I’m a huge fan of sex blogger FurryGirl – but last week she committed a major party foul.
After National Public Radio (NPR) mentioned her as inspiration for a piece for their show “On the Media” she exploded into a tirade on Twitter and her blog, accusing them of “theft” and citing “violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of Creative Commons 3.0.”
In doing so, FurryGirl demonstrated something that is far too common amongst those of us who identify as bloggers – a complete and utter ignorance of copyright law. She also demonstrated something else we bloggers are too frequently guilty of – rampant hypocrisy.
In Furry Girl’s example, she seemed to miss the point that NPR hadn’t taken anything from the blog post that had inspired their piece, except quoting a line from an FBI report which, since it was written by the FBI, FurryGirl doesn’t own the copyright to anyway.
Instead, all they did was talk about her piece; in much the same way morning anchors read out the headlines of the day’s papers, or conservative talk show hosts bash whatever it is Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin or Ellen Degeneres had been saying the night before.
Talking about what somebody has written has nothing to do with Creative Commons 3.0 and is, instead, within the spirit and letter of “fair use”. In fact, NPR had actually gone above and beyond what they were required to do by including a link to FurryGirl’s blog in their summary of the radio show.
But FurryGirl’s behavior is not isolated amongst bloggers. Far too many of us think we know about copyright, but really, we just know how to copy and paste Creative Commons 3.0 legal language onto our blogs and then decide we’ve got it all figured out. As in FurryGirl’s case, it actually demonstrates the exact opposite.
And that arrogant assumption often belies rampant hypocrisy - especially given how most sex bloggers actually operate completely outside of any respect for copyright regulations.
If you’re a blogger, look at your own site for proof of this. The last time you included a picture for your blog, where did you source it from? Did you just pull up Google Images, click on a picture you liked and then copy and paste it to your work? I know I have done that a lot, and so have the majority of other bloggers.
But the fact is, that’s nothing short of theft. Those aren’t our pictures to take and do with what we want. Somewhere out there, a photographer took them, edited them, cropped them and attempted to make money off of them; and we’re just stealing their intellectual property.
Bloggers, for the most part (and myself included) are all fucking thieves.
In fact, when it comes to blatant theft of other people’s copyrighted material, FurryGirl is actually one of the more ethical bloggers I’ve seen. She almost always uses her own illustrations and photographs for her blog posts, and is stringent about citing just about every quote she ever uses.
Yet even she isn’t above theft. On her post about Madison Young breastfeeding as performance art (which I wrote about here and here) she posts pictures of the infamous Westboro Baptist kids, which I assume she just lifted from Google images, since she gives no citation to the photographer or whoever originally published the pictures. In her defense, I’ve written posts about Westboro Baptist Church in which I’ve done exactly the same thing.
But the real hypocrisy is how, even while Furry Girl was threatening to sue NPR for merely mentioning her work, I checked her blog and found she’d stolen and hosted 22 minutes of footage from a Steven Spielberg movie right there on her website!
That’s not “fair use” and Hollywood certainly doesn’t license movies under Creative Commons 3.0, so I guess the only conclusion is that it’s fucking theft. And by comparison, it makes NPR’s alleged transgression look about as inconsequential as it actually is.
But as I mentioned earlier, when it comes to that kind of blatant hypocrisy (the attitude: “It’s not copyright infringement when I do it”) FurryGirl is actually one of the better bloggers out there. For the most part, we bloggers steal, re-purpose and redistribute other people’s intellectual property with alarming regularity. The only reason we don’t get busted and sued is because, generally, our blogging readership is so small it doesn’t even register on the radar of those we’ve stolen from.
And it’s not entirely our fault. The propagation of blogging tools has essentially streamlined the theft of other people’s intellectual property; and most bloggers are too ignorant to understand that what they’re doing is wrong. There’s this attitude that re-purposing other people’s stuff on the ‘net isn’t the same as taking real property, and it’s only when bloggers wind up on the other side of the equation (like FurryGirl incorrectly assumed she had) that the consequences of copyright theft hits home.
I know this first hand because people are stealing my stuff all the time. I write for an erotic magazine, Jacques, and our beautiful photography is incessantly being stolen and thrown up on Tumblr or Pinterest without attribution. Likewise, my article on Female Privilege inspired some LiveJournal user to lift the entire thing and host it on their page because “they didn’t want to give such a horrible article traffic.”
That kind of ignorant self-righteousness, from a legal perspective, is like walking to Barnes & Noble and stealing a copy of Glenn Beck’s latest book because you don’t want him to get the royalties. In other words, no matter how noble your motivation, you’re still stealing.
Many of EdenFantasys’ most talented reviewers are similarly targeted; with entire reviews they’ve written getting lifted from their own websites and pasted on spammy sites that try to steal traffic by scraping other people’s content. Theft of copyrighted material is pandemic; but the problem is most of us are part of the problem, not the solution.
So what can we do about it?
First off, as a blogger, you need to educate yourself – and I mean really educate yourself – about copyright. As FurryGirl demonstrated, copying and pasting Creative Commons 3.0 legal onto your page doesn’t mean you actually understand what it is, or what rights you are and aren’t giving away by doing so. Similarly, just because you think it’s okay to copy and paste somebody else’s stuff onto your own blog doesn’t mean it’s actually okay to do so.
Too many bloggers, sex or otherwise, treat copyright law the same way conservatives do The Constitution. They claim to understand it, and cite it to support their own agenda, but they’ve never actually bothered to research the damn thing, which explains why they’re so frequently wrong about it.
Secondly, and more importantly, when it comes to copyright, sex bloggers need to get the fuck over themselves. FurryGirl’s rant perfectly demonstrates what the real issue is with blogging and copyright: hypocrisy.
There’s this attitude that when we do it, it’s fine – or “fair use” – but when other people help themselves to our intellectual property in exactly the same way, they should be vilified for it.
The fact is, there’s no “one rule” for some people, and another for the rest. Copyright is a pretty cut-and-dried affair and all are treated equally under the law – which, if you’re a sex blogger, probably means you’ve been a thief at some point in your blogging career.
I know I have, and FurryGirl’s hypocritical rant highlighted how I should be thoroughly ashamed of myself for it. If you’re as guilty as I am, so should you.
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