A Story Of Plagiarism Involving Pam Hemphill

I converted the original blog post that detailed this story to a draft post since it grew fairly random because of blow-by-blow updates. However, I've had a few readers curious about the details alluded to in the book, and so I thought I would write a blog post that was a bit more concise. The old one is still saved and publishable if I decide it is needed.

Reference Materials:

The Sordid Story

This story involves two concepts: copyright and plagiarism. 

Copyrights can be transferred from the creator to another, or permission given to use copyrighted material. Copyright is more about ownership of content, and controlling who can make money off of it, or how it's used.

Plagiarism is always unacceptable, and involves directly lifting copy or unique ideas with minimal changes and passing it off as your own work. Switching one or two minor words in a sentence or paragraph does not protect you from claims of plagiarism.  Even if a creator gives you permission to reference their work, or you reference the work within the boundaries of standard fair use (i.e. not using massive quantities of copy verbatim but referencing it in your nonfiction work), you must still use a reference and cite where you got the information, and the author of it each time. This applies to written copy found in books, magazines, websites, etc. No one is EVER permitted to plagiarize someone else and pass their work off as theirs; even with permission to reference content, you must still cite it.

You will also see, in conversations, that Pam Hemphill confuses the concept of "public domain" with "publicly available." That is, when I tell her that some news articles are publicly available, I mean that they can be accessed, read, and referenced by anyone, but not that they are public domain and without copyright.

The Timeline

What has happened involves a spreadsheet timeline I created in August 2016. Initially, it was for my own benefit so that I could better understand the protest. I did share it publicly at some point, because I thought it would be helpful for others.

The timeline was made up of links to public content (mostly news articles) in which I summarized the event, added the date (for sorting purposes), included the link to the source material, and then included a larger notes section in which I would either summarize or add more details in my own words or, using quotes, actually quote content from the source material. The idea was that people could click the link and read the source themselves, but if they didn't want to do that for each of the 1000+ items in the timeline, they could read the notes as a kind of summary.

Pam Hemphill, a woman who is from Idaho and does not live in North Dakota, had aligned herself with pro-community groups on Facebook and made some (bizarre) videos against the protest after initially being supportive of the protest. I did not communicate with her directly in the groups based on a sense I got from her and what she said, though I tried to be supportive of her through likes or in the conversations below her posts. She contacted me on April 19, 2017, via email, regarding access to the timeline. The conversation then continued, in email, about using the timeline for the book she was working on. She also wanted to use my website and images in her book, a request I politely ignored because I had no intention of giving her that permission.

In the email responses, I told her that I couldn't stop her from using the timeline for her book in the sense that it was basically a list of links to publicly available articles that she could find on her own through search engines whether the timeline existed or not. Obviously I was aware that the time I put into finding and ordering those links into the timeline was going to prove beneficial to her, but if she were to choose to cite an article from the timeline in her book, there was certainly nothing I could do about that since I wouldn't have the copyright to that article. However, I never gave her permission to use the summary paragraphs, and I note in our email exchanges that she is going to need to properly reference any articles or sources she uses.

The Accusations Start Flying

As noted in the essay in my own book, several months later, as she began posting snippets from her book as she promoted them in the pro-community groups, I came to realize she had lifted copy from the summary section of the timeline, and from my website, with little to no change. It was pure and obvious plagiarism. I contacted her privately and tried to work out an understanding that she couldn't do that and tried to come to an agreement. The very next day, as detailed in my book, she began making up stories about me and the situation.

Eventually, it devolved into her accusing me of a couple of key things.

First, she claimed I had copied her "idea" of writing a book, suggesting I hadn't thought of doing such a thing until she began promoting her book in the pro-community groups. I had made it known on Facebook many months earlier that I was working on my own book, and had set up interviews and began making some connections before that date. She did not give me the idea to write a book. Her claims that I am writing a book to somehow compete with her are ludicrous.

She also claimed that I was upset and lying about her because after she told me she was going to use my timeline to write her book, I decided to use that same timeline as my book, too, and I was upset because she got her book out there first. As I note in the book, I'd had conversations with friends noting that the timeline was going to be useful for my book and that I considered it the early foundation for the book. As those readers who have a copy of my book know, however, the eventual book I did write was not simply a timeline; in fact, the timeline is actually an appendix of the book. The nearly 500-page book I ended up writing was completely different than anything she was doing. Additionally, the timeline was in existence long before she'd ever contemplated writing a book, which should be obvious since she asked to use the timeline for her book. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

At one point, in some bizarre moment, she accused me of being a "lefty" and "protest supporter" as part of what I have come to believe is an elaborate victim/martyr scenario that she has created for herself and possibly her fans to invoke sympathy and boost sales for her story by wrapping it in such a narrative. As anyone who knows me or has read the book can vouch for, those are false claims. I've consistently been told the book is a pretty fair take on the protest angle I covered.

The important claim she made against me involved confusion over copyright and plagiarism. She and a few friends launched several claims against me suggesting I did not own the copyright to my own work, and that I'd given her permission to plagiarize (she never used that word, as she is clearly confused over the difference between the two).

Initially, throughout all of this, which took up about half of 2016, I tried to be polite and encouraging. I am not against people writing books, nor was I particularly concerned about "competing" against any book she would write. I operate on the idea that each author brings something new to the table as they cover a story in their own unique way, both in approach and style. That, however, is the problem I had with Pam Hemphill. She was blatantly lifting my copy without reference. Not only was her book not going to offer a unique approach, but she trying to lay claim to my work and actually make money off of it.

Additionally, when I called her on it, she and her friends began a campaign of outright lies about me, my work, and my character through public conversations online. She also got other people to do the same in an attempt to damage my reputation. I've since had a handful of people contact me and apologize for participating in these conversations and accusations against me as they realize that I was not lying about what was going on.

By the (hopefully) end of it, I realized that Pam Hemphill did not understand copyright, plagiarism, and how to write a book and properly cite reference material. She also reverted to, as I describe in the book, a pattern of victimhood in which she, who stole the copy, recreated herself as the victim and me, the one who had the copy stolen, as the villain.

Protecting My Own Work

I had a decision to make in all of this: let it go, or do something about it. I chose to make an effort to protect my work.

  • I spoke with my copyright/patent attorney. Indeed I do own the copyright to the timeline itself as well as the website.
  • The timeline and website are, indeed, my registered copyright at the U.S. Copyright Office. I have the certificates. A creator owns the copyright to their work the moment they create it, but by getting the certificates, I am prepared for legal battle regarding this situation. Hemphill has been informed of this, and has responded, so any claims she may make in the future about not knowing this are false. 
  • I actively pursued her book on both Amazon and Lulu.com, where she attempted to self-publish them. Both companies pulled her book once they were presented with the information about the situation, clearly agreeing with me that the plagiarism issues were blatant.  

Ultimately, I still have no problem with Pam Hemphill writing whatever book she wants to write. I do, however, have a problem if she continues to use my copy and content in any way, shape, or form, and pass it off as hers without proper citation. I informed Hemphill that she does not have permission to use any of my images or content outside of traditional reference/citation bounds (i.e. no more massive chunks of whole paragraphs, no copy or unique idea without citation, etc.). I hope that Hemphill chooses to write a book in which she behaves like a responsible and legitimate author. I also hope she ceases her attempts to slander me publicly and promote lies about me, my work, and my reputation as an author. I take those things seriously.

Screenshots And Proof

You can see all of the screenshots that support everything I've said in the gallery I linked to at the top of the post. However, I'll lay some of them out here for you as well.

Initial Email Request

1. She requests edit access to my timeline. I received several requests during the protest. I denied all of them. All information was viewable to the public, but I was not going to let anyone go in there and add/subtract/alter the content. The only person who had access and built/wrote that timeline was me.

The woman is requesting edit access to my timeline. 

2. I attempted to explain the view-only status of the timeline. This has to do with various Google Drive permission settings. I gave no one else permission beyond read-only because I did not want anyone editing my timeline. From start to finish, I alone built that timeline.

3. She asks for permission to use the timeline in her book. She wants to know who can give her permission and if there was a copyright.

4. I try to answer her questions regarding copyright and the timeline. I was attempting to explain that the timeline itself (as an arrangement of items) was not copyrighted (I later discovered that it actually was my copyright, in a particular sense), and that I couldn't stop her from using the references there, since they were publicly available news articles. However, I do address the use of the copy that describes the events, pointing out that some are copyright by the article the timeline references, and some were written (copyrighted) by me. Those would need proper reference/citation because without that, I assumed she understood, it is plagiarism.

I am attempting to explain the view-only status of the timeline, as well as her question of copyright.

5. She apparently doesn't get it and wants to verify that the information isn't copyright. She mentions referencing the information source, but I'm trying to explain that she has to do that for each article, each time she uses it. (In the preface of her book she mentions using a "public domain timeline" which is an absolute bastardization of understanding, and she doesn't even provide the link to the timeline so you could verify the information there.) She offers up some weird profit sharing thing which I ignore.

6. I try nicely to again point her to understanding that she has to reference specific material and not copy the text. "The spreadsheet is full of info anyone could find." She took this to mean "public domain", I later learned. I never once say it is public domain or relinquish my intellectual property. "Just be sure you reference the location of the info (news article, website, etc.) and you are within standards of writing and referencing content in a book." Again, I'm trying to keep her from plagiarism and get her to cite her quotes and references. I foolishly assumed that she understood that when she writes a book, she has to use mostly her own words.

It's clear she did not exit this conversation with an understanding of properly referencing the work of others.

Please note that, in summation of this conversation, I point out that I don't have the copyright to the linked articles, that she has to properly cite any reference she uses, and that I own the copyright to some of the notes if they aren't indicated as a quote. I tell her she can use information from the timeline and articles linked since authors have been doing that for all time. I tell her I would rather she reword the copy I wrote "instead of us[ing] what I wrote." At no time, however, do I turn over to her any copyrights nor do I relinquish any of my ownership rights. At no time do I give her permission to lift copy of mine and use it in whole, without proper citation, in her book. Knowing what I know now, I probably should have simply said "no, I think you should go do your own research and not leech off of my work." But I didn't because I was trying to encourage someone I thought was a legitimate fellow author and was trying to steer her in the right direction.

My mistake in this conversation is one I see now: I assumed she had a clue about copyright, plagiarism, and general rules regarding referencing the work of others through proper citation. Pam's confusion on all of this becomes more apparent as you read continued communications.

Next, The Website Copy

You'll notice we do not talk about her using my actual website and the copy here. This is key, because she does so in her book. Not once do I ever say she can use my website in any of our communications. You won't see it in any screenshot, and no matter what she claims, she can't produce a screenshot that says it either. I always ignored her requests to use my website and images.

So, considering I never gave her permission to lift copy from my website, check out the following excerpt from her book:

Please compare that to the introduction to my website:

I told her to not use this, when I realized she was. She went ahead and used the copy in her published book anyway, with a few minor word changes that in no way negates the clear plagiarism at work. She does not use standard quote/reference for the material she lifted from my website, either.

Next, The Facebook Messages

She had sent me an Facebook message on December 30, 2016, then on January 29, 2017, requesting to use various images and information from my website. I ignored her request about using information, and did not give permission to use images when I finally responded to her messages in January.

Nowhere in that conversation do I agree to any form of compensation from Pam, nor do I give her permission to use my drawings or website material. At no time do I forfeit ownership of my intellectual property.

As I noted in the essay about this situation in my book, my Facebook use dwindled because I was trying to focus on finishing the book I was writing. I hadn't seen Pam's excerpts. Had I seen them, I'd certainly have contacted her earlier, because they were obviously lifted almost word-for-word from my timeline copy and from the website. When I was alerted to the similarities, I contacted her privately because I wanted to avoid public drama since that's gross. I believed we came to an agreement in which I was very generous. Here is the conversation:

What I want you to notice in that conversation is how many times she keeps saying that I said she could do this and that, that I gave permission. Considering how little communication we had, and that I repeated myself on how to use the timeline, it's amazing I "said" all of these things. The reality was that Pam was playing a victim and unwilling to own up to her mistake, and do the work to change her work to make it legally viable. Instead, she chose to read into what I said. Remember, this whole conversation happened after only a couple of emails. That's the extent of our communication up until this point.

Also keep in mind that her book hadn't released yet and though I wasn't giving up ownership of my intellectual property, I was trying to find a way for her to go back and do some minor edits to get the references right. I had NO IDEA how extensive her plagiarism was at this point, because I had not seen the book. I assumed it was a case of missing citation and that she'd written most of the book herself.

The Victim Narrative Begins

The next day, she started spinning a story about being under attack by me because I didn't want her book to succeed, and that I was a liar. It was the same disinformation technique the protesters used to make themselves out to be saints. I contacted her immediately since she chose to make a public drama out of it.

At that point, she blocked me.

A Close Look At Pam Hemphill's Book

I purchased a copy of the first edition of her book, which was published through Amazon's self-publishing company CreateSpace. When that book was pulled, she issued a second edition of the book on Lulu.com. The examples I use below are from the first edition.

I literally randomly opened the book in various places and found many examples of plagiarism. I've no doubt a hard and closer reading would reveal far more. I'm going to refrain from talking about grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. (summary: it's terrible). That's not what I'm here to talk about. There are many, many examples, but I'll just pull a few to illustrate what I'm talking about.

1. The citations.

When Pam says she used citations, she is referring to pages 335-339. There is a list of 113 "citations." Starting at citation 101, she gets closer to a proper full citation. The rest are vague listings of upper-level domain names. In all cases, none of these citations are connected to the specific place in the book where that content is found. So, as you are reading, you have no idea if what you're reading is connected to that citation, and you can't look at the reference to verify it. This means the work, facts, and words of others (not just myself) are not properly attributed. You have no idea whose words/work you're reading or if the facts come from an actual source.

In fact, the only reference to any of my copy is a weird one, to my Facebook profile. The timeline isn't found there.

The front of the book says, in a disclaimer, that she does "not claim or guarantee that statements, events or dates are hundred percent (100%) correct, as information was obtained by public domain DAPL timeline, including varies posts, videos, articles, and websites. These links are provided in the back of the book. The majority of the names were executed to protect the privacy of the people involved." (sic) (emphasis mine)

2. A plagiarized list from my NoDAPL.com website.

First, a clip from my website, which I published on December 25, 2016.

Next, page 292 of Pam's book. This is not cited or attributed in any way, despite obviously coming directly from my web page.

3. Timeline plagiarism.

First, read this snippet from my timeline. Note that since the words in the notes section aren't in quotes, it means I wrote them. As you recall, I explained this to Pam in the email, saying she would have to properly reference/cite any of the notes section. So, this copy should be referenced to me specifically.

Now compare it to these samples from Pam's book.

There are lots of other similar examples to this, but you get the idea.

4. Taking someone else's idea.

I'd spent considerable amount of time creating a video to illustrate the idea that the black snake wasn't the oil pipeline, but the hate this protest had spawned. I published that video to YouTube on December 27, 2016, and also published a photo to fend off the any potential suggestions that I didn't completely create the work from music to content to artwork to idea.

The idea was completely mine, and I also incorporated that video into the website I'd published along with a discussion of that concept. The website carried that as its main theme/graphics way back in December of 2016!

Now check out Pam's book. Nowhere does she give credit to this idea, putting it out there as her own, apparently. It isn't just copy that people can plagiarize, but ideas, too. She clearly took my idea.

5. Taking the easy way out.

Writing a book is a lot of work. I finished one back in May 2016, and the protest book in October 2017. I know it's a lot of work, because I've done it. Suffice it to say that I am completely disgusted to have to deal with a person who makes repeated claims to me about how many hours of work she put into her book as a justification for her behavior, as if her alleged effort excused her theft of words and ideas.

Consider this snippet from her book:

"Let's admit it," she writes. "[W]ho like myself, has time to research the facts?"

Indeed. Who has the time? Apparently she'd rather let others do the work and lift the copy.

You know what? I'm busy, too. I have a regular job, freelance writing clients, art clients, and other odd jobs. In between all of that, I managed to save tens of thousands of files from the protest, organize them, write a timeline and continually gather research for it, and work on my own book which meant a lot of reading of other books that I may barely reference in my own project but read simply to get a better understanding of some things. This is just a snippet:

I spent endless hours reading online articles, court cases, collecting them, printing them categorizing them, saving them...reading books, taking notes. I marked them up with highlighters and tabs and notations.

I gathered maps, drew maps, and tracked down photos that I had permission to use. I drove the protest route, and took photos from an airplane and the ground to get a better understanding of the geography. I drove to meet people all over to interview them, and spent many hours transcribing those interviews. I played email tag to get people to talk to me, and had some renege after doing the interview work. I wrote tens of thousands of words of copy that never made it into the book.

That's the work I'm talking about, and it is disgusting and offensive to even have to be a party to a situation in which someone not only takes the work of others without crediting them, but by that action ends up saying that their work and time has no value. Even worse  is to watch that person discredit me publicly to make people think my future work is not to be trusted, that I am a liar, and smear my reputation as a writer.

What's Happened Lately?

I look forward to the day when this goes away, but until then, here are the updates.

September 8, 2017: Pam Hemphill claimed to have an email that proves she's right. She later releases...the same email I already made public. Again, there is nothing I have not made public about this situation.

September 9, 2017: So this is what gaslighting feels like.

I left an honest review of the book on Amazon.com. I am a verified purchaser of the book, one of the few who left reviews. The review was removed. (Update: I attempted a second review the next day; see below).

Pam responded on her Facebook page again (here is a saved PDF copy of that post) suggesting I somehow reneged on an agreement and am lying and am a protest supporter and a lefty and wouldn't agree to half the profits. Bizarre statements.

A woman named Jodi suggested that I do not have the rights to my intellectual property in the timeline nor the website. The U.S. Copyright Office says otherwise. I have the certificates to prove it.

Pam decides to toss in a little religion for the victim effect:

September 10, 2017: Pam did not ask me if I was using my material for a book. Please look at all of the emails and screenshot messages.

The question of whether I was going to use my own writing in a future book has no bearing on this, however. My writing is my writing, whatever I choose to do with it in the future. I don't have to ask anyone permission to use my own content later.

Seeing people apparently indifferent or ignorant to the issues and workings of copyright and plagiarism, as if the aspect of copy theft doesn't have an impact on the reliability or verification of the book in question, is startling.

This is creative and financial theft, my livelihood. This should bother people who say they care about the truth.

September 12, 2017: Another Facebook post from Pam Hemphill (can be found in the gallery, also):

It was interesting that her friend Jodi Rocco said I don't own my own work. Again, I have the copyright certificates that say otherwise. Pam continues to claim she has some various proof that no one has seen yet. Nope.

According to her, she has an email which has me clearly stating that I, in writing, refuse half the profits, refuse being an author, and state that I am not interested in writing a book.

I never say that. I ignore her and never acknowledge her requests of that nature. No response is simply no response. It's me not wanting to get involved with her, and as we can see now, that was for a good reason. By simply offering something, whether or not I accept or even respond, she tucked it away in her head as "Julie said this." This is not healthy thinking.

Since she has clearly not understood anything in the previous emails despite plain language, my guess is that she thinks the following are me somehow doing what she describes:

September 15, 2017: On September 12, following Amazon's instructions, I supplied all of the information that you see in this blog post to Amazon, explained the situation, and swore to the truth of my statements. I provided a link to this blog post for them to read. I cannot make Amazon do anything. They made the decision to pull the book, which was published via CreateSpace (owned by Amazon) based on the information I provided and their own judgment. It appears that Amazon agreed with me regarding copyright infringement and/or plagiarism.

At 3:15 am the next morning, I received an email from Pam telling me that her book had been pulled from Amazon. I will not be responding or having any future communication with Pam, not out of spite, but because it is clear communicating with her doesn't bring clarity.

I never respond to her, though she emails me a bit in the following days.

I never discredited her on Facebook, and didn't talk about her at all on my Facebook page other than when I posted the initial link to the original blog post back on September 7, 2017. Pam, however, has talked about me on Facebook, and called me a liar.

September 17, 2017: This screenshot was left, I believe, on Friday, September 15. Pam Hemphill claimed she was going to take me to court.

I contacted Amazon regarding the book. They gave no indication they were putting it back in the store.

There is inherent copyright the moment a person creates something. But rest assured that I have my actual paper certificates showing I own the copyright.

Still, she had her loyal followers and believers. For example, this person, Jeremey Schmitt, spoke about me as being the liar:


September 21, 2017:  No copyright issues were resolved. This is a false statement.

No one is pulling the strings. That is paranoia.

October 7, 2017: A few recent comments by Pam. 


First she has an attorney, then she can't afford an attorney, then she's taking me to court, then no, then yes.

"The left is very hard to fight" -- what does she mean by that? No one would every consider me politically left-leaning. What would politics have to do with an issue of plagiarism and copyright?

This is paranoid thinking, in which everything is a political battle.

It's not libel. I have not lied. I am not evil. I am not writing the same book. I have not been in communication with her. If a publisher pulls her book, they do so on their own judgment based on all the information available.

October 17, 2017: In a sworn statement to Lulu.com, her second publisher, Pam Hemphill swears she is the owner of the copyright of the material in her book, which is completely false. Pam Hemphill lied on a sworn statement.

This was pretty ballsy, saying on a sworn statement, punishable by legal action, that she owned the copyright to the material in her book. It wouldn't take much for any newspaper or website listed in my timeline to find where their material was lifted and put in her book and go after her.

I now have all of her personal information, since Lulu sent a copy of the sworn statement to me. Having her address will make it super easy to send legal documents to her, should I decide to do so. 

Look at the image below. Here is an interesting glimpse into Pam's sketchy reasoning in which she pulls partial phrases out of the email to suggest something else. This is why I placed such an emphasis on context in my book regarding media and the protest. Context matters.

I could use this method of "proof" and circle phrases here and there in various documents to prove just about anything. This is the email version of a soundbite. Pam Hemphill is no better than a protester when they edited their videos and chopped of necessary context.

Notice this part of the sworn statement where she says that she was told "that all the material was not copyright". Review everything in this blog post. I actually make it clear that that's not the case and tell her she can't use copy word for word. 

She put this in a sworn statement. A sworn statement.

October 19, 2017: Lulu doesn't buy her sworn statement and pulls her book from its system. 

December 23, 2017: I notify Pam that I have finally received the certificates in the mail (it takes the government a long time to process these things), and reiterate that I did not relinquish my copyright nor do I allow her to use things in a manner outside of the realm of proper reference and citation. I want to both let her know, since the certificate issue seemed to be a big part of her online claims against me, as well as assert my intent to protect my copyright. Her response is pretty much what I expected. 

As far as I'm concerned, I'm done with Pam Hemphill. If she attempts to write another book and actually do it right and use her own words and cite properly, that's fine. If, however, she plagiarizes and continues with what she's done in her pervious attempts, I will pursue it.