by Joyce Kohl

Have you ever wondered where all those book reviews come from on the Barnes and Noble Website? Being somewhat naive, I thought a staff member actually read a book, then wrote a thumbnail review. Now I have my doubts. Why? When I went to the Barnes and Noble site to check the availability of one of my favorite books, I froze in shock! Barnes and Noble gets the material for the reviews any way they can – even plagiarism!

This time they had taken paragraphs from a review I wrote here in GO INSIDE Magazine on Yorkie Doodle Dandy on January 30, 1998. The theft of intellectual property owned and copyrighted is not limited to the unwary Website builder; it extends to the mammoth companies as well.

Barnes and Noble is, without a doubt, guilty of plagiarism.

What is a Plagiarist?
The dictionary definition is clear enough for anyone to understand:

. . . one guilty of literary or artistic theft . . .

To plagiarize means:

. . . to steal or pass off as one’s own (the ideas or words of another): Use (a created production) without crediting the source . . .

Quoting from a Written Review
The Barnes and Noble legal department is, I’m sure, aware of copyright laws and the criteria which constitutes infringements of copyrights. Their own copyright page, a clickable link at the bottom of their site, is the most asinine one I’ve ever read! If I want to notify them of the fact they’ve used MY wording, from MY review, they expect me to go through an involved set of procedures.

No, no, no! It’s THEIR obligation to check out possible problems – not that of the person reporting it. A simple email should suffice. How many people would even bother to report anything after seeing a long list of items to submit? It’s too intimidating to bother with and I suppose that may be one purpose behind Barnes and Noble’s posting it.

Here is ONE of the items on their list which gave me GREAT concern:

A statement made under threat of perjury that the information provided is accurate and the complaint is authorized by the copyright holder.

No one in their right mind would bother to try informing Barnes and Noble of anything! Not if the above statement is legally sound. It would be interesting to ask a legal eagle about it.

They want details. I’ll give them details. My way.

You Be The Judge
Visible proof of my claims.

Barnes and Noble’s Review of Yorkie Doodle Dandy:

Original Review January 30, 2000:

They even used the SAME quoted material from the book that I used! Though they had the same rights I had to quote from the book, I rather suspect they took this paragraph from my article, too.

Barnes and Noble’s Quote:

Quote in the Original Review:

Some Thoughts
First: Courtesy should have dictated their actions. Someone on their staff should have contacted the publisher of GO INSIDE Magazine for permission to use quotes from my article.
Second: Someone on the Barnes and Noble staff was more than likely paid for “writing” the review. Shouldn’t that person be obligated to write it instead of stealing what I wrote in my review?

Third: If Barnes and Noble uses outside reviews, shouldn’t the original reviewer be given credit for the review? My name is nowhere on the Barnes and Noble site and credit is also not given to GO INSIDE Magazine as the source of original publication for my work.

Fourth: If the review is posted on the Internet, shouldn’t the Website be given a link to the complete review? This would not only be an added service to possible buying customers, but would also help sell the book.

Credit Where Credit Is Due
This is a statement used throughout the Internet. Any surfer soon learns its meaning. There are links on numerous sites to copyright laws, personal readme type pages about copying original content, taking images, and copying music files. Though some of it is not yet clear, one part that IS understood is this:

If you did not write it, draw it, or compose it, you can’t just take it! A company as big as Barnes and Noble has no rights to steal either!
Of course after finding the theft of Barnes and Noble I checked Their review appeared to be their own. At least nothing in it was mine. Guess where I’ll buy all my books from now on?

Because Yorkie Doodle Dandy is one of my favorite books, my biased opinion is that Mr. Wynne deserves the best possible review of his book. Apparently, my review IS the best. At least Barnes and Noble couldn’t improve on it! But my work is not free for the taking. Barnes and Noble surely have time for ordinary courtesies, let alone protecting themselves from possible legal actions. Had they bothered to ask my permission, and that of the publisher of GO INSIDE Magazine, this article would not have been written. I would have been proud to see my name on Barnes and Noble as the writer of the review. A link to GO INSIDE Magazine and the original article would also be proper as well as a requirement.

Whether you’re writing an essay for English 101 or reviewing a book as a writer, the same rules apply: The words must be your own; quoted material must be kept to a minimum. Once the essay or article is written, it becomes the intellectual property of the writer unless those rights are expressly given away before publication. To use any part of my work outside of GO INSIDE Magazine requires written permission. Otherwise it’s plagiarism, stealing, theft.

To Barnes and Noble: What are YOU going to do about this situation? I do not wish my review to be removed as I know it’s the best! However, I DO want and expect an apology as well as the addition of my name as the reviewing author. Atonement for plagiarism doesn’t have to be an expensive learning experience. Of course, I COULD insert this entire article in the Barnes and Noble “CUSTOMER REVIEWS – An Open Forum” area!