We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming (on Persian food and Norooz and spring and all that is blossoming and sprouting and delicious) to bring you this spontaneous rant about the travails of creating content — tenderly with joy and care — and releasing it into this cyberspace of ours. Here it goes.
I don’t watermark content for aesthetic reasons and I do not put up neon signs all over this blog announcing that “all the work here is created by Me Myself and Moi and protected by copyright law” because it is not my cup of tea. But the fact is that the photos and illustrations and all these little words strung together with various degrees of coherence and grammatical soundness are done by the hands of truly, yours. Not magically sprung into existence. I don’t expect to be showered in gold and Japanese quince blossoms in return (although I will gladly succumb to both) but I do harbor delicate hopes that the copyright ownership of the work is respected. Partially to keep that illusion, I refuse to Google search my copy and images (as I know some bloggers vigilantly do to find people who lift their works.) I would rather not know as I’d rather spend the time I would use up kvetching over every such instance on either writing a line, or drawing one, or doing one. (Just. Kidding! I do not do any lines except for laundry and I don’t smoke anything except for fish.)
But back to our story, I happened by sheer happenstance to find out that an entity, a commercial entity, was using one of my images on one of their social media channels. It wasn’t a major use but it wasn’t entirely minor either. It is somewhat flattering that they liked my work. It is mucho less flattering that they felt it was permissible to co-opt said work without so much as a God bless. I went back and forth on this but ultimately realized that I was bothered. I was surprised by how much I was bothered. The bother was aggravated by the realization that they were using yet another image of mine in a perhaps not illegal but certainly irritatingly usurping way to get traffic to their social media page.
While trying to nurture the possibility of a future working relationship with them (us freelancers have to always hustle, don’t you know!) I asked that they either pay for this usage or remove the image. After some time I received word that “out of respect” they had removed the image. It suspiciously sounded like they were doing me a favor. I want to understand where they are coming from but to be clear: I am supposed to be grateful for their favor of ceasing to infringe my copyright protected work. A work that I literally spent days working to create. It’s rather … demoralizing!
Lincoln advocated the protection of intellectual property law, specifically patents, as adding the “fuel of interest to the fire of genius.” Thomas Jefferson championed a balanced protection to encourage creativity but not discourage the creative use of ideas. A view I admire. In a way, intellectual property protection is the Goldilocks of law – too robust and it stifles, too little and it is meaningless, but just the right amount and it is perfect — rewarding creativity yet also allowing for the free exchange of ideas.
As they say, there is nothing new under the sun and we are all inspired by and influenced by all that we see. A truism … because it’s true! Fair use is fine with me. It is more than fine, it is dandy and I herald it. FAIR use. Not being used. Thomas Jefferson wrote: “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.” Beautifully put. No one could say it better.
I wrote this last night when I felt considerably hotter under the collar but with Scarlett O’Hara’s sage advice in mind I waited till today to post because after all, tomorrow is another day, and fiddle dee dee, I do feel much less bothered today. Edits: they were made! I strongly recommend sleeping on angry posts.
But I’m curious: I know many of you who read this blog have your own blogs (and Tumblrs and other online-what-nots) with personal work that you painstakingly make and compose and share. I wonder: how do you deal with this? This balancing act of wanting to openly create content and put it out there without any expectations and/or putting up barbwires — and yet not wanting to be taken advantage of? Do you search out perpetrators or do you let karma take its course? Do you feel petty (as I do to my own astonishment) when feeling upset by unauthorized use? Let’s not even discuss (or should we) the nefarious marketers who imagine that they can demand flouting FTC rules with blatant disregard of the value of our time, reputation, and work. (It is amazing how so many people feel they are doing writers and photographers and other content-providers a bloody favor by “exposing” their work.)
I would really like to know what you think about this and how you handle your IP rights. If you don’t like to publicly comment, please email me, I really want to hear your thoughts.
ps. An illustrated guide to Norooz (the Persian New Year) coming your way before you know it.