Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Book Donald Jensen Would Have It Written If He Wanted To Write About Putin

Thinking about writing a book about Putin
The Internet has brought us many thing, and plagiarism is one of them. Publishers are monitoring cyberspace to find sites that sell stolen prose in an ongoing battle against theft of intellectual property.

In Russia, oppression is rife and no one dares to speak their mind for fear of being executed. When your country is run by a former KGB agent, you assume that your death would be easily arranged and made to look like an accident, so you tend to keep yourself to yourself, head down as you move through another miserable day.

So let's combine these two seemingly unconnected events and what do we have?

For Donald Jensen of the Institute of Modern Russia, we get a raging case of identity theft, his name, reputation, and work co-opted.

Mr. Jensen is an expert on Russia, and if you were to find a book written by him, you would expect to find factual information, the result of careful research. You would believe what he writes because he knows what he's going on about.

What if you were a Russian whose publishing company was known for putting out controversial works and you wanted a big series of books about Vladimir Putin but you didn't want to be gunned down while walking down a Moscow street? How about publishing a book under Donald Jensen's name, using his old articles as material?


The book is in Russian so who in America would figure it out? And while you're at it, why not borrow the names of some other well-respected types and really flood the Russian market with books critical of Putin. Bring the words of the West to the oppressed East and make some money from those thinking they were getting the real thing.

Algoritm is the Russian publisher that created a series of books that were ascribed to Western writers, including Luke Harding of the Guardian. On the surface, a reader would assume that the publisher went about its publishing work and released this collection of anti-Putin material in the usual way. Books by noted Russian scholars have that certain cachet of authenticity, and when you are a Russian citizen you look for things produced by outsiders who are not feeling the Putin heat.

Except, of course, it was not Mr. Harding or Mr. Jensen creating the books, but someone looking to cash in on their fame and the things they had written previously. Algoritm wanted to produce a collection of books on Putin, but did not want to go to all the trouble a publisher usually goes through to get permission and then come to a financial agreement. Why, that's less money in the publisher's till if he has to go and pay an author.

Mr. Jensen has stated that the book being touted in Russia as his own is likely nothing more than a collection of articles he has written. He did not give Algoritm permission to use his work, however, and you can be sure that he is not receiving a ruble in royalties.

Now that the scam has been exposed, Algoritm's Sergei Nikolayev says that Mr. Jensen can come to him any time and they can work out a fee for the stolen work. And the same goes for American journalist Michael Bohn, who found his name on a book filled with his prose that was reprinted without his permission.

Not all pirates fly the Jolly Roger or look like Jack Sparrow. Modern pirates sit in front of computers and stroll through the Internet in search of content that they can steal. Are the authors any more likely to recover their intellectual property than our ancestors were able to recover their stolen cargo?

Not likely. How do you stop a pirate if his home country is making a profit from the thieving?

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