My friend author Twist Phelan pointed me to a NY Times article about comic Chris Elliott who, in researching his new comic novel SHROUD OF THE THWACKER on the web, inadvertently mistook an online spoof for genuine history and now has to share his royalties with the man he inadvertently stole from.
To his satirical 19th-century mix of gas-powered wooden cellphones and imagined New York landmarks like the original Ray’s Pizzeria, Mr. Elliott adds a minor but
intriguing character named Boilerplate, a robot said to be developed by the inventor Archibald Campion in the late 1800’s. According to a deliciously detailed Internet site that tracks the robot’s history (bigredhair.com), Boilerplate was designed to replace humans in combat; it took part in Roosevelt’s campaign at San Juan Hill, joined the hunt for Pancho Villa, and fought in and, ultimately, disappeared during World War I.
But in fact, Boilerplate never was. It is the creation of Paul Guinan, an illustrator and graphic novelist in Portland, Ore., who with his wife, Anina Bennett, is the author of "Heartbreakers Meet Boilerplate," published in July by IDW Publishing.
In the acknowledgments section of his book, Mr. Elliott says that Boilerplate came to
his attention thanks to research performed by his brother, Bob Elliott Jr. "You
can’t make up something like ‘Boilerplate,’ " Mr. Elliott writes. "Well you can,
but it’s a lot easier when your brother just shows you a picture of
Soon, Mr. Elliott heard from friends of Mr. Guinan, who said that he was considering legal
action for the "fairly blatant and quite unauthorized" lifting of a copyrighted
Elliott and Guinan reached an amicable financial settlement without having to bring in lawyers. This should be a cautionary tale for anybody who does their research on the Internet. Not everything that shows up in a Google search is fact.