It's Natural To Freak Out Over Someone Copying Your Stuff… But It Doesn't Make It Rational

from the getting-past-the-oh-shit-moment dept

Owen Kelly has a nice post up, where he basically admits that, even though he’s not against copying, he had an initial visceral bad reaction when he recently saw his own work copied, but after taking a step back and thinking about it rationally, he realized it wasn’t so bad. The problem is that most people, when they see their own work copied, never take that second step. They see it, they freak out and go negative (or, worse, call in the lawyers). But if you take a step back, you can ask yourself (1) if the copying really matters one way or another and (2) if there’s any way to use that copying to your advantage, rather than freaking out about it. That’s the point we’ve been trying to make for years. In most cases, freaking out isn’t going to make the situation any better (and it has a better than even chance of making it worse). But embracing it, and figuring out ways to use the copying to your own benefit can be tremendously rewarding.

But, of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t recognize that normal impulse reaction. It’s entirely natural, even if it’s irrational. So, we’re not necessarily surprised when people overreact to such things — even if we think it’s not a particularly smart long-term strategy. But, hopefully, as more and more people show how allowing more widespread copying helped rather than harmed them, this won’t seem so counterintuitive to so many people.

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Comments on “It's Natural To Freak Out Over Someone Copying Your Stuff… But It Doesn't Make It Rational”

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19 Comments
Robert Ring (profile) says:

Corporations

The thing that gets me is how irrationally reactive corporations can be to this kind of stuff. It’s perfectly understandable for an individual to go gut-reaction and freak out, but when you have a table of supposedly intelligent people trying to decide on a course of action, how are they so blinded so as not to think of better courses of actions than to sue, when that is often the worst thing they can do?

I don’t have the answer, but my guess is that it comes down to businesses letting the legal department run things. The lawyers see these infractions in purely legal terms: it is illegal, therefore we must sue. Whereas if the marketers were allowed to address the problem (and if they did so from a marketing standpoint), many cases of copied work can be turned around for their benefit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Corporations

I don’t think corporations even care that much. Someone in the corporation sees their content or name being used in a way not authorized by them. They shoot an email over to legal (cc’ing 90 other people). Legal sends out a standard C&D. The reason you don’t have the “step back and think about it” is because no one wants that responsibility. I bet if you go into any number of these companies who have stepped into a PR disaster because they were so quick to go legal you’d be hard pressed to find someone who actually made that decision.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Corporations

Corporations traditionally depend on one thing to make wads of cash for the all-important shareholders – control. Everything related to mainstream corporate media over the last 50+ years has been about controlling outlets (e.g. ClearChannel) and artists (e.g. notoriously one-sided controls). This includes the marketers – it took a long time for them to use media channels they didn’t directly control. They also still try to insist on things like exclusive outlets for trailers, music videos and the like, despite the obvious idiocy of limiting the number of people able to see your advertisement.

Combine the fact that they not only can’t control digital outlets as effectively, but also just don’t understand digital technology as they do physical media, that’s where you get the freak-outs. The lawyers just do the bidding of the corporate heads, and don’t really care whether they do the right thing for the company as long as they can bill for their time.

Kurt Fattig (profile) says:

The Law

I studied IP (Intellectual Property) in college when I got my degree in Computer and Information Science. And, I’ve worked with patent attorneys at large corporations. Put simply, unless you ACTIVELY protect your trademarks, service marks, patents, and copyrights – against ALL infringements – even if they aren’t making any money from it – then you can lose them when you go after someone in court later. So, you have to prove that you have protected all along – not just when someone tries to make a buck from your hard work.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: The Law

Put simply, unless you ACTIVELY protect your trademarks, service marks, patents, and copyrights – against ALL infringements – even if they aren’t making any money from it – then you can lose them when you go after someone in court later.

That’s incorrect. For trademarks it’s almost true, but not at all true for copyright or patents. Even for trademarks there are some limitations on that.

ojkelly (profile) says:

Re: The Law

But thats the catch now isn’t it. You don’t really need to worry about protecting your copyrights. Your brand sure, but the individual copyrights… especially in such an ecosystem as the internet where copying is, well to be expected.

Oh and thanks for the link Mike, woke up to a nice surprise in my RSS reader with this post.

Brooks (profile) says:

Are we just trained?

Maybe this all goes back to grade school, where we were taught that copying off other peoples’ papers was cheating, and that if we saw people copying from us we should notify the teacher? Certainly a lot of our psychology is cemented in those formative years.

Maybe the copyright insanity going on is just an unintended side effect of the formalization of education that we’ve seen in the past 100 years? Maybe, just to brainstorm, greater focus on teamwork and collaborative assignments might reverse the trend?

TSO says:

Plain and simple: our primal brains couldn’t have learned the idea of non-scarce resources, because from the evolutionary standpoint, there were none. (Maybe except for air, which we didn’t worry about polluting because it SEEMED non-scarce).

Nevertheless, the above means that our FIRST reaction will always be “STEALING!” because, well, it LOOKS like stealing. Lizard brain doesn’t know copying, and mammalian brain has to correct it.

To bad that RIAA is run by people who don’t have mammalian brain.

I, for one, welcome our lizard overlords.

Anonymous Coward says:

The lawyers see these infractions in purely legal terms: it is illegal, therefore we must sue. Whereas if the marketers were allowed to address the problem (and if they did so from a marketing standpoint), many cases of copied work can be turned around for their benefit.

If giving away your work for free is such a good strategy, you have to wonder why all the major artists aren’t doing it. Don’t the big record companies have any economists working for them? Or is it possible that the people with advanced degrees in business and economics know more about business and economics than the people downloading music with one hand, while masturbating furiously with the other, and wishing they had a tail to hold the bong? – Scott Adams

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If giving away your work for free is such a good strategy, you have to wonder why all the major artists aren’t doing it. Don’t the big record companies have any economists working for them? Or is it possible that the people with advanced degrees in business and economics know more about business and economics than the people downloading music with one hand, while masturbating furiously with the other, and wishing they had a tail to hold the bong? – Scott Adams

Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only publishers who think that people own it. – John Lennon

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes, it’s always good to trust a cartoonist on how businesses operate.

But to respond to Adams’ point (which we did when he first made it as well), more and more artists are going that way and have realized that it makes them more money. But no one expects everyone to figure this out overnight. These things take time.

And I love the fact that “because everyone’s not doing” somehow means “it can’t work” when the actual evidence of looking at those who HAVE DONE IT shows that it does work.

Thank goodness most people recognize this basic economic fact. Otherwise, we’d be hearing about how automobiles were a failure because some people still bought horse carriages.

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