By Devyani Borade-
The unthinkable happens. Your work is published without your knowledge, consent or compensation. Whether it is large slushpiles, lack of time, memory lapses or non-existent ethics, there’s no excuse for unprofessionalism or deceit. If the publication gets away with it once, they may do it again!
Sure, you challenge them. You take the moral high ground, argue facts logically, point out copyrights, escalate to publishers or web domain owners; but your remonstrations fall on deaf ears. When editors don’t remedy the situation early and sufficiently, here’s how you can take action.
Reputations carry businesses, but are fragile. Social media is a powerful tool, but an untamed beast. Nothing travels faster than bad news. Use Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or your own mailing lists of writers/editors/sources to make noise.
However, before you bandy about anyone’s good name, remember publicity is a two-way street. Choose your words carefully. Don’t post on a public forum in a passion. Defamation charges can be difficult to defend, and the last thing you need is to have your life stolen too.
What have you got to lose? Invoicing a publication that has published your work without permission sends a clear message that you are a professional who knows the industry. PayPal has a professional template and a reminder system. Make your invoice due on receipt and clearly state terms and conditions including penalties for delayed payments.
Yours may not be a solitary incident. Ask around. Someone may have experience dealing with the publication’s idiosyncrasies and may be able to advise you.
Hit them where it hurts
Magazines exist for sales. Contact the retail outlets where the magazine is sold and inform them of the transgression. They may stop stocking it.
Go to court
Before you recourse to judiciary as your last resort, consider:
a) Money: Lawyers’ fees are ruinous. Unless you claim Donald Trump as a relation or have engaged a lawyer to work pro bono, think twice.
b) Time: Court battles can drag on for years. You may end up resigning your great-grandchildren to life revolving around courthouse working hours.
c) Effort: Meetings, filing forms, understanding the law, dealing with red tape – there are an awful lot of legal hoops to jump through that drain energy. Will your court battle drain you of the sheer physical stamina to attend your daughter’s graduation ceremony, steal the mental inclination to host that long-overdue dinner party, rob you of the emotional wherewithal to cope with a friend’s illness?
d) Scandal: Court cases are open affairs. You may think truth and public interest are on your side, but there’s no guarantee how the case will develop. Your reputation may emerge out of the ordeal smelling like a bouquet of roses, or it may crawl out looking like
something the cat dragged in. Can you live with the local garbage-man and that cute shop assistant at your favorite boutique knowing all about your dirty laundry?
e) Practicalities: If you live in the US and the publication is based in Singapore, how do you propose to duel?
So weigh pros and cons, calculate cost versus benefit and take action.
Or finally, write off the loss and move on.
It’s great to be principled and fight for fairness. It’s also natural to feel to want to get even. But is the article worth the tumult? If not, consider it an occupational hazard and move on. Lesson learned.
Whatever you do, hope for the best and be prepared for the worst. Remain positive, proactive, and don’t stop writing. As freelancer Judee Fong says, “Thieves steal only from the best!”
Devyani Borade writes on the humor and pathos of everyday life. Her articles on the craft, business and heart of writing have been accepted/published by nearly all writing-related publications in the USA and UK. She likes to eat chocolates, read comic books and try her husband’s patience! Visit her website Verbolatry at http://devyaniborade.blogspot.com to contact her and read her other work. This article was inspired by a true incident. Read the full story here: http://devyaniborade.blogspot.com/p/tampa-bay-parenting-magazine-steals-work.html