Nora Roberts Sues Brazilian Writer Who She Says Plagiarized Her Work

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From The New York Times:

The writer Nora Roberts on Wednesday sued a Brazilian romance novelist for copyright infringement, accusing her of copying or paraphrasing material from 10 of Ms. Roberts’s books.

In the lawsuit, Ms. Roberts, the author of best-sellers such as “The Liar” and “Vision in White,” is asking for damages of at least $25,000 from the novelist, Cristiane Serruya, as well as for sales of her books to be stopped unless all plagiarized material is removed from them. Ms. Roberts said she would donate all of the money to a literacy organization in Brazil.

The suit follows other plagiarism accusations against Ms. Serruya. She couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday, but in an email to Ms. Roberts’s publicist, Ms. Serruya said she “never intentionally plagiarized anyone.”

“I was fooled by some ‘mentors’ and ‘coachers’ who told me that ‘More, more, more, fast, fast, fast,’ ” she wrote, and blamed ghostwriters she had hired on the freelance marketplace Fiverr for the overlap between her books and others.

Ms. Roberts said the material lifted from her books was often word for word.

. . . .

Two months ago, readers discovered similarities between Ms. Serruya’s novel “Royal Love” and “The Duchess War” by Courtney Milan. Since then, dozens of other novelists — including Tessa Dare, Loretta Chase and Lynne Graham — made similar accusations, some of them sharing their findings on Twitter with the hashtag #CopyPasteCris. More than 40 writers and nearly 100 books are involved so far.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

9 thoughts on “Nora Roberts Sues Brazilian Writer Who She Says Plagiarized Her Work”

  1. The New York Times — all the spectacle, none of the facts — article does not say where the suit was filed, in the US or in Brazil. IMO venue in this case is dispositive.

  2. What the headline of this piece got me thinking about is:

    What happens in a few years, say ten or so, when translation and semantic analysis software gets really good? When you can input a text in english and tell it to translate to brazilian/spanish/german/etc and flag person and place names and colloquial expressions? Wouldn’t take a lot of manual effort to turn a Nora Roberts romance into a Rosa do Brasil title.

    Copyright protects expression not ideas.
    Make just enough people and place names and the output might be different enough to pass muster under current laws.

    Just pondering.
    Might simply be fodder for a near future SF legal story. But then again, the tech is getting there.

    • Sounds like a derivative work to me. But I’d have to ask a lawyer, because I am not one. It takes a lot more than people and place names to change a story. Even gender changes didn’t help a few bad apples hide their copyright infringements. And rights to translate a work already fall to the author as a derivative work, to be licensed at will, correct? I think this is a future boon for infringers but not much question about the legal aspects of it. People can already take an idea and rewrite it into something else, which is derivative in the “this is not great” sense, but not be a copyright issue at all. Whether the translation is created by human intelligence or a machine would not seem to be an issue to me when the copyright already gives the right for those types of derivative works to the author.

      • The question at stake is how could you even tell.

        There’s already plenty of incidental, unintentional stomping going on (Harry Potter vs Tim Hunter of Books of Magic being an obvious, friendly accident). Now factor in intentional camouflage and an entirely different market.

        To know you’re being ripped off you first you have to know of and read the ripoff. The US isn’t exactly known for its receptiveness to foreign fiction: Amazon is tops, importing/translating a few dozen titles a year at most. And they go for top notch stuff, not midlist or potboilers.

        Makes it a lot easier to get by unnoticed.

        • Add in that you can adjust region of availability when you self-publish. A plagiarist who does such auto-translation and fails to make the title available in the author’s native country isn’t all that likely to get caught, depending on the author and their audience.

    • Part of the problem is that a ‘poor’ translation won’t read anything at all like the original – especially if they do something as simple as changing the names/places.

      Heck, haven’t we argued that poor editing is enough to change the whole meaning/course of a story? 😉

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