Using Other People’s Stuff

A lot of people give their stuff away for free these days. Some of the best things ever said, by some of the most brilliant contemporary thinkers, turn up on Facebook and Twitter. And podcasts  – don’t get me started.

Online, people give their stuff away without even caring that anyone knows who made it. Like all those clever “memes,” the pictures grabbed from pop culture, or newly created. The words range from moronic to excellent. We make these objects, and unleash them upon the world as freebies.

meme examples

But there are times when a person wants credit. For instance, any time when they didn’t give permission for their material be repurposed for someone else’s benefit. If you publish another person’s words, pictures, or thoughts, it hurts no one to give them credit. Plus, then you have class.

When I edited a zine, Salon: A Journal of Aesthetics, it used to drive me crazy, and not in a good way, to run across something that would fit perfectly in one of the theme issues – and not be able to trace who did it. So they could be credited. I’m still uncomfortable with sharing things I think are cool, because “Did the person really mean to pass it around for free, or did someone else make that decision for them?”

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