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  • Writer's pictureKristina Elyse Butke

Why I Won't Write About Copyright Anymore

BLue typewriter - why I won't write about copyright anymore
Photo by Luca Onniboni via Unsplash

So, six years ago, I wrote an article about copyright, fair use, and the legality of fan works, and gave it an incredibly click-baity title. I published it on my own website first, then when I shared it on social media, my grad school alma mater Seton Hill University asked to reprint it on their website, In Your Write Mind.

Once it was published there, the article really took off. Over the years it's been cited in term papers, dissertations, and other online articles; debated about in comment sections and on took on a life of its own. At first I was flattered, but then I grew more and more uncomfortable with the idea that I was being considered an authority on copyright.

It's almost like my legal disclaimer (along the lines of "I am not a lawyer, if you have questions, you need to consult one") didn't matter to people.

And my message kept getting misconstrued. Let me put in plainly here: I support copyright AND fair use! Both! I think we need both! But some people really let me have it in their commentary online. There was also debate brewing between people who agree that copyright is needed, and people who believe that all information should be free.

The argument between both parties is all over the internet, particularly on Twitter, and especially when articles about the legality of the Internet Archive come up. I've seen authors completely decimated online for defending copyright and the trolls kept coming.

Readers, it had me really nervous.

On top of that, I follow several lawyers on Twitter and the issue of copyright and Fair Use came up yet again. One of the statements I made in my original article about fan works was that Fair Use was not a right; it was a legal defense. I cited a lot in my article and did a lot of research, but...imagine my horror when a lawyer replied to someone with the same sentiment that, "Actually, it's both." And then they provided screenshots from actual copyright law that showed fair use needed to be considered when enforcing copyright.

There it was. Despite my best efforts and good intentions, I got something wrong.

By this point my article had been up for six years (I posted it in 2015) and I didn't want to keep updating with addendums. I just didn't want that responsibility anymore. And I felt like someone who defended copyright and spoke up for authors was someone who was putting a target on their back.

I didn't want to deal with it anymore, and I felt it was irresponsible to leave something incorrect up, so I asked for my article at In Your Write Mind to be deleted. I also deleted the article from my own blog. Then I asked for Google to remove it from their search results. I felt shame and embarrassment for getting something so fundamental to copyright wrong, and I just didn't want my article to be consulted anymore.

There was one other place online where I wrote about fair use, piracy, and copyright, and it was about the Internet Archive's library, and I wrote it for Speculative Chic. I asked for that to be deleted, too.

I should've thought about what my articles meant when I originally posted them. I should've had more foresight about how they might be used, and should have considered the level of responsibility on my shoulders when I originally wrote them. I also should've considered what types of reactions they might have, and steeled myself accordingly.

I don't plan on writing articles about fair use, copyright, and piracy in the future. While I support copyright, am pro-fair use, pro-fan works, and anti-piracy, I don't think I have the authority to explain the laws to people, even when defending my opinions on them, and I shouldn't be considered an authority. It was my mistake to ever believe I once was in any capacity.

Consider these my last words on the matter. I don't plan on writing about the subject again. But I thank you for your continued support of my writing.


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