For all intents and purposes intellectual property protection does not exist at the grass roots level. And basically – nobody really cares – that is except for the few folks who feel their work has been swiped. Of course, most of these folks never thought of the issue ‘til they felt victimized – and that’s logical. It’s tough to get a person fired up about something that doesn’t usually affect them – especially when just about every one of us is guilty of intellectual property theft.
Tape a song off the radio back in the day or record that album onto a cassette for your friend, copy a VHS, Xerox a passage from a book, download a song, bit torrent a movie, photograph a painting, lend a book you bought to someone else, co-opt a coined phrase use the word Xerox like a verb without a trademark symbol, etc. etc. etc.
Technology has strangled the concept of compensation for creative content producers. The internet disseminates info at the speed of light. Cell phones record images and sound better than the equipment used to produce Citizen Kane. Distance doesn’t exist. Everything is free. Everyone is a producer, everyone is a curator, everyone could do that – better. The world is a rummage sale of images and ideas to be Instagrammed and Snapchatted into one’s feed. The 1960s was the time of free love – well the 2010s is the era of free creative content – that bowl full of car keys is now a Google search wrapped in a sepia filter.
So what’s a hardworking artist/creative content producer to do?
One needs to beat them at their own game. If your work is unique it cannot be really stolen. If it is an object – that object might be photographed – but it will never be the same as owning the original. (Now of course something like a painting could actually be purloined – that’s not what we’re talking about here.) In my case, my words and lessons may be copied – but they cannot be performed, taught or explained as well as I can – and I am able to make a living because of this.
The whole creative world is moving toward face to face interaction – whether it is the transfer of a physical object or the presentation of a workshop the cream rises. Nobody is a better you than you.
One: Keep doing good work.
Also – don’t ask for free shit. Pay your way.
Lead by example – compensate fairly for creative work you wish to own or use. Give credit when you use another’s handiwork, after getting their permission. Have standing. Chances are most everyone reading this already does so – but I know a couple of you who don’t – I’m not naming names – but don’t think your getting away with anything, okay – you fix that.
A blatant cut and dry case of stolen intellectual property is hard to come by – everything is so murky nowadays. What’s the dividing line between inspired by and larceny? The electronic swamp of the crushing amount of data we are forced to wade, wallow and work in has one nice side effect and is that we track the mud everywhere. Everything we produce is date stamped. Take pictures of your stuff if you make stuff. If you write something – it’s already copyrighted as soon as you do so – you don’t need to do anything else. Just know how to date your creations.
Two: Pick your battles. Think about what you’ve really lost. I hate to be the one to say it – but a lot of creative folks think their stuff is worth a whole lot more than it is. Can you show damages? Can they be quantified? Nobody gives a rat’s backside about your feelings, your sense of violation or any other ego nurtured neurosis looking for sustenance. How big of a deal is it in the grand scheme of things – really? It’s a big ass world – there’s room for a lot of folks doing a lot of things. Is your time better spent on new work? If not…
Three: When you have been ripped off – and you want to fight it – then it’s time to name names. Call ‘em out – have your evidence and a clear objective. Don’t just complain to your friends – take real action and let people know along the way. How can it be made right? – Know your price. Share your experiences as you do so with your compatriots. Be relentless.
There ya have it, some rambling from my point of view on the issue. Probably the best thing to do is read up on it.
Here’s a link to some light reading from Stanford University Library