*The post was written by Deanna Wadsworth, and I'm just sharing it. I am also a member of both RWA and RRW.
“Notice of Disciplinary Action from RWA for Plagiarism
The RWA Ethics Committee reviewed the complaint of plagiarism brought by Becky McGraw against Laura Harner. After examining and assessing all corresponding documents, Laura Harner received lifetime expulsion from membership in Romance Writers of America due to plagiarism, which includes a permanent ban from participating in or attending any RWA-sponsored events or activities including conferences, workshops, classes, and any chapter activities. Ms. Harner was notified on November 16, 2015.”
Now that the RWA Ethics Committee has made this official decision, Rainbow Romance Writers wants our members and the public to know that these incidents have not gone unnoticed nor have they been taken lightly. We are grateful RWA acted swiftly to protect its members and we fully support the ruling.
Plagiarism is an immoral act and a betrayal of everything we stand for, therefore, RRW has also revoked Ms. Harner’s membership and banned her for life.
Stealing books from other authors is copyright infringement and that is a serious crime. Ms. Harner’s actions cast a bad light on the romance genre as a whole, especially the gay romance and self-published books. Authors of gay romance and indy authors face enough obstacles. To have one of our own betray us and damage the positive reputation we’ve worked so hard to build is simply unacceptable and unforgivable.
RRW would like to extend our deepest condolences to Becky McGraw and Opal Carew for the blatant theft perpetrated against you. No author should be betrayed by one of their own and we hope you will find justice. Please don’t allow this duplicity to discourage you from writing. The romance community and your fans have your back!
We also wish to express our sympathy to the readers who have been deceived by Ms. Harner’s theft. Thank you for your love of romance and your devotion to the genre. Without you, we would not be able to do what we do, and for that we are eternally grateful. Romance fans are the best!
On a personal note, I was flabbergasted that plagiarism on this level could happen. College term papers get plagiarized all the time, but copying entire books? Inconceivable! But it did happen, and that made me think, “How can I protect my books from plagiarism?”
First, don't panic.
Your book is already copyrighted and protected by the US Government. The following are five of the frequently asked questions from the US copyright website, http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/
What is copyright?
Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.
When is my work protected?
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.
Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.
Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?
Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within five years of publication, it is consideredprima facie evidence in a court of law. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration” and Circular 38b, Highlights of Copyright Amendments Contained in the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), on non-U.S. works.
Is my copyright good in other countries?
The United States has copyright relations with most countries throughout the world, and as a result of these agreements, we honor each other's citizens' copyrights. However, the United States does not have such copyright relationships with every country. For a listing of countries and the nature of their copyright relations with the United States, see Circular 38a, International Copyright Relations of the United States.
For decades, the honor system among authors, publishers, editors etc. has always been dependable. I believe it still is. But in light of recent events, you may feel that registering your book is the right decision for you. "Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation." That is obviously an important detail, because without the registration, you can't get back the money someone else made on your book if it is stolen. If you are already published, first check with your publisher to see if they registered the copyright, though more than likely they did not. If you are unpublished, you may also feel that a registration is a wise decision to fully protect your work.
There is no right or wrong answer here, but as my Grandma Helen always said, “It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”
For a more comprehensive explanation of copyright laws, check out this link:http://copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf
The romance writing community cannot dismiss an admitted act of plagiarism as mere online mudslinging, something to be quickly forgotten until the next time our Twitter feeds blow up with the latest drama. But we will come out stronger and wiser in the wake of this incident. The reminder to educate ourselves about our rights as authors is already a positive outcome to take away.
Remember: one person’s actions cannot reflect who we are as writers, nor can it define our genre in any way shape or form. RRW is a strong community full of supportive and wonderful people. We are proud of our members and the original books they create every day. Romance writers of all genres stand together because we are a community of friends who support one another. Stay positive, stay proud, and keep writing!
Thank you for taking the time to read and share this post.
Deanna Wadsworth might be a bestselling erotica author, but she leads a pretty vanilla life in Ohio with her wonderful husband and a couple adorable cocker spaniels. She has served multiple board positions at her local RWA chapter and is currently the Social Media Coordinator and Secretary of Rainbow Romance Writers of America and will be President-elect of RRW in 2016.
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