There Are Plagiarists Afoot! Information Sharing on the SWG's Recent Plagiarism Incident
As some of you already know, we recently had a major incident of plagiarized work being posted to the Silmarillion Writers' Guild. Given what my comoderators and I discovered during our investigation, I have reason to believe that this is not an isolated incident on our site alone, nor is this person confining their activities to the Tolkien fandom. I have contacted the authors whose work was stolen, and my comods and I have also reached out to the admins of other Tolkien archives (MPTT, Faerie, SoA, OSA, and NaN*) and the abuse team on AO3 to share our findings.
I am sharing this information publicly here with the intention that it be shared with other admins and authors. Please feel free to link, share, and repost any of the information here. You don't have to ask. I don't care if you credit me (although doing so is probably practical so that anyone with questions about our findings can contact me directly). The important thing in my mind is making sure that this person is shut down before they can do more harm and empowering both admins and authors to do so. If your actions are done with that goal in mind, trust I am going to be cool with it.
A brief summary of what is going on:
- Multiple accounts were used on the SWG to post plagiarized stories. These stories were stolen from multiple authors.
- The person or persons behind this was/were responsive to feedback from our moderation team concerning what was allowable on our archive and actually exchanged emails with me on a couple of occasions. They were clearly not part of the Silmarillion fandom (I'm fairly certain they don't even know what The Silmarillion is) and may not be familiar with fandom and fanfic at all. But they were good enough at impersonation that it took us two weeks to catch on to them.
- They appear to be stealing stories mostly from AO3 and Fanfiction.net. However, there is evidence that they are stealing from other sites as well, and we know for a fact that they have started their shenanigans on OSA. (We've contacted the OSA admin.)
- They appear to be stealing primarily stories that are recently posted or updated. Again, however, this is not 100% the case.
- They were insistent of their innocence, even after we found overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I don't know the motivation behind that; it doesn't appear that they were invested particularly in the works they had posted but seem to have selected them somewhat at random.
A version of this post has also been posted to the Stop Plagiarism community on LJ and is in the queue to be reviewed by a moderator.
ETA ... it is now also posted on Tumblr.
What HappenedEarly in the morning on 4 November 2015, we received two new registrations under the names posnurx and moneymoneyping, both from the IP address 18.104.22.168. Both accounts posted stories immediately. We are an archive for Silmarillion-based fan fiction and the stories were based on Captain America and James Bond, so it didn't take long for our members to report a rules violation. I woke up to multiple reports in my inbox and immediately locked both accounts and "unvalidated" the stories, meaning that they were no longer visible to the public but could be accessed by moderators and the authors themselves. I contacted the emails associated with both accounts to let them know what was done and that they had a week to save anything they needed from the stories before I'd delete them for good. I also informed them that I'd unlock their accounts only when they replied that they'd read the site rules. Not surprisingly, I never heard from either author. I didn't think much of it, figuring that they'd assumed we were a multifandom site and weren't interested in us now that they knew we weren't. (The Silmarillion is obscure enough that this happens sometimes!) I promptly forgot about it to the extent that it never even crossed my mind to delete the stories at the end of the week.
The next day, 5 November 2015, we had a new registration from an account using the name king_arthur (IP address 22.214.171.124). king_arthur posted a Silmarillion story titled "The Sleeping Elves" shortly after registering. The Silmfic plus the Tolkienish name meant that I didn't give this person more than a cursory glance. (See below for a summary of the usernames, emails, and IPs involved.)
On 13 November 2015, king_arthur emailed the site moderators to say that they'd accidentally deleted "The Sleeping Elves" and wondered if we could restore it. I replied that we could not and that the story would have to be reposted. It was, if I remember correctly, reposted later the same day. Our site captures IP data when a story is deleted; the IP was 126.96.36.199.
On 16 November 2015, king_arthur posted a second story, "The Girl and the Falcon."
On 17 November 2015, a person using the account name shakes_jr (for Shakespeare Jr., according to the name listed in their profile) registered from the IP 188.8.131.52. The literary name plus the completely different IP meant that shakes_jr was vetted without a problem by our mods. On 17 November, shakes_jr posted a story "These Wings were Meant to Fly" and, on 18 November, a second story, "The Loss of a Brother." Again, both were clearly Silmfic; we assumed we had a new author beginning to upload their work to our site. No alarm bells.
Early in the morning on 19 November, we received three new registrations under the names Bigtaka, money_machine, and moneymoneyping, all from the IP 184.108.40.206. The identical IPs would have raised immediate red flags, but before these accounts could be vetted by our moderation team--just waking up in Europe and in the middle of the night in the U.S.--all three accounts posted multiple Silmfic stories to the archive.
This time, though, the stories caught some attention. Several were well-known stories by a veteran author in the Silmarillion fandom, and another was a story that had been recently posted on another site by one of our moderators. Several European members reported the stories as plagiarism, and the European half of our mod team immediately got the accounts locked and the stories unvalidated pending investigation. At this point, though, we assumed this was a single hit by these three accounts. Throughout the day, as we began to work backward, my Rhapsody and I became aware that the stories posted by king_arthur and shakes_jr were also plagiarized. While scrolling the (now lengthy) list of unvalidated stories, I ran across those Captain America and James Bond stories that I'd forgotten to delete. For kicks and giggles, I Googled them too. Guess what? Plagiarized.
We have a plagiarism policy on the SWG, and as the afternoon wore on, I began to work through that policy. I emailed all of the offending accounts to let them know that their accounts had been locked and their stories unvalidated pending investigation by our moderators. And then I began to run a plagiarism check on each story. Every last one was lifted completely from another site. Links and screencaps are below.
I began to contact the authors who were affected, feeling that was more important than to inform the obvious plagiarists that their time on our site was officially over. Some of the authors were SWG members; others were not. In the latter case, I needed to confirm that the stories were not, in fact, posted by their actual authors under different usernames. The fact that this person had clearly changed tactics once we took down their multifandom works and they realized we were a Silmfic archive concerned me. I worried that, having struck out with us, they might move on to another Tolkien fanfic archive, so I also sent an email to all the Tolkien archive admins I could think of to let them know what was going on. Meanwhile, replies from the authors I'd contacted began to trickle in, confirming that they had not posted their stories to the SWG.
The next morning, I heard back from king_arthur, which honestly surprised me. In my experience, when most people get caught doing Bad Things, they try to fade into oblivion, not double down on obvious wrongdoing:
As it was, the author of "The Sleeping Elves" was the only author I hadn't yet heard back from. That quickly changed, though: within a few hours, she contacted me as well to confirm that, no, she had not posted "The Sleeping Elves" to the SWG.
In the meantime, one of our members noticed "The Sleeping Elves" had been posted on the Open Scrolls Archive under the pen name kingarthur. We've since alerted the admin of OSA, and I've PMed the author again to let her know that the plagiarism of her story isn't completely gone yet.
I'm not sure what this person is up to or what their motives are. However, the early stories suggest that they are a fandom problem and not just a Tolkien fandom problem. I want to make sure authors and admins in the wider fandom know to be vigilant. If this person is or begins using your site, they are probably posting plagiarized work. Unfortunately, there is no single username, email, or IP, although you will see from the summary below that there are commonalities. (They seem to have an unusual interest in money, for instance!) Please feel free to share my findings and contact me if you have any questions or need additional information.
Screencaps and Links (listed alphabetically)
Below are screencaps of the stolen works on our site, as well as links to the original works by their proper authors. If you have a moment, perhaps read and review one of the stories? Having your work stolen is unsettling to say the least, and these authors could probably use some love!
The Bond Identity
Author: Art Anthony
Death in Darkness
Links: MPTT | SoA
The Girl and the Falcon
Half-brother in Blood, Full Brother in Heart
Links: AO3 | ff.net | SoA | SWG
It Starts with a Spark
Links: AO3 | ff.net
Light Shines Through
The Loss of a Brother
Love of Captain America/Captain America's Love
Authors: Redhoodgirlie and Director BRB
Link: Avengers Fanfiction
Paradox of the Fourth Age
Links: author's homepage | ff.net | OSA | SoA
Return of the Prince
Links: AO3 | ff.net
The Sleeping Elves
Author: Kara Eclipse
Tempering the Madness
Links: AO3 | ff.net | SoA | SWG
These Wings were Meant to Fly
Summary of Usernames, Emails, and IPs
king_arthur (kingarthur on OSA)
This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!