Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rant: You Stole What?

There's a lot of talk about book piracy online--pretty sure I've written about it before--but that's not what today's post is about. It's about a different kind of theft and where exactly the line in the sand is drawn.

Sit back, kiddos, because I have a lot to say...

Sort of.

(Really I'm just filling white space so the images line up :P

A couple weeks ago, I saw a blog post regarding cover art "theft." My gut instinct was that it was someone who didn't understand the cover industry's reliance on stock images and how often they are used and re-used. Because of that, I almost didn't click the link. Then I wondered if it was a situation where a photoshoot had been done for a specific book and the cover ended up on some other book. This is a big deal. Rare, I'd think, but a big deal. So I clicked the link. (I would love to provide you a link to the original post, but for the life of me, I can't find it. The Ashes trilogy by Ilsa Bick and Sketchy by Olivia Samms were the books in question.)

Screams of copyright infringement were shouted from fans. The author had the wisdom to set the record straight. This isn't a copyright fail. Both covers have the title cut out running down the center of the cover with the author name below. That's it. The end.
Pretty & a great read!

It would be like saying the cover art for Clockwork Mafia (which you will all get to see soon, I promise) is copying the cover art for Incarnate by Jodi Meadows just because both heroines are wearing butterfly masks. Sorry, but both heroines wear butterfly masks in both books, hers just came out first :P And in all fairness, beyond that fact, the covers look nothing alike. There will inevitably be similarities in cover art because publishers across the board are looking for and discovering what helps get books off the shelf. Yes, there is something to be said for being first, but especially in a genre like YA, people will soon forget that detail.

Sorry, can't share yet :P
So...no, not theft. Not to me and not to any legal team I've ever heard of.

But that brings us back to writing. If that isn't theft of cover art, why do so many authors have issue with books like 50 Shades of Grey? Because like it or lump it, it's different. Here's why...

50 took an existing series, existing characters, and a general idea of the plot (including pregnancy as I understand) and just changed the set-up. Instead of a vampire, we got a dim-Dom. Originally, even the character names were the same.

And that's the sticky part for most authors. Had 50 just come out of nowhere and felt like this whole weird, kinky version of Twilight, there's a decent chance that no one would have balked much. We would have done the whole "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" dance and left it at that. But the author didn't do that. Instead, she wrote fan fiction, posted it on the internet as fan fiction, and then changed the names (and allegedly not much more) and published it. She used the fan base of the original work to promote her story.

And to make matters more distasteful, the publisher of 50 seems to have been going after anyone and everyone looking to capitalize on its success...right down to people who run sex toy parties (like Tupperware parties, only hotter).

There's a wide space between inspiration and that. Where's the line? I don't know, but in the realm of cover art, it certainly isn't cut-out titles running down the middle of a cover.

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