Note: I have a post I wrote a day or two ago dealing with just this topic, written from a different perspective, more speculative regarding content theft. Ironic foreshadowing? Perhaps. That post is scheduled for March 22nd.
When I revived this blog a few months ago, I vowed to write daily. Writing is work. And I have done it daily. For that, I’m pleased with myself! There is no advertising on this site. I do not make my living, or even part of it, here. I have discovered that there are people who visit and for that I’m grateful and humbled. It’s nice to know I’m not just talking into the emptiness, and that maybe I help someone or teach them something or otherwise contribute something to their lives. It’s cool that people take time out of their day to visit and read what I have to say.
At the time I began, I had inspiration from several places, three blogs in particular that I read daily–one a blog and forum full of friends I haven’t met yet, and two blogs by people I have met and consider friends. They inspire me and impress me daily with things to think about, things to appreciate, and things to learn from. When I started, as I’m sure is true for many people who start up a blog, it felt funny. I was writing but to no one but myself. I told a few people I work with and other friends about this endeavor, but I was still writing for me. But yet, it was “out there” for the world to see and that felt really unsafe, in a way. I felt vulnerable, silly, that I was wasting my time, that I had nothing to say worth reading…you know, all that good stuff. But I did it anyway.
As time went on, my initial “I guess I’ll write about cooking and food and stuff” intentions fell by the wayside. The more I wrote, the more I found I wanted to say. There was a lot I was interested in, more than just baking a couple of loaves of bread a week, or a pie. I had to tell stories. I had to relate things, share my memories and my experiences. Set a recipe or discussion about food in a context. It became very personal. One post begat three more, and so on, and it shows no signs of stopping. Instead of waning, my interest in this is exponentially increasing! There’s so much more in my head to write about, to research, to discover and share. It’s kind of like teaching, but to whoever happens to wander by, not just to people registered to take my class.
And the pump was primed!
And then today, (it’s currently late on March 17th) I noticed that content from my site had been lifted, whole and intact, and placed on someone else’s site, despite a clear copyright statement asking that people ask to be granted written permission before using my content. In my head, I knew that it wasn’t a matter of if someone would take my work, but when. But I’ve only been doing this since December of last year. Not even 4 months. I had no idea that it would happen this fast.
And I was initially a lot less pissed off than I imagined I would be. I spent the morning calmly tracking content down on various sites, personally requesting on the sites directly via comments that the content be removed because it was used without permission, tracking down whois information for the domains and contacting the owners (or trying to) and finding snail mail addresses to which I will send formal cease and desist letters. I reported a few of them to the Google DCMA reporting tool to have them investigate and remove the sites from their services (everyone’s biggest goal, it seems, is to gain a better Google rank…that should hit them where it hurts!) I felt vaguely annoyed that I had to waste time doing that.
It took a couple of hours, but it finally hit me. It’s the same feeling I had twice in my life when I walked into my home to find it had been broken into and robbed. When you’re walking into your home and realizing right then that some stranger has been through your things, and has taken many of them, and you see the open, broken window, or the jimmied door ajar, you feel extremely violated and vulnerable. That person who entered your house and took your things is still out there. They have your stuff. You’ll never catch them. They could come back. The police won’t care. They’ll take the report but you basically will have to just report it to your insurance company and realize that you’ll never see that stuff again. Unless, of course, by some weird quirk of fate, you walk by a pawn shop window and see your great-grandmother’s diamond ring sitting there for sale. Or something equally as unlikely.
But that’s what today was like for me. It was like walking by a pawn shop window and seeing my stuff for sale. My stuff. I could walk into the pawn shop and say “Hey, that’s mine!” but what good would that do? They’re not going to say “Oh, OK, here ya go!”. And it’s pretty much exactly like that when your creative work, the stuff that came out of your head and you put out there in cyberspace, that you worked hard for, shows up somewhere else where it’s not supposed to be. CTRL+C, CTRL+V. Copy, paste. Mere seconds to grab something I might have worked on for hours and hours. And in fact, have.
When I got done crying and being extremely angry, and wanting to quit, I went to talk to the big group of friends I hadn’t met yet over at Chickens in the Road forum and vented a little. I remember very vividly the series of posts by Suzanne McMinn in her pursuit of justice for stolen creative/intellectual property, a photograph lifted from her site. She was merciless. She was strong. She didn’t let it rest. And that was a big big reason why I felt I should and could go ahead and do what I could do to notify and go after the people who did this to me. And the people who frequent CITR and CITR forums are the best. I needed to vent and it really helped to hear responses from the lovely folks there who encouraged me not to quit, gave me advice on how to make sure my work was more secure and even came over here to visit. THANK YOU!!!!!
No, I won’t quit. I won’t back down. (Any Tom Petty fans out there?) And that’s why I’m writing this brand new post for tomorrow morning, March 18th. Like the accompanying photograph? I took that. That’s my computer, and my computer screen containing my WordPress wysiwyg interface with part of this very post in it. Yeah. My stuff. If someone tries to nab it, well, good for them. I’ll do what I can to make it right, but I’m not going to give it up.