All of us fall prey to the green-eyed monster once in a while. For an editor like me, it starts lurking when I see others make content production look so easy by taking copyrighted material from elsewhere. I’ve read books—often self published—that take great swaths of material under copyright and reuse it with no permissions acknowledged. You can build big books that way. Quickly. And there are websites that use crisp, clean images that look more immaculate that any kitchen counter. Often those images, however, come from sources “protected” by copyright. With a web this large, who’s going to find them? They’re not making money off them (usually) so what’s the harm? My jealousy, I suppose, comes from working in publishing where copyright is a daily concern. It’s the currency in which we peddle.
Copyright isn’t intended to make websites like this one look lackluster. No, it’s intended to protect the intellectual property, or visual or auditory inspiration, or the creator. It’s a remarkable idea, really. If I have an idea, it’s mine. Once I express it in written, aural, or visual form, it is covered by copyright. (We haven’t figured out a way to regulate original smells and tastes yet, beyond protecting their recipes.) Putatively copyright is to protect the creator’s rights. In fact, it tends to impact the publisher more. This week at work I had to spend some time, once again, reviewing copyright law. One thing most authors don’t comprehend is that a book contract is a negotiation for trading rights for royalties—turning ideas into money. Even intangibles can be purchased. Intellectual property can have a fence around it. And a dog or two in the yard.
I try not to violate copyright. When I want to borrow my old published ideas in new venues, I rewrite them. When I want to use somebody else’s pictures on this blog I take them from public domain or fair use sources (thank you Wikimedia Commons!). A great number of them are my own that I cast upon the web, hoping they will come back to me in time of need. With the exception of one guest post many years back, all the words on this blog (approaching a million-and-a-half, at this point) have made their way from my addled brain through my trembling fingers and onto the internet. Maybe I just want to protect my babies. Maybe some would call it jealousy. I like to think of it as a mother bear and her cubs. Or perhaps the spawn of a green-eyed monster.