Douglas S. Taylor is an independent author who runs DarcWorX Entertainment, a South Dakota-based publisher previously known as DarkWorks and DarcWorks. Taylor has published a number of books through his company, including the Tales From Under the Concrete horror anthologies and the fantasy series Chronicles of Caledon.
He is also a serial plagiarist and a harasser.
Back in November 2013, Danielle K. L. Anathema – owner of a horror-themed photography studio called Anathema Photography – found that Douglas S. Taylor had used at least two of her pictures in DarcWorX publicity materials. In neither instance did he obtain her permission. Anathema proceeded to issue a statement on Facebook:
So I am all for sharing art and highly appreciate when given credit. Now THESE people from DARKWORKS ENTERTAINMENT, have taken it upon themselves to not only remove my watermarks but place their OWN company name on my images. They have done this to quite a few artists, so go check and make sure they haven’t stolen your work…
The same month, an unknown individual set up a parody Twitter account in Taylor’s name to draw attention to his multiple counts of artistic theft.
None of this deterred him, however. To see how far Taylor took his plagiarism, look at the covers of these four books from DarcWorX:
Three of the images were lifted from desktop wallpaper designs that can be seen here, here and here. As for the picture on the top-right cover, a reverse image search quickly reveals the original – which is clearly copyrighted by one Anastasia Kozlova:
I checked the free Amazon previews of each book, including the copyright information. Nowhere did I see credits for any of the cover illustrations – not even to Anastasia Kozlova, who is the proven copyright holder for one of the images.
This, to put it politely, raises a question mark over the legality of Taylor’s publications.
Taylor eventually responded to the accusations of plagiarism with a July 2015 blog post, which is archived here. This screed is positively dripping with condescension – Taylor refers to his detractors collectively as “Little Timmy” – but the smug tone belies a complete lack of substance.
Taylor claims that the terms and conditions of DeviantArt and Tumblr allow third parties to purchase art directly from the websites, without permission from the artists; this is untrue. He claims that fan art is automatically in the public domain; this is untrue. He attempts to define “public domain” but instead describes Creative Commons Zero, apparently failing to realise that this is an entirely voluntary label and not a status that can be obtained by accident.
Above all, he seems thoroughly confused as to exactly what argument he is making in his defence. Is he claiming to have used only public domain art, or is he claiming to have used copyrighted art that he had purchased legally? Either claim would be false.
To top off this travesty of the truth, the post features a banner showing what looks suspiciously like Hannibal Lecter, as played by Anthony Hopkins:
In late 2015, frustrated at seeing various horror sites on my Twitter feed retweeting Taylor’s plagiarised images, I decided to help get the word out about his misconduct. I started the hashtag #DarcworxPlagiarism to document his behaviour, although I did not have the time or energy to keep it active for more than four tweets. I also began tipping off the artists from whom he had stolen.
Here is just one example of the plagiarism that Taylor committed during this period. On September 10th he tweeted this promotional image for his blog:
In making this graphic, Taylor had stolen a painting by concept artist Tom Edwards, made for a book entitled The Fantasy Illustration Library – Lands and Legends:
I got in touch with Tom Edwards, who confirmed that Douglas S. Taylor had used his artwork without permission. Edwards then sent Taylor a cease and desist message on Twitter:
Taylor subsequently deleted the tweet containing the banner, which can be viewed in archive here. But this was not the end…
Doug Taylor strikes back
In his aforementioned blog post on copyright law, Taylor makes a bold threat towards anyone who accuses him of plagiarism (sic throughout):
“Little Timmy, if you call me an art thief of ‘stealing’ images – You’re getting sued and brought up on legal charges. I’ll be seeing you in court real soon. I’ve been down this path before with some fucks that can barely read in the first place and take note of the insurmountable silence?”
When Taylor found that I had called him out on Twitter, however, he did not pursue legal action. No, his response was rather more bizarre than that…
Over a short period of time, Taylor repeatedly posted three images from my Twitter page – two were screengrabs of my feed, while the third was my profile photograph – alongside various disparaging comments. Some of these were relatively innocuous, such as this jab at my choice of sunglasses, while others were flat-out incoherent, such as the ones here and here.
He identified me as an “asshole lurking in Twitter’s shadows” and expressed a desire to “take Doris to the shows and leave her.” Another of his tweets misrepresented my argument, saying that I had accused his stories of being plagiarised as opposed to his art.
One vaguely sinister tweet quoted someone called Nick Stall as saying that I’m “dead already.” My best guess is that this is a botched reference to the first Sin City film, which featured a murderer played by actor Nick Stahl.
So obsessed was Taylor that he kept on tweeting about me – and on, and on, and on. In all, he posted my face no fewer than seventeen times during the course of this tweeting session. Notice also that he added his logo to the bottom-right corner of my profile picture, as though trying to claim ownership of my likeness. Two days later, he took this a step further by uploading a banner that incorporated part of my photo; and likewise, he posted it repeatedly.
Doug Taylor‘s next move was to publish a spoof news story about me. Although opening with a standard-issue “Any resemblance to actual persons… is purely coincidental” notice, the post mentions me by name and includes my photograph. Taylor, it would appear, has somewhat missed the point of the disclaimer in question.
Taylor identifies me as being transgender – one of the few things he gets right – and then proceeds to let his imagination run riot. According to his version of events I was once a notorious crime lord named Robert Fletcher (or Fisher; he does not seem to have decided on what deadname to give me) who paid for a sex change using money embezzled from an orphanage.
The post claims that Fletcher was guilty of all manner of crimes including murder, bestiality and child sex trafficking. This criminal career did not end well, however: I was intrigued to learn that I had died after driving my scooter off a cliff during a police chase.
Included in the post is another DarcWorX banner showing my face. The caption identifies me with “these kinds of parasite who fall victim all to there (sic) own demise”, whatever that means. Taylor liked this banner enough to re-use it in subsequent posts and on Twitter.
He mentioned me again in his Christmas blog post, smugly declaring that, by lying about me, he had somehow dealt with my accusations of plagiarism:
His claim that I am “of little consequence” to him is belied by the fact that he continued to post about me well into the new year. In March, he came up with another banner featuring my face and – rather oddly – sent it to cosplayer Liana Kerzner, apparently because I had recently retweeted her:
At around the same time, I happened to update my Twitter profile with a new photograph. Doug Taylor took the opportunity to make yet another banner attacking me, which he posted on his blog this April:
Am I worried about all of this? In terms of purely personal effects, not particularly. Compared to some of the high-profile cases of online harassment that we have heard about lately, I got off easy.
I was initially concerned that someone might believe the accusations to be true, but upon reflection, I am more bothered that people will think that I had a hand in the authorship of Taylor’s atrociously-written article.
My overall emotional response to Taylor’s attack on me is not anxiety, but bewilderment. It does not surprise me at all to find that Taylor is a conspiracy theorist who, amongst other things, believes that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax perpetrated by the United States government. He comes across as a man who is prone to rewriting reality when it does not suit his purposes – and really, how else could he write that article about me and go away thinking that it would reflect badly on anyone other than himself?
That said, I have a number of lingering concerns about this whole affair.
Many people out there would find this kind of treatment distressing. This is why I decided that it was necessary to expose Taylor’s behaviour by writing this article: if he carries on like this then he may well go after somebody who is more vulnerable than I am. The independent horror-writing community should know about this man before his bullying gets out of hand – to say nothing of his repeated acts of art theft.
It is time to get the word out: Douglas S. Taylor, founder of DarcWorX Entertainment, is a plagiarist and a harasser.