How JustAnswer Works:

  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.

Ask Dimitry K., Esq. Your Own Question

Dimitry K., Esq.
Dimitry K., Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 38072
Experience:  Multiple jurisdictions, specialize in business/contract disputes, estate creation and administration.
18572087
Type Your Legal Question Here...
Dimitry K., Esq. is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

I live in Iowa. So I had book ghostwritten at odesk.com and

Customer Question

I live in Iowa. So I had book ghostwritten at odesk.com and published it to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. $16,000 is what I earned before two publishers contacted me saying I plagiarized there authors work. I haven't been paid yet though. I took down the book from all three websites. They are asking how much I have made and such. Technically I haven't been paid anything and don't plan to because of this. The person that wrote the story deleted his profile. The plagiarism is 500 words from each author and the complete story is 69,000 words so it's like 1/69 of the story. What should I do and what is likely to happen?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your question. Please permit me to assist you with your concerns.

My apologies on your situation. 500 words is considered to be 'substantial' because it is enough to put forth someone else's idea as yours. The fact you haven't been paid yet is also irrelevant--you earned money which you will receive at some point, and the victims in this instance are entitled to both a portion of your profits (since you are not claiming that their allegations against you are false), and punitive damages as well as attorney and court costs. I very strongly urge you to retain counsel, have your attorney reach out to them and offer a settlement, or they can possibly take you to court for far more than you would ever earn with this book. Punitive damages are not really capped, they can demand all of your earnings and then additional funding on top of the potential profits. Since the book was ghostwritten, you remain personally liable as that person worked for you--if you can find him, you can sue him for your losses but until you do the liability for this is directly on you.

My apologies for the unwelcome news but I must be honest and realistic with your chances.

Good luck.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Relist: Answer quality.
Want more options.
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Fraklin,

I really appreciate your 'bad rating' of my answer. Obviously I was the one responsible for your situation, and I was also responsible for telling you the truth, something that as a professional I had to provide to you so you could make the best decision going forward with this event. My apologies on both counts, I do wish you well and hope that you get out of this situation in the same spirit that you found yourself in it. Please be well.

PS. There are no other options, not really. I have represented parties on both sides of this event, and while I personally am not very litigious, since this is such a fairly easy case fo the victims to prove, I tend to advise a lawsuit--you would be frankly lucky if they agree to a settlement amount because they have no inherent need or interest to negotiate with you. Short of filing for bankruptcy so as to avoid their judgment against you, you have no other options--and as you published the book already, the damage has been done even if you will not sell other books in this instance. Take care.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I'm knew to just answer and didn't realize I could reply without rating. I'm more worried about going to jail for copyright infringement even though another attorney said it's unlikely. I didn't willfully do it but i understand that doesn't matter.

Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Franklin,

I would be happy to discuss this further, and please hold off rating until our conversation is concluded. If you choose to rate positively at some point, the negative rating will be removed.

Please allow me to put some of your fears to rest--you cannot go to jail for this type of an offense. This is ultimately a civil issue between two or more individuals, it is not a crime against the state. While you can be pursued civilly for financial damages, there are no criminal charges here--to have criminal charges somehow come into play the other parties would have to show that there was some sort of cyber attacks or hacking, or other direct theft of the manuscript rather than just direct plagiarism of documents that already existed.

Hope that clarifies.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

That helps. Because an answer I got from another person was this.


 


 


 


That's not "plagiarism", that's criminal copyright infringement.

The going rate for criminal copyright infringement is "not more than 5 years" in federal prison if the amount pirated exceeds $2,500, or up to 10 years for a second offense, not including fines.

18 USC § 2319 penalties for the crimes as defined in 17 USC § 506(a)(1)(A) willful infringement "for purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain".

Having "already taken down" the materials has no more effect than giving back the money after robbing a bank at gunpoint - the crime was already complete, the evidence is there, conviction is inevitable.

Source(s):


Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Franklin,

I am glad that it helps. However perhaps you need to explain exactly how the other person obtained the documentation that was later plagiarized. Please advise. I need to know if I am missing any facts to see whether or not this would rise to criminal charges, thank you.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

The 2 books were bought and then copied 500 words.

Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Franklin,

That statute is not related to this event. The statute that you were quoted has to do with piracy of movies or other audio-visual recordings. It is not related to books, at least not exactly. And it specifically relates to works that either have not yet been distributed or are still in the process of being distributed--please review the language for yourself. This wouldn't be covered under this statute.

Please be well and kindly re-rate my answers to you at this time. Thank you.

17 USC Sec. 506
...
(3) Definition.— In this subsection, the term “work being prepared for commercial distribution” means—

(A) a computer program, a musical work, a motion picture or other audiovisual work, or a sound recording, if, at the time of unauthorized distribution—
(i) the copyright owner has a reasonable expectation of commercial distribution; and
(ii) the copies or phonorecords of the work have not been commercially distributed; or
(B) a motion picture, if, at the time of unauthorized distribution, the motion picture—
(i) has been made available for viewing in a motion picture exhibition facility; and
(ii) has not been made available in copies for sale to the general public in the United States in a format intended to permit viewing outside a motion picture exhibition facility.
...
Dimitry K., Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 38072
Experience: Multiple jurisdictions, specialize in business/contract disputes, estate creation and administration.
Dimitry K., Esq. and 14 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

One last thing another person said is:


 


Punishment of copyright infringement varies case-by-case across countries. Convictions may include jail time and/or severe fines for each instance of copyright infringement. In the United States, willful copyright infringement carries a maximum penalty of $150,000 per instance

Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Franklin,

Thank you for your follow-up. I do agree with what the other contributor provided, copyright infringement is very subjective in nature, and it is really based on a case-by-case analysis via the courts. But copyright infringement is unlikely to be a criminal matter unless there is specific criminal intent. For example if I take your novel, reprint it via my company, and begin selling it, that may have criminal implications because what I am really involved with is theft and piracy. Taking a page or an image by itself, while substantial, is not likely to be pursued as vigorously. What matters in these cases are the size of the other party's deep pocket, and whether they have the resources to pursue expensive civil claims or seek criminal charges. And this is why I so strongly suggested a means of reaching out to those parties and offering a settlement with stipulations that neither further civil or criminal charges would be forthcoming.

Good luck.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Most cases of plagiarism are considered misdemeanors, punishable by fines of anywhere between $100 and $50,000 -- and up to one year in jail.


Plagiarism can also be considered a felony under certain state and federal laws. For example, if a plagiarist copies and earns more than $2,500 from copyrighted material, he or she may face up to $250,000 in fines and up to ten years in jail.

Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Franklin,

To bring criminal charges the victim must pursue them via the DA's office and essentially pester them to file, as these are low priority violations. Furthermore, if a settlement is signed under which the other party agrees to waive further civil and criminal charges, there will be no criminal implications. Unless this is extremely high profile, I do not see the state pressing charges.

Good luck.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Sorry to bother you again but I met with a lawyer today and he said that I'm likely to go to jail. He said these exact words:


 


"Copyright infringement is illegal, defined by and prohibited under the Copyright Act. Most often copyright infringement is asserted as a civil tort, but when committed for purposes of financial gain, it is a crime."


 


I mentioned I had received an opinion already and that it was unlikely but he thinks they'll go after me because they're a book publisher. Should I get a second opinion?


 


 

Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Franklin,

To best assist you, let me see if I can find other professionals to weigh in. I prefer you get the best answer regardless from whom, and having more people review this only helps you in the long-run. One second, let me see if I can find a few that can chime in.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thanks

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.

I was about to ask you what the question is, but it appears that you have now paid the other contributor, indicating satisfaction with his answer. So, I'll just opt out and you or the other contributor can close the Q&A session.

 

Best wishes.

Expert:  Attorney Wayne replied 1 year ago.
PLEASE DO NOT use the rating system until satisfied. Instead, please click CONTINUE CONVERSATION for more info.

Hi Franklin. Dimitry is right on with his analysis. If I may amplify: copyright infringement can be prosecuted as a federal crime. That means the United States justice Department must decide to devote resources to prosecutions. While someone may have made the blanket assertion that it is a crime and it is punishable, remember that federal prosecutors do not prosecute every possible federal crime. While some small town DA's (often elected) may try to get votes by having a reputation for zero tolerance, this type of prosecutor can simply not prosecute copyright infringement -- only a United States Attorney can do that.

A review of case law would show that criminal prosecutions tend to be very rare. Federal prosecution of copyright actions tends to occur when there is large scale piracy of works (for instance, for distribution on the internet or to black market sellers). You'd be hard pressed to identify more than a handful of cases of the type you describe.

Sure, the lawyer who scared you is technically correct -- BUT ONLY HYPOTHETICALLY.

The gateway to such prosecution is financial gain -- not mere plagiarism (which is a violation of the Copyright Act, but not prosecuted). If there's no gain, then's there's not likely to be any case brought. Moreover, the value and extent of the copyright infringement is a key component under the Dept. of Justice's own prosecution guidelines. You can read an excerpt at this google book link:

http://books.google.com/books?id=2jYMSOYQIkwC&pg=SA3-PA31&lpg=SA3-PA31&dq=justice +department+handbook+on+copyright+prosecution&source=bl&ots=5caMaNlm3-&sig=CxnYDjZzSBvCQKVnpRi3lNsZDuU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=QHTPUZKdCdKx0AGSk4CIDA&ved=0CD8Q6AEwAg

In sum: without profit, and when the copying is insubstantial, then it is very unlikely (although not impossible) for a US Attorney or other federal prosecutor to bring a criminal case. They have limited resources and don't really score political points, like elected DAs might, for zero tolerance policies. They have to balance resources and deterrence, with the law, and tend to focus on money-making big time operations rather than small errors of judgment (what you might even call garden-variety plagiarism -- illegal though it may be).

Please let us know if you need any additional information.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I did make $16,000 though. I would think it would be difficult for them to prove I willfully did it. I bought from a freelance website but the deleted all track of himself. But there isn't proof I did write it either.

Expert:  Attorney Wayne replied 1 year ago.
You cite both the strengths and weaknesses in any prosecution. I do hope the added information gave you the information you sought. Being duped by someone else can certainly be a defense. But its impossible on a publicly accessible legal information forum to evaluate -- that can only be done by one's own lawyer, in confidence, protected by attorney client privilege. Obviously, that can't be done here.

Nonetheless, I do believe you have the information needed now to evaluate possibilities. Thanks for contacting us, and please do remember to rate the service provided here.

Warm regards
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Yes, but you were saying it's unlikely if i didn't make money but how much more likely is it since I did make $16,000? Or would it still be unlikely?

Expert:  Attorney Wayne replied 1 year ago.
If it was unknowing, then's there much less chance than if the person who made money knew and condoned it in a kind of criminal conspiracy. Getting duped by a ghostwriter can allow the customer to actually sue the ghostwriter.

I really do suggest readin the Dept of Justice manual that was in the link above. It really gives a good sense of how federal prosecutors think about these cases.

JustAnswer in the News:

 
 
 
Ask-a-doc Web sites: If you've got a quick question, you can try to get an answer from sites that say they have various specialists on hand to give quick answers... Justanswer.com.
JustAnswer.com...has seen a spike since October in legal questions from readers about layoffs, unemployment and severance.
Web sites like justanswer.com/legal
...leave nothing to chance.
Traffic on JustAnswer rose 14 percent...and had nearly 400,000 page views in 30 days...inquiries related to stress, high blood pressure, drinking and heart pain jumped 33 percent.
Tory Johnson, GMA Workplace Contributor, discusses work-from-home jobs, such as JustAnswer in which verified Experts answer people’s questions.
I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.
 
 
 

What Customers are Saying:

 
 
 
  • Mr. Kaplun clearly had an exceptional understanding of the issue and was able to explain it concisely. I would recommend JustAnswer to anyone. Great service that lives up to its promises! Gary B. Edmond, OK
< Last | Next >
  • Mr. Kaplun clearly had an exceptional understanding of the issue and was able to explain it concisely. I would recommend JustAnswer to anyone. Great service that lives up to its promises! Gary B. Edmond, OK
  • My Expert was fast and seemed to have the answer to my taser question at the tips of her fingers. Communication was excellent. I left feeling confident in her answer. Eric Redwood City, CA
  • I am very pleased with JustAnswer as a place to go for divorce or criminal law knowledge and insight. Michael Wichita, KS
  • PaulMJD helped me with questions I had regarding an urgent legal matter. His answers were excellent. Three H. Houston, TX
  • Anne was extremely helpful. Her information put me in the right direction for action that kept me legal, possible saving me a ton of money in the future. Thank you again, Anne!! Elaine Atlanta, GA
  • It worked great. I had the facts and I presented them to my ex-landlord and she folded and returned my deposit. The 50 bucks I spent with you solved my problem. Tony Apopka, FL
  • Not only did he answer my Michigan divorce question but was also able to help me out with it, too. I have since won my legal case on this matter and thank you so much for it. Lee Michigan
 
 
 

Meet The Experts:

 
 
 
  • Tina

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    8436
    JD, BBA Over 25 years legal and business experience.
< Last | Next >
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/MU/multistatelaw/2011-11-27_173951_Tinaglamourshotworkglow102011.64x64.jpg Tina's Avatar

    Tina

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    8436
    JD, BBA Over 25 years legal and business experience.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/RA/ratioscripta/2012-6-13_2955_foto3.64x64.jpg Ely's Avatar

    Ely

    Counselor at Law

    Satisfied Customers:

    19941
    Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/FL/FLAandNYLawyer/2012-1-27_14349_3Fotolia25855429M.64x64.jpg FiveStarLaw's Avatar

    FiveStarLaw

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    8189
    25 years of experience helping people like you.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/jespoag/2008-12-17_222355_jessepic.jpg JPEsq's Avatar

    JPEsq

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    2132
    Experience as general attorney, in house counsel, SSDI, Family Law attorney, and law professor
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/gsenmartin/2008-04-22_214950_me1.jpg Guillermo J. Senmartin, Esq.'s Avatar

    Guillermo J. Senmartin, Esq.

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    110
    7+ years of experience handling various legal matters.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/PA/PaulmoJD/2013-10-10_195858_JAImage.64x64.jpg Law Educator, Esq.'s Avatar

    Law Educator, Esq.

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    31621
    JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/dkaplun/2009-05-17_173121_headshot_1_2.jpg Dimitry K., Esq.'s Avatar

    Dimitry K., Esq.

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    15975
    Multiple jurisdictions, specialize in business/contract disputes, estate creation and administration.