It can happen to you… it’s happened to me and plenty of other players too!
Keep in mind… It takes just one bad apple for creative theft to occur. They see another player’s efforts and talents, like them so much they steal them for themselves, (or as many will like to proclaim when caught: “borrow liberally” from.) Sometimes they will offer the kindness of doing it somewhere other than where you play. Sometimes… you sign into your favored chat and find your creative efforts being “imitated” right there in your face.
When confronted creative thieves tend to cry “it’s a form of flattery”. That is…if they are willing to be honest about what it is they are doing in the first place. (I’m sorry to remind but some are not honest with themselves and hence cannot be honest with the rest of us.) Or in a real eye roller, they turn around and accuse you of stealing from them…
Let’s be crystal clear: if you steal someone else’s creative efforts and claim them as your own it’s not flattery, its theft. Color it any way you want, creative theft is still a crime. Sure, stealing our FFRP may not land someone in prison or earn them a civil suit or any other kind of legal action, (all of which costs a lot of money and time to pursue.) What it will get the creative thief is a resounding ignore from me. And hopefully others who care to discourage such abhorrent behaviors will ignore them too.
Some reading this may wonder why any of us would bother to care about having our silly FFRP crap stolen from us.
“Yeah, so what’s the Big Fucking Deal anyway? It’s just a crappy online game.”
For some the above might be true but every player has the choice to invest what they want into their FFRP. As Players our rights over our FFRP are kept pretty clear: we control what we create. FFRP for me is all about the storytelling. I protect what I create, because frankly, it’s mine; I created it and I have invested my time and attention to it. Out of respect I offer the same consideration to others. To all those who think that creative theft is a joke I offer this tidbit of advice: you may want to broaden your horizons and educate yourselves.
There is a reason there are Internet Copyright Laws, and they aren’t silly or stupid. What we create belongs to us, plain and simple. In an environment where words are our primary tools, they become important to us. What I have written has created my FFRP landscapes. My words are the foundation of my characters. I’ve put time and dedication into weaving their stories. I didn’t do all of this so some disrespectful jerk can come along and take whatever they want and use it where and how they want while inferring they created it. (Hey? That could apply to just about anything, huh? Like maybe even ART!)
So what is creative theft?
The most obvious: stealing a storyline, ripping off another player’s character or copy/pasting another player’s play. Only a naive few tend to be so blatant in their thievery. In most cases it is more subtle. Instead of stealing the entire storyline, they just take the bits they like. Instead of making a copy of another player’s character, they make a character so similar that they could be easily mistaken as twin sisters. Instead of copy/pasting entire sends “borrowed” from another player, they just use snippets, the ones, you know, that really “sing” to them. Maybe they will mix it up with content stolen from yet another player.
If a player is copying any aspect of another player’s creations… they are stepping over the respectful line.
Creative theft isn’t about stealing a word. It’s about stealing many words. We cannot copyright a turn of a phrase or a single word. Yet many within our community strive to find the right turns of phrases, the right descriptive words to help create a cohesive, recognizable character. Do not doubt it; there are many of us that will recognize play “liberally borrowed” from others.
The best way to avoid creative thievery is…
- Keep up to date on Internet Copyright Laws and kindly obey them.
- Keep logs of your play, copies of your posts and any other information you may have offered up in another medium online, (i.e. Blogs, other FFRP sites, etc.). An original goes a long way in establishing who wrote what when. I like to backup even my backups by making copies of everything I post with the date of posting in it. (On Dragon’s Mark when we make a post the date and time the post was made are included in every aspect of our work. A screen shot or a printout gives you a post date linked to the material.)
- Don’t “borrow liberally” from others, even if you truly believe you could play the character better or tell that story better or… It doesn’t matter! Don’t do it! It’s already been done. Better to add your own twists and originality than to have others thinking of you as a thief. Create your own “trademark traits” for your character. Evolve/develop your own play style. Borrow from other players’ concepts, not literally from their creations. Let others inspire you, yes, but keep a line between inspiration and outright theft.
In closing, keep in mind Creative Theft may not land a person in jail, but neither will it endear them in the community. If you want people to play with you, then play respectfully with them. And stealing from another player… isn’t respectful.