Fearless Leader: About Ninc’s Legal Fund

- by Laura Resnick

The Ninc Legal Fund was conceived and implemented by my predecessor as Ninc president, Pat McLaughlin.

Say, for example, you’re a professional novelist who wakes up one day to discover four emails in your inbox from readers all saying, “I just bought a new novel, called A Breathtaking Work of Artistry, by Vituperative Author… and as soon as I started reading it, I happened to notice that it’s virtually identical to your 2004 novel, The Only Tale. In fact, the book is so similar that whole scenes seem to be identical, almost line for line… Do you know about this?”

So you go to your local bookstore, buy a copy of Vituperative Author’s novel, and you start reading it. After a couple of chapters, you feel sick to your stomach… because you wrote much of this novel which has Vituperative’s name all over it, and for which Vituperative is taking credit and getting paid. You strongly suspect that Vituperative “wrote” this novel by keeping a copy of your work propped open on his keyboard and typing whole sections of your book into a manuscript that he then put his name on.

This is plagiarism. And it’s not a little thing. It’s a HUGE thing. This is theft—of your livelihood, of the means by which you earn your living, of your intellectual property, of your unique creation, of your work. This is morally wrong and legally actionable.

So what the hell do you do now?

In fact, most of us have no idea what we’d do next. And we hope never to need to know. We fervently hope never to be plagiarized. But if we are…

Then the Ninc Legal Fund is there to help us out.

This program entitles a Ninc member to apply for up to two billable hours of consultation per year with the Ninc Legal Fund attorney, at Ninc’s expense.

Two billable hours with a prominent legal attorney may not solve your problem (actually, in some cases it will; but in many, it won’t), but it will help you sort out what your legal rights, obligations, and options are, and what course(s) of action you should pursue. Via the Ninc Legal Fund, you can get this initial help and advice from an expert without digging into your meager personal budget (and the fiscal means of most novelists are indeed meager). In some cases, these two hours will be all you need, and you simply won’t have to spend your own money on a legal matter, thanks to Ninc. In other cases, you may have to spend quite a bit of your own money to pursue a complex legal problem; but this initial consultation will help you decide how to spend that money wisely and efficiently.

Ninc’s Legal Fund attorney is David Bruce Wolf, a prominent literary lawyer and partner in the New York firm of Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams, & Sheppard LLP. Pat McLaughlin, I, and the 2007 Board of Directors chose him to manage the Ninc Legal Fund and represent members who apply to it, after we went through a lengthy process of researching and interviewing literary lawyers. Although we wound up interviewing several very impressive candidates, we found David to be the best match for our specific needs, as well as tremendously enthusiastic about the Fund. Since joining our team, he has participated in a recent Ninc national conference, where he met Ninc members and answered questions about his work and how the Fund operates.

In cases where there are two members who have a legal problem with each other, or in cases of some other conflict of interest which prevents David Bruce Wolf from advising a member, we also have a shortlist of additional literary lawyers whom we researched, interviewed, and found very well qualified, whom Ninc will contact and ask to work with the member via the Legal Fund.

In cases where multiple members have the same legal problem, the Board will consider letting members pool Legal Fund hours. Say, for example, that a literary agent has embezzled from many of his clients, 7 of whom belong to Ninc. Those 7 Ninc members could request, for example, that a total of 14 billable hours be covered by the Fund to address this one problem on a joint basis.

Other examples, besides plagiarism, of instances where a Ninc member might need to use this service: Your former agent has stopped forwarding your checks to you; your publisher has stopped issuing your checks; your publisher is in such serious breach of contract that you need a lawyer’s help; you’ve been wrongfully accused of plagiarism or copyright infringement; some crackpot scam-artist agent or vanity-press is suing you after you advised aspiring writers at a conference not to deal with them; someone you’ve never heard of claims you based your latest novel on their life story and is suing you; without notifying you, your former publisher is reprinting a novel of yours for which the licensing rights reverted to you three years ago. And so on

In my upcoming Ninc blogs, I’ll talk more about what we offer and what we do in Ninc.

4 comments

  1. that is a wonderful service you provide to your members. It is a shame though that someone may have to use it.

  2. Sounds like you have a great organization.

  3. What a great idea! I don’t think many authors take that into much consideration. Especially considering the number of copies authors send out at any given time just hoping to make it with a publisher, this is a hugely important issue. Glad to see there are people out there looking out for the authors of the world.

  4. Laura, that sounds great! Any kind of theft shouldn’t go unnoticed or unpunished. I know many authors would be clueless if they are ever caught in a situation like this. WTG!