A quick story about plagiarism, starring the Daily Mail!

On Tuesday of this week, SB Nation published my long, in-depth piece about Billy Dillon, a man who was about to sign with the Detroit Tigers when he was wrongly convicted of murder and then served 27 years in maximum security prison—a.k.a. Hell—before getting exonerated. I’ve been working on it on-and-off for two years, and intensely for the past couple of months.

On Wednesday, I got an email from a photo editor at the Daily Mail UK, asking for permission to use one of my photos for a similar story they were writing about Dillon. A little bit later, a different photo editor emailed me with the same request, and then linked to their story, which they had published.

It was a rewritten version of my story, complete with details only I could have known, and with nary a credit to me or SB Nation to show for it, save the very end, where they quote Dillon and mention my name once.

I emailed back, saying that perhaps I should get a credit and SB Nation too, since we worked for a long time on this and then the Daily Mail simply rewrote what we’d put together and passed it off as their own.

Then I emailed my editor at SB Nation about it. He wrote back, “Not right, but little we can do – register and link to you story in comments.”

So I did.

Then I went to Twitter to figure out what was up with this, and found myself increasingly agitated, so I shut myself down for the day.

I’ve yet to hear back from the Daily Mail, though they did add a teensy weensy link at the beginning of their story.

Then, today, back on Twitter, I saw first at Ed Yong’s feed and then later when a writing buddy, Justin Heckert, CC’d me on a tweet from another writer, that the Daily Mail has apparently been doing this for awhile with science journalism, too.

Kinda makes you wonder if maybe they’ve been doing this a lot to a lot of other people in a lot of other subject areas.

Oh, and about that comment I tried to leave at the Daily Mail’s version of my story? There are 14 comments under the story. Not one of them is mine. I tried again. I got a notice saying that they reviewed all comments before publishing them.

But my comments have yet to appear. And it seems they never will: I went back to check on it before publishing this post.

It now says, “We are no longer accepting comments on this article.”


P.S. A super nice person said they wanted to set the universe right by buying a copy of my book and asked where they could do so. I directed them here. In case … cough, cough … others may wish to also do so. And yeah, I feel totally capitalistic for tacking this onto the end here, but hey, a writer’s gotta eat, right?

8 Responses
  1. This is outrageous. I'm surprised your editor at SB Nation felt there was little they could do. Surely, emails from their end to editorial and/or corporate Mail people, if only for a matter of the-record, would be worth it. Also symptomatic for me of today's "type is cheap" era – the byline for the Daily Mail rip. I reads simply: Daily Mail Reporter.

  2. Andrea

    Yeah, this happens to us at LiveScience and Space.com all the time. We send cease-and-desist emails but never get any response. We basically can't go after them legally because we don't have the resources to fund a suit and I'm pretty sure the Daily Mail knows that and counts on that when the do this.

  3. @Andrea I'm sorry to hear it's that rampant at your end. I have actually sent a request into your site's PR folks. If someone wants to talk to me about it, maybe I can write up an item.

  4. Hey folks, thanks for the response. I'm realizing this is more rampant of a problem than anyone realized. I keep hearing more stories about it.

  5. James Sweet

    Re: resources to fund a suit… You'd have trouble making a suit stick anyway, as long as the prose itself is the Mail's own. After all, you can't copyright the news. If the BBC breaks a story, for example, there's nothing to stop CNN from reporting on that story.

    To be clear: From an ethical standpoint, what the Daily Mail is doing is absolutely appalling — there is a broad gray area here, but the Mail is miles from anything that might be called gray. However, I think you'd have a lot of trouble in a court of law.

  6. This is sad to hear and this seems to always happen. But it will be hard to make this suit stick. This is a problem with the court cases that needs to be fixed

  7. John

    This is crazy who would do that. I'm a lawyer my self i get a lot of complaints about this kinda stuff, But nothing like that that's just plain butt faces for you. i usually see, some one copied my report or, she took my photo, but still just WOW.