Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Originator's Covenant: for discussion

What would you, as publishers and/or authors, feel about the following. This is currently for discussion only not for signatories.


The following is not a contract or legal agreement of any kind but a voluntary statement of intent agreed to freely by those who asked for their names to be attached below.

The Originator's Covenant for Authors
The authors writing under the following pen names agree to the following:
* I will not plagiarise.
* If detected in either intentional or accidental plagiarism I will remove from sale the work in question and any other work available from the same publisher at the earliest legal opportunity.
* I will not make these works, in any form or edition, available to the public until the copyright holders of the plagiarised work agree that they have been appropriately compensated, or in the absence of living copyright holders for a period of not less than five years.

The Originator's Covenant for Publishers
The persons named below are, at the time of affixing their names, empowered to make the following commitment on behalf of the publisher or imprint identified next to their name/s. The persons named below agree to the following:
* I agree that I shall not knowingly contract plagiarised works.
* If it is determined that I am publishing plagiarised works I will remove from sale the work in question and any other work by the same author, at the earliest legal opportunity.
* I will not make these works, in any form or edition, available to the public until the copyright holders of the plagiarised work agree that they have been appropriately compensated, or in the absence of living copyright holders for a period of not less than five years.


Anonymous said...

I believe most publishers have language in their contracts where the author asserts the work is not in violation of anyone else's copyright.

That being the case, I would think any author signing such a contract, who knowingly plagerized parts of someone else's book(s)--or where such a violation can be proven-- could have their contract summarily canceled because it would be a breech of the terms of the contract.

Such a clause essentially renders the need for any additional antiplagerizm documents redundant.

Angie said...

I like it -- short and to the point.

And given the plagiarisms that've popped up in the last couple of years, and how many of them are still publishing work with their same publishers, I think there pretty clearly is a need or at least a use for something like this.

My cynical self would be very surprised to have any publishers actually sign on, though. I'd love to be proven wrong, here (especially if the contra cases were some of the bigger publishers with shareholders to placate, rather than small publishers controlled by one or two people) but I can very easily see the vast majority of publishers going, "Well, umm.... actually, we have clauses in place to blah-blah-blah, like that anon person said, so we don't need to sign on to anything like this, but thanks for your concern!" And then they'd go and do the financially advantageous thing (which might or might not include cutting off relations with a plagiarist) because they're in business and that's what it's about. :/ I can't see your average business person willingly signing away their future options to act in what they'd see as their own best financial interests, though.

But I'd love to be proven wrong.


Fiona Glass said...

Nice and I really wish it would work, but I can't see anyone who is deliberately plagiarising agreeing to sign *anything* voluntary - and it's the ones who do it deliberately who are the real problem. Accidental plagiarists are usually embarrassed and take the work off the shelves without prompting...

Treva Harte said...

These works, in any form or edition, shall not be made available to the public until the copyright holders of the plagiarised work agree that they have been appropriately compensated, or in the absence of living copyright holders for a period of not less than five years.

I'm not sure publishers can guarantee that -- at least for other publishers.

veinglory said...

I intended that as an "I" staement as for the authors, and will edit it now.

Anonymous said...

Well, we'd need to get it all carefully worded and legal so that it doesn't look like we indemnify authors for plagiarism by doing this (and because having it vetted by a lawyer is just smart) but LI has no problem with saying we'd remove plagiarized work.

Treva (who is having problems logging in right now as herself)

Mary Winter said...

At Pink Petal Books, I'd have to say that not only would I most definately remove plagarized works and all other works published by the author, but if I found out an author was plagarizing elsewhere, even if not in works pubished with our company, I'd remove their works in that case too. I don't think it does a publisher any good PR to continue to do business with a plagarist. All their future works would be suspect.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't sign it. This is not the third grade and I don't need nor want a moral code to keep from plagiarizing. It reminds me of the stupid code of conduct you had to sign in high school and never once gave any thought to.

Aren't we grown ups now? Don't we know plagiarizing is bad? And if so, what exactly is the point of some ridiculous 'contract'? Who is this contract with, by the way? Who's going to enforce it and lay down consequences if it's broken? You? Anyone? No one? I'm a big girl, I can remember not to steal all on my own and anyone who can't or won't remember not to steal isn't going to sign a silly non-legally binding contract anyway.

veinglory said...

It isn;t a rule to be enforced. But if the idea is the community is not doing enough, this is a suggestion of something we could do. My idea is that it would do two things. Firstly it would make it clear to anyone who doubts that writers and publishers do take it seriously. And secondly it would suggest to publishers that just pulling the one suspect book and correcting it (as commonly happens) is not enough of an action.

Angie said...

As Emily said, the point isn't for the statement to be legally enforceable, but rather to (hopefully) make it clear that a large chunk of the community has no tolerance for plagiarism.

Half the problem in my view is that when someone is shown to be a plagiarist, far too many people rally round them with denunciations of all the mean people being mean to them, declarations that all those horrible people are just nasty and jealous and looking for attention, and offers of pets and hugs and cookies to make the poor, poor plagiarist feel better after having been so cruelly treated. Why should anyone fear being caught out plagiarizing when the result is to have so many people rallying 'round, offering comfort and support? [eyeroll]

Plagiarism as we've seen it over the last few years is a social problem, and so long as there's significant social support for plagiarists, people will keep doing it. Any strong show of condemnation by a large chunk of the community will help make potential plagiarists think twice, and hopefully make the people who offer all those pets and cookies actually think about what the heck they're doing in supporting that kind of behavior.

We can hope, anyway. I think it's well worth trying, even if -- as with so many other social problems -- it takes a lot of time and a consistent effort to show any significant result.


kirsten saell said...

Authors will plagiarize or not. I don't see how an author signing a covenant will stop them from doing it.

Publishers are really the only ones in a concrete position to respond in a meaningful way. Their contracts already contain clauses specific to this issue, but if an author is making them any amount of money, they often won't tear up the contract. It's in their best interest to continue to publish that author--sometimes even the specific works in question--if there are no copyright holders around to sue them.

I'm not concerned about small presses--publishers run by a small group of people who are in it for the love of the written word tend to have a strong sense of eithical obligation to readers and to writing. A board of directors is another beast entirely. As long as they're only accountable to the bottom line, nothing will change.

Treva Harte said...

Which kind of goes back to my original thought of creating statutory changes but in the absence of that, I could certainly live with a clear and uniform penalty.

veinglory said...

I think many different approaches should be pursued. Plagiarism is a social problem and I see no reason for there not to be a range of initiatives. However I know I am not equipped to pursue binding legal or lobbying approaches. But if the complaint is people aren;t willing to do anything, I will try my best to think of something I *can* do. If the general response is nothing needs to be done, this will stall at the developmental stages.

Anonymous said...

A 'contract' with no consequences and no one to enforce it is worse than useless, it's condescending. It's saying to authors and publishers, "I want you to promise me this. I won't give you any real reason why you should still do it. Why? Because I said so!"

Um, no. I live by my own code, not anyone else's and even the asking assumes m moral compass is not enough, I need some useless scrap of paper to keep me from doing something illegal and morally bankrupt. Except...oh wait, it won't stop anyone from doing that because it's neither legal nor enforceable.

It's fluff to make people feel better about themselves. I mean, I understand why people want to do something, but it's the equivalent of saying, "Mommy has cancer, let's all gather round and pray to make her better!" It makes the people praying feel better but does precisely nothing for sick mommy.

veinglory said...

You seem very vehement about something that is a small scale opt in gesture (no one is actually asked to do it). If someone out there knows of 'chemo for plagiarism' I will be happy to help them develop it. But until then I don't see the harm in doing this, even though it is symbollic.

But honestly I feel that publishers who sign up to this will be likely to follow it. Authors are asked to sign up so as to avoid a 'kettle black' situation.

It seems that plagarism may be a 'damned of you do and damned if you don't' issue....

Barbra Novac said...

I think the idea has power in its request to think about the issue. For new writers particularly who may be tempted to "borrow" from a much loved novel, it's a reminder that that they're entering a community here. This has the power of an activist stance rather than taking the perspective of a legal contract. From my perspective, the idea that your signature and your 'stand'have power is a sign of respect and maturity, not a childish act at all. It's like signing an Amnesty International petition or a Penn petition. It wakes you up and makes difficult things possible.