Yesterday, People’s Daily reported that plagiarism prevails in online novels and that a writer who suspected of plagiarism was found to have used material in writing software.
According investigation, there are numerous stores selling writing software in Taobao. And many software storekeepers say that such software is used to assist novel writing but mainly, the novel relies on the author’s thinking and creativity.
Lawyers believe that the content produced by the writing software is not real work. If writers use the original work beyond the scope of reference, users will be judged to commit copyright infringement.
Type key words and writing software will generate paragraphs
These images are internet screenshots
The People’s Daily said a well-known online novelist who signed a contract with Jinjiang was accused of plagiarism. Jinjiang found the author used the materials in writing software extensively and a lot of content came from the works of famous writers.
The report reads, “using automatic writing software has been an open secret in Internet novels… The Internet novel Rising from Humble Family is a patchwork made by writing software. It mainly plagiarizes background knowledge, appearance description, environmental description, scenery description, situation description and so on.
Yesterday, reporters from the Beijing News searched “writing software” on Taobao and immediately found dozens of stores, some of which has the introduction like “writing software that produces The Princess Weiyoung”. The prices of these writing software range from a dozen to hundreds of RMB.
As for a 498 RMB (around $76) writing software, as long as user consults, they will send trial version and the tutorial to user for free, whose monthly sales is 46. This software has over 5,000 adjective and descriptive word libraries. In addition to regular text search and template making, this software also has pseudo-original functions and could automatically generate poetry, prose and fiction.
As for another 19.9 RMB (around $3) writing software, it has 468 monthly sales. There are 1734 comments for the commodity. In addition to the software, it also contains materials including many popular novels. The introduction of writing software says type the words that you want to describe and hundreds of thousands of expressions will appear. For example, if users type “sad”, they will see expressions like “gloomy eyes are wet”, “pale face with frowning eyebrows” etc. The software can also automatically generate names of people, place, martial arts, weapons and so on.
People in the industry say improper use can cause plagiarism.
Some writing amateurs recommended reporter a “better” writing software named “Xingda”. In this Taobao shop, various “paragraph templates” are priced at 2 yuan to 920 yuan. Shop owner told reporters that he wrote tutorial books. At first, he felt tired of writing and then developed such a software for himself and later changed it to commercial version for sale.
About the use of writing software, there is a statement that “users only need to select novel type, type characters’ names, personalities, their purposes, weapons, select background and click the confirm button, then synopsis as long as thousands of words could be created. In terms of this statement, the shop owner said theoretically, software could make it. But he also told reporters that if the software were to reach this level, software designers needed to spend much more energies to make templates and then had templates to entitle text logicality. However, he expressed, “at present, our product couldn’t reach this level”.
The shopkeeper said, the software enables users to store words and expressions they often use in a table so that whenever the users need, they could directly insert these contents. This function applies to all types of writing content. For instance, users could preset names of people and places in the form and insert information directly when needed so as to save typing time. “Long-term writing requires software support, not just for efficiency, but for the health. Out of health concern, writer couldn’t type for too long time.”
Increased number of labels that users save will gradually replace all kinds of writing, which is a very serious threat for traditional typing writing pattern. But this pattern it is still an original writing, so it can be seen as a new writing mode replacing traditional writing mode. In the field of computer writing, this practice could increase efficiency infinitely, so when labels are rich enough, authors may be able to write hundreds of thousands of words or even millions of words in a single day.
As for the writing software itself, the shop owner says some features may actually cause plagiarism. For instance, his software provides function collecting user-added third-party TXT documents. It means users can download any TXT document from the Internet and put it in a specified area. Then the software can collect this material synchronizedly. If user types “hair”, the software will directly match all content related to the hair. This feature is highly controversial and can easily be plagiarism if users directly use the content without modification.
The reporter’s experience
19.9 RMB software can provide 88 types of materials
Yesterday, the reporter spent 19.9 yuan on a writing software. In the Baidu Cloud link provided by the store, there are writing outline, writing materials, writing tutorials and writing software.
Shopkeeper told reporter, in writing software, there were numerous materials and user could directly use it. When user types keywords, the software could undertake simple associations and appear related materials but limited to the requirements. Not all relevant content of keywords appears. “This software is like a large word library containing some sentence and paragraphs,” said shopkeeper. He also reminded the reporter that users had better only refer to the materials in the software and direct use may lead to plagiarism.
Reporter downloaded this writing software named “bee” and found main body position was typing area, below is material exhibition area, right side is the material library and memos. Click on the material library, users could see 88 kinds of material classifications such as “primary fighting skills” “manner and aura” “power distribution of the world” “fight scenes and army description” and “affair description”. After clicking the category, each had further detailed descriptions.
Reporters typed “Daming” in typing area and then the exhibition area appeared two options, namely “Daming Lake is immersed in quiet atmosphere, like a girl draped in a gauzy sleeping” and “Esoteric Buddhism”. Users double-click the option and then selected material can appear in the exhibition area directly. Then, the reporter randomly clicked the palm method option of “primary fight skills” and selected one material, then the exhibition area appears the full version of the material. After searching, reporter found the source of this material is the original sentence of an online novel.
Most Internet users of “bee” software are writing amateurs. One netizen told reporters that he preferred immortal chivalrous novels. He uses this software mainly to learn the writing skills. He said, “I just learn writing skills. The story is the same but some people can write in better way. They use writing skills like compliment after criticism and one climax after another”. “All words are centered around the idea that you want to express. When you don’t know what you’re writing about, the writing couldn’t be attractive,” he further explained.
Lawyers say it is hard to identify infringement of content generated by writing software.
According to the Beijing News, 12 plaintiffs jointly appeared the lawsuit and safeguarded their rights in the case of The Princiess Weiyang’s involvement of plagiarism. In addition, Empresses in the Palace, The Journey of Flower and To the Sky Kingdom were exposed plagiarism before. The writer Feiwosicun said writer of Empresses in the Palace even ‘copied’ a poem sentence she misremembered.
Zhang Xinnian, a lawyer in Beijing Jingshi Law Firm, said that what the writing software produced was not the real work. According to Implementing Regulations of The Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China, the works should be intellectual achievements and should be intellectual activities. As for what machines and software generate through piecing together although also needs the help of manual work and brain, but the essence is compiling words, sentences and paragraphs. Thus, they are still copying and impossible to have the real literary value.
Zhang explained from the perspective of law, content generated by “writing software” came from numerous materials and infringed many works. Thus, it is difficult to find out specific plagiarized content and its number and to be affirmed as infringement based on existing law. In general, the content produced by software comes from existing works. In aspects of sentence, story plot design and architecture, the content is beyond the appropriate scope of reference and quotation. And it is essentially similar with works protected by copyright. Meanwhile, holder of protected work must have evidence that alleges infringer had accessed to the original work before or had actual contact with the original work. Only in this way will the court decide it is copyright infringement.
Zhang believes the holder’s dilemma is that if not through judicial means, it is difficult to effectively safeguard the rights. But if they choose justice aid and sued civil litigation, they need to face high cost of energy, expense and time. Also, they have the problem that due to copyright infringement now lacks standards for strong operability, the court is sometimes hard to decide infringement.
This article originally appeared in Beijing News and was translated by Pandaily.
Click here to read the original Chinese article.