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

published it to Amazon, Barnes...
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?
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Answered in 5 minutes by:
6/27/2013
Dimitry K., Esq.
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 41,221
Experience: Multiple jurisdictions, specialize in business/contract disputes, estate creation and administration.
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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.

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Customer reply replied 4 years ago
Relist: Answer quality.
Want more options.

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.

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Customer reply replied 4 years 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.

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.

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Customer reply replied 4 years 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):


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.
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago

The 2 books were bought and then copied 500 words.

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.
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 41,221
Experience: Multiple jurisdictions, specialize in business/contract disputes, estate creation and administration.
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Customer reply replied 4 years 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

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.

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Customer reply replied 4 years 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.

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.

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Customer reply replied 4 years 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?


 


 

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.
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago

Thanks

socrateaser
socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 39,498
Experience: Retired
Verified

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.

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Attorney Wayne
Attorney Wayne, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 1,506
Experience: Practicing law since 2000.
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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.
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Customer reply replied 4 years 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.

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
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Customer reply replied 4 years 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?

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.
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