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This guy is like the Typhoid Harry of plagiarism. Definitely should be quarantined from all ports of lit mag entry on a permanent basis. I saw bits of the emerging story this week; thanks, Becky for gathering all the pieces (although there's probably even more out there, he's "prolific" in his craft as well as shameless).

While it's great he's been outed, I wish people would be as quick to actually name lit mags that indulge in suspect behavior. It seems even when writers are wronged repeatedly, they don't name the abusers most times, perhaps worried about some possible blacklisting by more legitimate publications.

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Just received a submission from this guy. Thanks everyone for alerting us to his plagiarism.

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In all academic fields I know of (science) a plagiarist would be banned from submitting future work. I don't know why it should be any different in the literary world. The sole reasonable exception would be someone less than 25 (when the brain is fully formed) who plagiarizes, and in that case I would support banning them for a decade. I think history shows that these folks don't stop even after they're caught and there are plenty of overworked editors who don't have the time to check every submission's legitimacy.

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I'd appreciate it if someone would enlighten me as to why a writer would plagiarize poems. Kucera makes/made this a habit. With poetry, most of the reward is in doing the writing. There's very little money in it and few poets become famous. I don't get why anyone would delight in seeing a poem accepted and published when it was actually created by someone else. Clues, anyone?

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I keep having the nagging thought that I've encountered/known this person, and that the name familiarity isn't just that it's also the name of a famous ski racer. I'm pretty darn sure I've run into him on the PNW SFF convention circuit. Maybe not, but....

In any case, my understanding is that the creator of Moksha, the submission management software used by a lot of SFF mags, has blocked this person from being able to use it. There are apparently further methods to use that particular SMS for enforcing a block on someone. I'm pretty sure that Neil Clarke has configured the Clarkesworld Management Software (another one popular in SFF) to do much the same--he's apparently set it up to reject AI submissions that it detects. Who knows about Submittable...but if Moksha can do it, Submittable should be able to as well.

That is one means of enforcing blocks on plagarists. At this point, I am not wildly sympathetic with plagarists and figure they should be blocked from publishing under that name.

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While it's a very good thing that this plagiarist has been outed, I am fascinated by his finetuned sense of what editors want. In other words, he seems to know precisely which works to plagiarize. How many of us could say, "This poem will be picked up by at least two or three other magazines"? He should teach a workshop on submissions--except that he'd probably rather plagiarize someone else's workshop on submissions. Sigh. More seriously, plagiarizing whole works is reasonably easy to check, assuming these are online publications, not print-only publications. (I hesitate to post this, as the eager plagiarist will now know to comb through print mags for his next prey.) While I hate to burden editors with additional responsibilities, yeah, they should at least do a search.

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Who is this dude? It would be interesting to try to track down him down ... to uncover him ...

According to the biography of this "John Kucera (John Siepkes)," he "was educated at Carlow University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania." and presently lives in Phoenix. He does apparently have a linkedIn profile as a " Book Author -- freelance editor/writer" and lists an author's website which my antivirus flagged as a possibly untrustworthy site (johnkucerabooksblog@wordpress.com).

With a search of "John Siepkes," the first listing is an eviction case in Maricopa County from June 2023. (Sorry to hear that dude -- noone should be thrown out of their home ...). There are other court cases kisted on other sites (cause of case unclear). He also has a pinterest account under this name -- and other publications.

In a complaint John Sipkes lodged on the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce site, he wrote: "As someone who has worked his entire life and who also has a Master's Degree and who has been employed by a school district for the past twelve years, it troubles me when an employee of a store assumes I am stealing, ..." (https://www.chamberofcommerce.com/united-states/arizona/phoenix/convenience-store/2002168892-circle-k) So -- if John Siepkes is working in the public schools ...

(Of note: Wild Word, Lothlorien and other journals have totally removed his work that a google search lists ...)

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I very much agree with the advice from Identity Theory. Though, I'll suggest if one has worked with a writer a number of times, then vetting their work is likely not as necessary. But, if it's someone a publisher has never worked with, then it's indeed a good idea to throw a few lines in to Google to *try* and ensure 1) the work isn't previously published and 2) is original. And I italicize "try" because it's not a foolproof method, most especially as regards detecting plagiarism.

Back when I was editing the boutique and the laboratories, I'd vet the work of writers I was largely unfamiliar with before acceptance and *also* before posting. Reason being, I ran a backlog. Herein, I found a few poets used that window of time between acceptance and publication as an opportunity to place the work elsewhere, despite a clear statement in my guidelines regarding First Serial rights. And, while I never had to deal with a plagiarist, I did have to deal with a half dozen or so poets flouting my guidelines, one of whom was placing the same pieces in multiple journals, many of which--like myself--either explicitly sought First Serial rights or clearly stated they didn't publish reprints.

Kucera, it's worth noting, wasn't just plagiarizing work, but also placing the pieces in multiple journals. Which makes me think, if someone is flouting a journal's guidelines regarding rights, then it could *potentially* be symptomatic of other, more problematic issues regarding how they're conducting themselves in the lit scene. For, when publishers wish to provide their audience with not just original, but new, previously unread work, writers who habitually flout rights like Kucera are treating the publisher as a means to an end in terms of self-promotion. In so doing, they not only breach publisher's trust, but also disregard the publisher's audience by providing them "reruns" of work they may have already read elsewhere. Moreover, it slights publishers when it comes to having their journals credited on the acknowledgment page of any future collection where they lose out on the free promotion that such acknowledgments provide. None of this is considered by individuals such as Kucera, and it's that lack of consideration that should set of some alarm bells with publishers, I believe.

All that in mind, had such vetting been more the standard, then Kucera would have likely been outed far sooner, wherein fewer writers would have had their plagiarized works published under his name . . . in multiple journals! I personally found the Bruce Bond piece he lifted an especially easy catch, given he did little else to the poem but retitle it. When I Googled lines from that piece it came right up as being published in The Hudson Review under Bond's name. And that plagiarized version appeared in at least four different journals (i.e. OneArt, Literary Yard, Sparks of Calliope, and Ghost Writer Inside). This suggests that that there may be a larger systemic issue (or issues) that Kucera inadvertently exposed through his self-serving behavior.

As to whether publishers need to wrestle with plagiarism vs. fair use, I think if a publisher finds themselves wrestling with those two concepts, then it's probably best to decline the work. For, fair use is an extremely arcane area of the law, and unless publishers (or one of their journal staff) have a legal background, they'd probably do best to not try to delineate between whether a suspect work fails the plagiarism test but manages to pass legal muster as fair use. Plagiarism is a violation of professional standards, not legal ones, and it's the former--in my mind at least--that publishers should endeavor to uphold first and foremost. And I sense all these many incidents with Kucera illustrate why such standards need to be treated more seriously.

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SOURCE: Published by the EIC of Sparks of Calliope: - https://sparksofcalliope.com/2024/01/17/it-was-bound-to-happen-eventually/

It was bound to happen eventually… January 17, 2024 ~ Randal A. Burd, Jr.

Dear Reader,

As a literary journal, there is often more risk than reward, but as a labor of love we carry on. The more cynical among us might even agree that misfortune strikes eventually should you travel any road long enough. As an editor, you really want pick the diamonds in the rough, and while you try to vet every submission you receive maticulously, you tell yourself that you can’t possibly catch everything. So, while I have tried to do right by you and will continue to do so, it seems that on one occasion I failed. You see… there is a plagiarist among us.

On September 22, 2023, I published two poems entitled “Harbor” and “Dislocated” allegedly written by a Mr. John Kucera (aka John Siepkes). And while they say imitation is the best form of flattery, these poems were copied with only a couple word changes from poems published in The Hudson Review entitled “Neilah; Creature” by Bruce Bond and in Claw and Blossom entitled “The Q & A Section” by Dorsía Smith Silva. This is intellectual property theft on the part of Mr. Kucera. I am profoundly sorry for the editorial oversight and hope Mr. Kucera is appropriately ashamed of himself.

I am replacing Mr. John Kucera’s plagarized work with links to the original poems and removing Mr. Kucera from our list of contributors. I commend Mr. Bond and Professor Silva on the quality of their poems and extend my apology to them as well.

I am grateful to the editor of another literary journal who also inadvertantly published a plagarized poem submitted by Mr. Kucera and was kind enough to bring this matter to my attention. . . . < continued here > . . . . . . . . SOURCE: Published by the EIC of Sparks of Calliope: - https://sparksofcalliope.com/2024/01/17/it-was-bound-to-happen-eventually/

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Karen Rile mentioned the possibility that some mental ailment is at the root of this. I agree. Especially nowadays with so many techno ways to check and compare. And double especially with this guy's apparent serial addiction to it. He must know it was a matter of time. I can't imagine doing all this and just waiting to get exposed. Sleepless nights! Has the guy made any statement? Has it been established that it is indeed a guy? By the way, is it a crime? "What are you in for, Kucera?" "Plagiarizing poetry."

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Interesting. When I Googled Kucera, I discovered he's had two of "his" poems published in a lit mag for which I was once one of the poetry editors. The current editor says he was especially aggressive about getting payment. Seems to me that paying markets would be able to file criminal charges; they've clearly been defrauded. And literary plagiarism is obviously different from the kind of academic plagiarism that's made recent headlines, which is mostly just sloppy citations, not outright theft like Kucera's.

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Someone like this should absolutely be banned from all litmags forever, but since he clearly has no shame, I wouldn't be surprised if he just started publishing other people's work under a different name.

Publishing someone else's poem under your own name is obviously terrible, and I'd prefer to see those people banned, but this also makes me wonder about cases that would be harder to detect. What if someone just lifts a line or two? And what if the editor, trying to be as diligent as humanly possible, has checked a different line? Maybe this is where AI comes in. But then what if the poet considers it a famous-enough line that anyone will recognize the source and why it's used that way and is wrong about that? (I once saw a letter to the editor railing at an illustrator for plagiarizing the Wyeth painting "Chrstina's World" when it seemed obvious to me that he expected everyone to recognize he'd based his illustration on that very famous painting - which is what he said in his response to the letter.)

Off to Google a few of my best lines.

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This Kucera is so rampant, it’s feels almost like a bot or some sort of AI spam/crawl/compromise of the submission process, if that’s even possible? Wondering also about the timeline of the pieces accepted/published - close proximity or over a span of time? Good data to gather.

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The poet Neal Bowers had an experience in the 1990s with a person who kept plagiarizing him. He wrote a book about it: Words for the Taking.

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Ha-ha-ha-ha to the "pro tip" of Googling the first line of a work.

Each year, SFPA asks poet-members to submit a list of published SFF poems that might be eligible for the Rhysling Award. During the past 3 years, something has changed with Google - - because I can no longer be sure of finding my own published work via Googling my first line. :-O

"John Kucera" even tricked The Hudson Review with a rip-off? Impressive.

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When I was teaching English comp in community college, plagiarism was a huge problem. The school had a zero tolerance policy. Despite doing an entire unit on what is plagiarism and what the consequences were, I had at least one student every semester plagiarize an assignment. One told me sister wrote it so it couldn't be plagiarism. Another said she had carpel tunnel so she had to cut and paste work from the Internet. I treated each case individually. The carpel tunnel chick filed a complaint when I gave her work an F, and the department chair and I agreed she would receive an F for the class. Then she had the nerve to ask when I was teaching that class again because she liked the way I taught! Lit mags need to have zero tolerance for this stuff, as it's unfair to those who have put in the time and effort to learn their craft and write original work.

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1. It's a weird form of flattery. I once had a photo stolen that appeared on a T-shirt. I got a bit of money from it, but still. They could have contacted me.

2. There is such a thing as cryptomnesia:

"n. an implicit memory phenomenon in which people mistakenly believe that a current thought or idea is a product of their own creation when, in fact, they have encountered it previously and then forgotten it. Cryptomnesia can occur in any creative enterprise, as for example when an investigator develops a research idea that they believe is original whereas in actuality it can be documented that they saw or heard the idea at some earlier point in time. Also called inadvertent plagiarism; unconscious plagiarism."

-source, APA dictionary

I committed it myself while in college; I was running some really good lines in my head and thought they were mine. they fit my voice so well I thought they were mine. I submitted them to The New Yorker. I am certain they recognized them as T.S. Eliot's. I did so, about a week after I'd sent the submission, and I am still mortified at the memory (50+ years later). There is of course a crucial difference: if confronted, the cryptomnesiac will realize the mistake and apologize for all eternity, where the plagiarist will simply send the stolen work elsewhere.

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At the very least, the paying publications should demand their money back. If that doesn't work, boiling in oil used to be popular. ;-)

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I'm guessing that, in the future, many litmags will use online AI programs to detect plagiarism. But this could create new problems. One of them would be that your submission, whether accepted or rejected, gets included in the AI program's data base and becomes vulnerable to being used in part or in whole in someone else's AI generated work later on.

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I mean, I've often said to myself, "Damn, that's good. I wish I'd written that." Still a huge step to claim that I did write it.

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It’s important to distinguish between lifted lines and whole lifted poems/works, and to judge on a case-by-case in the middle, too. Good lines can sink into the subconscious and reemerge later, or can be reproduced as allusion or critique or similar, or may not be so unique after all.

But yes, while it’s a disheartening thing to think of, a plagiarism check should be a part of submission review. It has to be human review, since there can be false positives and contextual things like the above.

I agree that young (in years or years-writing) authors should be given a bit of leeway, and I do think some legitimately stack up sources or examples and get confused later (especially if caught up in submit-it-all-mania). But you can usually tell a plagiarist; it’s the way they operate. And poetry submissions are usually multiple, so you have several samples to test.

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Daniel Wade, the poet & playwright with whom I co-wrote the play Search and Rescue, passed off that work as his alone and won the Eamon Keane Full Length Play Award at Listowel Writers' Week in Ireland. When I objected on Twitter, he accused me of libel and threatened to sue (LOL). When I approached LWW, despite sending them a massive stack of evidence to prove my co-authorship, they suggested I get an attorney. I did, and my attorney sent several cease and desist letters, which Wade ignored, and considering his financial situation, I really don't know if it's worth taking the issue to court because what do I have to gain? There are NO PROTECTIONS in place and no authority in the literary community that can deal with these issues. https://twitter.com/redpenjames/status/1564822698613784577

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I know this comment thread has died down. But I'm the senior ed from one of the journals that published Kucera. We also recently came scarily close to publishing a 98% AI-written short article.

It seems we can no longer pretend these are random events. Maybe it's the increased visibility of once-obscure magazines because of the internet and maybe it's centralized systems like Submittable that can let someone submit to a dozen publications in a few hours.

I'm curious what other publishers are doing to check things. I'm Googling lines of poetry now and running suspicious articles through sites like GPTZero.me. But it seems we need to be more methodical and run every article and every poem through a system. This comes out to about 15 documents per month.

The trouble is: what is there? We've used iThenticate in the past (a division of Turnitin) and it's thorough but the pricing structure is clunky for publishers, with a prohibitive price per document. We got around this by combining 10 articles into one doc, but that’s very annoying and doesn’t fit our workflow, which has different articles being accepted at different times of the month.

Originality.ai seemed promising. It charges by word count and we could work with the $15/month account. It catches AI but despite claims, it missed multiple tests for plagiarism (including poems by Kucera!). I might was well use the free AI detection services, to be honest.

Duplichecker would work with a $15/month account. It seems to pick up plagiarism, though not nearly as thoroughly as Turnitin. It fails miserably at AI detection.

I’m curious what other small lit magazine publishers are doing. Is there any of these services that work for our needs?

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As a writer only attempting to be published in various magazines last year very intentionally, I am now questioning the entire industry and will maybe just keep to substack for the foreseeable future.

This story seems far more complex. Who is this person? How many aliases do they have? How many works are published of theirs?

Are there mental health issues at play?

Is this whole project exposing the vulnerabilities of the publishing world as an art project?

The person seems untraceable. But very ambitious. And busy. Almost like this is their life's work? But why?

What does it mean for institutions to be exposed as so vulnerable? How does a publisher prevent such trickery in the future? Are there basic internet security protocols that could be instituted that would prevent these actions in the future?

Could chatgpt help here?

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Thanks to an email we received we also discovered a poem that John Kucera plagiarized in our last issue of Shot Glass Journal. We have removed his poems and his listing on our page and our Writer Archive page. We receive thousands of poems submitted each issue so checking one line from all of the poems we publish would be a difficult task - specifically in the case of the poem we found - the words were slightly different. We have a question on our Submittable site to confirm that the work is the poet's original work and not published elsewhere. Everyone answers Yes, so if you are going to plagiarize work what's to stop you from lying on the question.

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I haven't had my fiction or CNF plagiarized, but years ago as I was leaving academia, a Wharton scholar lifted work from two articles I'd published and when I called her on it, she said "We must have had the same ideas at the same time." That was total BS.

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It's not the magazines' fault if someone is a craven jackass. Editors of literary magazines are busy with MANY things and shouldn't have to waste their time with plagiarism checks. This isn't high school.

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I'm currently guest editing the next issue of a magazine and there's a piece submitted by Kucera in the queue. We googled and found the original piece published in another magazine.

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But how would an Editor/ Publishing lit mag

Go about distinguishing a poem

That might seem/look similar

To another poem that's been

Submitted, Without being

Considered as "plagiarised"

Or "plagiarism"?

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The magazine editors should sue Mr. Siepkes for submitting work that is not original and thus breaches their respective contracts.

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Fabulation ?

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John Kucera or whatever his name is -- or her name is -- takes plagiarism to a pathological level. I think there's no question that whoever it is should be barred from publication and even submitting. Though with a sickness like this, there's no end; the process can continue under different names. On the other hand, "John Kucera" has been getting a lot of acceptances. I'm kinda jealous.

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Hi Pals: since so many journals and small presses are here, I'll use this space to ask: does anyone have access to plagiarism tools, maybe through a university relationship or a paid subscription to grammarly, etc? Let's safely assume John Kucera isn't unique (ha ha) — I think it's time we trawl our archives and see who else is out there. But of course I don't have the cash for a subscription right now, nor the time to search google for everything we've ever published. Ideas?

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Another topic I have so much to say about. Instead, I will just point everyone in the direction of Words for the Taking: The Hunt for a Plagiarist by Neal Bowers. It concerns his poems being plagiarized by the same guy, and the “so what” attitude of the world, including editors, and even other writers! It is a great book.

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