They say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” That isn’t always true. I was not flattered yesterday when readers alerted me to the unauthorized use of one of my books. It seems a Grey’s Anatomy fan fiction writer appropriated the first chapter of Without Warning, inserting her preferred character names in the place of Anna & Lily. As I am required to do as the copyright holder, I sent a DMCA Takedown Notice to the webmaster, and notified the “author.”
The US Copyright Office (Circular 14: Derivative Work) makes clear that derivative work “must be different enough from the original to be regarded as a “new work” or must contain a substantial amount of new material. Making minor changes or additions of little substance to a preexisting work will not qualify the work as a new version for copyright purposes. The new material must be original and copyrightable in itself.”
The “author” contacted me, apologizing & indicating that she inadvertently left off a disclaimer saying the work did not belong to her. Let’s be clear: A simple disclaimer that the work belongs to someone else is insufficient to justify wholesale reproduction of a copyrighted work. It’s spelled out in the front of the book:
“All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, without permission in writing from the publisher.”
Thank you to those who alerted me to this infringement, and who reported the offender for copyright and Terms of Service violations. Authors & publishers face many copyright challenges, particularly in the digital world. Only with your help can we protect what is rightfully ours.