Monday, February 27, 2012

What Do You Define As The Stealing of Your Work?

After my incident last week of my story being lifted from a website and put on another one without my permission, I've had numerous discussions about this.

There are writers who actually want this to happen to their stories. They want people to take their stories and post them all over the internet, permission not needed. They think it's good for them, it gets their work out there so people can read it.

I know for news articles I've written, I can often find them on sites which are news aggregators. When the internet was a bit new and I owned a newspaper, I was not pleased to find articles from my paper on a website about Botswana without my permission. When I complained, the man, a foreigner, acted like I was mad.

In a way, this site that took my short story is doing the same thing. He is collecting poems, photos, short stories on the internet and bringing them to one place. He links through the author's name to the place where he took the piece. But he includes the entire piece on his website.

I think it would be different if he put a few paragraphs and then linked to the original literary magazine where the story was published. In that way he would be supporting the arts he claims to love, not exploiting them.

What is your view on this issue? Is the internet free for the taking? What will that mean in the long run for writers?


Vanessa Gebbie said...

I'm sure he didn't realise he was breaking the law, but he was, and he is, if he continues.

It may be that some writers (usually newer ones to the game) don't mind if their work is taken and republished without their permission, or indeed, that of the publication that accepted it first. And indeed, it is great to have more readers, no one is denying that. But the fact remains, he has not sought permission, or told anyone he is doing this.

He does not make it clear that the work is taken from other venues.. why is that? He makes it look as though the writers submitted to him and his ezine.

He is stealing not only people's work, but the professional time and expertise of the editorial staff of the magazines from which he sources the work.

If he is happy to go on doing that, then it says a lot about the bloke. Lazy, cheapskate. Thief.

Lauri said...

As you know, Vanessa, I sent emails to a few of the writers and lit mags from which this man took stories and photos. One American writer, quite well known if Google is anything to go by, though I'd not heard of him, said he was more than happy to have his work distributed in this way.
What was more surprising to me was a lit mag that agreed with him. (!)

I was just curious after all the discussions I had over the weekend about what people thought. I saw the issue as clear-cut, but many writers have a different opinion. This I found very odd but interesting. Perhaps you and I are the ones not "in the loop" somehow.

Joyful said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joyful said...

I haven't given this a lot of thought but here are my current thoughts.

If your article or story is already published on line, in full, and there is no cost associated with reading it, I don't really see a problem with it being used without permission as long as proper credit is clearly given (link back, etc.)

However, if your posted article or story on line, clearly says permission of the author/artist is required, then it is clear that permission is needed before someone else posts it or uses it on the internet or otherwise.

In my world, I'm mostly dealing with blog authors Most of them, myself included, want their posts to be linked or shared in some way to increase their blog traffic. After all, that is why we blog so we can share with others and get feedback on what we put out there. Or at least that is why most people blog. However even in these cases, it would be nice if someone told us they were using our works and very important that they give proper credit.

Writings and works of art are there to be enjoyed and the broader the circulation, the better, imho. Perhaps my thoughts would change if someone was trying to sell my photos and otherwise take credit for things that I did.

You mentioned that someone who publishes your stories could somehow negatively impact on you submitting the same works to competitions. That would be terrible but I don't really understand why,or how, an article could be posted on line and still be submitted to a competition but not if it has been posted on someone else's blog or website. I'm guessing it somehow relates to how an article has been distributed.

Lauri said...

There are a few issues Joyful.

1. Yes, as a blog I would want my articles mentioned elsewhere and linked back to my blog to increase traffic on my blog. But this is the very thing he is not doing. He's lifting the entire story. There would be no movement from his blog to mine. All movement would be to his blog.

2. Copyright does not need to be explicitly stated. As soon as I produce something and put it on paper or record it, I am the sole owner of the copyright of that work unless I sell it to someone.This includes everything on the internet. In fact it is the opposite. You should rather state that you are waiving your copyright and allowing free distribution of your work. If that is not stated the default position is the copyright belongs to the creator.

3. There are contests that allow pieces from blogs but not online lit mags, which this man is posing as. Though this is a much lesser issue.

4. A lot of the stories on this site come from online lit magazines. These magazines employ editors to sift through lots of submissions, choose the ones they want, contact the writers, edit the work, and often pay to use the writing. How is it now right for this man to copy and paste those same stories from the lit mag's website? He did none of that work. He did not pay the writer. He did not edit the story. This can't be right.

Yes, I want my work read. But too I'm a writer, I earn a living from writing. If this practice is allowed to continue how will I be able to do that?

Joyful said...

Hi Laurie,

I gave my views, rightly or wrongly they are my views at present.

I do in fact understand something about copyright (despite my views). The very issues you raise are the same issues that songwriter's and singers have been raising for years since their works are often seen and heard all over the internet without royalty payments going to them. I understand that is what the Stop Online Piracy Issue was all about though there was a huge backlash from internet users and that initiative has now gone back to the drawing board.

Despite these issues, a lot of these artists seem to thrive. I know that a lot of them hold very strong views about their copyright while others say to their fans, download the music for free or pay what you want. I really don't know what the answer is.

You are right about the default copyright issue. I'm sorry I didn't make myself clear on that point. I think a misunderstanding has been created about who owns copyright because of sites that have these notices that purport to deal with copyright. These notices (I'm sure you've seen some of them), imply that there is no issue with use unless expressly stated on the particular site. These notices are quite widespread and send message that there is no copyright unless expressly reserved/stated, etc.

I'm sorry to say I don't think there is any way to protect works, images, etc. that are on line except by making it illegal and heavily fining and imprisoning people. Sadly, I think that leads to internet governance and restriction of rights to free expression etc. that people have come to expect from the internet. My fear is we are actually headed in that direction. I do not look forward to that time.

Joyful said...

One more point, I said

"My fear is we are actually headed in that direction. I do not look forward to that time."...I should make it clear that I fear restriction because it limits people's freedom of expression, association, etc. not because I want to use the works of other's free of charge. I know you need to make a living. The internet makes it harder for you to control your works and your payment, if your works are online.