How I Had To Give Permission To Quote And Paraphrase Myself

from the permission-culture dept

It’s all just so bleepin’ INSANE.

Here’s the deal. Two, no three, years ago a buddy of mine, who shall be nameless so he?s not associated with this mini-quagmire, asked me to contribute a chapter to a book he’s editing on a subject near and dear to me. Fine. Glad to. So, over a year ago I put some of my work-in-progress online at The Valve, a group blog where I have privileges, in order to get feedback on my ideas.

Which I did. Thank you very much, interwebs.

Time goes by, I turn in my final chapter. My buddy likes it, his editor likes it. And then the publisher sends some bots out on the web to compare text in their book-in-progress to whatever’s on the web. What happens? My chapter gets flagged because, hey! some of my prose is out there on the web.

And you know why some of the prose in my chapter is out on the web you clueless bot-masters? Because I put it there! That’s why.

Anyhow, my buddy sends me a note explaining the situation and asking me to send him a note explaining that, yes, I put that stuff out there on The Valve. Here?s my exact message: ?Some of the prose in my [name redacted to protect the innocent] chapter first appeared online at The Valve ? where, for example, I?m quoting [some worthy authority]. So I?m just re-using my own prose.?

My buddy passed that on to his handlers and we figured that was the end of it. But, no, not good enough. His handlers got back to him, this time with the very passages the bots had snooped from the web.

Now I had to read those very passages and swear on a stack of virtual Non-denominational Multi-cultural Sacred Books that each and every one of those words was mine and I wrote them both on The Valve and in my book chapter. Really and truly in the names of a Supreme Force in the Universe Including Intelligent Quantum Fluctuations and Digital Devices, yes, the prose is mine.

Thus I swore. So it is.

And, you know what? They accepted my word. This time. But next time, who knows?

What I?d like to know is just why it even got back to me. After all, my name is on my posts. But, I suppose the Bill Benzon on those posts could be some other Bill Benzon, you know, the one from alternative universe sigma epsilon 37,901 delta delta. When my editor buddy sent me the suspicious passages there was no name attached. Maybe the bot didn?t return with names, just prose.

Well, why the BLEEP! not? Is it so hard to program a bot to do that? Would it be so hard for someone to check the name of the passages delivered up by their bot? Maybe someone checked and they didn?t believe their eyes. Maybe they did believe their eyes, but just had to make sure that we?re all in the same universe, the one where the land of the free and the home of Tang (a benefit of the Apollo moon shots dontcha know) has insane copyright laws.

Maybe they?re under orders to do meaningless ritual acts so as to appease the restless spirit of Sonny Bono that?s wandering around in the ether just waiting for an opportunity to materialize and tell someone that it wasn?t his idea, it was the diminutive rodent with the cheeky attitude and the greedy corporate daddy (who?s a person, dontcha know) that did it.

Crossposted from QuestionCopyright.

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Comments on “How I Had To Give Permission To Quote And Paraphrase Myself”

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Jon B. (profile) says:

Bill, I’m not sure you’re aware, but Mike Masnick, or one of his partners, has reposted this story on Can you verify, on a stack of Hitchhiker’s Guides, that you are in fact, Bill Benzon of ΣE37901ΔΓ and that you give permission for this story to be reposted?

There appears to be some guy from over in ΣE37901ΔΔ posting stuff without your permission, plagiarizing you in books and such, and we just want to make sure everything is on the up and up.

Anonymous Coward says:

How hard is it to understand? You are a victim of what many on this site consider the greatest feature of the internet, the anonymous factor.

There is no simple way to know that the posts online are in fact yours. Explain how you would prove it. Your name? Not enough, there are always more people in the world with the same name. Your email address? Is it yours, or did you hack it away from someone else? Was it used and then recycled later by an ISP or mail provider? Your IP? Sorry, but if it isn’t good enough to prosecute copyright violations, it isn’t good enough to prove anything positively.

When you posted it online, you gave up any hope of proving it is really yours.

Of course, your story is one that sort of shows why the anonymous internet won’t last.

DogBreath says:

Re: Re:

So, without absolute and unimpeachable proof that those posts were his, they are now subject to being called “Orphaned Comments”. Since copyright (currently) lasts 70 years after the death of the original author, and “after his death”, it would be meaningless considering he never proved they were his “comments”, they are effectively copyrighted forever?

Thanks Sonny Bono, thanks a lot.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You get the point. Either it works or it doesn’t. If he feels that what information exists is enough to prove that the comments and posts online are his, then should it also not be enough legally to support copyright violation lawsuits?

You cannot have the best of both worlds. being able to use the technology to prove what you like, while at the same time claiming it cannot prove what you don’t like.

btboyes (profile) says:

I’m sorry, but it seems like you’re blowing this out of proportion.

You submitted a chapter
Their automated crawlers got some hits and they asked for confirmation that you wrote it, and you gave it.
They gave you the exact hits and asked you to confirm that it was all you, you did.
The end.

Sounds like a company taking some pretty simple precautions. They could edit their code to check for names too, but there’s enough people out there with the same names that it’s likely not worth the effort.

DCL says:

Re: Re: You think THAT'S complicated

I hear being branded an “Alternate Universe Plagiarizer” means:

– you can’t live within 12 parsecs of a inter-dimensional replicator,

– be in possession of quantum carbon paper.

– stand within a light year of the event horizon a black hole (when plotted on a mimeographic scale)

– purchase a pencil

Hugh Mann (profile) says:

Geez, why the hissy fit?

They’re getting ready to publish a book. They do some due diligence, and find something online that matches up with what they’ve got in the book-to-be. Doesn’t seem over-the-top at all that they’d basically want a release from the author of the material on the web – i.e., you. And it doesn’t seem over-the-top that a casual email statement was not quite enough for their needs. They wanted something more formal.

Unless I’m missing something here, it seems like much ado about nothing much. I just don’t see the rant-worthiness here.


Anonymous Coward says:

“And you know why some of the prose in my chapter is out on the web you clueless bot-masters? Because I put it there! That’s why.”

I don’t blame them. If it turned out that you copied someone else and they published it in their publication, some IP maximist can then turn around and sue them for a huge sum of imaginary damages. Sure, they can probably turn around and sue you for those imaginary damages, but the whole thing would be a legal nightmare for everyone.

Bill Benzon (user link) says:

Jesus Christ, you people who doubt the over-arching veracity of my singular existence! Don’t you know that there can only be one William Benzon, master of cognition?! Seriously, as if anyone besides me in possession of such puny intellect could possibly string together the arcane symbols (that only I can properly perceive!) that identify me, SINGULARLY. All other William Benzon’s are rank amateur impostors! Even my grandfather, William Benzon, knew this!

Now, I must get back to stroking Nina Paley’s ego!

Bill Benzon (profile) says:


FWIW, shortly after agreeing to submit an essay to the book I signed a standard contributors agreement in which, among other things, that “the essay does not infringe upon any copyright or proprietary rights of others.” So, this little dance is in addition to a signed agreement they already had.

@Bill Benzon #32: 3 points.

Hugh Mann (profile) says:

Re: contract

Yeah, well, I can see how being asked to sign one more piece of paper might be an annoyance, but “insane”? I still don’t see how it rates a rant as some sort of incredibly ironic “tail wagging the dog” story that demonstrates how copyright has evolved into some sort of Frankenstein’s monster who is now turning on us and destroying our villages of creativity.


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