Saturday, July 17, 2010
New Trials Plagiarism
I'm really behind on emails at the moment (sorry, I'll get around to replying soon), but to my surprise, I got an email yesterday from a kind reader stating that the New Trials of Card Captor Sakura was being plagiarized on fanfiction.net. This is not really the first time I received such an email that NT was being plagiarized, but the other time it happened, I was far more shocked. The plot was reworked so that it wasn't completely word-for-word, and it was is in the New Trials First Arc days, hence I didn't know how to react, and I just let it slide.
So, I was rather surprised to find an author on fanfiction.net decided to simply copy and paste my work into their account, even kept the title in tact as "The New Trials of CCS." I was actually more bemused by the whole situation more than anything else yesterday; plagiarizers, please at least change the title if you're going to copy and paste someone else's work. More than anything, I was very moved by the reviewers who did stick up for me, and I thought, "Ah, I guess there is justice." What actually irked me was not the copy-and-pasting part; since I like to give people the benefit of doubt, perhaps this is just a young kid who doesn't know better. But then, she did choose to remove my disclaimer and add her own, and it amused me so much, I took a screen shot of it today (I removed her name and ID because I don't want flaming).
I really can't dislike someone who likes Card Captor Sakura, I just can't. So I sent her a polite message reminding her that I am the writer of New Trials and that I would appreciate if she could take down my fanfic. Earlier today, I checked and saw that she had taken down New Trials and changed her ID name. I wasn't expecting an answer to my email/ message, but I guess ideally I would have liked to hear what had motivated her to do so, or at least, I hoped it was just an honest, youthful mistake. Anyhow, I checked a while ago, and it seems like the story and reviews are up again, indicating she might have chosen to ignore my email and message and the reviewers' comments. Her profile states she is 16, so I tried to justify that she might not know better. But how much can I excuse blatant stealing? (I still love you Kai ^_^;). I was thirteen when I wrote that very prologue, and there are many younger writers out there with integrity and common sense, and I think if you are a part of the ff.net community and a fanfic writer, it is minimal courtesy that you don't take another writer's work (also on ff.net) and copy and paste it into your account, with a rewritten author's comment stating, "This is my very first story for Cardcaptor Sakura... I'll continue this story chapter 1 through 95. Disclaimer: I do not own Cardcaptor Sakura and the Characters." I'm sorry, but that disclaimer, and her note at the chapter's end asking, "How do you like things so far?" under her name annoyed me more than the whole copy-and-paste issue.
Truthfully, I am not sure what is worse. Blatant copy and pasting of the text or "reworking" someone else's idea into your own. I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as an original story, only how originally you can present it. I think that all writers and artists begin cultivating their craft by reading and mimicking their favorite authors/ artists. I went to the New York Comic Con last year and listened to an interesting panel of renowned sci-fi and fantasy authors who are at the top of their craft, and was glad to hear that they basically echoed this notion, stating that they too shamelessly get inspiration from every where. I know clearly what authors have influenced me. Same with art. I think a lot of us learn to draw by copying other artists. Eventually, once you get enough practice, you start developing your own style. That is why the term "plagiarism" doesn't rest well with me because it is often overused/ misused and there are many situations where the boundaries do become murky, and I am always on the side of creative progression. However, there are cases when some people do INTENTIONALLY cleverly disguise someone else's ideas and words into their own; but those who are talented enough to rework someone's ideas surely is talented enough to come up with something that is their own? There was someone in school who got caught plagiarizing on a paper, but I was confused as to why she did it because she was our school salutatorian and a smart person. I always figure it's more deceitful when someone with the craft and knowledge commits the act than someone inexperienced or naive.
I can at least understand the motivations of those who plagiarize in the real world, whether it be because of grades, laziness, fame, or most often, money. But why do it on the internet? What is there to profit? People write fanfiction for a various assortment of reasons: self-gratification, to communicate with others with similar interests, to practice writing (?), for entertainment, to fantasize what-ifs... The internet has spawned into a mega-communication network over the past decade; I began writing New Trials in 1999 when I was still using dial-up modem from a long cable that stretched all the way from the living room phone to my room (and yes, nobody could use the phone while I was on the internet). That seems like ages ago. That was before internet became commercialized, and the pages on the net were often pages made by individuals who had a serious dedication to and interest in that subject matter. In a way, it was sort of a haven, a magic mirror doorway to reaching out to others with similar hobbies/interests as yourself. But then came the commercialization of the internet, all the profile pages ie. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, blogs (yes, I am writing one too), etc., and the internet became more about "me, me, me." Which is fine, so long as you don't try to take the easy way out and steal somebody else's identity or body of work. I'm not really sure what to do in this situation, but I figure that if it's attention she wants, the best thing to do is simply ignore her.
I do understand the frustrations of writers (or any other craftsman) who do not receive the recognition or feedback they desire, because I know that fear as well. I remember how nerve-wracking it was to post my first couple chapters, and even rereading my comments then reflect how insecure I felt about releasing my writing to the public. Perhaps this plagiarizer did so because she wanted more readers or wanted her name to be known. Who knows. I just don't know what she was thinking or wasn't thinking--anyone care to enlighten me? I didn't start writing New Trials because I wanted fame or recognition (if you want that, fanfiction writing is not the route to go). I wrote simply because I love to write. Thus, I can't comprehend how copy and pasting fanfiction can bring anyone any sort of gratification. When I began this fanfic, I said, "If I have even one reader left, I will continue writing," and it is that dedication which has carried me through 1,010000+ words. I've been very lucky that even after ten years, I still do have loyal readers to this monster of a fanfic, and I am always grateful for the opportunity I had to communicate with some wonderful people and find people who love Card Captor Sakura as much as I do. I began writing New Trials for self-gratification and for entertainment purposes, but now, I am writing New Trials because I have a story to tell, and I want to finish it because I owe it to the readers who have stuck by for 67+ chapters, and I owe it to myself to finish the project I have dedicated a good decade to.
Moral of the story, don't plagiarize off of Wish-chan, or else she will start psychoanalyzing your motives and then jump into a broad generalization on the evolution of the internet instead of finishing up Chapter 67 of New Trials. Second, writing is ENJOYABLE in itself.
On a more positive note, I've been able to communicate with so many creative people ranging from fellow writers, artists, musically talented people, etc. Over the years, numerous people had emailed me regarding using New Trials as inspiration for their various projects varying from fanfics, doujinshi, film projects and even reworking Star-Crossed as a school play. Truthfully, I'm not sure what happened to a lot of these projects, but I've never refused a request till this date regarding the use of NT for personal use, as long as due credit is given (or not given, because what I don't know, I won't know). I will feel very blessed if at the end of New Trials, I can say that this work has encouraged some people to explore their artistic outlets. So if you're going to plagiarize, do it creatively, and at least I'll be entertained. (But 99% of you are awesome and always check in first, and I love seeing everyone's creative work).
Thank you very much for those who defended me on ff.net! That might have been the only bright side to the ugly affair of plagiarism. I still haven't figured out what to do with this individual on ff.net, as she did not respond to my message. Maybe I'll just send her the link to this blogpost. There are many malicious people on the internet, those who intentionally try to harm or hurt others. But really, if a person likes CCS and fanfiction (and presumably New Trials, at least enough to look it up and ctr+v, ctrl+p), then the optimist in me says that person just needs a good hug from Sakura-chan and be pointed in the right direction (and never repeat the offense again).
UDPATE: Seems like ff.net finally took the story down (or not?). I'm not sure what's going on. I didn't mean to rant, but I guess I was more irritated by the whole situation then I thought I was. Hopefully, I will have better news next time. Chapter 67 is a whopping 97 pages at the moment--I'm going to have figure out how to cut it down. ^_^