Stop, Thief!

Close-up of businessman putting compact disk in his pocket“Sir, did you perchance see the email regarding theft of content sent our way the other day?” I asked The Effective Detective starting off with what I thought was an intriguing subject.

“I did indeed, Watson,” he replied, “are you looking for some kind of response from me concerning said message?”

“Why would I possibly bring it up if I did not sir?” I answered, keeping only some of the teasing out of my voice.

The Detective shot me a sideways look, then decided not to rise to the bait, but rather address the issue itself.

“At first blush, Watson, I would be tempted to write it off as the whining of just another nobody with an overly self-important image, but I do have a real concern,” The Detective took his characteristic pause waiting for an interjection from me.

“I must admit I am intrigued by the combination of your seeming lack of concern and concern at the same time, sir.”

“Watson, it is actually quite simple. The argument made by the author of that email was actually rather simplistic and I am not sure altogether coherent. The argument was that reuse of blog entries and articles without proper attribution, or, in his view, worse, appropriating the attribution for yourself, is theft. While I cannot argue with the accuracy of his semantics, his argument fails to move me much since he concedes that largely it is relatively unknown writers whose work is, shall we say, illicitly borrowed. If your work is unknown, then in point of fact, what difference does it make? That does not in any way justify the theft, it merely underscores the lack of true damage. While I have no desire for anyone to use my content without proper attribution, said content is largely aimed at my tribe. They will receive it and hopefully consume it, whether someone else steals it and passes it off as their own or not. It is doubtful they could steal my tribe using my own writing, so perhaps they will become known using my work? Thinking that my writing might catapult someone else to stardom while leaving me earthbound is a bit of self-delusion I prefer not to participate in,” The Detective finished, and paused again.

“Good enough sir, but what about your true concern?” I asked.

“Thank you for asking Watson,” The Detective answered. “My true concern about such outcries regarding content theft – mind you I am not talking about paid content, that is truly theft, and while some amount of sharing is bound to happen, re-purposing or re-labeling content that has monetary value should be punished – my true concern is the chilling effect these rants about widespread thievery can have on the sharing of content that can further a business relationship with hundreds or thousands of people.”

“I am not sure I follow, sir,” I interrupted, confused.

“Come now Watson, when people start refusing to freely share good, relevant content with their tribe because of the fear of it being appropriated and being used by someone else, the real damage is what is done to their chances of getting more business, and their tribe gaining from their knowledge and experience.  The act of sharing is what deepens the relationship, it is the key to staying top-of-mind and becoming the obvious choice for a purchase involving their product or service. No Watson, I fear the loss of that connection far more than the illusory damage of some of my words being attributed to others,” The Detective finished, and I felt the discussion was being closed.

“So you have no intention of worrying or going to any lengths to protect our discussions, then?” I asked.

“No, Watson, truth be told, I wish more people would share our discussions,” The Detective paused for a split second, then, “with proper attribution of course,” he finished with a smile.

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