Before you help yourself to my copyrighted work

Let me make a clarification on copyright, how it works, etc. especially in the light of my strange little fan fiction hobby:
I mind. I will distinguish this at the end, since believe it or not, my beliefs about this are consistent.

Yes, I do mind when you take my work verbatim, slap it up on your own blog and website and then call it content. It’s dishonorable. If you want to write a blog, actually write a blog. But don’t hide behind the “educational” provision in copyright after taking 100% of the material. There are three reasons that it’s an especially bad idea to use my work in such a lower-than-dirt manner:
1. I don’t actually own the copyright on a good chunk of my work. Llewellyn does. And they have the resources to sue you.
2. It’s fairly inexpensive to file a civil lawsuit in Minnesota. While I can’t afford to sue everyone, I could make an example of someone. It doesn’t matter if I win or lose; the misery you experience as a result would outweigh the brief satisfaction of cut and paste.
3. The way fair use works:
In most cases, the social rule is the 10% rule. You can’t quote or use more than 10% of any given work. I won’t sit out with a yardstick crunching whether you crossed that line, especially since most people just go straight for taking 100% of a given work. Since what I have published is all short articles, it’s very easy to hit that 10% limit very fast. Fair use covers the right to quote material much moreso than it does to take an entire work verbatim. If you take 100% of any one of my works and put it online, you have definitely crossed the fair use line. If you keep it offline, it doesn’t affect my worldwide profile – but there’s an excellent chance publishers that run plagiarism programs would catch it eventually.

Let me explain further WHY I mind:
I don’t lose royalties over this so it might be hard for a lazy blogger to understand my problem. So let me outline it for you:
You are creating web clutter that dilutes the value of my reputation, which I need in order to keep writing and get paid. The stuff I write gets copied and re-copied a lot, devaluing the actual cultural contribution of my work by making it almost worthless. It’s very much like what happened to Scott Cunningham’s works in the late 1990s. “Oh hell, there’s a piece by Diana Rajchel on that blog. I better skip that one.” It doesn’t raise my profile – it makes my profile suck by association with sucktastic behavior I have no control over. It also makes it so that you get a bad reputation, too, for not having the cajones to write your own stuff.

So what am I supposed to do then???
If that’s your first thought, you’re an entitled jackass and you need to log off and go do some volunteer work. I recommend Habitat for Humanity, it can give you some perspective on why just ripping off any kind of property hurts everyone, including you. Whatever it takes to get your head out of your ass.

But read on:

What I personally would like to see
Derivative works outside of criticism are also not allowed under copyright law, but I personally don’t mind them as long as they’re derivative and not just directly ripped from other sources. I don’t know how you could do it, but if you came up with fanfiction based on my ritual or poetry, great – I can’t acknowledge it but I’d be flattered, and I do know of at least one person who has inserted my work into Patriots fanfic. If you want to use my ritual, quote a single passage or invocation, and then report on the experience, the use would be both legal and fantastic – you would then contribute to the building of Wiccan culture, instead of the cut and paste process.

If you use my work, I need to see it lead to something else, unique material of your own. I can’t address the fears about originality because I’m not concerned about them. Most Wiccan writing happens within a frustratingly limited framework anyway and I really want to see people break out of that perceived limitation. So if you use my work, use it as a diving board, not as something to hide behind.

Other possible uses of my writing:

  • Test a ritual, see how it works for you. Write about “bugs” in the process – knowing when to light candles, difficulty with language, etc.
  • Write about an aspect of my work that bothers you – you can quote up to 10% to outline the parts that stand out.
  • Research my invoked deities. See what you learn about who they are and how I fit their symbolism into the ritual. Create and post your own ritual, or simple invocation, based on what you learned.

The web has entirely too much repetitive content when we desperately need fresh ideas. I realize that part of this is a massive misconception about how originality works, and about people believing they have nothing to contribute in and of themselves. Forget about being original in your own writing – that you yourself wrote it is original enough. Just quit grabbing other people’s stuff and going “See? I blogged!”