If we were at a ritual together, and I put out my tools, would you take them without permission? Would you let someone else take them?
I’m guessing the vast majority of you would answer ‘no’.
For the most part, the Pagan community is made up of good, honest people who strive to do the right thing. I think it is safe to say that, overall, we are a caring and compassionate community. We consider ourselves people who care about the world, about societies and individuals. We want to save the environment and protect natural resources. We want to prevent things like suffering—not just of people, but of animals and even plants. We want to eliminate horrible things like poverty, war and oppression. We want to stop people from being exploited and taken advantage of.
Amirite? I really don’t think I’m too optimistic here; in general, I’m proud of our community, and I think most people come to it wanting to help make themselves better people, and the world a better place.
And yet, many Pagans are — unknowingly — hurting others in our community.
And even worse: some are hurting others deliberately and without caring.
So back to the question, if you would not steal (or let others steal) my altar supplies – my physical property—why would you steal my intellectual property? In some ways, it hurts even more.
Yes, It Is a Big Deal
Many of us think, “Oh, what’s the big deal about a copy & paste? It’s out there on the internet anyway. It’s being offered for free. It’s not like real stealing, it’s only a copy.”
And sometimes it’s not a big deal at all. Usually it’s great to share… but it should not be a free for all. If some people don’t know if something is okay to take, they could be hurting another person. And if some people are grabbing greedily, it can be a serious problem.
It can hurt individuals in our community.
I’m one of those people being hurt. Some are being hurt a whole lot worse.
The Reality of Trying to Make a Living As an Artist
I work about 60 hours per week, and I make my full-time income from my writing and teaching. Here is the breakdown:
Notice the discrepancy?
Now I wish it could be something like one of these (the last being the dream).
And non-Pagans tell me that if I were smart, I should do this:
And they’re right– if I stopped writing and teaching about spirituality, and just focused on clients and their needs for 60 hours per week, I’d close to double my salary, and have the highest earnings of my life. Sadly I still wouldn’t be wealthy, but even so… it’d be big for me.
But life is not just about money — I love what I do. That said, I just can’t afford to work for free. And if I left it all to my spare time, as a hobby, well…I’d almost never get anything done.
So I try, but here’s the vicious cycle:
And I’m one of the lucky ones; most creative Pagans will never be able to quit their day jobs and earn even a bare bones income. I make a modest living and am able to support my family—but only because I write more for others than for my labor of love.
It is amazing how many Pagans support causes like raising minimum wage for grunt jobs, or closing the gender wage gap, but think it’s okay if what a creative person nets from their work breaks down to about $2 per hour compensation.
Again, most Pagans are not out to hurt others intentionally by copying articles or images, it’s usually done out of lack of awareness. But some do it deliberately knowing they will usually get away with it, so it’s important to raise awareness.
How You Can Help Make Things More Fair
So we can all benefit from creative people being more Productive while also being able to sustain themselves and respecting their intellectual property, there are a few simple guidelines you can follow.
You can avoid unintentionally hurting creative members of the Pagan community by remembering a few things:
Things There for you to look at for free are NOT there to take for free
Someone offering free content to view is not offering you free content to reprint. Without permission, you’re not only possibly hurting someone, but you can get sued, have your webpage shut down or lose your Google Adsense account Without permission, you’re not only possibly hurting someone, but you can get sued, have your webpage shut down or lose your Google Adsense account
Even if you give proper attribution, you’re still infringing on copyright if you did not get permission
A lot of people seem to think, “Hey, I will make a website, and I will browse articles, and copy and paste all the good articles and pictures! And I will give them credit, so I can’t get into trouble! Free content for me, weeee!”
WRONG. Just a warning– this is a shitty thing to do. And illegal. You don’t get off the hook by stealing something and telling people who you stole it from. All the attributions in the world don’t make it okay to reprint without permission.
If you DO want to reprint something… simply ask.
A lot of times, authors/artists are happy to let you do that because it helps spread the word, and it makes you feel good when people like your work that much. Other times, it can hurt them. Let them make the decision… it’s their work.
Remember copyright protections extend to private distribution as well
Some people try to hide copyright infringement by posting privately rather than publicly. And to an extent, that’s not really bad (sending one or two friends an article, for example, in private e-mail).
But it’s equally wrong and equally illegal to distribute copyrighted materials without permission through mass emails, subscription-only newsletters, private groups and such.
If you can’t or don’t want to get permission, don’t reprint the whole article.
Just include the title/a paragraph, then add a link (for images, just use a link)
Don’t try to hide behind ‘Fair Use’ Clauses
Remember, fair use is when you quote A REASONABLE PORTION… for non-profit educational or for the purpose of reviewing the work. A REASONABLE PORTION is not half, most of, or the whole thing.
NEVER, EVER remove identifying information
Always give credit where credit is due, even if it’s just a quote. By-lines, signatures, watermarks, links, etc. are there for a reason… to not credit the source is plagiarism.
It’s a seriously scummy thing to do. Bylines, watermarks, artist signatures, etc. there for a reason. If someone is removing all identifying information and reprinting someone’s work, they’re not just infringing on someone’s copyright — they’re plagiarizing.
- I have caught bloggers vaguely masking one of my articles (changing a word or two, adding a phrase of their own), and posting it as if they put in all the hard work to gather and present the pertinent information.
- I have found a few self-published e-books in which authors just lifted up my articles, or parts of them, and pasted it into their book– then publish it as though it is their own work.
- There are people who sell ‘Books of Shadows’ with 1,000 or 5,000 items– images, prayers, chants, spells, etc. Guess where they get them? Yes, the vast majority are stolen.
- I have been warned by some of my faithful readers that they were checking out someone’s classes, workshop, tutorials, only to find my online lessons– word for word– being offered by some other person, as if they made the lesson themselves.
The last one is particularly sad, because it’s double deception.The plagiarist is not only scamming the original creator, but he’s fooling all his students/followers into thinking he’s some great mentor. He’s some wanna-be guru trying to get credit for being so knowledgeable and wise, but he’s actually just some sleazy thief and con artist parroting someone else. He’s either too lazy, or simply not capable, of doing the work himself, and is not worthy of people’s trust or admiration.
What You Can Do To Stop Plagiarism
Spotting possible plagiarism:
- If someone seems to have starkly different writing styles from one piece to another in a body of work
- If someone publishes so prolifically that you think it’s impossible for one person to write that much
- You’ve spotted a work published in more than one place, under different names (or with no names/attributions)
Now this doesn’t automatically mean plagiarism. It could be the publisher has permission, purchased rights, or is, in fact, the original author (and is the one being plagiarized). But you can always check if you care.
What to do if you suspect plagiarism:
- Copy & paste a few lines of an article from the blogger, webmaster or PDF file’s text into a search bar
- See if the article comes up elsewhere
- See if you can find the earliest publication date
If you think you’ve found the true creator of a work, you can always do that person a favor by sending them an email with a link so they can file the appropriate documents against the plagiarizer.
If someone fails to grasp simple ethics and morals, they’re not the elder, high priest/priestess, mentor, teacher or spiritual leader that you want to follow.
If you’ve been following a website, blog, artist, author, etc. who is stealing and reprinting other people’s work without permission, or — worse — they have been lying and implying that it’s their own work, don’t give them an audience or a customer. Don’t give them praise. Don’t give them your money. Spread the word and help protect the actual creative people in our community.
It’s only fair… no one can argue fairness. When you take what does not belong to you without permission, especially for your own personal, selfish gain or to inflate your own ego, it’s not fair.