Rant: Theft on the Pagan Web
Article ID: 2051
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 5,713
Times Read: 19,619
Posted: October 27th. 1997
Times Viewed: 19,619
Sadly, the Takers of the Pagan net seem to be on the rise... As I write this intro, two powerful and creative Pagan websites have emailed me with concerns (read: anger) about their coding, words and/or graphics being looted strait away by "Pagans" that decided to take the low road. Make no doubt about it, where there is money, attention or fame to be had, there will always be takers. They want your "hits" and/or your money!
The Witches' Voice has been looted since day one. Graphics that I have created have been stolen and distributed so frequently that they have been consumed into the abyss known as "public domain". Our FAQ's have been pinched (and presented uncredited) so often that a few months ago we simply rewrote them. Over the past four years, and to this day, there have been several sites that have harvested WitchVox's latest EVERYTHING. They mirror our latest moves (ideas or direction), pinch our HTML structure, do a quick global replace, twist our words into theirs and THEN... They hope that YOU will think "their" new ideas and presentations are 'bitchen. If YOU notice this, call them on it.
We do call them on it when we are made aware (if we believe they have a conscience) but it has been our observation that YOUR comments TO these takers has MORE impact that our own (see how you can help just below). Remember: They want YOUR "hits" and/or YOUR money!
FACT: The "bottom feeders" mentioned above comprise a tiny percentage of The Pagan 'Net.
The Good News: The Pagan Web DOES have a wealth of creativity and depth! Surf to our Pagan links Section for some fine examples.
If you aren't an artist but want cool images for you site you can surf the free images sites or choose from the public domain collections. If you want original images, you CAN simply create them yourself or use personal photographs.
If you want or need to use someone else's work on your site, simply toss them a piece of email and ask. Most will say YES. I have personally granted permission to literally hundreds of requests like this over the past three years and all we ask is that you properly credit the authors, artists and webcrafters where appropriate. For the record: I have never denied a sincere request to use and properly credit anything from the Witches' Voice with the exception of our email list.
October 27th., 1997
Our Precious code: I touched on this in my first back in June and hadn't given it much thought until I actually went out and surfed the Pagan web a few nights back. Due to my dedication to the mission of the Witches' Voice I have almost zero time to surf the net. By nature I don't assume anyone a taker or a thief and prefer to live in the mindset of Faeries, light and love (no, I am not going to break into a song here). Within the past 48 hours I have discovered no less than 20 sites that had decided to "borrow" our color selection, table structure, general look and feel, graphics, Wren's articles and to present them as their own work. I also noted the beautiful look and feel of many other wonderful pagan sites that I highly respect that were looted and twisted into someone else's "original" creation. What infuriated me most was the "light" they were projecting as their own was the hard work of others.
Should I feel flattered or violated? If CREDIT is respectfully given for inspiration, code structure/design, graphics, ideas or articles I not only feel flattered, I feel honored. If NO CREDIT or acknowledgment is given and my work is presented as someone else's... I feel violated, used and ripped off. Did I mention angry ?
My most horrifying thought is that a casual surfer discovering the Witches' Voice for the first time after coming from one of these sites would feel as though it was TWV that did the "looting." Every month, without fail, I get a least one piece of email from a "concerned Witch" asking me if I had asked for permission to use a particular graphic at TWV (they saw it uncredited on another pagan site). The record is still perfect to date... They were referring to one of my creations.
At this point I must confess that I am no master of html, not by a long shot, but I am not afraid to work very hard at it and am very fussy about the "look and feel" of every page on the Witches' Voice. I spend LITERALLY hours and hours (sometimes days) to get a page or chapter index to look just right (to my eye), playing with table attributes, spacing, images, etc. etc., over and over AND over again until things are polished to my visual standards. Quite often the polishing process can go on for months. When I get a page "just right" I put it up on our site. If I put 5 hours into the "look and feel" of a page and someone sez "hey that looks nice" or "great idea" or "they must be doing something right" and THEN does a "me too" version in 40 minutes, ups it to their site and presents it as their look and feel I have made their life easy. If they don't acknowledge this via a posted credit on their page, they are ripping me off.
During my surf in the last two days, I ran into several Pagan Web sites that had OBVIOUSLY grabbed my source code with my default colors and all, and then changed the words and graphics to call it their own. In MANY cases, some words weren't even changed. And in 5 cases, entire pages were taken (via the source code) and the only change was the elimination of the author/artist and the Witch Vox copyright notice. This trend is on the rise big time. I hear it via email more and more.
Do I own the rights to html elements ? Of course not ! When I first got an Internet account, I asked my Internet service provider how to do a web page and she said "view some source code to get a feel for how to build pages, tables etc." I did just that, but like everything I do, I had to make it my own. Why? because it wasn't my own.
Is "look and feel" protected by law? You bet it is. (see our Legal Page)
Is this worth fighting legally? Not with our present financial balance.
During my 3 years in the Cult of Witchcraft as the graphics, info and tech guy, had always said (related to other people's graphics and text) "Change 10 things and it's yours" - I argued this "concept" with for 3 years and refused to accept this as ethical or to produce work for based on it. Wren and I left all things related to due to ethical issues such as this.
"Change 10 things and it's yours"? - I loath this old adage.
The additive or subtractive design mindset: Polarity is the basis of everything we do. Light/Dark, good/bad, giver/taker, planting/harvesting etc. etc. Creating, experimenting, polishing, learning and evolving is an additive mindset (it requires real work). Stealing, light reshaping, copying and borrowing is a subtractive mindset (this requires much less work). Personally I use both. I ONLY USE THE SUBTRACTIVE APPROACH ON MY OWN WORK. My hardest work is deciding on the look and feel and building up/polishing pages. When I do get a page that I like, I use it as a template for future pages via the subtractive mindset. This gives a website a consistent look and feel. Can you steal from yourself? Kick your own ass? Sorry, no. This is the honest approach... Some less-inspired individuals find a site they like... steal the ideas and various elements and use the subtractive approach to twist it into their own "creation." Then they ask their friends and the world to come and celebrate "their creation."
Your "adaptation" of someone else's work/model should always NOTE the source.
This is not only ethical, but U.S. law requires you to do so.
What IS look and feel related a web site?: Pretty much the same as in a song, magazine, movie or any other artistic creation. On the Web it's quite similar to a magazine... A combination of color, layout, choice of words, movement, navigation, graphics, the message, etc. There is a finite number of any of these elements individually but the combinations are endless. There are only 12 half steps to the common musical scale, but with the elements of lyrics, phrasing, timber and arrangements the possibilities are again endless. The final result IS the look and feel. "I don't know why but this site makes me feel good/bad/uncomfortable/inspired/bored/etc. etc. In music it really doesn't matter what you think of an artist personally, either their latest tune moves you or it doesn't. "When I listen to that tune, I feel soooo good."
Where do you draw the line on originality?: There is plenty of gray area here, some real and some "convenient." Many looters not only count on this gray area but celebrate it as their "easy path to a Kewl Web site." The best measure is always... if it looks like a duck... it is a duck!. You can also do a hybrid site by noting inspiration or ideas and still make it your own to a varying degree. There is nothing dishonest about this.
Vision or Personal Agenda? The "Me Too" Web sites: "I wanna do a page like that! I wanna be like them! I want that graphic... I like that idea." This is a dead end road at best. Creating a web site that is clearly and identifiably your own IS the realization of a vision.
How do you approach a Thief?: As cautiously as a Raccoon digging through your garbage. There is no real delicate way to say stop stealing my work (although this direct approach is popular by some of my contemporaries). The honest and straightforward approach is always best. Understand that you are bound to be emotionally driven; cool off and don't go for the attack (this almost never works and you might be attacking the wrong person). Introduce yourself. Give them the benefit of the doubt (perhaps they took your work from somewhere else) and detail your concerns but don't skirt the issue. I've done this a dozen times in the last week alone and the responses I've received are as follows.
- "I was honoring your work" (uncredited and presented as their work).
- "Sorry I didn't notice your copyright statement" (on all of our 210 pages?).
- "I thought you wanted to get the information out there" (We do: that's why we always grant permission).
- "I forgot (didn't bother) to give you credit" (Really?).
- "Did Wren REALLY write that?" (yes she did).
- "I got it somewhere else and "don't remember" the URL." (sometimes this is the truth).
- "I thought all copyright graphics were locked down" (my favorite).
- "The graphic was soooo gorgeous... I had to have it... I kinda knew it was yours" (kinda?).
- "Wren's so good with words (lifted uncredited)... and I'm not" (and this makes it OK because... ???).
| "When you rip off or twist someone's work to present it as your own, do know that the laws of Karma have already kicked in and this WILL catch up with you. When you do get caught you have two choices; eliminate it or get permission and give credit where credit is due...." |
|The following scenario is only recommended for those without a conscience and desire a life in the "big house" Any similarities to McDonald's®TM Corporation are intentional and in an effort to acknowledge their look and feel.|
Hey Everybody, Come Celebrate MY "Vision"...
Let's see... I'm going to start a "burger business" and I really like that McDonald's font (and boy, are they successful); yellow seems to work for some reason and the golden arches are a very powerful image. Why screw with success? I'll call it "McDougals" - wait a minute something doesn't seem right (that damn conscience kicks in)... I'll make the arches BLACK!
(later) WOW, now that I'm open, my business is doing pretty well... apparently McDonald's (my evil competitor) is now giving out puppets from the Jar Wars collection... and they are busier than ever... I don't have their connection with that film guy but I could find other puppets to give away... hey my business is increasing again. What? THEY are donating to the Ronald McDonald fund? Hey this is a good idea and a tax break. Where DO they get those ideas???
What? McDonald's is on the phone? What could THEY possibly want?
JUDGE: How would you feel if you were McDonald's?
McDougals: HEY! I was honoring their work and helping them promote the concept of arches = tasty burgers. They were using puppets to promote business? Really? What's wrong with supporting charities? Stole their look and feel? I don't think so... my arches are black and I also serve tacos...
And your honor its worth noting that I work 80 hours a week to make my restaurant successful. And I know this works because I got business as soon as I started to advertise... They love "my vision."
JUDGE: Their catch phrase is "you deserve a break today" and yours is "you deserve to be break-dancing today" ?
McDougal's: Completely different words your Honor. Their phrase doesn't mention dancing at all. These are my words your Honor and people seem to respond to them... They like the MELODY LINE.
JUDGE: Have you considered becoming a McDonald's franchise?
McDougal's:: I couldn't be bothered, There is a 2 year wait, they want McDonald's on everything, I don't make as much money AND they won't let me serve tacos... And, your Honor, I want to state that my customers love McDougals just the way it is. But for some reason, they keep bitching about why I took fries off the menu.
Your Honor? I never had fries on the menu...
JUDGE: So Mote it Be !
Hey, at least our pets are free from all of this: Sorry but no! Last week Wren was out surfing and she noticed a site where one of the main graphics on their home page was a picture of a beautiful kitty posing comfortably just behind a powerful altar... I'll bet this Webcrafter's friends thought he/she was very creative and their site was cool... its a great image and perhaps they got it from some other site without knowing the creator. We have this same picture here at the Witches' Voice on our "Cats" page and it has been there since our WLPA Daze... And ya know what? It's a picture of our altar and the kitty is in my lap as I type this. (We have contacted this site in hopes to have our kitty's name listed under her picture).
When I think of fresh, exciting and original Pagan Web sites, there are many that come to mind: T.P.A.O., Catala, Avatar, Obsidian, Dreamroads Collective, Dianadru, The Craft, Ashlyn's Grove, Laren's Place and Witches Brew... I'M SURE there ARE others that are incredible and truly original but like I said earlier... I need to get out more.
WitchVox Policy: Since day one, The Witches' Voice has offered just about everything on this site for the taking. The only exception is our email list and our overall "look and feel." All we ask is that you email us, ask our permission, and make sure you credit any authors or artists where appropriate prominently on the page. We have granted permission to some 200-plus requests over the last 34 months, and to date we have never said no. Do we check up for proper crediting? No... we take their word as a Witch and we hope that this is not naive.
Is there nothing original left to do? Not by a long shot! The 127 "Projects To Do" items on our white board here in our office tell us "no way." And this is just our read on things... Use the right side of your brain, put some time in this direction, and for Goddess sake, have some fun with it. The universe is the limit...
Blessed Be and Happy Samhain.
(ALWAYS Learning - NEVER Burning)
October 10th., 1997 c.e.
Location: Clearwater¼ v2, Florida
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