On Theft

One more thing before we begin in earnest.

The concern that I have had in the past, that has been echoed to me by concerned friends who don’t really seem to know what they’re talking about, is that online content can too easily be pirated.

Let us be clear. The real fear for the emerging writer is not, has never been, that we will be overheard by the wrong person. The real fear is that no one will ever actually listen.

That being said, I want to talk about the nature of Theft.

Do you remember those commercials they used to have before everyone had Netflix that compared illegally downloading movies to stealing a DVD or even a car?

Is that a fair comparison? Hmmmmmm.

Why is theft wrong?

If I steal a car, the person who owned the car doesn’t have the car anymore. This is a HUGE inconvenience, because they then have to shell out the cash for a new car. Or their insurance does, if you’re into that kinda thing, but it’s still a huge drag. The point is, if you steal it, they don’t have it and can therefore no longer use it themselves.

If I steal a DVD, why is that wrong? There are plenty of other copies of that DVD on the shelf, especially if it’s recent enough that it’s expensive enough to bother stealing it. It’s not like me having that DVD is going to prevent anyone else from seeing that movie, ever. So why is it wrong?

Well, this time, it’s wrong because the company selling it was going to make money off of that DVD. I deprived them of their right to make that money.

This, presumably, is the same reason why piracy is a form of theft and therefore bad. The fact that anti-piracy advertising is historically ineffective is traceable to three primary causes: 1) nobody watches the ads and even when we do, we resent them; 2) they made the mistake of calling it “piracy”, which sounds like the coolest thing EVER; and 3) for a long time, they really didn’t give any incentive not to.

I mean, OK, there’s the threat of jail-time, sure, but there was a time not too terribly long ago (well, OK, it was before everyone had Netflix, so maybe it was pretty long ago) when there were some TV shows out there, in particular, that just simply weren’t available–or at least, weren’t available in some parts of the world. I had friends abroad who used to “pirate” episodes of Battlestar: Galactica because they lived in Belgium and it was the only way they could watch them. One of my friends insisted that he would gladly pay money, real money, for the privilege, but that option just wasn’t available. He was forced to wait spoiler-filled months for the seasons to come out on DVD or even longer for them to show up on TV.

But that’s not really the point of this post.

This post is about me, and how I do and don’t want you to pirate my stuff.

Here are the rules. Once I figure out how to install the option, I intend to have a “donate” button, just in case you want to give me money. I also might go the admittedly lame route of opening myself up to advertising to get a revenue stream from that, hopefully, once I get famouser.

In other words, I won’t actually ask you, the consumer, for money directly. For now. I’m just not cool enough to get away with that yet.

So to speak of “theft” in the sense of illegally downloading in that context is pretty silly. I want you to read this stuff. I want you to tell your friends and your family and your colleagues and your bosses and your students and your enemies and your ulcers and your children’s children unto the umpteenth generation. And I’m not gonna ask them for money, either. (Well, I’ll ask, once I figure out how, but only politely.)

But here’s where I draw the line.

Theft is bad because it deprives the victim of something, be it the use of the car, the potential for financial advancement or even just the renown of being associated with it. This is the real reason (one of the reasons, anyway) why plagiarism is bad. If you’re going to share my stuff, you have to actually, well, Share it, to use the Facebook term. You can’t just copy it down and plaster it on your own wall like you were the one who wrote it. This is what copyright law is designed to combat.

If I were to plagiarize someone else’s post, first of all, I would deprive them of the glory of being associated with it, which is a dick move to begin with. Second, I would be able to use that post for my own nefarious money-grubbing ends, which is equally uncool, whether or not the author of the piece was also asking money for it.

But there’s an even more insidious from of intellectual thievery.

Imagine if I stole a story you wrote. I passed it off as my own, on my site. People liked it, because, oh, I don’t know, I have better marketing than you have. (This is how you know I’m making this up, because I absolutely suck at marketing.) And because people liked it, Hollywood decided to come in and buy that story (“your” story) and make it into a movie, which made gazillions of dollars.

But then you wanted to write a sequel.

Sequels are dependent on intellectual property rights, but in the eyes of the world, those are no longer yours. They’re mine and, frankly, Hollywood’s.

“But I wasn’t finished with that story!”

Well, tough.

Can you prove that you wrote it?

Well, actually technically you can, because it’s right here on your site. See where it’s dated? I’m sure there’s a way to circumvent that, but I’m equally sure (my knowledge of all things computers being confined to my crush on Felicity Smoak from Arrow) that there are ways of circumventing those ways etcetera etcetera

But by that point, we’ve both gone so far into debt from paying lawyers’ fees that neither one of us can really enjoy anything ever again.

So don’t steal stories, OK? Read them, enjoy them, share them with your friends, but do not, do not, DO NOT call them your own. Unless they are your own.

I’ll tell you what, though. If you see something you like on this site and you think “Gee, that’s great, but I think it could be even better!”, talk to me.

About Polypsyches

I write, regardless of medium or genre, but mostly I manage a complex combined Science-Fiction/Fantasy Universe--in other words, I'm building Geek Heaven. With some other stuff on the side. View all posts by Polypsyches

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