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Monday, July 28, 2014

The Internet Makes it Easy To Steal, But It's Still Not Right

We have access to SO much thanks to the internet. The world is opened up to us with just a click! Art, books, information, entertainment, news, games, recipes and much, much more. What a lot of people don't realize is the age old rules about stealing have not changed and there are laws against using someone else's material. I was witness to one such person last night and into today. She had apparently just created a recipe sharing page on Facebook. She didn't have many likes yet. However it quickly came to the attention of others that most all her posts consisted of photos and recipes directly lifted from people's blogs. In many of the photos the owner's watermarks were still present. They called her on it and told her it was stealing. Instead of trying to find out if she was in fact in the wrong, she got very defensive, immediately began calling those people "haters", greedy, comparing them to Nazis and using foul language. She mentioned that she had spoke to her boyfriend and a good friend and they agreed that what she was doing was fine and to ignore the "haters". She then began posting threats of legal ramifications. Right before she took down her page, she made a threat of filing restraining orders against people. Unfortunately, the advice she is being given is not only incorrect, it could lead to her getting into serious trouble.

I do not pretend to be any kind of expert and I am certainly not a lawyer, but over the course of my life I have learned a few things. One being if it isn't yours, don't touch it. This particular girl claimed to have a "very educated brain" and knowing how to use it. If that were true she would know that you don't copy anyone else's work word-for-word. Ever. Basic school lessons. 

She is under the mistaken idea that because she wasn't selling the material or making money off it, that it was okay. The reality is that using anyone's material without permission is illegal and you are liable. Photos and writings are protected the same way an artist's painting's, an author's books or a songwriter's songs are protected. To be fair, she was doing recipes, but there are specific rules and protections there as well. The ingredient list is not protected but the directions/instructions, notes and of course the photos are. 

That poor girl in all her defiance and ignorance, does not realize the trouble she could get into even now that she has pulled her page down. If even one of the owners of that material decides to pursue it and has grabbed a screenshot of a post, they can still file against her and chances are good she would be required to pay the owner. Ignorance of the law, does not absolve one from obeying it. And just because you see others doing it or someone tells you it's okay, doesn't make it right or true. 

With all the wonder of the internet, the ease of sharing things, and sites like Facebook and Pinterest make it seem like it is okay to just share or copy and paste, but when you do, you are the one assuming the risks, whether you are aware of it or not, because you agreed to the Terms of Service on these sites when you joined. Buried in there are words and phrases that state by posting, you agree that you are the owner and creator of the material with legal right to post it. Yikes! Makes me want to re-think using Pinterest!

Many people like our poor, unfortunate "very educated" brainiac, think that if it is found on the internet it is theirs for the taking. She even made comments to the effect that if you wanted to protect you material, it shouldn't be on the internet. I was going to send her a link that explains much of this and serves as a terrific example of what can happen when you steal other people's material. 

Author/blogger Roni Loren experienced this very situation in 2012 and afterward wrote a terrific post about what happened and the lessons she learned from the experience. I encourage you to read Roni's post. It is as relevant today as it was the day she wrote it. Perhaps even more so with new young people joining internet life every day. (And in case you are wondering, Yes, I asked Roni for permission to link her post for you to read! :)
The moral is: look, enjoy, appreciate even share whole links, but do not steal someone else's material. If you're not sure whether material is copyrighted, don't use it without getting permission first. The court costs aren't worth it!

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