at dear Zero at the Bone, is that I, Chally Kacelnik, am in the bad place. Or, rather, the feminist Internet is.
At the end of last year, a kind reader took a fair use extract from a post of mine and put it on tumblr, along with a link back. It kind of blew up on tumblr, and, somewhere along the line, either some tumblr users or their layouts stripped out the attribution. At some stage, someone (of whose identity I am not aware) saw a non-attributed version, saved the text, didn’t search out the author, and made an image using my quote, attaching their organisation logo to the image. Last week, they put this on their organisation Facebook page, and it blew up on Facebook. And then people started putting the misattributed image on tumblr, and Reddit, and Twitter, and blogs – and a blog is where I eventually saw it. Horrified, I tracked down the organisation through the logo on the image and told them to attribute it properly. We reached the best outcome we could under the circumstances, but it was too late by then, because the image was everywhere. And it’s still everywhere. And, because it’s only a small minority of people who will search out originators of quotes, it’s still out there under someone else’s name.
So, copyright infringement. It’s not great, it’s particularly not great if your source of income is your writing as is the case with me, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s happened before to me, and it’ll likely happen again. Why would this give me pause?
Well, again, this is not the first time this has happened, although this is the largest scale on which it has. Partly, the pause is because I’m at the end of my tether with spending time that ought to be spent on other things trying to get people to stop copying my blog posts and journalistic articles wholesale or in ways like this one.
it’s not only that taking my words is stealing my writerly capital and, what with being a professional writer, stealing money from me. It’s about how words are used and respected, the words of women, the words of minorities. It’s about the total disregard on the part of the thousands of people publishing my work, the disregard for the fact that this is someone’s idea, someone’s words, and they are cutting her off from her expression of what it is to be in this world – well, that’s more than I can take. And I think it says a lot about feminism – maybe just Internet feminism, maybe broader society, actually – that it is acceptable to separate a woman from her ideas because you like the shiny. It says we care about the bite-size over deep engagement, over building embedded webs of reliance and respect.
We need to talk about how words are valued, and how language changes when you strip it of its social placement and its context within a piece of writing and a body of work. We need to acknowledge that the ideas and words of women, women of colour in particular, like me, are routinely stolen and misattributed, or twisted, or removed from context. We need to talk about what it means to value an idea if society – especially people who work to change society for the better – does not value the originator of that idea.
So I don’t know where I go from here. I do need some time to write elsewhere. I need time to reassess how I might go about conducting my writing in ways that are healing and respectful to me. Professionally, that’s in places from which my work is less likely to be stolen. Personally, because Zero at the Bone is a personal project, I need to write in locked spaces, in notebooks. But I can’t be dealing with this gutwrenching bullshit when I have a life to lead.
Be back when I can stomach it. I’ll of course be administrating the Down Under Feminists Carnival, as ever, so I’ll be around here for that. Please always credit someone when using fair use extracts from their work.