A Young Adult author who claims plagiarised versions of her books have been viewed nearly 100,000 times on Wattpad has criticised the community writing website for not caring about copyright.
But Wattpad has defended itself, saying it has a “zero tolerance” policy on plagiarism.
C J Daugherty, whose Night School series is published in 22 different languages, said that in the past six months she has found 20 plagiarised versions of her books on Wattpad in Spanish, French and Polish, as well as the original English. The site was designed for users to post their own stories or fan fiction but Daugherty said fans are ripping PDF versions of her books onto a Word document then uploading the text.
“It began four months ago, when the fourth book in the Night Series came out. My Spanish readers started to send me links to illegal versions of the book,” she said. “I got Wattpad to take it down but another version soon popped up again.” A Spanish version of Night School book five was on the site “until recently”, even though it won’t officially be translated into Spanish until 2017, she added. One illegal version was read 38,000 times and Daugherty estimates that plagiarised Night School books have been read nearly 100,000 times in total.
Authors who suspect their work has been copied illegally on Wattpad can make a complaint online but Daugherty said the company makes it hard for them to report copyright issues. “The link to where you report it online is hard to find and if you wrongly report copyright problems, [Wattpad] comes for you legally,” she said. Wattpad’s site reads: “There may be legal and financial consequences for submitting false claims”.
Daughtery continued: “Also, you have to fill out a form in every instance and they want a phone number and an address. It’s very time consuming and I’ve done it 19 times now. I honestly see no sign that Wattpad cares about copyright. I’ve bookmarked its copyright takedown page and I strongly recommend other writers do the same. Having spent hours reporting illegally pirated books to [Wattpad] in the past week, I will now dedicate time every day to checking for new copies.”
She said other content sharing sites were much better at dealing with the problem. “Scribd has a link where you can report these problems on every page,” she said. “It’s very simple and a real person responds. And YouTube really takes plagiarism seriously.”
A spokesperson for Hachette, parent company of Daugherty’s UK publisher Atom, a Little, Brown imprint, said: “We take piracy very seriously, and make consistent use of the Publishers Association’s excellent anti-piracy service. We also take our own measures, working with MarkMonitor, which issues take-down notices on our behalf.”
Daugherty is not the only author to have noticed illegal copies of their books on Wattpad. Sarra Manning asked the site to remove her Diary of a Crush novels (French Kiss, Kiss and Make-Up and Sealed with a Kiss, published by Penguin in the US and Hodder Children’s Books in the UK) in 2010. “The books in question weren’t e-books at the time, but someone had either scanned or copy-typed the three books in their entirety and they were constantly cropping up as free downloads,” Manning said.
Fellow author Sara Barnard said she had noticed people copying her novel Beautiful Broken Things, published by Macmillan Children’s Books in February. “It’s hard to know the full extent of what is on Wattpad because it’s not possible to view it without an account—and I refuse to get one in principle,” she said.
“But, for example, the title will be ‘Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard’ and then the description will be the blurb for my book with a sentence about being able to read it for free online. This kind of thing is relatively easy to find because it comes up on a Google search. If people are copying storylines and characters but not calling it ‘Beautiful Broken Things’, I wouldn’t know.” Barnard also said that Wattpad made it too difficult to report problems. “I was presented with a long form asking for my personal contact information, including my address and phone number. I’m not prepared to give this information up, especially when I don’t see any reason why I should need to provide anything except the ISBN number of Beautiful Broken Things. That should be enough.
“As far as I’m concerned, it should be Wattpad’s responsibility to tackle copyright violation on their site, rather than putting the onus on authors and their publishers.”
When contacted by The Bookseller, Wattpad said it had a “zero-tolerance” policy on plagiarism. Head of community Marc Shewchun said: “We ask users to make sure they wrote, own the rights to, or have received permission from the copyright-holder before any content is uploaded to Wattpad. Users are encouraged to report any potentially infringing content for investigation. If an upload violates the content guidelines, it is removed.
“There are over 250 million story uploads on Wattpad and upwards of 300,000 new uploads are added every day. We rely on an in-house community team, a global team of ambassadors and a proprietary algorithm to monitor the platform to ensure users are not posting other people’s stories as their own. It’s a monumental task, but one we take very seriously.”