I don’t know whether it’s summer madness, but there seems to be a lot of anti-social behaviour on the internet at present. From plagiarism and piracy to threats and bullying, all the baser side of human nature appears to be online, with nothing better to do.
My guinea pig blog got some very unkind comments posted, of a bullying nature, and of course it’s easy enough to delete them and block the sender. But the sender will probably go and find another blog to upset – perfectly innocent, playful blogs with some nasty, spiteful remarks in the comments. However we should be grateful – The Mad Reviewer, Carrie, received a request for a review, when her blog clearly showed she wasn’t accepting submissions at present. The rejected author in question sent her an article on ways to kill herself. Upsetting, to say the least. Who’d want to read that author after that?
The more we put on the internet, the more we open ourselves up to the weirdos. We trust people; we put things online to entertain (and sometimes to educate). Mother Daughter Book Reviews had a nasty surprise when they found their blog posts and reviews were being plagiarised – lifted wholesale and republished on a “book-blogger’s” site – with maybe one or two extra sentences. But whole books have been known to be republished – under the original author’s names and under new ones. It happens, but it doesn’t happen that often, in the overall scheme of things. It is just very upsetting when it happens to you. I try not to wade in on controversal subjects so as not to draw attention to myself for the wrong reasons. But all you need is an odd word that someone is searching on, and you are open to abuse.
Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, has comforting words on the subject of book piracy:
We believe obscurity is a bigger threat to authors than piracy. There are really two types of piracy: 1. The criminal takes your book and tries to sell it (for profit) or distribute it without your permission. 2. Ebook buyers sharing your book with their friends. The first item can cause an author great grief, but it’s extremely rare, less than one in one thousand books affected, and the pirates are often detected before they’ve had a chance to earn money on their theft. The second category is more common, but most progressive authors view such “accidental” piracy, or book sharing, as beneficial marketing. There are many who argue that illegal piracy of your work actually benefits your overall sales. (Mark Coker, smashwords.com FAQ Piracy)
My creative friend Dawn, who also edits my books (professional editor as a friend – what an advantage!) recently launched a new website, which features fashion disasters found daily in New York City. She asked me whether I used Creative Commons. I asked what that was, and sort of said I didn’t think I needed it.
Looking through the Creative Commons website, I find I probably do need to use it. As much for resources that I didn’t know how to get hold of as anything else. Creative Commons is an organisation that promotes sharing of just about anything: information, data, software,tools, photos, music, literature, training courses, anything that an individual has the talent to create, and wants to share without losing control of it. I have found a source for free-to-use music for my hoped-for video trailers and possibly even audiobooks. What you do is licence your work through the CC system, and require that users of your work acknowledge you, or the source, or whatever other terms you want to put on use of your work. And there is a violation system.
I doubt whether it is the full answer. But I’m going to try it out for my work. I want to stay in control of my characters, my stories and my pictures. I am delighted if you share them. Just tell people where you got them from.