On Thursday I blogged about book piracy, prompted in part by a particularly egregious offender. The website in question had 32 of our books and tons of other publishers’ books available for download, in full, as well as pages upon pages of spells, rituals, poems, songs, recipes, and more, culled from scores of books, without our authorization (and it seems, without the authorization of several other publishers as well). Llewellyn issued a DMCA takedown notice, I wrote a blog post, it went viral (5,000 hits in a 24-hour span, thanks to authors and other friends), and the website owner finally got the message and agreed to take down the material in question.
Llewellyn had written to this website owner before, and had gotten no response. Now, scores of angry authors, publishers, and readers were suddenly sending her messages, including a Llewellyn author I know quite well, Deborah Blake, who was unaccountably sweet with her. Deborah forwarded me the website owner’s response – which was the first we had ever heard from her, in her own words! At that point I also responded to her, directed her to my blog post so she could understand our concerns, and our permissions manager followed up with yet another email explaining her legally precarious situation, and what was within the bounds of the law, and what was not. (Aside from the books which she had removed by then.)
And then, tonight this woman had the nerve to post a long-winded comment to my blog, trying to justify her actions. I did not approve it because I did not want it to pass by without commentary, nor did I want to drive any more traffic (positive or negative) to her website.
I will continue to refrain from publishing her name here, but here is her entire post (scout’s honor!), with my comments interspersed. If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is that if you don’t understand copyright law, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Don’t post it if you’re in doubt. If you don’t understand the law, ask somebody. And once it’s been explained to you, don’t cry about it. Just make the changes and move on. Anyway, here goes…and by the way, [sic] to all. I haven’t copy edited her at all.
Ever copied a spell or ritual into your BOS? You’re in violation of copyright. Ever copy and paste a spell or prayer to your computer for a ritual? Oops, you’re in violation of copyright. Did you print off that article to share with your coven? Copyright violation! Did you read and send a spell to a friend? Join a yahoo group that sends out spells? Copyright violations everywhere!
And here we have fundamental flaw number one. If you’re copying a spell into your own Book of Shadows for your own purposes, that’s fine. If you’re photocopying a couple pages of a book, that’s fine. (Although at FedEx Kinko’s, they won’t photocopy things for you anymore if you’re not the copyright owner. That’s how serious this is.) But I fail to see how copying a page or a spell for your own personal use is in ANY way synonymous or even comparable to the wholesale ripping off of entire books.
You know what, I agree, authors should be paid for their work and a copyright is a good thing. I apologize to all I may have harmed for all my copyright violations.
If you think that authors should be paid for their work and copyright is a good thing, then we’re done here. Yet apparently, we’re not done, because this woman does not truly believe the words she just wrote. Read on…
You see, just so everyone here is on the same page, I have a sneaking suspicion it’s my website currently being lamblasted here.
A sneaking suspicion? I emailed you the link myself! Apparently one can never be too obvious with this woman.
If you want to visit my website, do so quickly, since it’s coming down within the month. There are probably a 1000 or so pages, so act quickly if you’re looking for information.
I respect copyright – so quick! Download as much of my pirated stuff as possible before I’m yanked off the air!
The reason it’s coming down is simple. I screwed up with the copyrights. Not the modern books, that’s new. But Llewellyn asked me to remove something before. I thought I had done as they requested, but it turned out, I didn’t. I made the changes to the right page, but the wrong file and I didn’t check it. My site is huge and not database driven, each page something I have to manually go into and change. Me and me alone. Also, I was on two computers, using different files. I know better, it was bad website management. It was a mistake. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. By taking the site down, I’m making sure of it. While we’re on the subject of Llewellyn, lets give them some credit for being reasonably flexible.
This is interesting. She thought she had done as we requested, which was to remove 32 copyrighted books from her website. Yet they were still there a month later. Oopsy? That doesn’t cut it. You have two computers? Who cares. You have a huge site that is fully manual? That’s your own fault for posting so many ripped off pieces of work from other authors, NONE of which are in your own words.
I also think its a sad loss of something that helped a whole lot of people. In my opinion, the idea of Wiccan education suffered a great loss.
This is where she starts acting like the Helen Keller or the Mother Teresa of Pagan education. Like her website is going to teach thousands of bright young Wiccans… because why? We’re underground? The knowledge is simply not available or accessible anywhere else? There aren’t intelligent, well-rounded, ethical teachers all over the internet who write lessons in their own words, without copying and pasting other people’s works?
I was willing to make the changes needed. I was willing to make the compromises.
Then why didn’t she?
But, I realized, I couldn’t make the promise it wouldn’t happen again. How could I? And, quite frankly, I have no intention of reliving the nightmare I’ve found myself in.
She couldn’t promise she wouldn’t accidentally upload entire, pirated books again. And by the way, I have no sympathy for this whole nightmare. She had been warned before.
You wouldn’t believe the names I’ve been called via email and on blogs. I don’t make a single dime off the website, so driving or not driving traffic makes no difference to me. I do pay a significant amount of money out of my own pocket for a site of that size. This firestorm is just not worth it to me to maintain the website.
You know who else pays money out of their own pockets for websites? Authors.
I wrote a letter, which I sent to a wide variety of folks, including the authors and publishers who felt they were harmed by my actions. Some accepted my heartfelt apology for my mistake. Some read the letter and offered genuinely useful suggestions and information, allowing me to understand copyright law and my options in something that approximated English.
If our previous communications with you were not in English, I do apologize. As far as I’m aware that’s the only language our permissions manager speaks, but I could be wrong. If you’d needed further explanation or clarification, let me refer you to the “reply” button of your email service.
Thank you for your email. I always appreciate hearing the opinions of my readers and others. I certainly can see your point and I respect it. The webpage you are referring to has been removed.
Please allow me to explain my thoughts on the subject briefly.
First, I do hope you took the opportunity to review the remainder of the website as a whole. You will notice that there are many, many articles written over the span of several decades. All of them, wherever possible, provide author credit, link backs to where I got the information and copyright information when attached to an article. It has never been my intention to claim credit for that which I did not create.
The issue is not simply about giving credit. It’s more than obvious that you did not write all this material, and for that, I can honestly thank you. I can’t even begin to tell you how many websites a simple Scott Cunningham or Dorothy Morrison spell will show up on, with no attribution given whatsoever. However, just because you’re giving attribution does not make it legal. This is why there is a copyright disclaimer in the front of each and every book that says you must have permission from the publisher for further reproduction, internet included. That part is in plain English.
Secondly, you might have also noticed that some of these links are no longer viable. I have lost a great deal of information simply by keeping a favorites link and going back to find important information gone because the site is no longer maintained. That’s why I always download and link.
Thirdly you may not be aware of the sincere difficulties those of us who are both solitary AND living in a deeply religious area, such as Lynchburg , VA for myself, function under. I didn’t buy books, or jewelry or magazines or anything else because I didn’t dare. I have been shot at, physically and verbally threatened and I live daily with the knowledge that were my family to find out my religion, I would be banned from seeing them and from contact with my cousins, who I love very much. It is quite difficult to learn about my religion under those circumstances.
We at Llewellyn, and our authors, are more than aware of the dangers and difficulties of living a closeted Pagan life in a small town, rural community, or part of the country that doesn’t care for our kind, and I am truly sorry for your trials and tribulations. That’s why we even published a book called The Small-Town Pagan’s Survival Guide. That book offers a wealth of ideas on how to practice your faith under the radar, or how to share it with others. The author of that book, may she rest in peace, even bought a complete altar set-up at a WalMart just to prove her point that one can practice Paganism anywhere. Even if you are in the sticks, you have internet in the privacy of your home. On the internet you can order books and your neighbors will be none the wiser when it shows up on your doorstep in a brown box. You can even download books – legally. Where and how you live is no excuse for pirating.
Fourth, when in college, I still look back in wincing pain as I remember days of ramen noodles and five solid weeks of KFC chicken because my friend next door was a manager and brought home all the chicken at the end of the day for us to eat. Ugh. Book purchases outside of textbooks were a ridiculous idea. Please note that I am not saying that copyright violations are an acceptable excuse, I am raising a point. How shall I educate the poor, the disenfranchised, without the books?
Please just stop. Just because you ate Ramen and KFC does not make you Mother Teresa. It does not confer a mantle of holiness upon your shoulders that frees you to distribute copyrighted materials to poor, disenfranchised people for the rest of your life. It doesn’t! How shall you educate them? In your own words, my dear! Please refer back to my original post and give a special reading to comment # 15 from Donald Michael Kraig. To wit, “Help set information free by writing the information in your own words. Show your originality and creativity.” If you’ve been a practicing Wiccan for all these years and still can’t manage to write your own ritual to share with your students, then I truly feel sorry for both you and them.
Fifth, when I finally moved to Northern VA and married an open minded man, I attended my first coven groups. We sang many wonderful songs. The HPS of the evening possessed only a few crude mimeograph copies of the lyrics, not even the musical copy. I kept those two pages for many years, but time killed my memory and I did not know how to sing them. I could not teach my coven to sing them. At long last, I learned that the lyrics came from Starhawk’s lovely albums, still available, and A Circle of Women, which was no longer published. This is among the many reasons I am so adamant about knowing and remembering who created it. There are so many things lost to us now because our American Wiccan founders, the early singers and writers, could not pass the information widely enough to survive.
Thank goodness we are now living in the information age and this kind of thing will become a rare occurrence. But you are not responsible for enshrining that information yourself. Just because you want to hold onto something does not mean you also have to post it freely on your website so everyone can download it.
My final point is this. My actions are based strictly on my own experiences as a Wiccan of 20 years. I firmly believe in the Wiccan Rede. I did not intend to harm anyone, I give you my word. Under NO circumstances did I intend to steal from anyone.
Which still doesn’t explain why all the files weren’t removed immediately upon first notification…
My intent was and remains the goal of education for Wiccans today and to teach Wiccans of the future their past as it revolves around us and those who preceded us. Today I own a library containing many of the books I posted, and many more I have not. My coven members have always had access to it; indeed, anyone interested is welcome to what is on my shelves. But unfortunately, that is only for those local to me.
Fortunately she is not the only Wiccan in America. There are others, all over the country and the world, that are willing to help teach newcomers, to lend them some books from their personal collections, to offer them a helping hand. And, fortunately, there are plenty of respectable websites offering free and legal content as well.
I am sure you understand the points I am making. So I will ask the question of you that I am asking of everyone this evening. It has no easy answer. If those like Starhawk, Gerald Gardner and many many others had not recognized the value of educating others BROADLY, around the world, about our religion, how would Wicca grow?
Wait… she did NOT just compare herself to Starhawk and Gardner, did she?!
How will it grow into the future? Uniquely lacking a gathering place, unsafe to announce our religion aloud even here in America , I ask you once again. How shall I educate without the books? Surely somewhere, there is compromise.
How shall she educate without the books? No one is asking her to. All we are asking is fair pay for our work – and I say that on behalf of authors, publishers, and booksellers as well. She might also like to talk with other Wiccan teachers around the country who are managing to do the Great Work just fine without distributing files without authorization.
I’ll post my letter here in the hopes of generating some sort of useful discussion. After all, the problem is much larger than is being appreciated right at this moment.
What ARE you going to do with all the blogs and covens walking around with articles and spells written down, saved on hard drives etc.?
Good point. There is nothing we can do about people with our books, articles, annuals, spells, recipes, chants, etc. kept on their hard drive, or written in their Book of Shadows, lovingly copied from a well-used book. And I’m OK with that, and probably most authors would be, too. But what we can do is stop websites from the wholesale theft of our copyrighted materials. These are not books that are lost to the sands of time – these are books anyone can legally download through Kindle, Nook, Sony, Apple, etc…or ordered in the print form if it has not yet been digitized. It’s not the end of the world. This is not just a tidbit or two… it is serious business. I hope she can recognize that by now, but I think the point is lost on her.
How will you eliminate the thousands of bit torrents with these books in them? The many websites like mine?
The conflicting information, such as one producer saying POST NOTHING while another says its ok for me to keep a version for me personally, on my hard drive, just not to give it out? Llewellyn themselves says it’s ok to post up to 250 words before getting their permission. Is that per spell? Per page? Per website? How do you plan to shut individuals like me down when the many various people involved in the problem can’t even explain the copyright law to me in the same way?
Another good point. All publishers have different limits as to what they’ll permit. A conscientious web operator would find out what those limits are and try to stick to them. A halfway intelligent web operator who made a mistake would abide by those limits after having been reprimanded once or twice. And anyone who has any measure of sustained concentration would eventually be able to decipher Llewellyn’s 250-word rule, which was sent to her again today. This is what our permissions manager emailed to her and copied me on:
“You can use up to 250 words (except for spells) from any one of our books at any one time without further permission, with proper attribution of the work: title, author, publisher, and a link to purchase the book at Llewellyn.com. You may post 250 words from up to six books at a time, but total posted at any one time must not exceed six titles. You must remove material from a title already posted to keep the total at six”.
Why would she ever think that was “per spell?” Especially when the next line of this email was “Posting of spells is not allowed. Posting information from our annuals is not allowed without permission.”
How hard to do you think you’ll yell at Barnes and Noble for their Nook, which allows people to LEND out books for which one person paid, but the Lendee did not? Where’s the line here?
The line is that Barnes and Noble paid us money for that. And that we are perfectly aware of the lending functionality of their devices. It is not the same as posting it for a million people to download all at once. Again, please return to my previous post and see the myth “It’s the same as borrowing a book from a library, or from a friend.”
And don’t give me that “go to the library” crap. Most small town libraries don’t carry books like these. Most small bookstores are going out of buisness. My occult store did. Borders is out of buisness. Have you tried recently to review Barnes and Nobles selection of WICCAN books? Barely more than a shelf not even a bookshelf. In my small hometown, do I plan on reading Wiccan books in the BN Cafe out in the open while I take notes? Are you KIDDING? But their Christian stuff takes up five bookshelves. I counted.
I don’t care, because obviously you’re connected to the Internet. Bookstores live there too, you know.
Everything I had on my website I got online first.
So? As the saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right.
I didn’t type or scan anything. Just copy, paste or download. That’s not intended as an excuse, it’s a fact. A symptom of the real problem. In the world of E everything, you no longer control your copyrights.
Actually, we do. And as long as people respected them, which you claim you do, we’d have no problem. Since you don’t, we send takedown notices and take legal action instead. We do control our copyrights, even though it is becoming increasingly difficult. Make no mistake of that.
I guess one of the reasons I have even bothered to post twice now about piracy (which is very old news) is that I have a sincere hope that at least our niche, spiritual community, unlike the masses of nameless Internet surfers downloading Nickelback, will see the value, ethics, and repercussions involved in this situation, and rise above others. I hope that Pagans, Wiccans and magicians of all stripes will fully support our small and fledgling community. I hope that Pagans, Wiccans, and magicians actually have superior ethics to others, guided by the Rede and the threefold law of karmic return. That is really the whole reason I am writing this post.
It’s not possible. Like sex, the kitty is out out of the burlap.
Ha ha hahahahahaha hahah haahahaha hahahah! Gasp. And meow.
You got me. You shut me down. I would have prefered you educated me, but only one of the many authors/publishers offered that. I’m grateful to them. But I’m one person.
You would have preferred we educated you? How about you take responsibility for your own actions and educate yourself? How about you ask questions the next time a publisher tells you to take down material and you somehow can’t get that request through your head? I’m sorry, but my patience is wearing thin now. It’s not our responsibility to educate you, although with my previous post I sincerely hope I’ve educated many, or at least made them pause to think about the consequences of their actions.
After all this, someday, you might meet me again. You might not. But rest assured, should you be suffering under the belief that I haven’t learned my lesson about posting copyrights, I HAVE.
WELL THANK GODS.
In fact, I know I made more mistakes than just the mistake of copyright infringement here. I’ll be sure to learn from them all. The insults from people who don’t know me and weren’t an author or publisher to whom my apologies were deserved felt breathtaking in their cruelty and crudeness. The kindness of strangers who supported me, or forgave me after I apologized for wronging them, will always be cherished.
I apologize for the criticisms and insults you’ve received from complete strangers. I’ve received quite a few myself today, just by standing up for authors’ rights. Some people truly feel we have no right to charge for this knowledge. Knowledge is free. But the end product of years of toil is not free. Learn from it, and pass on the knowledge in your own words if you’re brave enough to do so. If the best you can do is pass on the words of the masters, then give them due respect by expecting yourself and your students to pay them for their efforts.