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When Somesone Steals Your Work

Updated on February 25, 2014

You Have an Idea

The idea light goes on
The idea light goes on

Developing and Idea

You are a writer and excited because your first novel will be out soon. You have already started work on the second one. The excitement builds as your work progresses. You share it with your critique group. Taking their suggestions to heart you continue working.

You are in touch with your publisher giving up dates and preparing them for the next book. Knowing the books will come out almost the same time. Still you are on a writer's high.

Working Together

Sharing ideas
Sharing ideas

Something Happens

While at critique group another writer offers up a story and you notice your phrasing in the piece. But you shrug it off. Could be an accident after all your work has been out there.

The next few meetings of the critique group the same thing happens. You jokingly say something to the other writer and the comment you get is, "You don't know the half of it."

Now your suspicions of being plagiarized are starting to bother you. You stew about it and how to protect your work. Finally you email your publisher for guidance.

How to Protect Yourself

When your work-in-progress is done, mail a copy to yourself registered mail signed receipt. When it comes sign for it and take the envelope home and put it someplace safe. Do not open it. Should you end up in court you will present the unopened envelope to the judge. This is called a poor man's copyright.

Check with your local prosecutor. They may or may not want to pursue it. If they don't, your next step is the Federal court house. Yes, plagiarism is illegal. It is a federal offense. Intellectual property rights are a big issue. You want to do everything you can to protect yours.

If there is a good law school near you,you might want to approach them first. They can tell you what you need. They might even assign a student to you to follow your case and help you with any legal papers you need to file and the student gets a grade for it.

Ask other writers what to do. There is a possibility someone has already had this issue and could point you in the right direction.


Know what plagiarism is. By definition, plagiarism is: an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorizatioin and the representation of that author's work as one's own, by not crediting the the original author. This defintion come from

Finish your work-in-progress as quickly as you can. Get it in the hands of your publisher. Watch for the other writer to put out work. Hopefully with the help of your publisher you can get yours out first. Having your copyright in hand will help.

Withdraw fromt the critique group until your work-in-progress is done. As the plagiarism case begins you don't want to divide your group.

Even if your book is out first, watch to see what the other writer puts out. You want to have it in hand for comparison to your book. You want to be able to point out the similarities should it come to a court case.

For additional information on plagiarism and copyrights you can download a free resouce document at‎ For guidelines on what to do about plargiarism you can go to


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    • Duchessoflilac1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecka Vigus 

      5 years ago from Nancy KY

      Critique groups are very common. Authors at all stages are welcome and they share parts of their work for comments. Usually they get the good comments first and then the areas which need work. This is a real event happening to one of my authors. I have a small publishing company. She was devastated someone would do this. She has withdrawn from the group and I have given her some places in her area where she can seek legal assistance. We are working to get her book finished and published. We are watching for the other person to put out his next work. I know people at his publishing company and I might be able to head off publication.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      I never heard of critique groups. Is that more like a writers club and they share each others work, in order to learn from the comments? Was this a real even that happened to you, or were you just a bid paranoia and made it up as if, just in case?

    • Duchessoflilac1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecka Vigus 

      5 years ago from Nancy KY

      Thank you SandCastles. I have been in a critique group. It worked wonderfully, but we set rules right at the beginning. No one could use your work without your permission. Anyone who did would be prosecuted and banned from the group.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I'd say don't participate in critique groups or only share things you don't wish to publish. Good Hub!

    • Duchessoflilac1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecka Vigus 

      5 years ago from Nancy KY

      Thank you, Ghaelach. I have an author with this issue. So, I'm sure there will be follow up.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      A lot of good and interesting information, and I'll be book marking this hub for future reference.



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