One of the ChinaHush readers Jackie wrote to me today suggesting me to write a blog post on Vivibear. So who is Vivibear? Her real name is Weiwei Zhang (张薇薇). Born in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, now married to Sweden, a Chinese-Swedish author became famous by “writing” internet novels. She published sixteen novels in Chinese. All of these novels were later found with various degrees of plagiarism!
Internet is booming in China for the past years, as more and more Chinese people got online, internet literature became very popular among the Chinese netizens. Talented writers can easily publish their articles, novels online and deliver them to the readers. Jackie shared her views on this.
One is the current phenomenon of internet literature, which is ordinary Chinese being able to publish their stories online for the first time, viewable by anyone who has an internet connection. It has lowered the barrier substantially for writing and publishing light novels — as you can see, even middle school students and 70 year old men can put their work up. If there is enough interest and popularity, these books have a good chance of being published.
In a sense it is both a blessing and a curse. Although it opened up more opportunities for aspiring authors, it also allows more trash to be published and read than before.
With the development of internet comes the problem of plagiarism, and Vivibear is an extreme though unsurprising result of this lack of quality control and ethics. Internet articles even blog posts were copied and pasted without trackback links and even without any mention of the original authors. These are common occurrences on the Chinese internet. What’s worse is even many of the novels are part copied from another early published work word for word. According to wikipeida Vivbear was able to avoid being discovered for plagiarism until January, 2009. Before that, “nine of her books have gone into print and prominently placed on bestselling lists at all major Chinese online book retailers. More than a million copies have been sold in less than 4 years.”
Jackie: I believe the stats on the wikipedia website is outdated. The number Vivibear copied has exceeded 400 authors and 500 articles, some of what she copied included requiems and eulogies. Her Taiwanese publisher immediately canceled her contracts, but the mainland publisher kept on renewing her contract, despite of protests from readers and fans of authors she copied. The publisher even tried to profit from the publicity she got when she was whammed for plagiarism by announcing, in their marketing piece for her new books, that she was reported by media worldwide.
This video posted on Sina blog told the story of how Vivabear’s plagiarizing was discovered.[pro-player width=’400′ height=’300′ type=’video’]http://www.chinahush.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/vivibear.flv[/pro-player]
Vivibear publish over 10 bestseller novels like “Lan Ling”. Because of her writing of pastime novels, she was called “pastime queen” and “new generation female writer”. In last year’s popularity ranking of the Chinese original writers, she was ranked number one among 20 selected authors. Until Jan 30th 2009 one netizen posted a post on Tianya accused Vivibear of plagiarizing. Netizen said, when he was reading one of her novels he noticed the writing was mixed with Chinese simplified characters and Chinese traditional characters. He was curious, so he did a search on Baidu and Google. The result was shocking he found out not only her writing was similar with other published works but there are also paragraphs were copied word for word from other novels. For example Vivibear’s “Search for the Dragon” (寻龙记) had 13 places were plagiarized from famous internet novel “Those Things in Ming Dynasty” (明朝那些事). After this more and more netizens volunteered joining the comparison effort, to search for evidence of Vivibear’s plagiarizing. In less than a month netizens found Vivibear plagiarized 173 authors’ 203 literatures. Even though there were many plagiarizing incidents in China in recent years, plagiarizing in such large scale was the first. No wonder people say Vivibear might have broken the Gunnies world record of plagiarizing. All of her plagiarizing works were from works of internet writers, most of them are not very well-known. However diligent netizens still found the plagiarizing text and compiled a huge list of evidence.
The example exposed on the original post on Tianya was:
From the original novel “Those Things in Ming Dynasty” (明朝那些事)
vs in Vivibear’s “Search for the Dragon” (寻龙记)
Netizens posted a huge list of compiled evidence on Baidu forum. Here is one example.
Publish time：2007-09-01 19:31:46
Publish time：2007-05-21 14:59:31
So what are some of the actions taken for Vivibear’s plagiarism?
1. Jjwxc.net affirmed plagiarism, says clean up is impossible because portion of plagiarized text is too much. They deleted Vivbear’s account.
2. Myfreshnet: Accusation of plagiarism is confirmed. The accused would not give any apology or explanation. Zhang’s ID and personal column have been deleted.
3. Princess Monthly announced, Issues of Zhang’s latest novel “Fantasy Knight” and “101th Time Runaway Bride” have been delayed due to unspecified reasons.
4. Core Publishing Group: All unsold books by Vivbear have pulled off-shelf. From now on, we will not publish any more of her novels. Please stop all related discussions.
5. yueduji: The CEO has leaned the situation, the company reserves the right to sue Vivbear for plagiarism.
6. On April 26th 2009, Sweden media “The Local” posted “Swedish-Chinese author accused of plagiarism”
According to wikipedia, Chinese Copyright Office has not given any replies when questioned about this. Due to difficulty of international lawsuit, no legal actions have been taken against Vivibear yet. On June 1, 2009, Ji Yi Fang (记忆坊), the brother company of Princess Monthly, together with Hua Wen Publisher (华文出版社), released Weiwei Zhang’s “Fantasy Knight”, which had previously been exposed for plagiarism. Marketing campaigns for the new book present news reports of Weiwei Zhang’s plagiarism in various media outlets as a sign of the author’s popularity. And Vivibear continues writing in her on-line blog as usual.
Apparently China’s copy right law is still deficient. Internet literature is yet another category among many other types of intellectual properties that needs to be better protected.
Jackie: I think for internet literature to further develop, it needs to redefine and reorganize itself. For example, a lot of sites now actually allow writer to post fan fictions for commercial purposes… i.e. one must pay to read this. I am fairly certain these writers haven’t paid their royalties to the original authors, and if this occurred in any other continent, they would have gotten their pants sued off.
Thanks Jackie for the suggestion and comments on the interesting Vivibear plagiarism phenomenon. “It reveals so much of the mentality of some of Chinese youths, the government stance on issues like this, and the mode of operations for a lot of business in China”