You think you only stole my words, but you really stole my heart from the page: Plagiarism and intellectual property in the age of the internet.
"She stole my words..." A surreal feeling swept over me as I scrolled through multiple posts that had once belonged to my heart, now captured by the automated blog signature of someone else. "She stole my words," I repeated. "Your words were stolen? Did she come in a car to steal them?" Audrey asked, coming up alongside me and carrying a tone of immense concern.
The task of explaining the concept of intellectual property and plagiarism to a four-year old is not exactly simple. You cannot use big, technical words like Copyright and Infringement to make the point sit solid in their mini minds. All you can say is this: Something was stolen. And that something means a great deal to me.
Nearly a month ago, with the help of a friend, a blog was discovered. The author of the blog had plagiarized, word for word, my blog posts on several occasions. No Credit. No Citation. No Mention. Nothing. And instantly the world could have believed that those words belonged to her.
We run a huge risk when we allow our words, thoughts, and ideas to scamper along the hallways of the World Wide Web. Very easily, a sentence can be copied. A paragraph can be mimicked. An entire idea can be kidnapped and held hostage in someone else's corner of the internet.
And, anyone who has experienced this knows, it is no Flintstone Chewable to swallow when we have taken the time to pour a fine brew of heart, energy, and passion into every one of our sentiments. Only to see it wrongfully claimed by someone else.
It happens every single day, more so with an internet that adores blurring the lines of free content. I guess I am too naive to believe that when stripped from the technicality of the infringement, a lesson stays learned from the second grade: Don't take something that does not belong to you.
"I guess it is a strange form of flattery," I said reluctantly to my mother as I clicked through other posts on my site, wondering if the world harbored other Hannah Katy Copy Cats.
"No, it's not Hannah," she replied. "Don't kid yourself. Just admit that it stings. She took what you love more than anything: your words."
I would never think to "out" this person on my blog. Neither my blog or mouth is fit for harsh words that only create more problems. I do not know her intention or her reasoning behind becoming so hasty with the copy and paste buttons but I want her to know that I am not mad at her. It just stings. It comes as a slap in the face to me that she saw fit to let my words ruminate under her header.
Anyone who knows me, be it a best friend or a dedicated reader, knows that I allow my heart to sit on this page Every Single Day. Sometimes Contented. Sometimes Restless. I give my words in the only way that I know how: as a gift. To Lovers. Friends. Family. Strangers. And it is a gift that I do not want to be forced to reach an endpoint with. I do not do this for money, popularity or perks. I do this only because I feel called to extend my words to people who need them more than I. Some days I do need them, those days we share.
Please do not take my vulnerability and call it your own. Please do not take my talents and place your signature at the bottom.
Take My Words, Share Them, Build Off Of Them. Adore Them. But Don't Call Them Yours. Please Don't Categorize My Love Under Your Name.
A few days later, after a flurry of flustered conversations and infringement notifications, I found myself happy. Sitting Indian-style upon a Dora beach towel with a notepad on my hip.
"You found your words! You found them!" Audrey came screaming up, breathless from building a sand castle. "You got your words back," she squealed. Clapping Her Hands at the Sight of the Composition Notebook. "I was afraid they would stay stolen forever!"
I smiled up at her. "Yes, Audrey. I got my words back." I continued to smile and then looked upward to thank God. For He knew, 1,000 words were stolen, so he granted me 10,000 more to play with.