Wednesday, June 18, 2014

One Writer's Story

Someone, whom I would truly like to have as a friend, is very upset today and ready to throw in the towel where writing is concerned today as his work was completely stolen by a radio host and read over the air with no credit, payment or anything. It must be the internet. It must be Facebook. Sorry my friends, it is neither.

I started writing pretty much from the moment I learned to read so I have a bit of experience going here. My first 'professional' offer came from a nationwide metaphysical magazine. There was not payment because back in the 70's everyone operating in this “New Age” field was on a shoestring that frequently broke. It was a themed issue and I was asked to write an article on hypnosis because I was a licensed hypnotherapist working in the medical field. I would give a little credit to the magazine theme.

When you outright steal a person's work, you really shouldn't send them a copy of it. Imagine my surprise when I found direct quotes from my article interspersed throughout the magazine as though they were written by the editor. As to my article, two rather poor paragraphs were taken out of context and printed on a tear away insert for which I was actually given credit. Since they were taken out of context, they made little sense and they actually came from a section on Biofeedback rather than hypnosis causing them to make even less sense. This was 25 years ago and there was no internet and no computers.

When I mentioned it to other people the answer was...why would the publisher and editor of a nationwide magazine steal YOUR work???

I learned that day to get payment up front and the next editor that needed a freebie got the heave ho.

Then there was the six months I spent hand typing and compiling a Tarot course. I also copyrighted it and the copyright was on the bottom of each page. Back then you had to pay money to copyright something and fill out forms. If I must say so myself, it was a masterpiece of a beginning course on Tarot. I intended to turn it into a book. I charged $50.00 for the course and it was worth it or you could pay $10.00 a class for 6 classes. My very first class, I had a retired Doctor take the course. As soon as we finished the course, he took my course, cut the copyright off the bottom, went to Office Depot and copied it. Then he began teaching it at the yoga center a couple of miles away for $5.00 making certain I would not attract any students to my course. One of my students was also a student at the yoga center and he was angry. He stormed to office with my course in hand and confronted the owner of the yoga center. It was obvious the copyright had been cut from the bottom of the pages because back then, if the paper you copied wasn't 8.5 x 11; the missing piece copied as a gray/black area.

So what was the great spiritual answer? Why would a retired, independently wealthy Doctor steal a course from a poor witch across town? He didn't need the money. He was just teaching for fun. I must have stolen his work. My student attempted to prevail with the black line across the page as proof. Finally, he came to me, disheartened, and wanted to know what to do. I suggested he attend the next class, stand up and ask the Doctor to give him a Tarot reading right then. It should be no problem if the course was in fact his. He was thrown out of the yoga center, but the point was not lost on the rest of the class. Once again, the yoga center was hoping to make money off the doctor and I was poor collateral damage, just like the editor knew I didn't have the money to sue her.

Then again, what goes around, comes around. Someone then stole the course from the Doctor and began teaching it for free at another store taking all his students. I decided never to teach Tarot again.

My friend had her entire book copied on a copier (they didn't even bother to retype it) by a company and handed out to thousands of phone psychics to read over the phone. It was, like my course, a key word Tarot book, so you could actually do a layout and just flip through the book and get a full reading. She, however, was a retired executive with lot's of money and the ability to fly to Switzerland and sue them because that is where copyright infringement cases were tried back then. She won, but they simply went out business and she got nothing.

Other friends have had their products copied or the over runs from manufacturing their products, sold on the open market. One friend found her product selling in stores for the wholesale price because when she had it manufactured in China to get the cost down, the manufacturer just made lots of extras and then sold them to stores for the same price he sold them to her. Thus everyone was selling them at the wholesale price she was trying to get. It happens to everyone who sends a product overseas for manufacture. You must make your money on the first offering because the second one finds someone undercutting your price.

So, you think is just you? Think again. You know Cannon, the big manufacturer of towels. Every once in a while something goes wrong and stuff fails quality control. It goes in the dumpster and to the dump. Well, that is what they thought was happening. It turned out their towels were being sold by the garbage men, shipped to Florida and sold in the linen outlets. They were none the wiser for over a year until I called to complain about some towels I bought that just kept bleeding on me every time I showered. If the outlet had been smart, they would have taken them back, but they left an angry customer to call the manufacturer or maybe they didn't know Canon puts a serial number on the tags. They are no longer in business.

Bottom line: I don't care what it is, it will be stolen simply because the number of hacks outnumber the number of talents. All you can hope for is a little credit because you sure aren't getting any money and if you pin your financial hope on a product, the odds are you won't be eating next month. That is reality. Even if you have the money to fight them, you are probably going to get nothing. Learn to live with it and join the club or get out of the business.

Yes, it still makes me angry and that doesn't do me a bit of good. It doesn't hurt them in least. In my old age, I have learned anger doesn't work for me. So, I don't even bother with copyrights or trademarks or patents. I figure sooner or later karma will get them.

Which leads me to the last group of thieves. They stole a product from a nice guy and even managed to win a prize and get on national TV with it. Then, they actually had to make one and demonstrate it. All the time they were doing the TV bit and were the big stars, he never said a single word because he knew the product they stole from him didn't, couldn't work. They couldn't build one from his mockup. They had to admit on national TV they had stolen the product and it didn't work. Karma is a bitch and sometimes she has puppies. And sometimes the nice guy gets the last laugh.

So dear hacks, steal away. If you actually manage to improve my product, I will steal it back. Fair is fair. And to those who steal people's artwork or writing, you might have to prove your expertise and that can become a really big problem if you have none. Not only that, but the more well known a person becomes, the more people begin to recognize their work. Every writer has a style and voice. Every painter has a brushstroke. Every photographer an angle. In the end, people will see you for exactly what you are: a thief and a hack and a really poor copy.

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