Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Little Late To The Party

There's been excellent coverage of this (and boosting of signal) by Bruce Heard, Tim Brannan, and even Tracy Hickman. You can read about it there but in short, Tracey Alley used a copied map of The Known World from Basic D&D in her books. She also used some artwork for book covers that may or may not be licensed, and one book cover by an artist that might have swiped Paizo's goblin mascot. Part of this has blown over as she has has removed her books from Amazon pending a scrub of the copied material (except she's still hocking her books on Twitter). 

It takes a long time to update websites to remove other people's content, right Mykal?

But there is one tiny, niggling thing. The same niggling thing we saw with Mykal Lakim. She keeps throwing up excuse after excuse that give the impression she's being forced to do all of this...but doesn't really understand just what the fuss is about. While she has gone on at length about not wanting her work besmirched by the moral and ethical implications, she makes it plain that she believes she had the right to use the map and just needs to go through the motions to placate people: 

cf. the, "Nothing's illegal if you don't get caught" rationale
So...she was lazy and apologizes for offending people...but had the right to use the map and the names.

This is the "I cannot distinguish between infringement and plagiarism" rationale
And all of it was public domain anyway, like H.P. Lovecraft's early works, or Hercules.

Followed by the , "But Mom, everyone else is doing it!" defense
Her arguments devolve quickly into a continuation of bizarre assertions about public domain, USGS maps, copyright on "articles" (which is apparently what adventure modules are) and how this is all just like that one movie that is no longer under public domain (and even if it were would still be protected in some respects).

This is the "Throw shit against the wall and see what sticks" argument

And more backpedalling and armchair lawyering:

She was reliably informed by the same hobo Mykal Lakim talked to
This makes it all right, right? What's the fuss? She was just working off some old notebooks. It's a totally common pose that artists use...I mean, that's a traced map of Europe. Who remembers things they roleplayed 20 years ago, anyway? It wasn't copyrighted anyway, right?

Anyone who is nodding along with the above and thinking, "Yeah, what's the deal? Even D&D stole a lot of things from a lot of places" needs to read Part 1 of this post by Patton Oswalt. I'll quote the best part, even though it's fucking Patton Oswalt so you should read it no matter what:

I’m never going to win this fight. There’s always going to be a portion of the population – maybe a majority, even – who think that The Actor, The Valedictorian and The Pastor did nothing wrong. That comedians really do get their jokes out of books. That anyone can be funny.
And that’s okay. There are almost 7 billion people on this soggy marble. I don’t need all of them on my side. The fans who unfollowed me on Twitter after I shut down The Pastor – just like the ones who unfollow me when I rage against the NRA, and gay marriage opponents and FOX News? I don’t want them as fans. As carefully as I’ve curated and cultivated my career, I’m now doing the same with my audience. Universality was never my goal as a comedian. Longevity and creativity are. 
I’m a comedian. I get to care about this stuff.
In the end, Tracey Alley doesn't deserve to be run out of town. She doesn't need to be insulted - although I have been rather blunt with her because I find her smoke screen of "I didn't do anything wrong leeeegalllllyyyy" to be tiring. She doesn't need to be threatened. She needs to do exactly what she's done. Apologize, even if I wish she didn't sound like one of my kids being forced to apologize to the other one but whatever. Pull her works everywhere in order to remove the plagiarised content and get on with her highly derivative writing.

And the people who are saying, "Well, TSR did this..." and "What about this Kickstarter that didn't deliver, why aren't people complaining about that" need to shut the fuck up. You aren't helping. In fact, you're just supporting a growing culture of people who feel they can appropriate whatever they want, because "They're not playing with it anymore!" All of you - every last one - know damn well where your ideas come from. The reverse is true - if some writing or art isn't yours, you know damn well it isn't, even if you don't know where it came from. This isn't rocket science, people. The prevailing attitude of, "I found it on the Internet/in my notes, so it must be okay to use it in my work and sell it!" doesn't help anybody. When it happens over and over again it takes food off of content creators' tables. It makes them less likely to share, and to be understanding with fans who not only pay homage to the creators they love with their own works but pay the respect and credit to the original creator that they deserve.