More on Theft of Intellectual Property

The following is in response to a discussion about how there is no harm in copying other’s word pattern creations while failing to give attribution.  It also responds to the claim that giving attribution would somehow “deface” a work of art.

On harm:
If I write something, and post it to my web site, it is with the intention that others will read the design of my words.  I carefully choose the patterns of words to convey a thought, concept, or story.  I create patterns of words from my own mind.  The significant portion of my income is derived from the patterns of words that I create.

When another person visits one of my sites, and copies what I have written, and then places that pattern of words on other property not owned by me, and fails to provide attribution, I am deprived of any other person’s interest—and possible income from sales to that person—because, even if they like the design of words, they will have no way to find me, or to even know that the words are not the product of effort by the person who copied and placed my pattern of words elsewhere.

Monet took the trouble to sign his works, and often stated that he wanted people to know who created the beauty so they could find him and buy other works of his.  To provide attribution is not only polite, but honest.  To fail to provide attribution based on the slim reed of an excuse that attribution “defaces” some work of another individual is simply a failure to acknowledge the property of another as their creation brought into existence by their efforts.

Much of what I post on the internet is not copyrighted, because I do not care.  But I certainly get tired of other people copying my patterns of words and taking credit for those patterns, because it deprives me of readers, as well as depriving off-site readers of any way to locate the pattern creator (me) whom they might like to contact or read more of my work, or perhaps even hire me to write something for them.

For those of us who make our livings by creating word patterns, for those of us who make our livings based on creating material patterns from raw materials, and for those of us who often share samples of our works so that others might see and admire those samples, and then perhaps be encouraged to purchase or support our creations, the failure to give us credit for what we have created deprives us of potential supporters and clients.

For instance, I wrote a piece on time currency, and have been contacted by an academic journal about authoring a piece for their publication, for which I will be paid.  If the copy they found—on a site not belonging to me—had not been attributed to me, the opportunity to sell an article to this journal would have been lost, because while the reader might have admired the article, they would not know who had written it.

If someone finds one of my word patterns without my name or contact information, that person has no way to reach me if they want to read more of what I write, or wants to hire me to create a word pattern for them.  I am deprived of a sale of a word pattern.

Much of what I write is copyrighted for private clients and never appears on the internet.  Because of the confusion I see here in identifying what is harm, what is honesty, and what is license, I think my concerns against posting some of my more income-producing writings is justified fully.

(I am sure that you all understand that we are dealing with inapt analogies here: the Internet poses new social and cultural questions of property, protocol, permissions, prohibitions, and mores, doesn’t it?

Learning how to function in an anarchy, and how to function successfully, is one of the new challenges humans are encountering—and creating new traditions in response—right here on the Internet.

We must discuss these new cultural protocols, and all may not arrive at the same answer.  But it is incumbent upon us—if we so choose voluntarily to do so—to apply our individual and not inconsiderable intellects and ethical compasses to the questions which arise in this new anarchistic society.  It is something we are very fortunate to help to create and enrich, while our minds are enriched in turn.  Elegant, isn’t it?)

September 18, 2010

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