Monday, February 7, 2011

An abject warning in citing your sources.

One of the things that has been sitting in the back of my mind is copyright, or more particularly "Who owns the story?"

Since I'd be writing about actual events I wouldn't necessarily have to worry about names and places. However, the one thing I've noticed in my websearches is just how few sources there actually are. Most pages are copy-and-pasted versions of other pages, and there is very little original text. Everyone tells the story, but no-one adds much.

I suddenly realised that I may not be able to use the words that are most often attributed to Gef, the Mongoose. These wonderful phrases of threat and promise, could actually be copyrighted because the only source is most likely Harry Price's book, about which I haven't a clue.

This was also underlined as I re-located the weblinks I'd made. One of the pages I'd found back in October was to the McDowell News, which had a nifty article as part of a column: Tales of the Weird.

Well, not so nifty as it turns out:

In December, Mike Conley, the columnist, didn't cite other sources and copy and pasted them for the purposes of an article. This caused doubt to be thrown on every other article that he wrote in the series and cost him his column with the McDowell News. Sloppy journalism at best, intellectual theft at worst. Plagarism is ugly.

So, what about me and this idea? Well, I'd already been toying with using common nouns instead of proper ones. i.e. The Girl and her Mongoose. Mother, Father. The Parapsychologist. The Freudian Investigator. The Island. The Farm. The Ghost.

The other idea is to verify which sources are public domain, and use only the information from them. Proper nouns in, quotes possibly out. Especially with the more recent Voirrey interviews.

And the more I think about it the more I like not using the actual quotes.

Warren Ellis from one of his excellent Bad Signals, which is sitting in an email folder somewhere:

It's fun when things drop  out of copyright, sure.  But
it's not *important* to the process of  creation.  I could
easily cause to be created illustrations in the  styles of
penny dreadfuls and woodcuts to achieve the same
hauntological  effects.  It's just a way to instantiate
an idea.  I'm not going to  roll on the floor and curse
Western society for a cultural jailer because it  turns
out someone still has the rights to the illustration for
an old MR  James story or something..
The rest of the signal here:
(Edit: language warning on this link. Ellis is not afraid of using harsh language)

So, here's to not cursing Western Society.

No comments:

Post a Comment