The following post may seem like old news to about half of you. Very sorry, many apologies, go watch the Puppy Bowl.
I learned last week, through the magic of Google Alerts, that I had a copier. A plagiarist. A college freshman had come to see Polka Dotted Platypus last year. She hated it, and decided she was going to rewrite it herself and publish it on her blog under the same title, and include a coda explaining what she was doing, and how she was going to do this brilliant (her word) idea better justice than I did. She even posted the trailer we had made for Polka Dotted Platypus on her blog, so people could compare.
My first thought was thank GOD for Google alerts! My second thought was...well...
Okay, see, I’m trying really hard not to disparage her online. This blog is public, though if you’re not a friend of mine already, my last name is not known, and my work goes under pseudonyms here. So if she sets her own Google alerts, this blog wouldn’t be popping up.
And though she had no problem saying I was an inferior writer, and if I was her age, I’d be ALL about trashing her, her writing, and the wisdom of her actions (or lack thereof.)
But I’m not her age. When I first starting reading her post, thinking hey, wait a minute and um, I wrote this idea already and wow, is she ripping me off? and she IS ripping me off. I didn’t get that STRUM.
Okay, okay let me back up.
You know that feeling when you get bad news? When your boss calls you into the office to tell you you’re being let go? When you have that awful conversation that includes the phrase, “I don’t think we should see each other any more?” When you get into a car wreck, or a ticket, or just barely avoid hitting something?
I call it the STRUM. Like there’s twenty thousand guitar strings knotting up your insides and someone just windmilled them for twenty minutes. It’s like a searing pain diagonally across your midsection. It’s like all your internal organs dropped a few feet, and are bouncing around below your belly button.
That’s the STRUM. But I didn’t get it when I read her blog. I had every right to, I’M BEING MALIGNED!
But instead I just sat at the computer and went. Huh. Wow, she’s not really (Amy struggles to find the right word that doesn’t disparage her) thinking clearly, is she?
Instead of pitching a fit, I thought about next steps. I want to address this. I need to address this. It took me about forty five seconds of googling to find an email address for her. (again with the not thinking clearly part for her.)
And then I waited. Went and did some other stuff, including the rewrite of Polka Dotted Platypus that I ironically happen to be working on anyway. Came back an hour later to see if I still had the desire to contact her.
Yes, the desire is still there. But a separate desire is coming into play and that is if I do contact her, I want to be respectful and polite. A-HA! A CHALLENGE!
Can I contact a wayward blogger, bite my tongue from all the things I really wanna say, and respectfully, politely tell her to stop ripping me off and take her post down? Would she even do it? Am I even right in asking? Where does God stand on copyright, anyway?
I thought about it some more. I prayed about it some more. I emailed friends and asked for their advice. Half of them told me to leave it alone. “She’s nobody” , “She could be crazy!” She could refuse to take the post down, and instead post about how I contacted her and make fun of me. And then what would my next steps be?
It was walking a line between what’s right and my pride. What I think is right in this situation may not be right to God. You could make a case that if you want to get all Ten Commandments about it, this falls under Thou Shall Not Steal. But there’s also an element of MINE MINE MINE, this idea in the fixed form of this play is MINE, NOT YOURS, and that feels distinctly un-Christian like too.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that God honestly didn’t give a toss about this little puddle of a problem. Seriously, Amy? THIS is what you’re bringing to me?
You’ve got friends with real problems, friends who are grieving, friends in bad job situations, friends with broken hearts, oh hey, did you hear about what happened down in Haiti? And THIS is what you want me to pay attention to? Honestly?
Look, do what you want, just don’t embarrass me, okay? ‘Cause that would piss me off.
Ultimately, it came down to could I live with myself if I didn’t do anything? And the answer was no. No, I could not. She needed to know what she did was wrong, and yes, she got caught. I’m sure the last thing she was thinking was that the original writer would find her. She needs to know that yes, that writer would. So don’t do it again.
I drafted the world’s most polite, respectful yet firm email, sent it out to my trusted friends’ circle for approval, and, with a bunch more prayers that I imagined were met with a colossal holy shrug, yawn, and I’m busy getting aid to Haiti sent the email out.
She took the post down within two hours. She also sent a highly formal-to-the-point-of-rigidity email back, with an apology and a thank you for the warning.
I’m pleased that there was a happy ending. But I think I’m more stoked that I was able to meet the challenge of Ask For What You Want But Be Respectful, Polite, and Don’t Embarrass Me. ‘Cause we all know I can be one cranky loudmouthed bitch, heh.