Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Copywrongs

I was intrigued to discover that I'd had a little rush - une petite avalanche - of visitors from France overnight, all landing on my post about the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland, so I followed their links backwards to a French science and technology website and found myself looking at this mystery photograph - une photo mysterieuse - where the game was to identify the subject of my photo from that post, cropped to show just a section of the horse's neck and mane, and the tip of the Wheel. There were lots of guesses: a machine for destroying secret documents, a rotating wire brush, a young man's spiky hair and, my personal favourite, a rat's bottom, but amazingly someone was able to identify it.

I suppose the guy setting up the game, rather than randomly happening upon that post, thought of the Wheel first and just googled for a photo - but it's still amazing to me though that some French science nerd found his way to my blog. Even if he then pillaged it (only the winner had the courtesy to include the link to the post after, ahem, filching the entire photo to prove his claim).

It's an interesting, if dispiriting, exercise, to google myself or the opening words of a story, and see just how far my work has gone around the world - totally without my permission or of course any payment for its use. I've found my stuff on newspaper websites in India, South Africa, the UK, Singapore, Australia... So far it has at least always been under my name, small comfort that that is, so nobody else is stealing my stories and being paid for them. Still, it's kind of depressing to work hard on a story, wringing out the words sometimes, be paid if I'm lucky 40c a word (a rate that hasn't changed here for 30 years, I'm told - back then writers must actually have been able to make a living from their work) or more likely a package rate for words+images; and then see it popping up all over the place for free. It's becoming harder and harder to get a second sale out of a story, when it now doesn't just appear in a newspaper, say, and then disappears from the records, wrapped around the next day's fish 'n chips, but is also automatically uploaded to the paper's website to remain there forever after, for no extra payment. It all makes me look upon moon-faced Kim Dotcom with even less favour.

On the plus side, it's been fun to picture all those French techies trying to figure out the title of that post: they may be hot at identifying machines, but working out a lumbering English-Scottish pun? No chance!

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