IMHO: 4 February 2003
The internet is breeding laziness.
(Yes, folks, it's another gripe-fest by Mister Curmudgeon himself, so if you're not in the mood for some serious carping, hit the "back" button now.)
Whilst scouring the internet in search of increasingly rare tidbits of worthwhile information, I find that I am instead uncovering my own work at other sites with growing frequency. Ordinarily I would be flattered, except that my name or any hint of the materials' origins are usually absent. I would be much less irritated if the webmasters—a term I use loosely here—at least asked my permission. But noooooo...
Oh, I am painfully aware that this is commonplace, that it is as inevitable as spam. But with alarming regularity I come across people who actually believe that everything on the internet is free for the taking—or should be, in their humble opinion. Seems the internet is not only breeding laziness, but also ignorance, in the best case, and unscrupulousness in the worst.
Contrary to some sadly misguided conceptions out there, all material published on the internet is protected by the very same copyright laws that protect books, magazines, television shows, etcetera. Furthermore, it does not need to be registered with any copyright authority to acquire this protection; if you wrote it, it's yours to distribute as you see fit. End of story.
It's bad enough that a published author I've encountered maintains it is perfectly acceptable to copy entire passages, alter two or three words, and assume ownership; I have also had to do battle with a Hollywood director who swiped my bio of Patrick Macnee for his own website about a movie he directed. Then there was that wholesale looting of nearly half of TAF in France a couple of years back.
More recently I've been trying to get my stuff pulled from four sites, one of which is commercial—they claim that the two actor bios of mine they posted were written by a "work experience student"... clearly their "experience" was in cutting and pasting while they studied for a degree in plagiarism. The webmaster of another is not answering my emails; I am now working with their web host to have my materials forcibly removed—or have the site shut down, if it comes to that.
Make no mistake, I aggressively pursue all copyright violations. Why? Because I go to considerable effort to generate my own content. Unlike the mounting army of so-called "webmasters" who assemble entire sites by exercising two fingers repeatedly pressing Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V, the content you see here is by my hand: my thoughts, my words, my work. (And if it they are not mine, I always say so.)
Think of it this way: authors assemble words into vehicles that convey their thoughts to readers. Now... how would you like it if I stole your car? Actually, while it is quite frustrating to have a car stolen (it has happened to me twice), it's more upsetting to have work plagiarized. A car is a machine that can be replaced; unlike writing, it is not invested with the passion and energy of my heart and soul. Plagiarism is thus closer to rape in its effect.
To those lazy webmaster wannabes who make a habit of ripping off other people: if you can't come up with your own content, then don't bother with a website. This is often answered with the lame excuse, "I don't have the time to write all my own stuff." Well, I'm sorry, but I have spent over six years building my website, not yours. If you don't have the patience or the wherewithal to create your own material, then that's just too effing bad.
As an alternative to outright theft, what's wrong with a simple hyperlink? It's about the same effort to make a link to the material you wish to reference as it is to steal it, maybe even less. Funny... when that Hollywood director pulled the Macnee bio, guess what he put in its place? A link to IMDb. Not as dim as he seemed at first.
It may nearly be as futile as the war on drugs, I know. But what would it say about me or the value of my work if I didn't care? My philosophy is that one's work must be protected with the same vigor and integrity as it takes to generate. It is otherwise worthless.
And that's my humble opinion.
David K. Smith, 4 February 2003
materials copyrighted per their respective copyright holders.