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Thank You, Pomona!

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on August 27, 2012 | Comments (4)

I live in Southern California, about 30–45 minutes from the City of Pomona. Pomona was founded in 1888 on a trade route used by indigenous Americans. In the 1700s it was known as the Rancho San Jose. Later, it became known as the Mission San Gabriel Grazing Lands. It was later “given” (albeit not by the rightful inhabitants or owners) to two Spanish soldiers. By the 1800s it became known for its rich citrus crops, and when train transportation arrived in the 1870s, its future was set.

Today, Pomona is highly urbanized. Its big money maker is the Los Angeles Fairgrounds, known as the “Fairplex,” which includes a horse racing track. My wife Holly and I are planning on going to the Los Angeles County Fair which is being held there next month.

But that’s not really what I want to talk about.

You see, the city is named after the Roman goddess Pomona. Unlike most vegetative deities, Pomona is not a goddess of the harvest. Rather, she is about the fertility and growth of plants, especially fruit trees. And of fruit trees, she is especially sacred to apple trees. For good apples pray to Pomona.

Alegoria jesieni (Allegory of Autumn) by Jerzy Siemiginowski-Eleuter (c. 1660–c. 1711)
Bacchus is in the center and Pomona is to the right. Note cherubic figures below her holding apples.

And at this time, I would think that the Apple corporation, maker of Macintosh computers, iPhones, iPods, iPads, and other electronic items, is happily thanking Pomona for their victory in court over the Samsung corporation. I’m thanking Pomona for this victory, too. However I’m not saying “Apple good/Samsung bad” per se. I’m in favor of fighting it out fairly in the free market.

The basics behind the legal case are simple. Samsung made smart phones. Apple introduced the iPhone. Several of the smart phones made by Samsung after the iPhone was introduced looked very similar to the iPhone and worked like the iPhone. In fact, Samsung had passed around a document that basically said their phones had to be more like the iPhone for them to succeed.

In short, Apple spent years and hundreds of millions of dollars developing the iPhone. Samsung abandoned their previous research and development and copied the iPhone. This was wrong and Samsung will now have to pay Apple over a billion dollars. Well, that’s not exactly true. The court could as much as triple the fine, and of course, Samsung will appeal the verdict, meaning this case will remain in the courts for years with the big winner being the lawyers.

Samsung has a whole lot of money and can afford to be in the courts for years. Other smaller phone makers couldn’t afford it. That means for them to survive, they’ll have to do something other than just copy Apple’s products. In the short term this may mean a smaller selection of mobile phones from various manufacturers. In the long term they’ll have to be original and create something new. This means greater variety for consumers. It means real competition for Apple. All phones will improve.

But that’s not really what I want to talk about.

In fact, at this time you may be wondering what this has to do with a blog on magick. Well, it has a lot to do with authors of books on magick.

In two blog posts from earlier this year, Elysia, the Senior Acquisitions Editor for Witchcraft, Wicca, Pagan, and magickal books at Llewellyn (I’m just a neophyte in this area), posted on people trying to steal and distribute what Llewellyn authors and Llewellyn Publishing created. You can read the blogs, and the comments to them, Here and Here. The people Elysia wrote about didn’t merely re-write something authors had published through Llewellyn. They simply took scans of books and made them available on their websites, sometimes for free, sometimes for pay.

Recently, I was informed that one site had over 100 Llewellyn titles they were selling. These were scans of in-print books. Not one cent of the money they were making went to the authors. Not one cent went to cover the costs Llewellyn had gone to for typesetting, editing, and publicity, as well as paying for salaries of people at Llewellyn or allowing us to use profits to pay for publication of more books and pay royalties to authors. It was outright piracy.

Samsung lost. Pirates, when we find them, are also told to take down illegal copies of published works before we sue. So far, they have done so. But who knows how much money has been lost to the actual creators of the writing?

Why Do Pirates Do It?

Logo of a site known for allowing the distribution of pirated books.
They have been banned in several countries.

Two of the functions on every computer make working with data easy: copy and paste. In an era of blogging and social networking, copy and paste seems to be a way of life for internet users. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the belief by many people that “if it’s on the ‘net, it’s free to copy.” Many bloggers steal images and text and post them without obtaining the rights to do so. I’m a volunteer moderator on an internet forum dedicated to hypnotherapy and NLP. Often, we get people who simply copy and paste pictures and text from another web site. I have to go to the other website and see whether or not there is a copyright notice on that site. If there is, I don’t allow the poster to place it on our forums. That’s both ethical and the law. Surprisingly, some of the posters complain, “Everyone else is doing it.” But that doesn’t make it legal. We encourage the poster to include links to the original post and add their own original comments.

The images above are both taken from sources that have clearly labeled them as works in the public domain and that they are free to copy. If it turned out they weren’t in the public domain, I’d have to take them down immediately. I try to be very careful for the sources of everything I put up on this blog.

But others think that if they can find it on the internet, it’s free to use. It’s not.

“But I’m not making any money out of it so I’m not taking money away from authors.”

Yes, you are. You’re giving away something that normally people would buy and help authors and their families survive and write more.

“But there’s no difference between me putting a book on line and me sharing it with a friend.”

Actually, there’s a big difference. If you share a book with a friend it’s one book. If you want another copy you would need to buy it. There’s a big difference between that and making a book available for thousands of people to steal.

“So are you saying I can’t make a copy of rituals for myself so I don’t have to carry a big book around in rituals?”

Of course not! If you want to make copies of sections of books for yourself and your own use, go ahead!

“My local bookstore closed. Now this is my only way to get books like these.”

My first response is rather snarky. Perhaps if you actually bought books from your local store and encouraged your friends to buy locally your store wouldn’t have gone out of business. My second response is that you can order Llewellyn books directly from us and there are bookstores all over the internet just waiting for your orders.

“How will occultism grow if people don’t have easy access to these books?”

With the internet and its numerous on-line bookstores, obtaining even rare books is easier than ever. Recently I obtained a book from a bookstore in Tibet which wasn’t available elsewhere. Two days ago I received a book from India that wasn’t being distributed in the U.S.

“You’re just out of date! In the words of Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, ‘Information wants to be free.’ You’re trying to limit freedom and it can’t be done.”

I can’t speak for Llewellyn, but I can say I agree with Mr. Brand. Information should be free. But specific words are not information. Words carry information. I strongly urge you to take the concepts in my books and spread the information using your own words. You don’t have to copy and paste me or any other author to share information.

The first publication of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram occurred about 100 years ago. It has been published by many authors with many variations. If you were to publish it now, nobody could say you were copying them. However, if you copied the exact wording Regardie used in The Golden Dawn or I used in Modern Magick or the Ciceros used in The Essential Golden Dawn to explain each step, you would be violating the copyright.

So for me, the bottom line is really quite simple: don’t steal other people’s works. Don’t sell or give away other people’s works unless you buy a copy and then sell or give away just that copy.

Think of a book as a tricycle. You can share the idea of what a trike is. You can build your own trike. You can sell the ones you make as long as they don’t look exactly like the trike others make. If you buy a tricycle you can sell it or give it away. Just please don’t steal someone else’s trike. And don’t steal a bunch of trikes and give them away or sell them. I don’t think that’s difficult to understand.

Thank you, Pomona, for helping us add to our understanding that originality and creativity are good; theft is not.

Reader Comments

avatar
#1 
Written By Morton
on August 27th, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

“I’ve always stolen shamelessly from the best.” -Steve Jobs

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#2 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on August 27th, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

Yep. He took IDEAS from others and made them into something better. That’s EXACTLY what I have supported. It’s value-added creativity.

avatar
#3 
Written By Angel Angelov
on August 28th, 2012 @ 6:44 am

It’s not so much that the iPhone has a good design, as much as it doesn’t have a bad design. It’s so simplistic, that anyone could have made it.

On books – no digital copy of a book (legal or not) can engage the reader as much as the real thing. I prefer to follow the instructions from my tangible copy of “Modern Magick, 2nd Ed.” than from some cluster of data on my hard drive. It (the hard copy) somehow makes things more… serious.

avatar
#4 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on August 28th, 2012 @ 8:47 am

Angel, you write that “anyone could have made” the design for the iPhone because it was “so simplistic.” And yet…nobody, until Apple, did. Sometimes, the solution to a challenge is not the most complex; it’s the most simplistic.

I would be more inclined to say that the experience of reading a an ebook is different than reading a paper book. The last person I know of who really focused on the media being used to transfer information, rather than the information itself, was the late visionary, Marshall McLuhan.

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