big problems I have with my column is that I usually use material that isn’t mine and quote from newsletters and publications that I receive. Usually these are papers that allow the small quotes that I use. But I always contact them first. Sometimes they are not reachable. If they are unreachable, I not only don’t quote them but I cancel my subscription as well.

After I get the permission I put in a full citation of where the material came from. That takes away ten or twenty words from my 600 limit but I think it is necessary. A few years ago, I gave permission to have my own column quoted in a book. The quotes were extensive and a chapter was headed with them. I called for a copy. I got charged $20 bucks. I put it down to ignorance and forgot about it until just now.

I think the reason that some writers steal from other writers is that they have never had to sweat over a phrase.

Sincerely yours,
Dick Learned


Angela: I, too, have run into trouble with people using my articles, although this occurred before the internet! (I began TYPING on a manual in high school!) Haven’t done freelancing in awhile as fiction (and life) intervened. Will be doing freelance articles, again, and it’s nice to know I have your website to turn to for help.

Thanks so much for your honesty and working so hard on our behalf so that business for all of us will become more professional.

C. Laughton