Copyright and the Internet
Over the years, I’ve written a lot of stuff. Mostly reviews of books, music, movies, etc. Usually only posted to fan sites and such, I never really cared much what happened to them once I posted them. It was just fun for me to do. Well, even further back (1996), there was a video game that inspired me to do some work for it. Duke Nukem 3D was the game, and I wrote several help files for the Build Engine that shipped with it. It was the same design tool the designers at 3D Realms used to make the game, and it wasn’t the least bit intuitive. A large community formed around it. I had two help files in particular that are still available on the internet now. (Don’t click the next two links unless you really want to see what they contain. Trust me, its not that interesting) One contained the palette information for the textures in the game, and the other involved making sky and space scenes using the parallax features. I got a lot of good feedback from fans of the game and of the Build Engine. I also built several game levels and shared them out there for folks to use for death match play.
I worked as a manager at the local Electronics Boutique at the time. One day in a shipment was a “Duke Nukem 3D Construction Set.” It was a simple box with a CD in it. $19.99. Being an employee, I was allowed to check out software, and since we had several copies, I took it home that night to see what it had. When I popped in the CD, I was floored to see my files, along with many others from people I knew from the online community of Build fans, all on the CD. I opened my file on palettes and my files on parallax and saw all my words there, plain as could be, with all of the information about WHO wrote it stripped from the top of the page. Also, mixed in with some of the “new levels” were some of the ones I created, and like the help files, their author information stripped.
I was livid. As were many of the other people who found their hard work put up for someone else to make money off of. There wasn’t a single piece of original work on that CD. Since it was just a game I got mad for a bit and then moved on. By the time it came out Duke Nukem 3D was pretty much done and gone, and I was already playing something else. Well, some members of the community drafted a letter, sent it to the publisher, and waited. A week or so later while at work at EB, in the morning mail, was a list of returns to send back to corporate. Among that list was the “Duke Nukem 3D Construction Set” package.
Today when I read that someone had their work not only lifted from the internet, but then “made better” and published without their consent, I knew how they felt. However, to make it worse, well, go read the Live Journal post here. Nothing like stupidity and ignorance all rolled into a nice neat package for the idiots on the internet to kick around!
This is what writers fear the most – a dishonest editor. But we try not to think about it. We work our asses off writing a story, article, review, whatever, and we send it to an editor hoping that they will accept it. We trust that the editor has some integrity and honor about them. We expect them to read our work, accept/reject/suggest changes, and then we move on from there in whatever direction that takes us. And it doesn’t matter if we send it to Tor and hope to make 25¢ a word for our story, or if we send it to amphibi.us to get paid nothing. The editors should be someone you can trust to do the right thing. But when a dishonest editor shakes loose, we writers begin to fear that it could happen to us.
Judith Griggs, the new internet supervillian for the week, embodies that fear. She stole a story from the internet, and being rather unashamed about it in her blantant disregard for copyright laws and how they pertain to the internet. Not only has her credibility been shot all to hell, but her chances of find future work as an editor are blown away, and the entire integrity of the magazine, Cooks Source (which I will not link here), comes into question. How much else has this woman stolen and “improved” or even slapped hers or someone else’s name on it? Did she receive submissions that she rejected, only to print a year later under another name? What will her advertisers think of this activity?
For someone getting started, like myself, this is a scary thing to read. Copyright infringement of this sort is a very real thing, and while Judith Griggs was called on it and turned into a pariah, there are a whole bunch of others out there who haven’t been caught yet.
EDIT: Here is a link to a better article. Seems they’ve been stealing a lot of content. Food Network being one. Martha Stewart being another. I wouldn’t want to piss off Martha. She’s done time, after all. 😀