Plagiarized Images

Jane McGary
Tue, 22 Jan 2013 09:49:52 PST
I agree with Matt Mattus that the benefits of reaching a wide 
audience can outweigh the potential loss of income from certain types 
of intellectual property.

However, as an editor who has worked with hundreds of authors over 
the years and with various publishers, I would also say that the 
decision to make text and images readily available for reuse should 
be up to the creator. Some writers and photographers (including 
myself) don't depend on their work for income and are unconcerned 
about its fate once we release it into the public sphere. Those who 
want to keep control of their work because it is their source of 
income or for some non-economic reason should refrain from putting it 
online except in forms that cannot easily be copied and used further. 
It is also possible to sell content online, or even to make content 
available only by paid subscription, as publishers of journals and 
major reference works now do.

I am not a particularly good photographer, but like some other 
correspondents here, I've noticed a few of my photos taken from the 
wiki and used elsewhere. This doesn't bother me, but we editors are 
hardened to going without credit. Plenty of my writing has gone into 
print under other people's names. (Did you know I was an expert on 
the religious history of Yemen? Or anyway, that I quickly wrote an 
encyclopedia entry on it, having been provided with a stack of 
research material by a desperate project editor.)

It almost seems that the era of control of intellectual property was 
a passing phase in the long history of art and literature. 
Unauthorized translation, imitation, and blatant plagiarism were so 
common up to two centuries ago that studying the subject has become 
its own subdiscipline. I think we just have to make ourselves 
comfortable in the new Republic of Letters and Images, or move to a 
private island.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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