A couple of days ago, a blogger friend of mine sent a screenshot of two reviews sent by a friend of hers, who is also a blogger. The first screenshot shows a review for Ella Fox’s All That’s Left to Hold Onto and the next shows the same review by another reviewer. What is perplexing though is that the second review was an exact replica of the review posted by her friend.

Our first reaction was shock. Yes, we’ve heard of bloggers copying other other bloggers before but that doesn’t negate the feelings of disgust we felt at the blatant way this person is copying someone else’ review and passing it off as her own.

But that’s not where the story ended. Curious, we started looking into this person’s other reviews, and what we found was a treasure trove of plagiarized reviews after another.  Almost all of her reviews, especially reviews on popular books, are lifted from other people’s reviews. Most of them from people I personally know. Sometimes she would copy two or three reviews and combine their words and pass it off as hers. She has friends commenting and liking these reviews. And she thanks them as though she wrote them.

I can’t show you screenshots of all the reviews she copied from other people. I do however, can you show you a screenshot of my review for Kaleidoscope Hearts by Claire Contreras which copied almost word for word.

This was my review posted on Goodreads and on this blog, January 31st, 2015.

mine1mine2Mine3mine4

And this is the plagiarizer’s review she posted last October 29, 2015.

leila copyleila copy 2leila copy 3

She even copied my *swooooon down to the number of Os. I was flabbergasted. I don’t know this person. She doesn’t follow me and we’re not friends on Goodreads. The fact that she went out, copied my reviews as well as others, get likes and comments of “Fantastic review!” or “Well said!” pissed me off because I worked hard to articulate my feelings for this book. I thought about the things I wanted to say, to convey my love for the story. And then here’s this person who comes in, steals my words and pass it off as her own. And I wasn’t her only victim. Even her Goodreads profile summary, which has now been deleted along with her other social media, was copied as well.

As of last night, the number of GR reviewers and bloggers who had their reviews copied are around 20. Twenty people! The numbers could be higher since we only focused on the romance books she reviewed. This person reviews dystopian and graphic novels as well. How many more reviewers she copied is unknown since she deleted her profile on Goodreads along with the incriminating evidence.

Fortunately for me and my friends, and unfortunately for her, we have screenshots. As of this time, Goodreads have been contacted and those offensive reviews have now been taken down. According to GR’s Terms of Service, plagiarized materials, including reviews, are not allowed on their site. If proven, members who are guilty will be banned from the site for life.

What happened to me and a lot of my friends got me wondering though. How many Leila’s are out there? This wasn’t the first time this happened on the site and I don’t think it will be the last. Goodreads users have raised concerns of privacy on the site for a long time. Users have asked, repeatedly, to be given the ability to keep reviews private, viewable only by friends. But so far, those requests have fallen on deaf ears, it seems. Their reason has always been that GR is a site that relies on user interaction and recommendation. In that spirit, they argue that reviews, regardless of whether you have your profile set to private, would still be viewed by the community as a whole. Putting in more stringent privacy measures would negate that philosophy.

That doesn’t sound very comforting, isn’t it? What can you do? Stop reviewing altogether? That doesn’t seem right. I love interacting on Goodreads. A lot of the people I’ve interacted there have become my friends in real life. A lot of the reviewers she copied were her “friends” on GR and on Facebook, too. Having your reviews copied by someone you’ve interacted with is just horrible. I personally felt betrayed and violated, and I haven’t even interacted with this person. Can you imagine how those friends she plagiarized felt? I don’t claim to be the most eloquent reviewer out there but these are my words, my feelings, and they’re very personal to me.

I couldn’t help but think about her motives. I mean, why? Why go out of your way to copy other people. Reviews are not obligatory at all. If you have a hard time expressing yourself, then you don’t have to review. If you must, then just say, “I love this book!” or “This book is awesome!” and move on. There’s absolutely no reason for someone to plagiarize a review. None. You don’t get paid for it. There’s no review police who will knock on your door demanding that you write a review or else. None.

Unless, of course, you’re looking at this as a way to become popular. On a site like Goodreads, visibility and popularity is tied with how many likes or comments you get per review. The more likes you get, the more “popular” and “visible” your reviews get. Not only that, being popular on Goodreads would give a reader some clout on sites like NetGalley. And yes, the more popular you are, the more chances you have to getting contacted by authors for ARCs and such.

There’s nothing wrong with that. We all love to read and we all love to talk about books we read. If you want to achieve top reviewer status, by all means, knock yourself out. That’s totally fine. But what upsets me is the fact that there are people who would take a shortcut to achieve it. For most people, reaching top reviewer status takes many months, even years of interaction and faithful reviewing. I joined GR August, 2012. I didn’t have any friends then. I started from scratch. I had no idea how to use the site. I do love books and I love talking about them. Thankfully, I found Kristen Ashley’s group and my first friends on GR (who I’m still friends to this day) came from that group. I finally figured out how to use the site for reviewing but still, I didn’t become top reviewer overnight. But I digress.

Whatever motive this person has for plagiarizing reviews, whether it’s driven by her desire to get more friends and becoming top reviewer on Goodreads, or just plain ignorance, it’s still wrong. These aren’t “just reviews.” These are personal thoughts and feelings we have for a certain book. Having your personal thoughts stolen by someone who thinks she can get away with it is abhorrent to me. It’s even more detestable if indeed the reason why this person did this was to gain popularity and influence among other users, authors and publishers.

I thought long and hard about writing this post. This isn’t a witch hunt against this person. I have no intention of contacting her personally and berating her. I’ve already done my part by flagging all her reviews and reporting her to GR. I’ve done my part. Hopefully, it would be a long time until we encounter this problem again. I say again because unfortunately, there are still people out there who would have no qualms about copying other people’s work and taking credit for it.

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ETA: I’m trying to track down the bloggers and reviewers who were affected by this. In the meantime, I’ll list their names here. Not sure if I can link all of them. I might get flagged by WP for having too many links in one post. Anyway, here are the reviewers who had their reviews stolen.

  1. Lana of The Dirty Girl Romance Book Blog
  2. Feifei of The Book Vigilante Reviews
  3. Wendy’s Book Thoughts
  4. YaYa of After Dark Book Lovers
  5. Dusti Hanrahan
  6. Heather the QueenofBooks
  7. Rachel of Rachel Reads Ravenously
  8. Val⚜Shameless, Skanky, Filter-less, & Not Sorry
  9. Sleepless Readmore
  10. Give Me Books
  11. Angie of Angie and Jessica’s Dreamy Reads
  12. DKristin of Kris and Vik Book Therapy Cafe
  13. Pavlina loves Dex ❤❤
  14. ~ Becs ~
  15. Jxxx ♥ Pink Lady ♥
  16. Lauren
  17. Aestas of Aestas Book Blog
  18. Fictional BookHos
  19. Marla Mei
  20. Barbara
  21. Maya
  22. Nikki ღ Navareus
  23. Salvatore
  24. Annie
  25. ◊♦ Naomi
  26. Mysza
  27. Beverly of Reading is Sexy Blog
  28. Christie of Smoking Hot Book Blog
  29. Patrycja of Smoking Hot Book Blog

Note that some of these reviewers got copied not once but twice and even thrice. And a lot of people on this list are friends with her on GR.