Why should I care about copyright? I mean, this is the 'net, right? The wild frontier of the Information Age, where possession is nine-tenths of the law, right? It's not like anyone can really track you down just by your web page, right? And internet law is such a fuzzy, gray area, you can't really enforce anything, right?
Well, no, not exactly. Okay, so in reality, a lot of times there doesn't seem to be a whole lot that creatives on the internet can do to someone who steals their work. Most of the time, the creator of whatever you've "borrowed" won't even know you've borrowed it. But this isn't a case of what they don't know won't hurt you.
I'll completely leave off any discussion of internet law. I don't know it, I'm certainly no expert, and I'd probably just make tons of mistakes if I tried to explain it. Plus, since the Web is a global thing, the law probably isn't the same in every country. I don't want to go down that road, thank you very much.
What I will talk about, however, is what happens when you mistreat the creative people in this world. A common misconception is that if it's posted on the internet, it's suddenly public domain. But that's not the way it works. If it's posted on the 'net, it's meant to be shared with others, to make folks happy, sad, horny, thoughtful, or whatever. These artists (and I don't just mean the visual kind) are sharing a little bit of themselves (and in some cases, quite a bit of themselves) to try and make individual lives just a little bit better, even if only in a superficial way, even if only for a moment.
So what happens to these gifts that creative folks give to the rest of us poor slobs? Most of the time, or so I choose to believe, they get treated right, with copyright info intact and due credit given. But not always. Sometimes, they get snatched, spindled, folded, mutilated, doctored, and sometimes sold without the parent's/creator's permission.
Or, the borrower credits the artist, but then steals the artist's money by linking directly to the artist's server. Since the artists have to pay each and every time someone accesses any of their files on their web page, by linking to their graphics you're taking money out of their pockets! Not a particularly kind way to repay these artists' generosity, now is it?
You know what, I can't draw worth diddly. I have not one graphically gifted bone in my whole body. (Well, okay, so maybe that middle finger bone in my left pinky has a nack for doodling, but sadly it gets no help from any of its neighbors.) Know what else? My pages would absolutely suck if not for folks like Moyra, Dana, Linda, and the countless others out there who are kind enough to share themselves with others over the Web. This is how these folks make their livings, but they still share for free with graphically untalented slobs like me.
Now, while I readily (and frequently) admit that I can't do visual art, I can write! (Please, if you disagree, keep quiet with that opinion for the moment. I'm trying to make a point here. Thank you for your cooperation in advance.) But being able to write doesn't mean a lot unless you can share it with others. So here I sit, in my own little corner of cyber-space, sharing just a bit of myself with the rest of the world. Hopefully, people will enjoy it. Undoubtedly, some folks will absolutely hate it. I can handle that. (Well, no, not really, but that's beside the point for the moment. This isn't a discussion of my insecurities/complexes.) However, I would not be able to tolerate someone taking tiny bits of me, remaking them into something that isn't true to me, then trying to claim them as their own. I'd be mad, I'd be vowing to do something, and then, I would probably withdraw from the Web altogether, a lesser and sadder young woman.
If you think I exaggerate, you should see some of what has been lost to the Web because some people feel that the relative anonymity of being known only by email gives them a license to be rude, ugly and nasty to other people. It takes a braver soul than I to stand daringly in the face of such pettiness.
So why do I try so hard to honor an artist's copyright? Is it because it's what I would want others to do for me? Is it because I'm afraid of the legal ramification if I don't? Is it because I feel that in some small way, these amazing and wonderful people have become almost friends, even if it's rather one-sided?
Yes, but those are all secondary reasons. The main reason is: I'm scared to death that they'll go away if people don't!!! Then what will I do? Then, what would we all do?
If you would like to find out more about how many web artists stand on the issue of their work, try visiting any of the links below.
Once again, Moyra of The Web Jewels kindly and generously provided the background graphic on this page. Please don't download from this page! Visit her page and read her rules before using anything of hers on your page! (Haven't you been paying attention to the rest of this page?! Or were you blinded by the beauty of Moyra's work?)