In 2006, I spent three months thrashing, not sleeping at night, agonizing over what I had written and desired to publish. I knew it would be received with resistance at the least, revenge at the worst. I had already tested the waters and found out that the subject could get me in very hot water and I had to prepare myself, and my site, for the backlash if I pushed the publish button.
My father was staying with me along the Gulf Coast at the time. It was only a few months after Hurricane Katrina had devastated our community and our lives. We’d spent most of 2005 preparing for, riding out, and running from hurricanes, a struggle, but after five years living in war and terrorism, it was just one more challenge to face head on as it came. Facing things that would crush others, why was I so afraid to hit publish.
I talked to him about this. He had no understanding of what I did for a living or even how to describe my work to another. Blogging meant nothing to him, as it did to so many in 2006. The fact that I had been blogging for more than ten years, before it even had a name, it wasn’t a real job. While he lacked an understanding of my chosen career, he understood fear.
“Will they kill you?” Of course not! “Will they come and take your home, your turtle shell?” Both my parents, long divorced, described our nomad lives as traveling like a turtle, our homes on our backs. I told him no. “Then what is there to fear? Life is too short to fear things that cannot hurt you.”
Facing my fear and swallowing the surge of nausea, on April 10, 2006, I pushed the publish button on “What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content.”
Looking back now, it was a nothing, a small flea in the great forest of life. That doesn’t change the fear I felt.
Back then, I faced three terrifying types of people who would respond to my article, the three groups that tend to face down many bloggers. The first are those who honestly believed that everyone on the web is free and should remain so. Among these people are a subset of anarchists believing that the web should not just be free for access but free from government laws, good or bad. These people are capable of anything and I was putting myself on the chopping block, a target for their arrows.
The second group are those who think they know the law better than anyone else. The arrogant ones who thought a know-nothing blogger had no right to tell them about copyright law. Irritants, I hoped for their support but knew many would get their noses up in the air and say horrible things about how I was “dumbing down” copyright law to the masses. And they did, debating my right to coin the phrase “content theft.”
The third group, the ones I still worry about the most today, are the apathetic and ignorant. The ones who go forward uneducated about their rights online and off when it comes to what they create. The ones who get so angry when someone copies their work, they either become helpless victims or turn to revenge because they just don’t know how copyright works. It is for them that I wrote the article.
I got all three. The radicals tried to hack my sites. The arrogant told me I was stupid and useless. They argued with me over the introduction of my term “content theft,” saying that copyright infringement wasn’t theft in the legal sense. I told them it was in the psychological sense. They backed off and gave up as I pressed, but it took a while for the phrase “content theft” to be adopted into the vernacular. The term content theft is now found on over 141 million web pages and given credit in articles like Types of Content Theft by the Motion Picture Association of America, Prevent Content Theft in the Support documents of WordPress.com, Copyright Law – Website Content Theft from About.com’s Small Business Canada, Dealing with Online Content Theft (Personal Experience) on Hongkiat, a slide show on The Story of Content Theft by Creative America representing the US entertainment community, and even Darren Rowse of Problogger brings it up annually.
The third group, the ones I worked so hard to reach, praised and thanked me. Some stopped their victim and revenge attitudes and took the correct legal action. Most of all, they came to my article confused, helpless, and angry, only to learn that they weren’t alone and there were things they could do to stop the scrapers, sploggers, scammers, and spammers – the evil doers of the web world.
Together, we changed the world. Six months later, I published “Applaud Those Who Warn You: Your Blog’s Content Is Being Stolen” to acknowledge the others who risked much to educate their readers about copyright infringement and tell other bloggers their content has been stolen, facing the same demons as I did only a few months earlier. In six months, copyright violations and infringements were openly discussed on the web and people were taking action. My father read it and told me he was proud, though he still didn’t understand it all. A few days later he died suddenly, though not surprisingly.
It’s still a battle, one fought by Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today every day of his life on behalf of web publishers, podcasters, and bloggers. He is the great warrior of copyright, and I’m so proud of his continued effort to fight back for all of us.
Today, copyrights are better understood than they have been in centuries. We have laws in place to defend them and protect ourselves from those lazy folks who steal our work and make money with it on their own sites. The laws don’t have much in the way of teeth, but we are gumming them to death.
Just like those who fought so hard to put an end to slavery and serfdom, to give women the right to vote, to make rape and violence against others a household word, it begins with one person willing to stand in the face of their fears and the enemies before them to say no, this is not the right way.
Your Blog Exercise today is to take a risk.
There are no weapons in your face, no armored tanks for you to block. There is something you want to say trapped inside of you out of fear. Now is the time to ask yourself if it will kill you or others, or if it will risk the security of a roof over your head. If the answer to both questions is no, you have nothing to lose.
Blog it. Tell us your story. Share with us your thoughts. Help to change the world.
Copyright protection and defense will not save a life. It won’t bring world peace. It will bring peace of mind to the millions of people who pay for the roof over their head and food in their mouths by their creative works.
The world needs to hear what you have to say. We need to know you are on our side. We need you. Speak out.
Remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.
As you begin the task, take a few minutes to read The 6 Steps to Stop Content Theft on the Blog Herald by Jonathan Bailey, and the sequel, 6 Steps To Prevent Content Theft – An Update on Plagiarism Today. There is no excuse for you to not know your rights when it comes to protecting and defending your content.