Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mine! Mine! Mine!

Yesterday we reviewed the California STAR released tests for grade 8 because my daughters were scheduled to begin testing today, and they were apprehensive.

I confess I have a bit of the compulsive in me and once I started, I went through all the grade levels. When I got to grade 5, I was shocked to see a story for which I own the copyright, "Gabe's Experiment." This was published without a byline, without my permission, and without any reprint contract. It was also edited without my permission. (An adaptation of this story was published in the New York test, and has since been released. You can see it here. You see that I have a byline and a copyright line. I was also paid by the publisher of the New York test--and was thrilled to get the check.)

You can imagine that the first item on my to-do list this morning was to call the California Department of Education. I talked with someone who works with CDE and who was so helpful and responsive that I was almost sorry for bringing it to his attention. He was so responsive that the story has already been removed from the website.

I had discovered that this story was being used without my permission a few years ago. I had been invited by HUMRRO to participate in a review of the STAR tests. During the review--and how coincidental that I ended up with that grade level of test book in which my story appeared!--I saw my story. As soon as I returned home from Sacramento, I called the permissions department of that test publisher. The conversation didn't go well.

At the time, I was doing quite a bit of work for that publisher, in both content development and alignment. The permissions representative told me that the test publisher had bought the story, along with a bank of other materials, from another test publisher. She further told me that she didn't see that she had any responsibility whatsoever to help me protect my ownership of my story. I needed to talk to the other test publishing company, she said.

Also at that time, I was in the middle of an intrastate move. My household was boxed up. I was selling some furniture, giving away the rest (and I am so sorry I got rid of the retro yellow leather loveseat, I can't even tell you), and making my farewells to my hometown. I called a few people at the other test publishing company, I didn't get anywhere, I had to move, I put the (yellow) post-it away and forgot about it in the muddle. That test publishing company has since been purchased by another and is no longer in existence.

However. Seeing my story available online, with no byline and no copyright line, made me feel as if someone had picked my pocket. That story is mine. It was never work-for-hire. The California STAR test publisher never requested permission to use that story. The publisher from whom that publisher bought my story never asked permission to use my story, nor paid me anything for that story. Having been in this business for lo, these many years, I have an idea of how much money they made from that story. But they got it for free.

Until now. I expect to be paid for each time the story was printed, and for the time it was available online.

How did it happen? I have a theory. I don't at all think that it was intentional theft. And yet, theft it was.

UPDATE: 6/6/12
The matter is almost resolved. The test publishing company responded with a handsome apology, a contract requesting reprint permission, and a promise to add the appropriate copyright and byline. All I have to do is return the signed contract--which I will do today--and wait by the mailbox for the check to arrive.


  1. That sucks! I'm glad you saw that and brought it to their attention. As someone who works with permissioned passages, I know the care, security, and payment that is required.

  2. I only wish everyone were as diligent as I know you are, Carrie. This never would have happened under your watch.

  3. Well, it could have...just not intentionally and I'd bust my ass to make it right.

  4. I guess you're right. Mistakes happen. Having the integrity to make it right usually does make things come out well in the end.