Copycat Stories

At the time of this writing, I've had four main copycat incidents worth mentioning. (And quite a few others where the people either a) didn't realize they weren't supposed to repost my stuff and removed it quickly upon request, or b) knew full well that they weren't supposed to but didn't expect to be caught and grudgingly removed the material when asked.) Two of my incidents were minor and two were major. I'll write about the minor ones first.

My Eragon Essay was kidnapped and submitted to a network of sites that SELLS "book reports." Of course, they have a big disclaimer that you're not supposed to turn in anything on the site as your own work in school; they're "for reference," they say. But then they also have an exorbitantly priced service where you can hire someone to write a paper for you within a day or two days on "ANY SUBJECT, GUARANTEED!" but even those are supposed to be for reference. Yeah right.

I had a hard time even writing to them to tell them they were selling my frigging essay. Because there were no contact e-mail addresses, and the only way you could communicate with them was a form-sent response. And . . . you guessed it . . . to fill in the form you needed a user ID, and to get a user ID you had to become a member, which COST MONEY.

I was like, "I'll be damned if I pay a fee to go tell them they can't sell my writing!" But luckily ONE of the four networked sites had a submission form that didn't require membership, and when they contacted me in response they said they'd take it down immediately. I didn't have to offer any proof or argue about it at all. Which tells me this must happen to them all the time.

They claimed on the site that all their material is submitted by users who offer it claiming it's their own. And if that isn't a lie, someone pretended my essay was theirs and let these people sell it to kids who don't want to do their homework. I have to wonder how many times people turned in my essay before I caught them. . . .

The second idiot I had to put the smackdown on was probably just a kid. He claimed to be 18, but he typed and communicated on maybe a second grade level, so I don't know about that. I was looking at the stats on my online comic, seeing who all was linking to me, and I came across a URL I'd never seen linking to me before. Long story short, I found this was a page about some video game and the perpetrator had ganked my "how-to" instructions on alt code use, complete with the table I coded and a piece of my art. (He swiped the whole thing out at the CODE level, which means it was linking to my site for the graphics.)

I had an argument with him about taking it down, and he was apparently so thick he didn't even understand what I wanted him to do. I gave him several warnings, some of which were answered with garbled claims that it wasn't fair since he perceived someone else was "copying" me too. (That was a misunderstanding on his part. The girl he was talking about used alt codes on her page, but she didn't have my instructions and table on how to use them pasted into her page. He claimed he had the right to keep my codes because if I was letting her use them then he could too, and that I was probably going after him but not her because he's a BOY and she's a GIRL. Uh-huh.)

I followed his site host's procedures on reporting a violation of copyright, printed out the offending section of his page as well as the information on how to find my original document, and included the information about my registered copyright number and what I wanted done. I sent it to their registered copyright agent and waited. A little over a week later, his site disappeared and a "frozen for abuse" page was put up in its place. I win.

And now for the "major" stories.

Miss Elizabeth of Platform Boots.

In a nutshell, a string of text from my website was "lifted" and used on this girl's page, without my permission. She liked my page enough to sign the guestbook (with a compliment!) and she left a link, but apparently she did more than just like the page . . . she wanted a piece of it for herself, and took a short paragraph verbatim and slapped it on her front page. There were a few other violations, like a few new pages that popped up which copied my list of links in the same order with the same descriptions.

I contacted her in a friendly way. I thanked her for the compliments, took a look around her page and made some comments, but I also told her I'd seen what she'd taken from me and requested its removal. She replied that she was keeping it and that I couldn't do anything about it because I didn't have a copyright (which is not true). Her actual response was as follows:

"Sorry, hun, but I'm not removing the disclaimer from my didn't copyright it and therefore it's free for anyone to take. Buh-bye!"

May I just note here that she was older than I was--and this happened when I was a college graduate. So yes, even though this sounds like something a stupid child would do, she was way old enough to know better.

I wrote her back, explaining how copyright works and why I did, indeed, own the rights to my work, but she was not responsive. I discussed the problem with a few friends, some of whom contacted her (without being encouraged to by me) and were treated with . . . disrespect is the nice word for it. (If I quoted the e-mails and messages here, you'd be surprised at the range of insults, from rude sexual suggestions to accusations of homosexuality.) I know this sounds like I must've been fighting with like a twelve-year-old or something, but again, I'll reiterate that she was a couple years my senior and married.

Her actions then began to become more vengeful: I guess in order to "punish" me for attempting to enforce my rights to my own material, she decided to try to publicly smear me. At first her slant was just making fun of me; she created a website about me full of libelous statements and sexual innuendo, and she signed her own guestbook multiple times trying to make it look like all these people were visiting her that also had heard of and hated me for having my head so far up my ass as to care about something like swiping crap from websites.

I contacted her again and made it very clear that I expected her to remove my material. She responded by changing her story, deciding that I had stolen the text from HER, and changed the page and all her guestbook entries to make it look like all along the issue was over me stealing from HER. She made a page about how I steal from people all the time and that if anyone else coming to the page had been stolen from by me they could join the "Anti-SKANKivy" club. (It even had its own "support" graphic that she made all by herself!) And of course all these imaginary people suddenly started joining it and talking about how I'd copied them too. Wow, what an amazing response for a dinky site on Geocities, huh? I'm still not sure if she thought that would fool me, but considering *I know I never copy anyone*, it'd be kind of hard to trick me into thinking all these people were actually against me . . . pathetic, really.

She also began misrepresenting my friends and me on her page and in her guestbook, saying we were "harassing" her and changing what they wrote in the book. (For instance, my friend Ronni had a sentence in a rather long guestbook entry that read as follows: "Why steal from her when you could easily come up with things just as clever? . . . Your mean words about her doesn't show you as being the person who is so 'witty' and creative, it shows you as small-minded and ignorant because you are judging someone you don't even know!" Elizabeth edited that response to say this: "So witty and clever!" And then she wrote Ronni and said "You lose! Have a nice day!")

My response: I couldn't just let her go on using my work without permission, but I treated her like she could be reasonable, trying to find an angle to get her to cut it out. I wrote her a couple letters, threatened to go over her head and report her, but nothing worked, and her responses kept getting more and more childish and mean. Her story changed several times; first, she was admitting her theft but claiming she could take whatever she wanted; then it became a case of her claiming that she'd written the bit of text herself and that I'd stolen from HER; and THEN she re-worded my work slightly and claimed I'd gotten it from her and did that sort of thing habitually (while also lying that she'd never been to my site).

My action included reporting her to the appropriate places (I even wrote to the Registered Copyright Agent for Angelfire, shortly after which her page disappeared) and documenting the details on a website, with screencaps so people could see the truth. She just put up her crap on a new server, one that didn't respond to copyright infringement reports, and kept adding stupid things to look like she had support, signing her own guestbook and mine, posting supposed updates on things I was doing that I wouldn't dream of, et cetera.

Anyway, after this went on for far too long, she suddenly moved her site, removed all traces of me, and then on her new site pretended to be a totally innocent victim of privacy invasion (because of how detailed my documenting site was), putting up a fašade of being stalked for no reason. Rather odd, considering she never mentioned anywhere on her page WHY I had information about her or what my horribly offensive privacy invading site was ABOUT. She simply said that I released her personal information against her will, like she had no clue as to why I did (as if I was just some angry person bent on destroying her without motive).

I suddenly began getting harassed with crazy fake guestbook entries from all her "friends" saying how horrible I was. (Wow, with all the times she'd moved her site around, how could any of them find her anymore?) The "friends" belittled me in e-mails and guestbook entries about my privacy invasion, and informed me that they'd reported me to my service provider. At the time, my site was spread over several services because it had outgrown the space allotted for AOL's personal space, so this section was on a free provider called . Shortly after Elizabeth decided to change her story to the "swankivy is a stalker" angle, she reported me to for posting personal inforamtion, and that part of my site was deleted for displaying too many details that could lead to her connection with the case. She didn't like that I posted the e-mails she'd sent me, and that they included the e-mail HEADERS, and she was dumb enough to put her real first and last name in the header. That bit of my site was frozen (though luckily not much of my page resided on that free site) because my service provider had a policy against releasing personal information. She probably would have made something up and tried to report me anyway if that hadn't been there, but it was.

Linking the information to her against her will wasn't necessary, but I didn't do it to hurt her; I released the name and e-mail because they were part of the headers of the e-mails I was posting, and I provided a link to her site so people could read *her* side of the story. She didn't appreciate it, and I paid for it by having one of the little parts of my site eaten . . . and there, over and done. You'd think that'd be the end . . . not even close.

Before she'd changed her status to "victim," she'd displayed all my screennames that she could find (which she gathered by searching exhaustively through my site to see which names my files were stored on), and posted my friends' names and e-mails. But when she wanted to change her story, she of course had to remove that from her own page, and did so. She stated on her page that even linking to someone without permission is a violation of privacy, I suppose to threaten me that if I linked to her she'd try to nail me again. Obviously that's bullshit. Once you put something online it is published, and you don't need any sort of permission to share published work (as long as you're not claiming it as your own, making money off of it, or removing it from its intended place of display).

I started getting three or four guestbook entries a day, and a couple of e-mails; once it was the *same exact text* put back in the guestbook after I deleted it the first time. I stopped writing back to the guestbook entries and e-mails once I decided there was no way these could be real people. She just wanted to hurt me and "get back" at me even though she started the whole thing. She probably felt like I did my share of the punching in this "fight," but all of my action was defense, and I have documentation of every shred.

And yet she didn't stop there, and slapped up a bunch of lies on her site, unable to leave it alone. She started going on about how the reason I stalked her so mercilessly was that I must be jealous of her, since her life is so great and she's prettier than me and has a car or something. ::guffaw:: Beauty is a matter of opinion, of course, I guess you'd have to judge for yourself on that one, but I fail to see how someone who has no desire to have a driver's license would be jealous of someone's car, puh-leez. It seemed like she was trying to make me look petty for caring about this issue, yet she was the one going "haha, I'm married, tall, and have a cool car" when I don't even want any of those things. . . . Oh yes, please, I sure wish I was *tall* . . . ::eyeroll:: Why do people think being short must be so bad anyway? That's just silly. And please, I need some marriage proposals . . . I just don't get enough attention from guys that I don't want in the first place. ::snort:: It's just kind of twisted, the way she misrepresented me, and the way she obviously went through my site and read a *lot* about me trying to find things to make fun of. (She'd have to have gone to my pictures page to think she's better-looking, had to have read my stats to find out how tiny I am, et cetera . . . hmm, and I'm obsessed with HER now? She mentioned that I was not worth her time, but for someone so insignificant to her, she sure bothered to learn a lot about me, eh? Flattering, but a little sick.)

Eventually she took down her page that even mentioned me, claiming that she had been sick in the hospital for a while and that experience had taught her to pay attention to things that are worth her time. Which is funny because the whole tone of it was to make it out like I was the bad guy in the whole scenario but poor innocent Elizabeth has decided to take the high road and leave it behind. Well, considering the truth was YOU STARTED IT and YOU WERE DOING SOMETHING BOTH SHITTY AND ILLEGAL, I don't find it surprising at all that you want to leave your shame in the past. Good for you!

And the last major copyright infringement. . . .

Is something I don't want to talk about because it required legal action, and I have no desire to attract the guilty party or any of his fellow dumbasses by discussing the details of what went down. All you probably need to know is my lawyer was pretty damn awesome and I won. And that he was a jackass who thinks attempting to ruin other people's lives is hilarious. (In case you can't tell, copyright infringement was involved, but it certainly wasn't the worst thing this guy tried to do to me.) He also probably thought I couldn't tell who he was because idiots believe the Internet is totally anonymous, but I know his name and where he lives, and I will be watching him. Hardy-har.

Here are some connections:


Comments can be left on both these stories and on copycatting in general on the main copycat page.