I didn’t want to turn out boys who in later life had a deep love of literature, or who would talk in middle age of the lure of language and their love of words. Words said in that reverential way that is somehow Welsh. That’s what the tosh is for. Brief Encounter, Gracie Fields, it’s an antidote. Sheer calculated silliness. – Alan Bennett, The History Boys
Sometimes, I come across blogs, that have a copyright or a disclaimer provided on the homepage. Some have sufficiently earnest legal descriptions, while others have sufficiently quirky ones, where I get confused if I should take them at face value, or as a mockery. The internet, as we know, has increasingly become a place where nothing is private or privately owned. I have never studied law or worked in publishing but, I am still aware that any law regarding your own content on the internet, if it at all exists, must surely be in the evolutionary stage. You cannot simply put on a label and say, whether in a clever or quirky manner, “This is mine. Don’t you dare copy it or I’ll sue you!”
I believe, in life, it is not enough to just cultivate and appreciate the good. It is also necessary to understand the bad. Why would someone want to steal another’s intellectual property and pass it off as their own? Intellectual property is not like physical property, like a car or a chair. When you steal a car or a chair, your purpose is to drive it or sit on it. Thus, you deprive the owner of driving his car or sitting on his chair. He has every right to report you, and if the law provides it, get you punished. With intellectual property, you are not depriving the property-owner of the property itself. But, as in the case of piracy, you are inhibiting their just revenue. Or, in the case of stealing your classmate’s homework, you are inhibiting his or her chance of doing well. In neither case, can it ever be possible for you to steal their intellect. Even in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, when John Proctor asks for the preservation of his name with relation to his being, it is more a plea for his own intellectual property, so that it is his name to him, than it is to the rest of the villagers, a social name by which he is identified.
This may seem like a highly simplified reason but, the only reason one might steal intellectual property is because they do not trust, or do not know how to use their own. Now, you will rarely find writers who do not quote, or work a well-known phrase into their writing. But, they are both used to prove a point and done so in an obvious way. Having something out of copyright or in the public domain does not mean you are free to pass it off as your own. Just because Dickens is out of copyright, doesn’t mean I can say that I came up with “It was the best of times,/It was the worst of times,” I have seen students plagiarize critics for essays by tweaking the language sufficiently till the similarity is undetectable. I have known some educators who have even encouraged such a practice. But, what end can it possibly serve? Will whatever marks or grades you get for it matter when you are stumped in a situation that could easily have been solved had you actually bothered to have opinions of your own about it? And if opinions, or more broadly, thoughts, are so common and universal, for most of us do have brains for that very purpose, what is wrong with trying them once in a while?
The quote from The History Boys that I began my post with pertains to literature, but I firmly believe it can be applied to words in general. There is nothing more democratic or potentially powerful than words. “The pen is mightier than the sword” is no longer an effective metaphor. Words, whether in speech, song, writing, on a television screen or in the street, are mightier than anything else. Any machine or brain-numbing social system that man can create is inferior to it. Everyone has the capacity for thought, and everyone has the capacity for communication. It is, just that, some are not encouraged to think, some are ordered not to and some are not given the words to complete that bridge, that transition from thought to words. If that bridge has been created for you, you would never think of stealing someone else’s. Every writer worth his salt knows that it is only through reading, knowing other words, other thoughts, can he grow and be better. All our heroes call upon their heroes to have inspired them to use and share their intellect. What joy is there is claiming someone else’s intelligence (and you know, you really, can’t) when, if you only tried to trust and be open to your own, you could make something of it?
According to Arts Law in Australia, and laws regarding blogging and copyright across the world, copyright is inherent in your blog. So, as long as you do create your own material and credit any external material you have used, you do not need to separately mention the copyright of your blog.
P.S. I have not always credited sources of images I have used on my blog, though most of them are in the public domain. I usually find and add them just before I publish the post. I will go back and credit them soon.