Saturday, March 3, 2012

8th 'Deadly' Sin. . .

We’ve all heard, at some time or another, about the seven deadly sins.  In fact, there have been books written about them, movies made, and have provided for great conversation throughout time.  If you don’t know the sins, they are wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony.  What I find so interesting about these sins are they are the ones that are most committed on a daily basis, and yet, not many of us take heed to why they were created or their meaning.

As I examined the sins further, I stumbled across another sin that I feel should be added, and perhaps after I reveal what it is, you may find that it could appropriately fit in with the original seven—copyright infringement.  Well, actually, instead of it being considered a sin, it would fall more likely under the Ten Commandments of Thou Shalt Not Steal!  But I still consider it a sin as well!  This is another huge injustice that we commit on a daily basis—especially since the ease of technology has come to fruition.

Copyright infringement laws are broken each and every day.  According to the Web’s definition, it means a violation of rights secured by a copyright.  A mere photocopying of a document from a book or newspaper, without permission from the author, is breaking the law.  Although there is a such thing as “fair use” copyrighting, which you’ll find a link to an article explaining this process, at the end of this post.  Many of you could probably care less that you break copyright laws daily.  You may or may not even be aware that you have broken any laws, and although I wouldn’t go as far as to classify it as a “deadly” sin, I would; however, state it has the potential to be a “costly” one against the person who does it.  There are several famous lawsuits that have rendered big “payoffs” to companies, authors, film studios and organizations alike, which have successfully proven their cases.  Trust me; YOU don’t want to find yourself sitting in a courtroom having to defend your actions against a potential copyright action.  And being ignorant of the law doesn't exclude you from being sued nor should it be used as an excuse either.   Check out:  Famous Cases of Copyright Law, Stanford Copyright & Fair Use, IPLaw Chat.  The Internet was devised for one's research, so being uneducated or less knowledgeable isn't going to do you much good in a court of law.

Stealing the work of another artist is not only wrong, but downright sinful.  It enrages me when movies come out and people flock, not to the box office, but to the nearest corner to find the “bootleg” version or download illegally without obtaining the proper licenses for use, which is why I don’t download illegally, nor do I ever buy bootleg.  For one, when you buy these DVDs, you don’t know what kind of quality it is in, and sometimes those DVDs carry viruses that could potentially harm your computers, laptops or DVD players.  After you’ve spent good money on purchasing those items, why would you risk destroying them by using a “bootleg?”  Unfortunately, I know many who do!

More importantly, let’s talk about the stealing of one’s work for a second.  Think about something you’ve created, only to discover someone else likes your idea just as much and takes it from you.  How does that make you feel?  When you write a novel and get it published, imagine, if you will, that someone stole your words—words you slaved over for many a day, night, month or even years?  Are you happy about that?  Think about an invention you came up with and submitted your ideas, only for some big corporation to steal it, and you’re left with the mere memories of originating an idea, but now someone else is capitalizing off of it.  Are you thrilled about that?  When you upload or download material illegally and purchase “bootleg” material, that’s exactly what you’re doing. Why, you’re nothing more than a common thief, and these thieves are more common than you think!  What you’ve done successfully is take money away from the writers and/or actors of that content—you’ve stolen their idea—their creation without proper payment for it.  Perhaps you may put yourself in their shoes the next time you should come upon a “bootleg” DVD or someone happens to give you one.  THINK about that!

What if these same individuals who purchase “bootleg” DVDs came to your home and decided they like your car, and just take it.  Even though we know car theft takes place everyday, did you enjoy having something you bought and paid for taken from your possession when it wasn’t theirs for the taking?  Maybe someone likes the look of your house and decides to wait until you leave its premises and break in and take your possessions.  Are you jumping for joy that your things have been stolen?  No, but you’ll be jumping for an entirely different reason.  That’s exactly how we writers feel when someone steals our stories, ideas, creation and time.  You’ve taken something extremely precious to us, and it’s a hurtful thing and makes us angry.

Trust and believe each of my author friends’ books I plan to read.  I have so many books I read, it can be overwhelming, and I do that while working on my own novels.  To keep from worrying about stealing someone’s ideas, when I’m in my own creative process, I do not read any fictional/fantasy stories and I especially do not read any of my friends’ work.  It’s a rule I live by and will forever continue to do.  I never want to be accused of stealing another writer’s words, or taking a writer’s storyline.  As I’ve mentioned many times, there are only 250 plots to write, so there really isn’t anything new under the sun, but it’s the voice in which each writer lends to a story that makes those plots different and unique.

It’s important to keep your ideas fresh, and most definitely, original—at least in the sense that these ideas are your creation.  No on likes a thief or at least I know I don’t, so make sure that whatever it is you come up with, you’re not stealing from another artist.  Sometimes when writing, you subconsciously put thoughts down that you think you’ve created, but in actuality, it belongs to someone else—which is why I don’t read anyone’s books when I’m writing my own.  I cannot stress this enough.  I don’t have any respect for the person who copies anything—including fashion.  It’s one thing to admire someone’s look, but to go out and purchase that same look, to me, is stupid.  Did it ever occur to the person who does this that the very thing you’re admiring isn’t going to quite look the same on you?  Get your own ideas regardless as to what it is.  As people say today, “do you!”  There’s a reason that everyone is different—for if we were all meant to the look and be the same, there wouldn’t be any choices or differences to compare to.  At the end of the day, it would be a pretty boring and dull existence, wouldn’t you say?

I am often asked about what you can and cannot do with respect to copyright infringement, and I’ve found some great sites that will help you further your search, and provide you with informative information that will assist you.  Some of these sites offer downloadable forms for you to learn the process to copyright your own materials and the fees associated with doing so.

Remember the next time you want to own a copy of a movie you love, buy it legally through a retail store and pay the asking price so that the people who wrote the script and those who created the film get all the royalties they are entitled too.  Think in terms of when you go to work and earn your paycheck and then you go to the bank and withdraw money and someone steals your hard-earned money directly from your grasp.  You know how upset you’d be if someone were to do that—then make sure you hold onto that feeling when downloading eBooks or watching a movie or listening to music—we want to be paid for our hard work, just like you do!

To learn more about copyright infringement law, please visit the following sites:

United States Copyright Offices:

Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet
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