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Are you one of those filthy Cyber Pirates?

A few days ago there was a big discussion on a couple of author email loops I belong to about a potential pirate site. Everyone was outraged when they saw their books on those sites. The moral outrage was everywhere. However, I had occasion to visit a couple of their blogs and websites and, guess what I found out? They were filthy cyber-pirates. And guess what else, I may have been as
Credit No Frills Excursions
well.

My mother used to say when you point a finger at anyone else, there are three pointing back at you. That was how I learned to use the open handed pointing technique. However, I don't think that's what she was trying to tell me.

In the digital age, it is very easy to violate copyright, but if we ever expect people to respect our intellectual property rights, we have to respect theirs. Here's an example.

Several months ago, a blogger (and author) was shocked to receive a bill from a photographer for a substantial amount of money because she had used one of their photographs in her blog. She was quite disturbed that someone would actually defend their own intellectual property rights to a photograph they took.

Of course, that is completely different from posting, say a book or short story of yours online. Right? WRONG!!!!!!!

Just because something can be downloaded and posted doesn't mean it should be. Other examples I have found where authors have violated other's copyrights include:


  • Reprinting devotions that have been posted online
  • Using popular music tracks as background for book trailers without obtaining permission.
  • Copying and sharing materials received at conferences without permission of the authors. 
  • Use of images of copyrighted/trademarked/licensed characters in their blogs. 
A lot of people will say, "Yeah, but putting that picture on my blog doesn't hurt anything. It's not like I charged for it, and I put in a credit line." So, by that logic, it doesn't matter if someone shares your book on a file sharing site as long as they don't charge for it and include your name when they do? 

The fact that I have seen people post a disclaimer reading something like: "I do not   claim to own the photos used on this site. They were taken by ____ and I give full credit to them."

Again, what if someone posted your book online with a disclaimer like that?

So, what can we do?

First, treat people like you would like to be treated. It's an old rule, but a good one. If you wouldn't like your stuff used without your permission, don't use theirs without permission.

Second, ask for permission. It's amazing how often, if you just ask, people will say yes. I've had a number of my daily devotions I used to put out posted without my permission on websites. If they had asked, I would have given permission, but I like to be asked.

Third, use creative commons licensed materials. If you are looking for photos or other media you can go to http://search.creativecommons.org . You can search for music, art, video or images that the producers have made available to be used just for a credit line. I use creative commons stuff all the time. I also license a number of things with them. For instance, this blog is under creative commons. You can use any of my articles on it for free as long as you don't modify them.

Fourth, pay for stuff. I know the words "pay" and "internet" are not the type of words that people like to see at the same time, but we all have to make a living. There are numerous stock photo and music sites that you can buy the rights to pictures and music. Obviously, that would not be economical for a single blog post, but for a web site or book trailer it would make sense.

So, the bottom line is cyber pirates aren't just "those people." Sometimes "They are Us." My acting honorably in regards to other people's copyrights may not staunch the flood of cyberpiracy by itself, but at least, if I do what's right, there is as C.S. Lewis said in another context, "one less rascal" in the world. 
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