Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Ballad of IP Freely

Having just watched Steal This Movie II on Youtube yesterday and also having recently read an essay by Cory Doctorow on open and free information sharing, intellectual property has been on my mind, for sure.

This is a tough topic, and the discussion ain't going away soon, Molly. The problem is, I think, is less that people are afraid of losing control of their creations, as it is that they are afraid of someone else making money off of their labor. For example: what painter wouldn't love to see their work glide by on the side of a bus for the entire city to see--as long as they got paid for it.

And that's not a small thing, that is a very big thing. In this age, the end of 2009, when the economy is teetering on collapse and the bulk of artistic content (music, pictures, movies, writing) is controlled by a handful of gatekeeper organizations, it is getting much harder for emerging artists (writers included) to make any kind of living at their craft. Here are a few insightful posts on the subject of money and IP from AFP, Zoe Keating, and pretty much anything from Cory Doctorow.

So, that being said, I've been watching (and participating a little bit) in the revealing, chasing, and, hopefully soon, unmasking of a plagiarizing fiend who goes by the possibly-pseudonymous handle Richard Ridyard. Ridyard was caught absolutely red-fucking-handed ripping off the works of many authors and passing them off as his own. Much of the credit in this seems to belong to Angel Zapata, who, on seeing work from Ridyard that looked awfully familiar, did a hell of a lot of research to put together the pieces showing without a doubt that Ridyard had not only ripped him off, but many other authors as well. At about the same time, not knowing about the research that Angel had undertaken, Ken, Mercedes, and the gang at Shock Totem discovered that Ridyard had submitted a story to them that copied--almost verbatim--large sections of a short story written years ago by a guy named Stephen Motherfucking King. Obviously, Ridyard is a criminal mastermind.

As you can see from the post on Angel's blog (and Mercedes', and Aaron Polson's, and probably just about any of us small market writers today), news spread quickly, and it seems like dozens of these counterfeits have been revealed in the last 24 hours.

As much as I hate giving this tool any more press than he deserves (which is none), he duped some of my friends and he is damaging the industry in which I hope to make a living one day, and I want to make sure the name Richard Ridyard, as well as the probable alias RM Valentine, and his "publishing company" Valentine Publishing (now mysteriously vanished from the internet, I won't grace them with a link), get burned into Google's memory as shams and frauds. Ridyard's partners in the publishing business have also been disappearing from the web rather quickly as well. I suspect they just needed to take some time off of Facebook to help Ridyard clear his good name. Luckily, their names are forever captured in Google's caching system, which effectively means that unless they were to publicly disavow Ridyard and spill the beans, so to speak, they would be forever associated with him and Valentine Publishing. And that would suck, I'm sure.

Anyway, to link the tale of Ridyard together with Cory Doctorow's concept of Creative Commons: information may want to be free, but artists want to get paid.