Today’s daily twitstorm is brought to you by Cook’s Source, the magazine that republished a blogger’s content without compensation or permission and then showed no apology or remorse for it.
The managing editor’s excuse:
“the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it!”
So. That settles that then.
Let’s forget any legal arguments for now. Let’s forget the very reasonable suggestion that that editor should hand back her J-school degree wrapped in a big red bow–along with those inappropriate use of quotation marks–and be forced to edit classified ads in the PennySavers for the rest of her career.
Let’s just talk about the emotional implications of it all.
Here’s the thing about we writerly types. (We writerly types? Us writerly types? I guess I’m not writerly enough to include myself in that “we.” Or uh, that “us”.)
Our ideas and our words: They’re all we got.
That’s it. Ideas and words.
We don’t construct buildings, we don’t memorize tax tables, we don’t fly airplanes, we don’t hit grand slam home runs, we don’t play doctors on TV.
We generate ideas and put together words in ways that engage our audience and connect us with our communities. It’s profoundly personal, whether you’re writing about apple tarts or your baby’s first steps.
When someone takes those things from us, deliberately and without apology, they take more than our livelihood and our craft. They take something of our soul.
Sadly, I’m used to it. I am in advertising, after all. (No soulless jokes please!) I’ve stumbled upon portfolios containing my own work, by creatives who had nothing to do with it. I’ve seen my name taken off of award-winning ads because I had left the agency sometime between the airing of the commercial and the entering of the show. I have seen creative directors create entire careers on huge campaigns they couldn’t have come up with if Bin Laden himself dangled them over a flaming pit of poisonous, creative director-eating asps and insisted on it. Not that I could come up with good ideas under those conditions either, but you get my point.
Here, however, when someone steals my words and ideas, it feels 100 times worse. Because my words and ideas here are not contracted for and paid by someone else. They are not signed off by a marketer. They are mine. And that is profoundly, deeply personal.
When you steal them, it is invasive. It is assaulting. It’s horrible and it’s wrong.
It’s writers’ rape.
But you know what? We should know better too.
This week we discovered (thanks, Google Alerts) a blogger who took the Cool Mom Picks logo, pasted it on her blog, and announced to her readers that she was inspired to start a new category called Cool Mom Picks. An idea right out of her own head! Completely with a ready made logo somehow found on the internet! It’s as if Jesus himself loved her idea so damn much, he just guided her hand right to our website to download our masthead and take it for her very own.
Was this blogger simply naive? I’d like to think so. I just don’t know.
I know there was a time I thought I could search some images and what I found was mine to take. On my bucket list: Going back to all my old post, and providing link attribution for photos that aren’t mine, if I can still find them. It seems like the right thing to do.
I can be better. We can all be better. At giving credit and acknowledging inspiration and simply supporting one another.
You know, I still kind of miss the days that a link and some credit was worth more than a paid post. It still is, to me.
Because that says, This person has smart ideas. This person writes good words.
Really, isn’t that what we all want to hear?
And yes, we also want to hear, “We liked your post so much would you mind if we put it in our magazine, give you a byline, and send you a check for it?”
That would be okay too.
Edited to add: My reference to writer’s rape has struck quite the negative chord with survivors of sexual violence, and I can’t say I blame them. It was strong, provocative language, and I employed it based on my understanding of the traditional definition and other uses of the word. My intent here is never to hurt anyone, and certainly not to marginalize the survivors of real physical and emotional harm in any way.
I appreciate those of you in comments who took the time to explain your point of view thoughtfully.