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Copyright Shmopyright

Lord knows the last thing anyone needs is a rehash of the Napster debate. But when it comes to who owns what out there, not much has changed since pre-web days:

1. People can duplicate whatever they are motivated to duplicate.
2. If you don't want it duplicated, don't put it out there.

Who cares if people are taping or downloading or photocopying stuff? Technology has nothing to do with it. Human nature does.

Realistically, it simply doesn't matter if your stuff copyrighted. If no one respects the copyright, no amount of policing will make them do so -- and nobody on this list has enough time or money to go after an offender who, in all likelihood, would never pay a judgment in any case.

The best you can do, is, well, the best you can do. For example, I've been approached to have my book distributed as an e-book. I refuse every time, for a number of reasons. The first is that I want my book out there on desks and bookshelves where people can see it, not hidden away on someone's hard drive. Down there on the list, though, is the ease with which people can forward, duplicate and copy an e-book. I figure if anyone is serious enough to want to xerox 300 pages, they must really want to read what I've written. But that's a lot of labor and out of pocket cash/time for them. At least an hour at Kinko's and $15 in copy charges. It would be a whole lot easier for them just to buy the book.

In another example, I recently happened to catch a writer blatantly plagiarizing my work. She submitted an article that was ridiculously ripped off from a two year old piece I had written for Ziff Davis Internet Business magazine. Didn't even bother to change the examples or the title of the article. Yeesh.

What could I do? Sue her? For what? Being too lame to come up with her own story?

When I first put up my article archive, it was for the purpose of helping others and promoting myself. Plagiarism is just one of the risks I chose to take. As it turns out, most people are honest and good, but there are always those who think they're smarter than the rest.

Personally, I advise people that if they don't want it ripped off, don't put it out there to get ripped off. And if you do put it out there, and it does get ripped off, consider it a compliment. After all, they wouldn't steal it unless it was better than anything else they could do.

Rob Frankel


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