Saturday, January 21, 2012

Please Don't Steal My Babies

By Keith N Fisher

I got involved in a discussion on Facebook this week. An author wondered if the SOPA legislation might not be a good idea after all. His point was protection for his copyrighted work. There were many opinions from writers and artists and computer geeks. It proves there’s an issue we must face in the future.

I argued that the Internet is already a place where everything is public, and trying to stop piracy would be futile. Later, I had time to think a little. I didn’t change my opinions, but I felt it would be a good subject for this blog.

Those of you who have read my posts before, know about my misgivings on the subject of e-books and self-publishing, but this discussion might be a little different.

In 1990 I bought a computer that had a modem attached. At that time, the Internet was poised to take over our lives. The World Wide Web hadn’t even started yet. I signed up for an online service called Prodigy and found it fascinating. Soon Prodigy began to tutor us on how to access the World Wide Web.

There was some discussion about policing the Internet, but the big argument was how do you do that, when much of the content originates from other countries. Would we go to war with England over objectionable content?

A few years later, I developed a website devoted to Dutch oven cooking and made several graphic images for the site. The next thing I knew, those images were on other websites. People had captured my images and used them as their own. I didn’t even get a thank you, let alone, credit for creating them.

Yes, I was angry, but then, I realized the nature of a free content Internet. The alternative would be a place where we must use a credit card to gain access to everything. Yes there are dishonest people who will steal all your creations, but if you put it on the Internet . . .

What did you expect?

As writers, photographers, artists, musicians, filmmakers, we love to use the Internet for publicity. We even give enticing freebies away hoping to sell our next piece of work. Then, we’re shocked and demoralized when someone steals part of that work. I’m not saying it isn’t wrong, I’m asking, what did you expect? After all, it is the Internet.

Copyright infringement has been a problem since the beginning of time. Whether we pass more laws to prevent it or not, those of us who create, will always be violated. Recouping from piracy is expensive and time consuming. We could curse the invention of the photocopier, but I think it goes farther back. Artists have always worried about forgery. Other artists would paint a copy of their work and sell it as an original.

Should we just chill out, and accept piracy as the norm? NO! But, perhaps changing the face of the Internet isn’t the answer either.

On a related note: I’ve always wondered how so many writers can justify their complaints when they reuse software on a new computer. When you buy a new computer, do you buy new software to go with it? “Why should I do that?” you ask. “I own a copy of Microsoft Office.”

Yes, you probably do, but the license is for your old computer and it clearly states you can’t install it on two different computers. Did you know that? I’ve always objected to software companies charging for outdated versions. Microsoft Office has been upgraded several times since the 97 version. Why does Microsoft charge for 97 at all?

Royalties for writers is a tricky subject. Like the software companies, we want to keep charging the same price for the book we wrote twenty years ago, in fact, we’d like to charge today’s prices. We work hard writing and promoting books. Of course we should be paid.

I hope to someday, live in a perfect society, where creative people get paid at least as much as sports people. A place where we spend more on helping the poor than we spend on getting somebody elected. Until that time, Good luck with your writing---see you next week.

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