Copyright notes by Tanya

This is a piece excerpted from a letter I wrote in response to someone asking me if Creative Commons (the copyright system I subscribe to) is some sort of common (in the sense of 'joint') copyright I am claiming on work that doesn't belong to me.

Copyright put succinctly

Joint Information Systems Committee: "However, such [electronic or whatever] copying is only a real problem if the person who owns the copyright loses income as a result of your infringement, or if you gain income as a result of the infringement."
UKOLN (there doesn't seem to be a long version of this acronym)

My thoughts

Thank you for the interest in my site. And yes, this is a valid question and one that 'creators' wrestle with all the time. It is a difficult issue. I do try to respect the rights of the people I have bookmarked, e.g. Gary Larson. Gary has expressly denied us permission to link to his work, and there I address some of my feelings about the copyright issue. I have reproduced that below:

Gary Larson

Cartoonist born 14 August 1950, The Far Side, Weiner Dog Art. If you wonder why there are no samples of his work on my site, see the letter he wrote to another site to ask that we don't distribute his work digitally.

Friends share things they like

I disagree though. If we make a photostat, to share with our friends at work, that ultimately may result in booksales, great. If we take one or two that illustrate our sense of humor, that we share with our friends on the web. How different is that. Today I spent four hours looking for "Tethercat" - my favorite - it's not on the internet. How simple would it be, the next time I am in a bookshop to get a copy of the book. And I will. ('Would' actually, I have all the books, in a place of honor on my shelves, but the sentence is illustrative).

Moderation (don't collect or hoard)

I operate on the principle that as long as we give credit where credit is due, and don't abuse the situation, don't go and put all the Salon articles onto my site, all the Larson cartoons, then I am doing nothing different than those that photostat the thing and put it up in the lunchroom.

Driving traffic to you, and then... to him (win-win)

Not to mention the valuable traffic I am driving to his site because I credit properly, and to mine. Which in turn sends more people to him.

Rewarding ethics

Google's Page Rank is about 'who links to you'. I link to lots. Instead of sulking ask for a link. I hate being punished for people who are bad. Google is an ethical company, they reward you for putting such good stuff on your site that people want to link to it. With Gary's thinking we all link to him, yes, and then, nothing for us? Unethical. Make it an ethical two way and it's win-win. I don't want to have to link to a page with 500 cartoons on his site, I want to say specifically what I liked.

Google rewards Gary for people who link to him (community endorsement)

Maybe he doesn't know how Google thinks, maybe he hasn't thought about his technique of punishing the good along with the bad, maybe he hasn't absorbed what the internet is for - community. He wants a community with just himself. Some of us want to share ourselves. > Gary Larson

Be respectful, even if it's nuts

Gary Larson's cartoons are available on the web, his resistance is futile, but I didn't put a cartoon sample on my site. I respect his wishes, no matter how strange I think they are. Naturally.

Copyright sticklers ignore 'fair use by the ethical'

If you go to Gary Larson's own website you will see no work of his there. I think it hurts him, a small part of my heart broke off when I saw that. He is worried about a loss of revenue, not us fans. And that is what 'reproduction rights' is about, who can make the money. I am not making money off my site, I didn't write an article and steal the pics and pass them off as my own and then get paid for it.

Copyright and Sourcing

Focus on this - I have not claimed authorship of another's work

I have not claimed authorship, nor copyright to any person's work on my site. In a way it is the same as a talkshow host reading a passage from somebody's work and telling everyone for an hour about how excited they were about that passage.

Vagaries of 'unpublishing'

The ethereal, temporal nature of websites - unlike books that are housed somewhere physically in libraries or on my bookshelf - websites are subject to the vagaries of 'unpublishing' - takedowns of various kinds. And then that thing that I want to reread is gone. Boink. So I transfer it here, and credit it, ethically. In a book that reference would remain in the bibliography even if the referenced book was never published again and burned by zealots. Still the quoted passage, and the bibliography, would remain. As it does here.

My voice is my opinion (I have been shushed)

When I pull stuff off people's sites it's to laud the things, say, that fit with my thinking, and sometimes to actively signal my disapproval of other things. This is my voice. I write nothing nasty (usually and when I actually do write) about things here, which is a bonus... because if I were writing about the thing in a magazine or a review or a newspaper or a newsletter, it would be there in print forever, and nasty. Here I have a collection of things I love. So what is not here is undiscovered or unloved. I refer to other's creative works in an opinion I am expressing. Hopefully, because the opinions are 99.9% positive, the creators don't mind. In fact, this piece that I wrote about Gary is the most negative item on my site, and hopefully, because it is under the section People I like (under Me), you will still understand that although Gary feels very strongly about this, Gary, and people like him, take my voice from me, while punting their own. Still adore his work.

Coating everyone with the same tarbrush

I believe that intention counts. I have the best possible intention. This site is not advertized, it is an extension of my Bookmarks, no more. You could see it the same as a Links page. And in the comparison you will find that I am not doing anything too weird, I think. (See a discussion of copyright in terms of links at the Copyright Website.)

Creative Commons (the copyright alternative)

The part of my site that I have 'copyrighted' with Creative Commons is my expressed opinion, the stuff I actually write. Where I have used other sources, I state at the bottom: Source: (Name of place, and make it a live link). The live link is important so that they can get the hits. In my opinion, hits have more value (thanks to Google) than a reference, hidden, in the book-back bibliography, two points smaller than the bodycopy. People actually pay for links to position themselves in Page Rank. I give them away.

Creative Commons is not a 'communal' type of copyright

And then I bumped into the Creative Commons website. In fact, my work is copyrighted only in that I express that I would like to be credited if someone uses my work to create another, even if it becomes work within a collaboration of other people. Creative Commons is NOT a way of claiming joint, or common in the British sense of 'the commons', form of copyright. It simply states how I would want my own intellectual property to be shared. It doesn't claim a right on anyone else's copyright.

The true spirit of copyright infringement

So as you can see I am not appropriating others' work and passing it off as my own - copyright infringement - I am enthusing about creativity, creating my own portal of mediated fun, enjoying the process of surfing, recording my adoration.

Copyright grey area

I am careful about the sites I endorse - I carefully selected Universes in Universes and linked to them (note that that page at Universes in Universes of Jane Alexander's is copyrighted to Pat Binder and Gerhardt Haupt), (I hope they took the pictures because otherwise the photographer is uncredited, and say now Pat Binder and Gerhardt Haupt (if they were married...) get divorced, which one actually snapped the pics?). Terrifying.

Google's Page Rank - the ultimate endorsement

In a way Universes in Universes are getting free publicity from me, getting a boost up the Page Rank ladder at Google. Jane Alexander is winning too, because she has a gurgling fan that, I hope, has an edified opinion that people wouldn't be turned off by. And through me her work has yet another avenue of being known (not that she needs the leg up).

There are Super Rats out there

No one can deny that there are people who would only go and read Gary Larson's work on the web. The same way that there are many people who borrow other people's books and never actually buy one of their own. Libraries encourage it. Granted, the situation has escalated exponentially because of the internet.

Avarice (the fan's favorite noun)

But do true fans not want the actual smell of the book, the paging, the sharing over dinner, the lying in on Sunday mornings and reading them, the complete collection on my shelf so that my visitors can be impressed? Looking over someone's shoulder while they control the mouse is totally irritating. Much nicer to walk up to their shelf and be lost for an hour while everyone is chatting on the stoep.

My own uncopyrightable gifts to others

In my piece about Dan Savage I invented a word - 'leathermanic'. Is Leathermans cross? Is Dan Savage cross? I am a little sad because I have had to let that word go, in my creative process I had to give it to the world. Can I call copyright on that word? Dang. But the piece I wrote about him shouldn't be stolen by someone working for a publication, and passed off as their own work. But who can really stop this process? Do we want to spend (in dollars and goodwill) all that time hunting down the infringers, and punishing the honest? That is why I chose Creative Commons - an honor system. I know I have my honor, and hopefully, those that come to my site will consider honor when they leave.

Willingness to comply to the Sourcing system

I admit that I became aware of the issue only after a while. Initially, I made the site to Save my Bookmarks and to find out about how Google's page ranking worked. When I started I felt I was one in a 24 billion page web. So I didn't worry too much about being a stickler for copyright. So if you spot something that can be improved, give me a shout at [] and I will do it in a jiffy.

A caveat

If Jane Alexander, or Universes in Universes, contacted me and said, "Please don't." I would whip it off in two seconds flat.


A second caveat, almost an appendix... Kim Trollip's copyleft statement

The author of this site claims no credit for external images featured. Visual content is copyright to its respective owners. Written commentary courtesy of me unless otherwise noted. I am in no way responsible for the content of any external links. In the interest of free expression however, I publish rumours and conjecture, in addition to accurately reported facts. makes no warranty as to the validity of any claims. There is no Creative Commons licence on this site either, I don't want to own my words or my content. I want it distributed and shared as widely and freelly as possible.

Respond please

I do hope I have opened up a can of worms that can keep us both thinking up a storm for a week or two. I would love to hear your opinion, even if it's rough, about what I have said.


PS: FYI he didn't respond. Maybe you will?


{Tanya Pretorius' Bookmarks: Copyright notes by Tanya (updated March 2010}


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