Open Letter to a YouTube User (absmart)

A YouTube user named absmart made a profoundly ignorant comment on a YouTube video.  By definition, most YouTube comments are profoundly ignorant, but this one is in a class all by itself.

I sent him the following message, but I’m not sure he will even see it.  So, I have decided to share it with the world, so that everyone can appreciate my wit and wisdom.

I’ve never been published except anonymously on a Christian website, but I’m working seriously on selling a few magazine articles on fast food management, armchair philosophy, and Christian parenting.  That won’t get me into the National Writer’s Union or the ASJA, but he doesn’t know that.  For all he knows, I am in print.  (I’ve had people ask me before where I’m published professionally!)  So don’t laugh when I call myself a “creative professional.”

Dear absmart,

Two weeks ago, on a Judge Judy video, you made the following comment:

copyright can go screw itself – nobody is making money off it being on youtube – people just want to watch an episode and get a laugh here and there. Unfortunately, the greedy bastards at CBS and other TV stations don’t seem to like that. Copyright is just another way for greedy companies to make even more money, and is a reason why the world is the way it is nowadays.

I find this to be the most profoundly ignorant comment I have ever come across, and I argue about religion in my spare time!  If you’ve ever tried to argue about religion, you know that atheists and theists both say remarkably ignorant things to each other.  However, this comment from you absolutely takes the Ignorance Cake.

It’s obvious that you are neither a professional writer, photographer, nor illustrator.  In fact, I doubt you are a professional ANYTHING.  The reason I say this is because copyright exists to protect creative professionals like myself, and if you were any kind of creative professional you would appreciate that such protection exists.

Put yourself in the shoes of a professional writer.  Let’s say that an editor wants you to write a piece on YouTube for his magazine.  So you spend a few weeks gathering quotes from different popular YouTube users, and then write the copy sprinkled with the quotes and anecdotes of life on YouTube that they’ve provided you.  You then sell that piece to the magazine editor and make a cool $500.

Let’s say someone else read the article, liked it, and used it in a magazine without your permission?  What if the magazine was a freely distributed thing that makes money off advertisement on its pages?  Would you be okay if they ran your article without consent, even if they don’t make any money off of it per se?

Can anyone make money off of writing?  Or should Nora Roberts be forced to sling french fries at McDonald’s to pay her bills, writing only in her spare time?

It doesn’t matter whether people make money off of it or not.  It doesn’t matter if it’s intellectual or physical property, either.  It still boils down to THEFT.  If someone steals your iPhone, would you let it go so long as he doesn’t use it to make phone calls that you have to pay for?  Of course not.  That iPhone is YOUR PROPERTY, and only YOU have the right to use it.  So it is with words and pictures; ONLY the one who creates them has the right to distribute them.

It’s no different with TV shows, movies, novels, short stories, magazine articles, artwork, graphics, and the list goes on and on.  Only the creator of the intellectual property should be able to distribute it, and they have a vested interest in protecting it and controlling its distribution.

So grow up.  You have much to learn, young one.  If you’re not young, you’re an embarrassment to adulthood.  It is readily apparent you haven’t thought your view on copyright through.

And, before you say it, yes my videos are (thus far) images that are used under a questionable interpretation of “fair use.”  That was done hastily, without thought as to how I would feel in the same position.  Starting with my next video, I will be militant about checking the copyright and usage rules of images.  As time permits, I will also go back and replace the existing graphics in my videos with public domain images.

As a writer, I had thought more about words on paper than images, which are worked on by talented artists and photographers who put as much thought and effort into it as I do for anything I write.  Therefore, they are worthy of the same respect accorded me, the writer.

I repent.  Will you?

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