Home » Amazon, Plagiarism » Eilis O’Hanlon: My tale of a book thief sparked an online frenzy. But what happened next?

Eilis O’Hanlon: My tale of a book thief sparked an online frenzy. But what happened next?

11 April 2016

From Independent.ie:

What happened to the money? That was the question which people kept asking after reading how a fellow author clocked up sales worth almost $20,000 in a little over two months last autumn by plagiarising two crime novels that I’d co-written some years earlier.

The story was told in detail in last week’s Life magazine in the Sunday Independent. It explained how I happened to discover, thanks to an eagle-eyed reader called Donna Patel in England, that the first two books my writing partner and I had published as “Ingrid Black” a decade earlier had been lifted and republished on the online bookstore Amazon under new titles, with all names and locations changed to hide the original source.

The plagiarist’s name was “Joanne Clancy”, and she’d received just under $2,000 in royalties by the time her deception was uncovered. (Amazon, being American, calculates everything in dollars). Because Amazon pays the authors of Kindle books every 60 days, that meant there was just over $18,000 still waiting to be paid. So where would it go?

My co-writer and I had been wondering that, too, since discovering just how many copies of our books “Joanne Clancy” had sold.

It wouldn’t go to her, obviously, as she had been exposed as a fraud, but it didn’t seem likely that it would go to us either. Then we discovered, accidentally during the course of a conversation with a representative from Amazon, that the company does actually pay out to the original author of a book if it could be proven that their work has been plagiarised.

. . . .

We were fortunate. We caught “Joanne Clancy” at a vulnerable time. She’d only just discovered that her books were being removed from Amazon and that she was banned for life from publishing her books in the online store, at least under that name. She was also worried about the prospect of legal action, and seemed keen to mollify us.

Had she taken a day or two to think it over, she might well have decided that silence was the best strategy. She certainly vanished off the radar shortly afterwards and ignored all email requests for further information.

. . . .

Legal action is time consuming, expensive, and mentally draining, with no guarantee of success, especially against a shadowy opponent who seemed to exist mainly in cyberspace. Because that was another problem.

The internet is a big place. Many people got into contact to explain how to trace people through their online fingerprints. “Joanne Clancy” had a website, which yielded some further clues, but nothing conclusive. Other authors were able to provide IP addresses from comments left by this “Joanne Clancy” on their pages and blogs.

. . . .

But out of all these thousands of readers, not a single person has contacted me to say that they know this woman, or have ever come across her, in real life. Some are closely involved in the literary community in Cork, which “Clancy” claimed as her home town. They can find no trace of her existence either. She seems to exist only online.

Link to the rest at Independent.ie and thanks to N. for the tip.

Amazon, Plagiarism

8 Comments to “Eilis O’Hanlon: My tale of a book thief sparked an online frenzy. But what happened next?”

  1. A horrible, no good, very bad day. About the only good thing to say is “All’s well that ends.”

    I know there are lots of people out there pontificating on how to digitally detect such frauds (similar to the anti-plagiarism sites that are used for academic essays), but the algorithms only work well when they are aided by human coders … otherwise it’s hit and miss, with many misses and many false positives.

    PolyWogg

  2. Because Amazon has convicted “Joanne Clancy” and banned her, they should reveal what account the money’s been flowing into. That would provide a good idea of who’s responsible.

    Of course, their lawyers would probably advise to wait for a subpoena or questioning from police before proceeding down that path, to protect themselves against a frivolous suit.

    • The full article includes a overview of information provided to O’Hanlon by hundreds of correspondents. She feels given that information that the more likely explanation is that “Joanne Clancy” is a front for a professional gang of cheats. If so, that would put pursuing them beyond the means of individual authors. That leaves booksellers such as Amazon with their deeper pockets. But if they can protect their reputation by taking action as and when the fraudsters are discovered, what incentive do they have for spending resources on further pursuit and punishment?

  3. “It wouldn’t go to her, obviously, as she had been exposed as a fraud, but it didn’t seem likely that it would go to us either. Then we discovered, accidentally during the course of a conversation with a representative from Amazon, that the company does actually pay out to the original author of a book if it could be proven that their work has been plagiarised.”

    Hooray! At least she got a good portion of the royalties.

  4. I just learned that if you if you can prove to amazon that you’ve be plagiarized they’ll give you the money from the sales of the book that they haven’t paid to the thief. I had never heard of anyone getting money from the sales of their pirated/plagiarized books form Amazon before.
    I wonder how she’ll react when she discovers her eBooks on a dozen pirate sites next week 🙂

  5. “They can find no trace of her existence either. She seems to exist only online.”

    Ahhh, but when you get attorneys involved anything is possible.

    For example: Amazon KDP is connected to a Bank account (to pay out monies owed), and that Bank account (at least in the US), is connected to a real person.

  6. “She” could be prisoners in Russia or China, or students in Korea, or contract writers in India.

  7. Im glad they will get their money hopefully.

    interesting story for a novel overall, with readers being the sleuths

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