I grew up with remix culture. I used to make pretend radio programmes with a friend, my high-pitched child’s voice introducing songs added to the cassette using tape-to-tape dubbing. People would make mixtapes or just copy albums for friends, maybe from vinyl, where the needle crackle would jam with the ferric hiss.
For centuries, people have enjoyed a shared pool of story, riffing with the same old themes, playing with each others’ work. After that and after my Walkman childhood came the Internet, and fun new worlds of mash-ups and sharing, open source and Creative Commons.
I love it all. Creativity should come from a spirit of communication, maybe cooperation, not the egotistic holding to oneself that copyright suggests. I like musicians to sample each other, and authors to reference each other, and film-makers to pastiche each other. I’m all for intertextuality and a sense of fun and play. I’m pretty much a copyleft sort of guy.
But. There are a couple of practical matters at hand.
One. Old media, the publishing houses and the broadcasters, have a much more sober, old-fashioned view of these things. They like copyright. The Internet muddies the waters. People ask to see what I’ve written and I have little to show them online. I want to be published and broadcast and paid for my work and I fear that sticking things on the net puts that at risk. For example, if I sell a short story to a magazine they will want first rights, and if I’ve put that story on the web already, there is a grey area as to whether that counts as prior publication. I play it safe and put very little of my writing up, in the hope that through conversation I can keep people interested in me anyway, in the hope that a time will come when I can send people off to read a book of mine, or hear my play on the radio.
Two. I spend at least 37.5 hours a week working in an office to earn a living, and that leaves me with precious little time to write. I do what I can, balancing that among other needs, but it frustrates me when I look at how long it’s going to take me to finish the big fiction projects I’m working on. I could happily fill most of my hours with writing, because the ideas keep coming and there is so much to be done. What would take me months in an ideal world takes me years in the current situation because I have to steal time where I can, in evenings, lunch breaks and weekends.
The writing I’ve done so far could be my passport to making enough money in the future to work fewer hours. That money would buy me time to write more, which I believe is one of the key things I should be doing with my life.
These practicalities have two effects; I keep much of my writing close to my chest, and I vigorously protect the copyright of what I have written. This approach may change in the future, but it’s unlikely while I hold down a full-time job.
If you see my work and are tempted to play with it, breathe new life into it and let it pollinate your own art, please contact me first and we can discuss it.
If you see my work and wish to plagiarise it or misappropriate it for selfish ends, then be warned, I will punish you. The methods of my retribution may include and will not necessarily be confined to:
- taking legal action
- having your ancestors call you to account
- physical violence against your person
- going to the press
- dressing your dog as a clown
I’m not paranoid, and I think such blatant theft is unlikely, but, you know. Just sayin’.