Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Autumn 2005, vol 3 no 3

       
        TRACKS IN THE SAND

        A column by George Swede

Plagiarism—The Haiku Community Delivers Swift Justice!

Flagrant Theft –The Evidence

Disbelief flooded through me as I read the first paragraph of Carol Raisfeld’s email on the morning of June 3, 2005:

Browsing on a poetry site I came across some poems I know are yours. . .
What I saw was word for word George Swede poems.I looked for your name, but no credit was given. Can this be? I looked at other sites where this “poet’s” work is published . . . I’m afraid he has stolen your poems.

To prove her point, Carol had sent me one of the thief’s e-cards. It was a haiku of mine attributed to someone called Giles. Carol had also reprinted 10 of my haiku as they appeared on three different sites: The Starlite Café, Poet’s Castle and SaichWorld. Half had been given titles, one had a word changed. Five were attributed to Adrian Saich and the rest to Giles. My disbelief morphed into anger—at the theft and the violation of trust that usually governs poetic activity on the Internet.

Immediately, my wife Anita Krumins and I went to the sites that Carol had identified and we printed my poems as well as those of others we recognized. We soon discovered that Giles was a pen name for Adrian Saich. One site, The Starlite Café, had 591 poems of various kinds by Giles. Of these, around sixty of the haiku were mine and another dozen or so were by other poets. A number of the tanka also seemed to be plagiarized.

Especially on the Starlite site, Saich had gone to extraordinary efforts to glamorize each poem with music and background animation. In a few cases, he changed a word, but never for the better. For instance, consider this haiku of mine:

Dead roadside deer
a snowflake melts
on its open eye

Saich had substituted a rabbit for the deer. Apart from the fact that “rabbit” loses the alliteration provided by “deer”, the eye of a rabbit is not as large and protruding as that of a deer and thus the effect of the melting snowflake is less profound.

Particularly galling was the blatant appropriation of each haiku poet’s poems. All were identified in the following way:

By Giles
© 2004 Giles (All rights reserved)

Sometimes the copyright date was 2005. Then the reader had the opportunity to do the following:

- Read more poems by Giles
- Send this poem to a friend
- Read viewer’s comment(s)

Saich attaching his name (or his a.k.a.) and the © symbol to each stolen poem clearly indicates that he knows about copyright. He was an intentional impostor, trying to dupe the authorities and the poetry reading public.

Just who is Saich? According to autobiographical information on SaichWorld and The Starlite Cafe, he lives in Ireland, makes his living as a full-time illustrator, does ink drawings of life in the 19th century (which he exhibits and sells on e-Bay) and writes poetry. Not much here to explain why he decided to become a big-time plagiarizer.

The Haiku Community Rallies

Carol Raisfeld’s outstanding memory for the authors of haiku she had read started a chain reaction. In the early evening of June 3, I wrote an email to a number of editors of haiku periodicals describing what I had discovered. My expectation was that the editors would each contact their subscribers with the result that soon thousands of people would be aware of Saich’s misdeeds. This letter now appears online as “Plagiarism alert” <http://www.tempslibres.org/tl/en/alert.html> courtesy of Serge Tomé and his site, tempslibres.

I then emailed the site managers for The Starlite Café (Albert Victor) and for Poet’s Castle (Linda G. Anaya). At first, Albert Victor couldn’t believe that his domain included a blatant plagiarist. He claimed that he had developed the site out of his love for poetry and trusted that contributors would be honest. After I sent him a detailed list of my haiku that Saich had copyrighted under his pen name Giles, Victor removed the entire Giles section from Starlite on June 4th, 2005.

During our numerous email exchanges, Victor told me that he had received threatening e-letters from what he described as my “posse” and was worried about his safety and that of his family. At one point, he said that he had called the police who told him there was nothing they could do. To assuage his worries, I explained to him that he had no reason to be afraid. The poets who had written to him were gentle souls, just like he was. They were merely venting their anger at what had happened and would never put their words into violent actions.

On June 5th, Linda Anaya of Poet’s Castle sent an e-letter to members of the haiku community informing them that all poems by Giles have been removed from her site. Her situation was particularly awkward because Adrian Saich was a partial creator of the domain:

The site although kept up by me, and built by me with love and devotion, and deep love of the art of poetry is in his [Saich’s] name, therefore, it is with deep regret that I will ask that the site be shut down due to his actions. I had no knowledge of this and assumed that the work that he posted was written by him.

Anaya reported no harassment by outraged poets, probably because Poet’s Castle had relatively few poems stolen by Saich.

One Internet domain resisted removing its purloined poems--Saichworld, the personal site of Adrian Saich. Here Saich described the stolen poems as “Poetry by Adrian Saich” and invited readers to “Click to View Poems by Title”. Such titling of untitled haiku was his modus operandi in all the places he displayed the pilfered poems. Both Anita Krumins and I made use of the opportunity the site gave to send a private message in which we asked him to remove my eighteen haiku as well as those taken from other poets. A number of other people did the same. At last, on June 7, Saich removed all the poems he had lifted.

As events progressed, Robert Wilson, owner and managing editor of Simply Haiku, became the central figure in dealing with Saich’s plagiarism. He contacted several other poetry sites and got their managers to promise not to allow Saich on board. He also contacted the search engine Google and was told how to deal with infringements of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. When all the necessary steps are taken, Google will remove the plagiarized content from the Internet and make sure that any search for this content will lead instead to a note about the plagiarism. The vehicle making possible this substitution is a special site called chillingeffects.org <http://www.chillingeffects.org>, which also provides much information about various copyright issues.

What happened in the two weeks following Saich’s large-scale plagiarism? As of June 18, 2005, The Starlite Café had not made any mention, direct or indirect, of Saich’s fraud. Like before, the home page simply refers readers to a general statement of Copyrights Around The World <http://www.thestarlitecafe.com/copyright_info.html>. On the other hand, the reborn Poet’s Castle has an “Important Newsflash!” at the start of the home page that states:

It has come to our notice that some poems appearing on this site may not be the works of the original artist or artists. This is contrary to our policies and ethics and will not be tolerated.

The Poet’s Castle <http://www.poetscastle.com/home.asp> would like to apologize to any poet that has had their work displayed on this site without their consent or credit. We have removed any known offending poems from display.

Should any poetry appear on this site that is not attributable to the contributor, or has not been credited to the author with their consent, please contact us with the details of the offending poem and contributor.

Not surprisingly, SaichWorld <http://www.saichworld.com/about.asp> still has nothing to say about copyright. The site, however, continues with business as usual except that its poetry offerings have shrunk to only one haiku plus five longer poems. All seem to be Saich’s original work.

A Shaft of Light Through The Storm Clouds

The anger mixed with sadness that Saich’s acts had caused soon became suffused with the light of joy. Poets I had not been in touch with for years wrote to me, as did ones I knew only by their work. All expressed their outrage at what had happened and, of course, their sympathy. Their reaching out helped me to reaffirm an identity which had been sullied by Saich. I suspect that the other poets who had their work plagiarized by this rogue had a similar experience.


Copyright 2005: Simply Haiku