Copyright infringement is practically a venerable occult tradition. Francis Barrett plagiarized Agrippa, Agrippa essentially got an entire fourth book/fanwork attributed to him on top of that, and there have been scandals through the ages about ideas in occult circles being stolen, secrets let out and work being outright yanked to print in books and on webpages. Most of these scandals are founded in facts, and the basics of proper attribution have degraded as standard attribution styles have changed and as the Internet has confused people as to what to attribute and how.
My experience with copyright has been of the Internet confusion variety. I come from the last generation that learned anything about proper attribution on paper, and then I stumbled into the web, which was quite a web: I didn’t know what to attribute or how, and in an effort to share the better information I found online I stepped on some copyright-concerned feet and managed to piss one particularly crazy lady off while trying to rectify the situation once I realized the seriousness of the situation. In fact, I may be directly responsible for the first pay-per-view Wiccan website out there, assuming it’s even still around.
While I still don’t feel confident about “proper” attribution with Internet resources, I generate mostly my own material these days so that aspect – beyond proper quotes and linking – isn’t such a big deal to my anymore. However, since I’ve gotten a small body of work in print I’ve noticed what other writers complain of: much of their work sometimes wanders its way online with and without attribution. I’ve had entire web pages I’ve written show up on other sites, and it was a point of frustration – not only did I want the credit for my work, I was frustrated because I wasn’t seeing the people taking my work to create anything of their own. They were just repeating, over and over, and in such a way that I didn’t think anyone was learning or building. To me the tendency to pass things all over the Internet and repost, paste and repeat them is a frustrating sign that as a group neopagans are almost deliberately sidestepping their own potential. Frankly, I would have been delighted to read that someone had tried one of my spells and that it blew up in their face – just because someone besides me had tried it!
The reason it used to be so important to defend all those sources from Internet mining was a matter of royalties, and for some people this is still true. In my case, since I wasn’t making any money from the information in the first place or only got played a work-for-hire fee, it was more about building my online profile. While I’m still relatively unknown, I’ve decided to let it go. I can spend all day every day chasing my work around the Internet, or I can write my own material. I choose me. Somebody’s got to be putting new ideas out there.
While I think copyright should matter in a civil-courtesy way, its applicability as a financial protection is dying because much of what has been produced particular in the occult field is contracted without much protection to the writer or the work. Collaboration and experimental effort – which will be discussed here in the future – are the next logical steps, because the days of sitting on secrets are fading. If it really is the Age of Aquarius, even the hidden things are going to get some light.