Wednesday, July 20, 2005

STEALING PIECES OF MY HEART

Stealing Pieces of My Heart
by Janice Price

“But, Officer,” Gerry whines as he is handcuffed by a police officer, “I didn’t do anything. Why am I being arrested?”

“For breaking and entering, stealing a car to take your friends joyriding, destruction of private property, driving at an excessive rate of speed while going the wrong way on the Interstate, and for causing a thirty car accident,” the officer tells him.

Gerry protests, utterly convinced he didn’t do anything wrong. “I didn’t steal the car! It was public property - just waiting for someone to drive it. I wanted to impress my friends and I figured the owner wouldn’t mind if I put it to a good use. Besides, none of those charges will stick. The owner is a Christian. He’ll forgive me.”

“Public property? Uh-huh. That’s why you broke into a home, hot-wired the car in the garage, and drove over a bicycle, a vegetable garden, and a mailbox while leaving the scene at a high rate of speed.. Forgiveness isn’t the point here. You broke the law and have to pay the consequences. Tell it to a judge and jury.”

The above is fiction, used as an illustration of how adept people can become at twisting facts to appear innocent of wrongdoing, even if caught red-handed. And if it sounds far-fetched, you might want to read some real life honest-I’m-innocent criminal stories.

Some try to excuse wrong actions because “it’s for a good cause.” Christians might try to appear as righteous by using the excuse, “I’m doing God’s work.” An unconverted heart is truly deceitful above all things, but the Christian heart is not yet perfect. Until and unless the Holy Spirit leads you to see any of the sludge you are harboring in your heart, you are oblivious to what you are doing wrong. Or, in some cases, you are aware of what you are doing wrong, but try to appease your conscience by blowing it off as inconsequential, I’m-not-hurting-anyone mis-reasoning.

One of my pet peeves is the casual way Christians and non-Christians alike appropriate others’ words, artwork, photographs, graphics – any type of creative work. Appropriate means to take or make use of without authority or right. In plain English, to steal. God did not give any such command as: “You shall steal in My name or for a good cause.” No, God specifically commands us to not steal, but our human minds reason around it.

The Internet puts so much at our fingertips. There are countless web sites where we can find free software, free graphics, free e-books, and free music – lots of freebies. Are you discouraged? Unable to attend church? Click on this site or that one and pick out what you need to educate or uplift you.. You found that helpful? Well, copy and paste it into an e-mail and send it to all your friends, who will then send it to all their friends.

Whoa! Before you hit “Send,” stop for a moment and think about what you are doing.

Not everything on the Internet is free for your personal use. Some things have been created for a web page, a blog, an e-mail, or an e-zine, and although the originator offers to share it with you, it hasn’t been given to you. If you take it for your own use, with or without altering it, you are appropriating it – stealing it!

It isn’t community property, whether or not it was created by a Christian. It makes no difference whether there is a specific statement of copyright. Visit http://www.copyright.gov/ to learn how creative works are automatically covered under copyright law. And to ignore or remove copyright information, or any other identifying information, plainly says, I know I am stealing but if I cover it up by filing off the serial number, I can get away with it. (Filing off the serial number is an analogy. I’m not delusional.)

Most of my stories arise from personal experiences and this one is no exception. I’m not a computer nerd and I didn’t have the financing to handle a web site, so I opened a blog site, and began posting photographs and stories to encourage others. For the past year, I placed my name, copyright information, e-mail address and web address on every story posted. (None of the other serious blog or web page writers did this.) Copyright and reprinting only with permission information was prominently displayed on the web site.

A week ago I removed the excess ID information on each story, so it would look more professional and less like the site was being guarded by an overprotective parent. A few days later I “accidentally” (thank you, God!) learned that for several months, as fast as I have been posting the stories, someone has been appropriating them, stripping them of copyright and contact information and posting them to a forum. Then I found that at least three other writers I know personally are posted on there, without even a byline to identify the authors.

I located an email address for the forum administrator and sent an “educational” message the other day. I sent a copyright infringement message yesterday. Still no response – yet! Not even an insincere apology.

For three days I walked around with my stomach in my knees, so to speak. I felt violated, as if someone had disarmed my security system, broken into my house, rooted through everything and stolen whatever they wanted.

Other writers understand this feeling. My friend Joe summed it up well. “Jan, you have a perfect right to feel violated. Your MAP stories are wonderfully unique and they are a part of your innermost being. Those who stole your stories stole an important part of you, since you and your MAP stories are one.”

Yes, my MAP (Mercy And Percy) stories are an integral part of who I am. They are not cold, hard facts on paper; they are stories written from my heart, to be read on my Mercy And Percy site or elsewhere - with proper approval - but not to be appropriated.

Some writers state something like, it’s okay to share this, just don’t remove any of my copyright or personal contact information. Whatever the reason, this is their choice, and there is nothing wrong with it. But there is no law that says any written piece is public domain and it’s okay to grab it, strip it, add a Bible verse or inspirational quotation and call it “doing God’s work” or “helping others,” no matter how great the cause. Before you post someone else’s material, put it in a newsletter, or reprint it somewhere else, contact the writer and ask if it is okay to do so and what information that particular writer wants included with it.

When you come across something that inspires you or encourages you, encourage the author by sending even one line of thanks for time and effort invested in creating the piece. Every writer I know puts his or her heart into articles or personal experience stories. Every time you steal a piece of their work, you steal a part of their heart also.

Do you want to share the story with a friend? Blogs and many web sites have a means to recommend a story to your friend. On blogger.com it’s an envelope icon next to “comments” after each story. A link – not the story – would be e-mailed to your friend.

Anyone appropriating stories already knows how to copy and paste. But instead of the story, email the web address to your friends or to your forum. For example, http://www.mercyandpercy.com is where this story will be posted. Eventually it will be archived under July 20, 2005.

There are numerous family-friendly web sites and many good writers on the Internet. Not all of the authors have a web or blog site, but a variety of good writing can be found on Christian sites such as http://www.crossmap.com – just click on “columns.” There you will find articles by Moe Pujol, Joseph Perrello, Ed Price, Jimmy Cochran, Paul Dawn, Vicki Gaines, Donna Shepherd, and others.

I hope you will visit Mercy And Percy, be encouraged by the writing, and recommend it to your friends. My desire is to please and honor God, as well as to encourage, inspire and share lessons learned through personal experience.

© 2005 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

3 comments:

Paul said...

Hi Jan,

Just blogging by to catch up on my reading and see what is happening.

Thank you for an awesome post. Indeed most of us are writing from the heart, from our inner most being, from the things that the Lord has shown us.

I have had to contact a couple of places that had used my posts, from Crossmap, most they identify but had a couple they could not identify and I contacted them, and show them where it came from.

Thank you for dealing with this issue. You presented it well.

Blessings my friend,

Writing for the King,

Paul

Vicki said...

Hi Jan!

Yep, you are soooo right about all this copyright stuff. I once had a Canadian friend email me (many years ago when I was a new writer) to say congrats on my article that was published in an e-newsletter he had just read. I had no idea that my story had been "lifted." My friend happened to recognize my writing because that same article had been posted on our writers group online. Wasn't sure if I should be mad or flattered;-) but you know, "imitation" is the highest form of flattery, not plagiarism. Anyhoo, I contacted the editor, who very graciously apologized and asked permission to use my writing from then on.

I appreciated your post on this topic. Some people don't realize what they're doing, but many do! Your post will definitely plant clear reminders in their minds and hearts.

Meanwhile, I'm always thankful if God can use anything I write to bless someone's heart. It would just be nice if people gave the proper credit due. It's called doing the right thing!

Blessings,
Vicki

Donna J. Shepherd said...

Very good post. I've had a few instances where my writing showed up in places I had not given permission, but with my name attached. How do you find out otherwise?

Thanks for including my name in the list of Crossmap writers. :)

And keep writing! - Donna