Last week, one of my posts was stolen. Which, whatever, right? Who among us hasn’t had their content pilfered or scraped or otherwise reappropriated? Isn’t it just what people do on the Internet? Take content? Is it even theft, really? Doesn’t information want to be free?
Well, yes. But, also: no. Information does want to be free, but ‘free’ in the sense of unchained, accessible, shareable – not free in the sense of ‘nobody owns this, help yourself.’ Content on the Internet isn’t a box of mongrel puppies, free to a good home. My content isn’t free to a good home. It’s mine. I made it. I own it. MINE.
Which, yes, sounds childish, in a way, but it’s not. I’m not against sharing. I love sharing. You are welcome to share in my content, anytime. FEEL FREE. Just, you know, don’t forget that what you’re sharing is mine. That is, don’t pass it off as your own. That’s just playground etiquette, isn’t it? You don’t take my ball and then tell the other kids that it belongs to you. Which is a flawed analogy, I know, because I didn’t make that ball. BUT STILL. Imagine that I did make that ball, and then brought it out in public for everyone to enjoy, and then someone took it and went off to their own corner and told everyone that it was their ball and they made it and please, go ahead, share it, but tell everyone that you got it here, okay, and Her Bad Mother who?
No. Sorry. Not cool.
It’s really just as visceral as that. I made something, and someone took it, and I got mad, because it was – because it is – mine. And I could get all high and mighty and philosophic and wax on about John Locke and the basic principles of property rights in modern democracies and then maybe prattle on for a bit about Marx and postmodernism and all that is solid melting into air in what isn’t quite the post-capitalist age of the Internet, but I won’t, because what it all comes down to is this very basic, very simple, very toddler-stomping-feet principle: that’s MINE. DON’T STEAL.
Got it? Good.
You may now return to enjoying the Interwebs.