My recent writings against the expansion of intellectual protection laws to new domains have led to a few e-mails like this one: "I recently read your article on fashion copyright and have to totally agree, i also think it should apply to every aspect of life.
So in [the] future I will copy every word you ever write and reprint it in another publication or format without giving you any credit or paying for your creativity in anyway."
Touche! Sadly, copying blogs posts without credit or compensation is a crowded market. Take Bullfax.com, whatever it is. They do just copy my posts. They don't link them back to me, or attach my name to them. But what do I care? I find it hard to believe that there's anyone who has chosen to read my blog on Bullfax.com rather than at The Washington Post. And if Bullfax.com ever did become a serious site, the fact that all its content was stolen would quickly emerge -- destroying its credibility and probably giving me some publicity in the process.
Of course, straight duplication is, in blogging and most other endeavors, rarer than conceptual mimicry. Most bloggers -- and for that matter, most writers and reporters -- have seen stories they've broken or ideas they've developed or research they've unearthed appear under other bylines. You can't always prove that it was your efforts that got ripped off, but fairly often, you know. This is more akin to the issues in the fashion world, where things that look suspiciously like runway designs show up in Forever 21 a few days after they're first photographed in Milan.
But, again, so what? If my ideas become popular, that gives me a market advantage, as I know them best. And because I care about my ideas and think they're correct and think it would be good if they got more exposure, I'm hard-pressed to complain when they begin to spread. If the situation were such that this sort of thing was putting writers in the poorhouse or people were no longer generating new ideas because it stopped seeming worthwhile to do so, that might argue for some change in policy. But that's not happening at all. Quite the opposite, in fact: There's probably more innovation because people are building off each other's work freely.
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