Amazon self-publishing plagiarism dispute highlights challenges of digital publishing age

unearthingA couple of weeks ago, I was notified by an e-mail from Duncan Jones about a pattern of alleged plagiarism and piracy by a seller on Amazon. Over the last couple of months, an Amazon seller named Peter Michelsen reposted several freely-distributed Internet titles, such as The Unearthing (actually by Steve Karmazenuk, and available for free download on-line).

According to posts on a forum on the blog of Drew Wagar, another Michelsen-pirated author, the piracy was first noticed on January 30, Over the course of the following week, Amazon removed a number of these titles (and responded to Karmazenuk on February 8th).

Though Jones’s email on 2/7 complained that Amazon had not taken any action against Michelsen’s seller account, another post to Wagar’s forum noted that the account was terminated as of 2/12. However, Karmazenuk posted to his own blog on the 19th that the matter of The Unearthing still had not been dealt with to his satisfaction, and he was giving Amazon one more week before getting a lawyer.

Though the Michelsen matter seems to have been largely wrapped up, it points out one of the problems posed by the ease of copying in the electronic age, and the size handicap companies like Amazon have in responding to it.

We’ve seen Amazon acting slowly or in self-contradictory ways before, such as in the case of the pedophile how-to manual; like many large companies, there is so much bureaucracy that it can be hard to get anything done quickly. But by comparison, individual “authors” who want to self-publish plagiarized work can do so with just a few mouse clicks. It means authors are going to have to be vigilant for piracy even on the most trusted sites, in addition to all else they have to do.

Can a better solution be found? Whether it can or not, it joins the host of other challenges the publishing industry is facing as the publishing market continues its metamorphosis from paper into electrons.

About Chris Meadows (4149 Articles)
TeleRead Editor Chris Meadows has been writing for us---except for a brief interruption---since 2006. Son of two librarians, he has worked on a third-party help line for Best Buy and holds degrees in computer science and communications. He perfectly epitomizes TeleRead's motto: "For geeks who love books---and book-lovers who love gadgets." Chris lives in Indianapolis and is active in the gamer community.

14 Comments on Amazon self-publishing plagiarism dispute highlights challenges of digital publishing age

  1. Hello Chris,

    I’ve dealt with this extensively after being plagiarized by the most prolific of the bunch. You can see my original posting about this at

    A complete list of this guy’s plagiaries that we’ve uncovered to date is posted at

    Also, you might want to visit where I run a combination essay and satire site dealing with this as a way to keep awareness up re internet plagiarism.

    May I post about your situation to alert others?

  2. Hi Chris, a great article, and very timely since I unknowingly accepted a plagiarized story into my magazine, The Horror Zine, two years ago. The story is titled The Dead Wall and the real author is Michael Wolf.

    The Dead Wall was plagiarized by David Boyer, who (at the time) used the alias David Byron. I researched David Boyer and found out that he has plagiarized so many stories and books, and he even submitted a plagiarized story to The Horror Writers Association and almost won a Bram Stoker Award for a story he did not even write! The story was Electrocuting the Clowns by Ferrel “Rick” Moore. Fortunately The Horror Writers Association was alerted in time so no award was given.

    David Boyer uses many aliases, and among them are: David Byron, Dylan Cook, Christian Loche, Leo Wolfe, Tobey King, Jack Sawyer, Jack Burnett, Kelli Kelso, and Kelli Ross.

    Chris, please email me for more details about this online preditor. Knowledge is our only defense against plagiarism.

    Now David Boyer is attempting to publish books as a “celebrity interviewer.” He feels it is more legit than stealing but he uses fake names to get interviews plus he never tells anyone of his sordid history. And now he wants to target the Christian Fiction market.

    But don’t take my word for it. Below are articles about David Boyer (or about some of his aliases):
    Documentation from the Horror Writer’s Association (who give the Bram Stoker Awards) under the article titled Stoker-Recommended Works Removed for Plagiarism:

    Here is the warning on Absolute Writer under Writers Beware:


    Something Wicked

    A victim speaks

    Another victim speaks

    The Rusty Nail

    About Darkened Doorways:

    About Vast Horizens on Science Fiction Writers Association:

    Here is B. Thoughtful’s website where evidence against David Boyer is carefully collected and saved:

  3. In answer – or is it rebuttal – to these accusations, they come from what my legal rep has now referred to as ”internet terrorists,” which are all included in a law suit being prepared by me for launch in April. Keep in mind, in the age of so called ”social networking,” an innocent party can be made to LOOK guilty, when in all reality most of or all of the accusations are unfounded.
    In addition, the art of copy/paste, screen image theft, internet stalking, on line harassment and libel, and slander are not the actions of a professional writer, but the psychobabble ramblings of internet predators whose only goal in life – instead of having one of their own – is to destroy someone else’s life entirely, for the sake of being an” on line crusader” for the horror fiction genre, which is a much maligned genre as is. Now you know one reason it is a maligned genre; it earned that reputation HONESTLY.
    Unlike the people who are trying to ruin my life on a daily basis. My advice? GET A LIFE and leave mine alone. There are bigger fish to fry than me, and if I am such a bad person, why I worth all of this trouble?

  4. I’d pay more attention to Mr. Boyer if I wasn’t one of the people he’d plagiarized!

    In his particular case, what makes it so much worse is that he refuses to confess that he’s ever plagiarized other writers, even though the documentation is bulletproof. He will admit to “using” another writer’s work or “inadvertently using” as opposed to plagiarizing.

    Also, his methods of plagiary are perhaps the most instructive I have seen for all writers, editors and publishers to study. One of his practices as a “publisher” was to solicit manuscripts from writers and then to steal them, publishing them under his name or one of his many aliases. Which is why so many organizations in the US have issued warnings against him.

    Also, he stole stories from Storymania and published him under one of his many names. He was so prolific at this that his case is worth studying.

    Another interesting tactic of his has been to blame his victims who have been spreading the word to protect other writers, trying to portray them as “stalkers” when in fact he was the original predator. This is known as the “I’m a victim” tactic.

    All in all, any writer, editor or publisher who really wants to understand how to protect themselves from plagiarists, should devote careful study to the case of David Boyer.

  5. David Boyer stole stories from Jane Timm Baxter. The stories were under contract with Daverana Enterprises for a collection by Ms. Baxter that would include reprint and original material. When both Ms. Baxter and her publisher demanded that the book be removed (and indeed did manage to persuade lulu to remove the title), Boyer dumped abuse on both of them that continues to this day.

  6. I read David Boyer’s post with interest. Ferrel “Rick” Moore is indeed a victim, as Boyer deliberately stole Mr. Moore’s story, plastered one of his aliases on it (this time as David Byron) and sold it to Something Wicked Magazine here:

    Something Wicked

    Not to mention sending it to The Horror Writers Association here:

    Documentation from the Horror Writer’s Association (who give the Bram Stoker Awards) under the article titled Stoker-Recommended Works Removed for Plagiarism:

    The sort of thing that David Boyer posted on this blog is the same sort of thing that he emails to me on a daily basis, except he uses curse words and calls me names in his emails. He has temper tantrums when he gets caught.

    It is everyone else’s fault in his opinion, and he calls me a stalker because I am trying to help others avoid becoming a victim just like I have been and just like Ferrel “Rick” Moore has been. Again, it is everyone else’s fault, because if it weren’t for us putting the word out, Boyer could continue to steal and victimize in peace and in relative obscurity.

    David Boyer’s threats are empty (mainly because he is guilty of all accusations), but he is hoping that you on this blog don’t realize it and would perhaps take him seriously and become so afraid that you will stop pursuing him and allow David to continue his crimes at will.

    Ferrel is quite correct, as a case in study, David Boyer would be an interesting case study, mainly because he does not feel he has done anything morally wrong, which is amazing to others who possess a conscience.

    He could very well be a true sociopath, who does not have the ability to have empathy for others and feels entitled to the limelight no matter how he gets there. He does not understand that it is morally wrong to steal stories and books and e-books. He feels entitled to the limelight but doesn’t understand that honest people work to get there.

    Ever since David Boyer submitted a plagiarized story to my magazine, The Horror Zine (titled The Dead Wall and the real author has been found and it is Michael Wolf), I have been trying to warn others.

    I want David Boyer to stop victimizing others, to stop stealing, and to stop hurting people. Since I cannot get David Boyer to understand that stealing is morally wrong, all I can do it to warn others. It is the others who have to change, not Boyer, because Boyer cannot change his nature.

    In the meantime, please be aware that David Boyer is now trying a new tactic. He is now attempting to victimize Christian writers, since he feels that they are more trusting and since he feels that they are not aware that his name is plastered all over the horror magazines.

    So, I expect Boyer will simply choose a new alias and go after more victims. This is what he always does. But we will do our best to continue to keep on top of things and to learn his new identities as he makes them up and to continue to warn others.

    Ferrel “Rick” Moore and myself have been victimized by David Boyer and we want to help others to avoid what we have endured.

    Knowlege is power. If anyone has been victimized by David Boyer or any of his aliases, please contact me at

    Some of his aliases include: Dave Boyer, David Byron, Dylan Cook, Doc Byron, Iron Dave, Joe Hammond, Christian Loche, Tobey King, Jack Sawyer, Leo Wolfe, Jack Burnett, Kelli Kelso, Kelli Ross, and there is a new alias that we will annnounce as soon as we verify it.

    If you are in the horror community or the Christian writing community, please be vigilant. David also wants to target service men and women in the armed forces. He has gotten to the point where he is obsessed with pulling one over on people. He is determined to prove he is smarter than the rest of the world by getting away with things.

    Now he sees himself as a “celebrity interviewer” but uses a fake name to obtain these interviews and also neglects to tell them anything about his sordid history so that is also a fraud because the celebrities have no idea who and what he really is. He tries to get interviews and then compile them into books and sell them under one of his fake names.

    He manages to do this by self-publishing these books through Lulu or Create Space. That is how come he flies under the radar so often: he self publishes.

    All of Mr. Boyer’s crimes (and there are pages and pages) have been carefully documented (with screen prints), and the evidence against him can be found here:

    If you have any questions about David Boyer or any of his aliases, please feel free to email me at

    If you doubt me in any way, or if you are inclined to believe David’s side of the story, please see my documentation:

    Here is the warning on Absolute Writer under Writers Beware:


    Something Wicked

    A victim speaks

    Another victim speaks

    Boyer’s Mean Tirade Against Ramsey Campbell:

    The Rusty Nail

    About Darkened Doorways:

    About Vast Horizens on Science Fiction Writers Association:


    Here is B. Thoughtful’s website where evidence against David Boyer is carefully collected and saved:

  7. “Amazon self-publishing plagiarism dispute highlights challenges of digital publishing age”

    How is this a particular challenge of the digital age ? Plagiarism was surely a lot easier pre-digital, unless we are considering typing a major obstacle ? Who was checking ? who could read through thousands of potential plagiarist books ? It was purely a lottery to be discovered.

    Surely plagiarism is FAR more difficult to get away with in the digital age than before, because there is so much software available to check texts across publications.

  8. Unfortunately, plagiarism happens in all mediums. Boyer’s MO has been to steal quality fiction from unknown writers, usually by copying and pasting directly off sites like Storymania. Then he publishes them elsewhere and takes credit for it.

    Boyer feels (and correctly most times) that the unknown writers will not take recourse if they discover him, and most times they won’t discover him at all, again due to the variety and quantity of ebooks and e-magazines available in this modern electronic age.

    So, while there are certainly electronic measures to try to prevent plagiarism, the sheer volume that the electronic age allows for, and also the great variety of new talent brought to the limelight by the electronic age, make it an ideal mechanism for a plagiarist like David Boyer to succeed with.

  9. Jeani – It is still far easier to check for plagiarism now in the digital age than before using specialist software similar to that developed for teachers to check for cheating in their homework.

  10. Until now, I found piracy a more serious issue than plagiarism. My novels, especially the out of print ones, pop up all the time on alerts.

    Until I encountered Boyer and then the Cook’s Source debacle, I thought plagiarism was a lot more rare than it has turned out to be.

    While it is getting easier to find, it is also proving difficult to get rid of. One of the reasons seems to be the large number of places to bring it out again. Another is that most authors and small publishers do not have the funds to go after the individuals in court, especially the chronic offenders like Boyer.

  11. First they made e-book publishing involve a lot of review and approval, and people bitched about how it took too long.

    Then they made it “one click to publish” and eliminated the review, and now people bitch about how easy it is to pirate or plagarize.

    The pendulum swings again…

  12. ‘Keep in mind, in the age of so called ”social networking,” an innocent party can be made to LOOK guilty, when in all reality most of or all of the accusations are unfounded.’

    No, they are not.

  13. I would rather have the wait time while they examine things than have the flash it’s there opportunities for plagiarists and pirates.

    When I took some of my long out of print titles to kindle the first time, I had a hell of a time getting them to accept that I was the rights owner. It annoyed me and I bitched about it. However, I also appreciated their caution.

  14. You have another one like him on Robert L. Baupader. Where I had to deal with Emma accusing me of plagiarism I never stole someone’s work in my life in that sense.

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