Taral: Notoriety at Last!

By Taral Wayne: Imagine my surprise when I googled my name this afternoon!  I do this from time to time, out of curiosity.  Just about the last thing I expected to find was that there is a book about me!  It was unlikely enough that there was another “Taral Wayne” in the world, but surely not another associated with “science fiction, the Hugo Award, the Worldcon and Furry Fandom?”  However, under the title “Taral Wayne,” that’s exactly what the cover says.  I surrender graciously to the conclusion that this really is a book about me.

The editors Lambert M. Surhone, Mariam T. Tennoe and Susan F. Henssonow are nobody known to me, and I suspect to anyone else in the publishing business.  The listed price on one web page was $45. 

Also on the cover is a bright red seal guaranteeing “High Quality Content by Wikipedia Articles!” 

After a bit more searching I found a blog that talked about this.  You might want to read about this scam in more detail:


The publishers are apparently “Betascript Publishing,” who use Wikipedia articles and some publishing software to print on-demand copies of over 50,000 titles!  “Betascript” is perhaps a misnomer.  Also known as “Alphascript,” “Fastbook” and dozens of other imprints, they are all subsidiaries of VDM Publishing, who gives Mauritius as the head office.  The publisher has likely downloaded articles Wikipedia en masse, and has software that searches for articles with a high degree of connectivity.  It then plugs them into a .pdf template – poof! – instant book!  VDM may have been a legitimate academic publisher at one time, but appears to have mutated, virus-like, into a more aggressive form that is actually beginning to clog up legitimate listings of books online.

Evidently “Taral Wayne” includes Wikipedia articles on the Hugo, Worldcon, and furry fandom as well as the one on myself (which I admit I had a hand in writing).  More worrisome is the statement on one bookseller’s page that the volume is 68 pages long, with “black and white illustrations.”  This is an entirely different and actionable kettle of fish.  Even when it is pirated by some internet site, my art is nevertheless protected by copyright, and reproducing it without permission, or even my knowledge, should make VDM very liable to a costly legal action.

Alas… international lawsuits are generally impractical.  Even giant corporations like Sony, Disney and Warners have trouble stamping out Pacific Rim piracy.  Clearly, I’m unable to pay an army of lawyers over several years, so what chance have I got?

I suppose I’ll have to be satisfied with warning book dealers somewhat disingenuously that they might be liable to legal action for selling the book…  But, mainly I’d better just try to get a laugh out of the experience.  Not every fanartist is worth ripping off…

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8 thoughts on “Taral: Notoriety at Last!

  1. I had to phone up a friend when I learned of this. At the end of an amused conversation, I suggested he go online himself, to see if there is a book about Robert C. Wilson he knows nothing about. This is advice that perhaps a lot of you should take…

    Among other “books” listed were two volumes on “Furry People.” Volume 1 no doubt re-uses material from “Taral Wayne,” as my name is listed on the cover along with Fred Patten, Reed Waller and Bill Holbrook. I haven’t seen the cover of volume II yet, so can’t comment…

  2. Saw this a couple of years back. My first thought was (and still is) how many of these things do they actually sell?

  3. Bn.com notes “Please note that the content of this book primarily consists of articles available from Wikipedia or other free sources online. ”

    Brad: probably not many. I recall seeing reader reviews on Amazon of similar “books” – all with scathing comments. But they do it by computer, it’s probably dirt cheap to produce – $45 for 68 pages is a good profit margin.,

  4. I don’t see how this can be prevented. There is not a privacy issue because Tarel has thrust himself into the public sphere by publishing his work and there is not a copyright issue because fanzines are free and have no commercial value, and unless he registered his copyrights with the Library of Congress (still an option, even now) he has no standing to bring a lawsuit in a Federal District Court, which is the only court that can take a copyright case (Federal preemption).

    As for the publisher, this is a print-on-demand product marketed with the “Long Tail” theory. The price is high because the market is very small; mostly academics and libraries. They’ll make a little money. But not much and not often. Which is another reason that there’s not much of a case for a lawsuit. How has Tarel been harmed? Is there any chance that damages will exceed the $75,000 threshold for bringing a case for copyright violations?

    And all of that is why the Copyright Act needs to be reformed. There “ain’t no justice” for the average person.

  5. I think Francis is a little out of date on the copyright law — the US was way behind the rest of the developed world on the subject, it’s true. But some years ago it was reformed to some extent, and it isn’t necessary to register a copyright for it to be valid any more. It sure helps in a US court of law, though. As for Europe, Canada and probably Australia, it was enough to add the copyright symbol in a publication to show intent. And artwork would be covered by my signature. Only in a corrupt venue should it be necessary to buy the king’s stamp to validate a legal document… or protect a creative act from unauthorized reproduction.

  6. Tarel:
    I didn’t say it was necessary. I’m very familiar with the Copyright Act and related issues, testified before Judge Daniels at the Settlement Fairness Hearing in 2005 and in 2006 settled for a considerable sum which I am not allowed to disclose by court order with a former publisher who had placed my work on electronic databases without permission. A copyright is good at the moment of creation under American law, but it cannot be enforced unless it is registered with the Library of Congress and a deposit of the work is made. Since the USA is signatory to several copyright treaties that protection extends abroad in theory, but the real problem is finding a lawyer, anywhere, to take the case. The law here is very slanted against individual creators; so much so that 99% of writers don’t bother to register smaller works.

  7. Francis: it would be very difficult to undertake an international action even with a mountain of documentation… I don’t intend to try.

    From what I’ve heard back from some dealers, the danger posed by Betascript is minimal anyway. None of the dealers had any stock — they just list the “book” as available from the publisher. Should anyone order a copy, the publisher will print it out, but not until then. I would be more than a little surprised if there was even *one* order for “my book.” It is to laugh.

    The main danger is that Betascript and possibly other such pseudo-publishers may simply flood legitimate listings with millions of bogus titles, making a nusiance of themselves to customer and dealer alike. At that time, I suspect, dealers will crack down on on-demand publishing houses.

    It’s the “Everyman His Own… ” principle carried a little too far, I think. (Everyman his own SEC? Everyman his own AEC?)

  8. Tarel:

    The way the book distribution system works now is that everyone advertises it for sale but the actual inventory is at a single warehouse. You can find “The Queen of Washington” and “The Shenandoah Spy” offered online in Australia, India,Croatia, South Africa, India, and on and on and on. Delivery times are anywhere from two days to eight weeks. If you order a Kindle e-book, delivery is less than a minute in over 100 different nations. The problem for small publishers like myself is no longer distribution, but promotion. Like Gilbert and Sullivan said “If everybody’s somebody, then no one is anybody”. It is really hard to stand out in the crowd.

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