An Author's Rant on Copyrights Ignored

Throughout my career, I've tried hard to make freely available many of my articles. Trainers, clubs, vets, breeders, rescue groups and individuals have gratefully used my articles as free handouts and in non-profit magazines & newsletters. Many of these articles have been passed around to a surprising degree. At last count, He Just Wants to Say HI! has been translated into 15 languages!

Over the years I've seen my work copied word for word and presented as a professional trainer's "newsletter" to his clients each month. I've seen my work posted in entirety on discussion groups & bulletin boards. I've seen my work used to nicely fill out the offerings of countless clubs, groups, breeders and trainers.

I've put a lot of time and effort in writing these articles, trying to share my understanding of dogs, training, behavior, our relationships with dogs, etc. While it's nice to know that the work is appreciated, and apparently is valuable enough for folks to want it as content on their site, I am more and more dismayed and puzzled by this illegal use of my work. It is simply ignorant at best -- sometimes the website owners are just novices in copyright matters. Notified that as per my reprint conditions they can link to my articles but not post them, they are quick to apologize and make the change, so that the visitors to their website still benefit but my copyright is also respected.

But there's another group who when asked to switch to using a link and not the completed article, get angry. Here's a sweet note from a breeder who had been using my article on her website:

"Deleted. Just thought that more people would Google you and your articles. Sorry I'll not recommend your site or articles to anyone else. No offence meant." (Spelling hers.)

For a bit, I sat staring at this email.? What I wanted to understand was this:? how did my work go from being so useful that she used it on her own website to something she would not recommend to anyone else. ?

I wish I could say that this was a rarity, this punitive attitude/response from someone notified (nicely) that they were using my work in an inappropriate way, with a clear suggestion how they might continue to provide the content via a link.? But many many website owners have responded this way.? Just cranky people embarassed to be caught doing something they ought not, and too immature to accept responsibliity?? Folks with a huge sense of entitlement?? What is it with these people?

For all those trying to provide interesting content to your website's visitors but perhaps lacking the time, energy and/or skill to create articles, here's some tips on respectful, legal & sensible ways to provide great content:

  • USE LINKS!? Links are free, easy, respectful, and best of all, allow you to connect your website's visitors to some amazing work.? Links provide a world of possibilities: steering folks to free book downloads (like Ian Dunbar's "After You Get Your Puppy" from DogSTARdaily ), or dissertations from PhDs or the fantastic content over at IVIS or the spectacular photos or music available everywhere, or articles and tips from your favorite trainers.
  • GET PERMISSION! If you find an article you find of interest, Google the author and contact them directly.? Ask if you may reproduce their work on your website.? Some authors will say yes; some - like me - will ask that at best, you use the first 100 words OR a brief description of the article and a link back to original site.
  • CAN'T FIND THE AUTHOR?? Nonsense!? Google an entire unique phrase or even an entire sentence.? Don't use something like, "You can teach your dog to sit" (I just got 1730 hits on that!).? Use something unusual. For example, from my article It Takes A Pack to Raise A Puppy , I chose "a puppy can be convinced that a relationship with a sheep is a good thing" and got 40 hits on that.? Most of which quickly showed me as the author (and from there, assuming you didn't find a link to my site, you could then Google my name.)
  • BUILD A COLLECTION AND SHARE IT!? There are many well respected websites that built their reputation not by stealing others' content or ignoring copyright laws, but by carefully collecting the links to so many useful, interesting and helpful sites.? China Road Lowchens of Australia claims 20 million visitors and counting.? As you find useful articles or links, take the time to cut & paste the URL - just email that a quick description reminder to yourself or into a quick Notepad file till you have the time to work on your website or send new content to your webmaster. Then add a few every now and then.?

It's good to know that my work is helpful to people.? It's immensely flattering to have folks wanting to share it, discuss it, argue over it even.? And it's really lovely when on top of that, there's respect for the life energy & care that went into creating it all.

Whether working with a dog or passing along information, doing it with respect is always a good way to go.

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Author Suzanne Clothier

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