Two months ago, a hashtag started trending in the publishing community: #CopyPasteCris. A growing number of readers and authors accused Brazilian author Cristiane Serruya of plagiarizing other authors’ work, beginning with Courtney Milan’s Royal Love and The Duchess War and growing to include more than 40 romance authors and almost 100 titles – including 10 of Nora Roberts’ books.
Now Roberts is taking legal action: She sued Serruya for copyright infringement on Wednesday morning. The lawsuit was filed in Serruya’s home city of Rio de Janeiro and requests at least $25,000 in damages.
“If you plagiarize, I will come for you,” Roberts said in an interview for The Associated Press. “If you take my work, you will pay for it and I will do my best to see you don’t write again.”
“A lot of the other writers involved in this, they don’t have the money to fight it,” Ms. Roberts told the New York Times. “I do have the money.”
Serruya told the Associated Press that she had not received word of the lawsuit, but that she did not personally copy Roberts. She reported she “could not guarantee that no part [of her books] was copied,” however, due to her use of ghostwriters.
Serruya’s initial response to the allegations on Twitter also denied that she had ever personally committed plagiarism, instead blaming ghostwriters hired on Fiverr.
“I just woke up to distressing news that my work has plagiarism from other authors. I am taking down all the works I did with a ghostwriter on Fiverr – who btw has closed the account – until I have made certain this is solved,” she tweeted in February.
Serruya has since left Twitter and deleted her account.
Once the allegations were revealed, Serruya’s novel was withdrawn from the Romance Writers’ of America’s RITA awards and most of Serruya’s books were pulled from Amazon, though many remain available on other platforms.
As Roberts notes on her blog, readers are often the first line of defense against plagiarism. It was a reader who first informed Roberts that fellow romance author Janet Dailey had plagiarized her work, prompting Roberts’ first copyright infringement lawsuit in 1997. And again in 2019, it was a reader who discovered similarities between Milan’s work and Serruya’s, alerting Milan to the potential theft.
“It’s almost always a reader,” Roberts writes on her blog. “Readers have beat the drum against the scammers on the Kindle platform, helping to alert writers. Now both readers and writers – traditionally published, indie, hybrid – who are honest and hard-working are digging deep into this morass to uncover the muck.”
“I’m so grateful to the readers who sounded the alarm, to the writers who are diving deep, to all helping to expose this ugly, ugly underbelly that contaminates what we – writers and readers – love and respect,” she continues.
Readers looking for a relatively quick resolution aren’t likely to find one: Saulo Daniel Lopez, a lawyer specializing in authors’ rights, told the AP that it could take as long as 10 years for a case like this to be decided in Brazilian courts.