I did that! - Part 6 of a 9 part series.
by David S Taub
Wednesday, June 19, 2002
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I Did That!
(Part 6 of 9)
Consider the fact that everyone who produces written work, be it a poem, some prose, an essay or a full length novel, has a number of things in common. First and foremost they have put time and effort into their work. Secondly, thought has gone into it. Finally, in a great many instances, their experience and feelings have been extensively 'drawn upon'.
On the whole, writing is a personal thing - sharing ones thoughts opinions and emotions. Just as to how much each writer puts into their work, and what value is perceived by the reader, is a separate issue. But the motives for anyone who chooses to voluntarily 'share' with others what they have written varies tremendously. Similarly, how the writer feels at the moment they share their work will also vary on a scale ranging from extreme nervousness to absolute delight based on each individual's self-confidence. Age has little bearing on what the writer feels about sharing their work, and it is as difficult for the extrovert, oozing with self-confidence, to understand why the introvert is quivering with fear and viser-versa.
The fact is that some sort of 'feeling' is experienced by every writer who shares their work unless that person is brain-dead. Interestingly enough, those who claim they don't give a damn about what others think of their work, tend often to be the loudest protesting individuals if criticised. Ironically, they often go on to be the loudest self-opinionated 'critics', shredding every-one else's own work, and never sharing their own work (if, in fact, they have very much at all to share themselves).
However, rather than stray too far down that path of thought, in an ideal world everyone would stop and give some thought as to just what has gone on behind the process of a writer creating some work, and then displaying it.
And if we were a race of beings where thoughtlessness, greed and jealousy did not exist, laws and the enforcement of them would not be needed. The world of writing is no different even on the most basic level for, if it were, there would not be the term 'Plagiarism' - where one person lays claim to another's writing - nor would there be the 'laws' of copyright.
Many simply take the view that their writing is of little or no value, and in terms of a 'cash' value that is more often true . In fact, some would even feel flattered that another considers their writing worthy of laying claim to. I have to ask though, if someone did lay claim to your writing, and actually went on to get it published, earning themselves hard cash, would you still be as nonchalant? The likelihood, in all reality, is extremely remote but, nonetheless, the principle that underlies it is straightforward - theft!
Putting aside the potential value in terms of cash, though, I can still respect and understand those who do not want their time, effort and thoughts attributed to someone else. And it is no different to what we all are brought up with in the educational system. Taking someone else's work is 'cheating'. I suspect there are few of us who can truly put their hands on their hearts and say they have never ever done this, even if it was just peeking over someone else's shoulder during an exam.
On the rare occasions when I am in an online chat room, I am always bemused when someone asks "Have you got a poem on x,y,z that I can have ?" Often as not, if you actually ask the person why they want it, it turns out it is a school student who wants to use it in their class at school! And perhaps you may think I am mean or too moralistic, but am I actually helping them by obliging, if their intention is to use it as their own work? Maybe you will argue I am going overboard by following this line of reasoning through, but I am teaching that person, at the least to be lazy or, at the worst, encouraging and teaching that person to cheat! Whether you argue this is no big deal, or agree with the point I am making, it certainly becomes a big deal to the professional writer or aspiring professional writer. There is also more than cash at stake. An example would be where a writer's work is taken and used out of context, perhaps in a publication which the writer would not voluntarily choose to be associated with. To give an example, and in context with one of my pet hates, I would be outraged if one of my published poems were taken and reprinted in a 'Vanity press publishers' publications. (This has happened with me – see my article 'Help wanted – desperate for a rejection slip.)
Personally, I do happen to care where my work appears, and that does not just apply to the vanity press. So copyright, in simplistic terms, is simply proof that the writer is the 'owner and/or creator' of any given piece of writing. If their work is 'used' without the copyright holder's permission, they have the option to go the whole route of taking the incident to a court of law. However, to demonstrate that writers' can work in harmony, where one allows another to cite or use their written words, I asked another writer to help me wrap up this article with his advise on copyright. When citing or using a fellow writers' words, it is also plain and simple courtesy to give them 'credit' I therefore thank Poetsguild.aol.com (G.Elton) for the following about copyright which, in this instance, is put into context with poetry.
If you write a book, you may also want to consider getting an ISBN ( International Serial Book Number) I believe you may find most of the above information within The Poet's Market book. If not you have it now.
Please note: after a poem has been accepted, and printed by another source (other than yourself) even if later you know that you would like to revise it, Don't do it. Or you will have violated the provisions of the ISSN of that publisher which protects your work.>>
On the whole, the simple question comes down to whether or not you are overly concerned, or not at all bothered, if someone else took your work and used it without permission which, later on you discovered. For those who have no consideration for other writers, and decide to use someone else's work - make no mistake - there are those who take copyright infringement very seriously!
Copyright David Taub (UKpoet.aol.com), 1999
First written for Internet poetry magazine: Issue 6, 1999
Due to appear as a series in "Florida Palm" (Florida Writers' Association – membership magazine), 2002
David Taub is a member of
The British organisation 'National Union of Journalists' (NUJ);
The Florida Writers' Association;
Columnist for the UK magazine 'Poetry Now';
Freelance writer for various UK and USA magazines;
Co-author of Language of Souls (listed on amazon.com)