Talking with some developers the other day I gave them shit for choosing not to pay for apps that they liked and used. In my reasoning they, more than anyone else, could understand that software is not fee. It takes time, sometimes lots, racks up hosting fees, and often has the legal, accounting, and design work associated with four square wall businesses. I wondered about the double standard.

To these two there was no double standard at all. If we build something that has a back door, or a way for someone to steal it we absolutely expect they will steal it. What is there for the taking is there for the taking.

This work around, resetting phone clocks to unlock timed upgrades, or slipping through cracks in the code seems to be part of their lexicon. Hacking is expected if not encouraged.

I have not agreed with them. My objection is to the marketplace we have created around apps, there is an expectations that they should be unsustainably cheap or free. I pay my .99 with glee. As if that supports the above expenses. But the app developers are part of the problem, at least the independent ones set their prices in line with the market place.

We have all read and thought about music and movie piracy, and I pretty much always pay when I can. Its possible that I taped things off of TV back when gerbils ran the VCR, but for now lets set that aside.

I have spent more time than most thinking about copyright law in art.

My father bought a scanner and the very first photoshop program and set up with an iris ink jet printer the size of a small car and went to work tearing pages out of national geographic. Before his cancer he would take entire trees and their root system and spend several years shaping them into human form. Carefully carefully covering his tracks so it looked as if they grew that way.

What was artistry with roots bordered on illegality with the magazine images. It was his way to continue to reshape nature, mountains into breasts, the galaxy into an enormous tidal pool. The letter of the law required “significant change.” As those of you who have studied art history and Warhol’d famous soup can, context can provide just as much relevance in interpretation as each brushstroke, or pixel change. I remember a friend from college walking though my dad’s basketball court sized studio, plucking a small piece off of the wall, holding it upside down and declaring it “significant change.”

So despite knowing about copyright infringement, and finding paying for movies, music and apps a not so secretly strongly held belief I seem to have a double standard for images. I cut and paste screenshots for my blog regularly. I dont know what I really tell myself, that these things are commercial and people have already been paid? Or nothing at all…but I steal images at least once a week.

I came across an artist on pinterest. His work was all over. Perhaps because he was clearly a visual artist I broke with my tradition and wrote him to ask permission before I used his image for a blog post that I was writing for another project.

I sent an email to his studio with a link to the blog draft, explaining that although the product was a commercial venture the blog post was not, it was about working artists in a particular medium. I used his name and linked back to his site.

I also bought a piece of his work, but I didn’t tell him that in the email. However, the email I used to purchase the drawing was the same as the request that I sent, so a little sleuthing might have uncovered it.

I thought he would write back and thank me. Honestly, that was the response I expected. To give me accolades for not being a thief ( at least this time) and to say go right ahead and use my work to exemplify your point.

Instead he very politely responded that I could not use his image for “this purpose” and good luck with my next project.

I was enraged.

Miss, developers more than anyone else should pay for software, was angry at the visual artist for not allowing his work to be published.

A bit of my reaction comes from the fact that his work is all over pinterest, and  other sites. How does permission work there? I will have to dig in. I am fairly confident that those 100s of millions of images are not used with permission. I guess I also am of the “all publicity is good publicity”, and controlling the message is probably futile and worthless mindset. I am not sure.

In any case I knew enough to ask permission and disliked the answer that I got. If my friends had written to the game developers and asked if they could just take the upgrades would they have expected a positive response from the game developers? Probably not.

Reproducing someone else’s work, with credit and context feels more like an homage than thievery.

My email reply is one of the many things out there that I wish I could take back. I sent it though, I put it out there. In this internet age I really believe that once they are out there it is hard to take things back. I have a low expectation of privacy and a lower expectation of attribution.

Here is another case where forgiveness would have been better than permission.

Is there anyone out there who is not a cheat or a thief? Would you have been surprised to have an artist turn you down? Annoyed?

A photograph by greg Heins (that we paid for) of my father's scultpure of Medusa. But I have such a small screen, and such poor software that you can't see the whole piece.

A photograph by greg Heins (that we paid for) of my father’s sculpture of Medusa. But I have such a small screen, and such poor software that you can’t see the whole piece.

 

 

 

 

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Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com.

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