In last week’s column, I wrote about one of my columns being posted on a website without my permission and what copyright means in the new world of the internet. I’ll admit, I take a hard-line view on this issue, so I thought I’d give other people a chance to give their perspective this week.
Derek Workman, the editor of the Kalahari Review, a literary ezine
“These situations have come up a lot over the last two years or so. The subject was even part of a talk at the Nieman Journalism Institute at Harvard at some point. Unfortunately it is part of the transition from old media to new media – and the current eco-system of the web. For starters it is all quite complicated. You need other sites to link to you to get “Google juice” and climb up the search rankings, but you also don’t want them stealing from you.
“Technically, yes what he did was copyright infringement in the “old media” sense of reproducing someone’s entire work without their consent. However, he did also attribute it to both you and the original publication – which if they had included it in a larger news article in a newspaper or magazine would have been perfectly legal and is the excepted way of doing such a thing.
“Under the current state of copyright laws on the internet (read, The Wild Wild West) he was also perfectly within his rights. Although again the way he did it was tacky. Because of the nature of the internet and it’s treated mostly as “international waters” and copyright laws are extremely hard to enforce, if at all.
“… Ideally, and in the old media, if someone reprinted/reposted your work you were entitled to get paid again. But in the wild wild west of new media that is no longer the case. I discuss this with my friends that are working in new media all over the globe, in writing, in podcasting, in doing web-based tv shows…Europe, Africa, US…even in Hollywood. In the current landscape of things you are lucky to get paid the first time for doing creative work – much less a second or third time. But the wider your work is seen the better chance someone will see it and ask you to do something else that you will get paid for…hopefully something bigger. …In the currently landscape of new media the ratio is something like 90 to 10 – about 90% of the stuff you do for free or next to nothing…that, hopefully, gets you the 10% you make lots of money on. All of that 90% is networking, favours and exposure. Because of that, exposure itself has become an actual currency…the more people reading your name, the better chance they will think of you later. “
Gothataone Moeng, a journalist with Mmegi and freelance writer
“What I have personally experienced is that there is generally an issue of condescension towards writers, as if writers are always desperate for exposure while that is not necessarily the case. While I do understand that they attributed the article to you and New Internationalist, the most respectful thing would have been for them to contact you to ask permission to use the article. A number of publications have syndication arrangements, which spell out how an article first published by them can be republished. Personally, I don’t really expect to make money from my writing right now, so I think I would be more offended that they didn’t ask for permission. At the end of the day, it is your work, and you should determine how it is used.”
Blessing Musariri, Zimbabwean author
“Most of these websites don’t pay, but then there are those who do and I feel that as a working writer there should be some way to stop people lifting content at will from other sites because in the case of let’s say, a short story that someone reproduces in a book – they have to pay a permission fee of some sort usually, so I don’t see why that should be different for work on the internet – a working writer should have a choice to give permission or refuse to give it for their work to be used without payment. A wider readership is not going to pay my bills and what is this dubious altruism that gives someone the right to accord you the opportunity for wider readership without your permission…. Bottom line, it’s copyright infringement to use the work of a writer without due licence – that’s what I think.”
What do you think? Stop by the Facebook page and let me know.