Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I wuz plagiarised by a Publisher!!!

[As can be seen in the comments section to this post, the author of the book got in touch with me - turns out we're both victims here, thanks to the publisher. So I've rewritten both my Amazon review and some parts of this blog post to reflect what actually happened.]

Well, not quite the right word, but I basically had some of my intellectual property swiped without permission (which I probably would have granted, had I been asked).
Some history: back in December of last year I took a picture of three daggers in my collection, one of which I hand made myself. I eventually uploaded this picture to Wikimedia on February 8th, 2014 (according to the change page log on Wiki). The picture can be seen here:
It is about halfway down the page, in the sub section on Mediaeval daggers. I put it in to better illustrate the section, and I give explicit details in the photo description as to what the reproductions were based on and who made them. Now, before going further let me post the verbatim of the Creative Commons license on Wiki that applies to this photo:

"You are free:
  • to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work
  • to remix – to adapt the work
Under the following conditions:
  • attribution – You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).
  • share alike – If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one."

Note well that one must attribute the work, and that one must also share alike. While a rational human would interpret that latter to mean that one could not take something that was made available for free and turn it around and use it in a for profit work, that is not how the Publisher interpreted it, alas...
Some months ago I bought a book on the bargain table at Barnes & Noble entitled "Knives, Daggers & Hand-Combat Tools" which can be seen here on Amazon:
It seemed like a well illustrated, if overly broad, treatment of the subject, but I had glanced quickly through it and figured it would be a nice add to my library. All well and good but imagine my surprise when I turned to page 47 and saw this:

If you compare with my picture on Wikipedia, you can see immediately that the Publisher took my picture, edited it (rather nicely, though, I will say) and then used it to illustrate their book which they now sell for a profit.

Now, there is a page at the end of the book with the following note: "Unless otherwise noted, all silhouetted weaponry  images are from the Berman Museum of World History, Anniston, Alabama, and photographed by f-stop fitzgerald and Jonathan Conklin Photography, Inc., with the exception of the following:" They then list a bunch of photo credits from various sources. Nowhere, however, do the Publishers acknowledge the source of the photo with my daggers, let alone who made the reproductions (which I clearly attribute in my blurb on Wikipedia describing the picture).

As an aside I saw a few other pictures that they got out of Wikipedia, as well, for their book. Thing of it is, if the Publishers had simply asked I probably would have given permission to use freely (provided they credited me; additionally, though not strictly necessary, a free copy of the book would have been a most kind gesture of "thanks"...). Honestly I was a bit flattered that they considered my picture (and, by extension, the dagger I made) to be worthy of inclusion in his book. But the Publisher really dropped the ball here, and will make me rethink how I distribute pix of my work in the future.

Interestingly, had the Publisher worked with me, I could have provided more and better pictures of reproduction daggers in my collection, that would have been even easier to edit and use (for example, I could have taken good closeups of the pommel, etc., that they had to do a photo edit on from the base picture, reducing the quality).

Another related problem I have with some of the illustrations that are in this book, where they are photos of modern reproductions, is that the makers are not credited by the Publisher. This has nothing to do with copyright, but rather with letting the makers get a bit of advertising - I'm sure some folks look at some of these reproductions and think "I'd like one". Would be nice to know where to go...

One detail that got tripped up is that they took a photo of a reproduction Landsknecht dagger from Arms & Armor to illustrate the type. However, while they do state it is a reproduction, they claim it is based on an example from the Solingen Blade Museum in Germany. This is wrong; the reproduction in question is conjecture based on what a companion dagger might look like based on the extant example of a Katzbalger sword from said museum - no such dagger, as such, actually exists. While it is a plausible reconstruction, there is no direct example.
Many thanks to the author for clarifying the situation with me. He confided that he was so concerned about some of the issues he had seen pre-publishing that he wanted his name taken off and a pseudonym used instead, but the Publisher didn't even do that! Sad state of affairs all around. While I've always been dimly aware that authors get "p'wnd" to some degree, I had no idea it was this bad.
As noted, I've updated my Amazon review accordingly. Knowing what I know now I'd say this is actually worth getting, as there are some interesting photos in it, not the least being the daggers out of my collection... :-)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Mr. Gadda, just today I saw your review on Amazon and followed its link to your blog. As the author of the book in which your photograph appeared uncredited, I share your frustration. In fact, I immediately registered a complaint with the packaging company that designed and assembled the book. While I wrote the book’s main text and provided the packaging company with links to online images, I was not responsible for anything related to licensing; the packaging company and publisher were responsible for properly documenting and crediting images. I never even got to see proofs of the relevant text. As I understand them, the terms of your Creative Commons license did not require them to get your permission to use that image of the three daggers license (and if you check the precise language attached to the image on Wikipedia, you’ll see that it explicitly allows for commercial use), but it certainly did require them to accord you credit for it. Obviously, they were careless with that responsibility. As a result, your contribution to the book has gone unacknowledged, and I have been made to look irresponsible. We have both been hard done here; the packaging company and the publisher owe us both apologies. For my part, I will not be working with either of those firms again. With all that in mind, I respectfully ask that you edit your review on Amazon and your blog post so that you don’t refer to “the author” as having “swiped ‘intellectual property’” in an “underhanded” way, or even casually use the word “plagiarised.” While it was a lamentable failure to credit you as a photographer, it wasn’t technically plagiarism, and I didn’t do it. Say whatever you like about the merits of the book—it was a difficult job done in a matter of weeks, and the packager and publisher have already undercut me by not honoring my request to use a pseudonym—but please understand that I am neither a thief nor a plagiarist. For any writer, being called a plagiarist is a disaster, especially when the shoe doesn’t fit. We’ve both been wronged here; I’d ask that we endeavor not make it worse by mislabeling each other. Again, I completely appreciate where you’re coming from. I hope you can do the same for me.

    1. As we discussed, I've updated both my review and this blog post to reflect what actually happened. Thank you for taking the time to reach out to me! Glad to know I'm not just howling out in the wilderness...