There is a common myth on the internet that everything you see is yours for the taking. People download songs, they do a Google image search and save some photos, they quote websites without giving the source. They don’t think it matters.
But it does. Copyright laws exist for a reason–to protect people who create things, and put their works and their thoughts out there for the world to see. They exist because people’s creative expression matters. And, whether you agree or not, these are laws. They very specifically say that a person’s work belongs to them the moment they create it, even if you don’t officially register it. It is illegal to take someone else’s photos, songs, words, and more without permission. It doesn’t matter why you want to do it, (unless you are an educator–they have some leeway,) and it doesn’t matter if money is exchanged or not. Copyright law isn’t about money. It is about people’s rights to their own creative expression. Our thoughts are our own, and it feels like a violation if someone takes them as their own.
Here’s where narcissism comes in: many people who engage in copyright violations have reasons, excuses and rationalizations for why the laws do not apply to them. Hmmm…who else doesn’t think the law applies to them? Narcissists. Who else rationalizes their behavior and puts their wants over other people’s needs? Narcissists. Politically, I am a Libertarian, so in many ways, I think rules should be flexible, but at the same time, I am strongly against violating other people’s rights. I am against theft, and I hate dishonesty. It doesn’t matter if I don’t like copyright laws, or I think I have a good reason to ignore them. They are still laws, and to break them is a crime. The government doesn’t care if I think I’m doing something good by breaking the law. They probably aren’t going to come after me for something little, but this still matters to me. I don’t want to violate another person by stealing their work. Some people do not see it as stealing, but the law does. And you know what? Many people who create things see it as stealing as well. It would be narcissistic of me to think that my desires matter more than their rights. Even if you personally don’t see a problem with it, the person you are taking from might. It isn’t for you to decide if they are allowed to feel that way or not. It would be narcissistic for you to tell a person how they are supposed to feel about your taking their work.
Today, I saw a photo I had made and put my website address on…but another person had uploaded it as their own and had removed the address on purpose. I saw that and thought “what the heck? You just took my photo from my website, removed my website address and posted it?” Such nerve. People share and upload my photos all the time…but they don’t purposely remove my website address. That to me shows negative intent. If you just want to share something interesting, why would you need to remove the source? The person who did it to me had done it to hundreds of people. I asked them why they had done it, and they blocked me and left my photo there. That told me some more about their negative intent. I reported it as infringement to both Facebook and the FBI. Yes. You can report photo theft to the FBI because it is a crime.
As the owner of that copyrighted work, it is my right to ask for my photo to be removed. It is my right to report it as a violation because it is a violation. Narcissists do not like it when we enforce our rights. They feel entitled to use what they want without being held accountable. The person who did it has many excuses for why she did it. She claims she only wanted to help…but the fact that she purposely hid website addresses from hundreds of people’s photos, and the fact that she would not answer me when I asked why she had stolen my photo and blacked out my address speaks volumes. Instead of doing the right thing, this person is now claiming I attacked her. That is interesting. Narcissistic people usually do claim you are attacking them when you hold tight to your rights and boundaries. Some of her online friends have been harassing me with obscene comments. That too is interesting. I am wary of people who are crude and bully others on behalf of a third party…especially when I was in the right to enforce my copyrighted material.
It doesn’t matter if that person claims to be helping. Her friends are harassing me saying she is great and wonderful and just wanted to help. I find that odd considering her willingness to black out the source of the photos because there is no reason to do that. But whatever. Her rationalizations do not matter. The fact is, I made something and I saw someone else taking it. The fact is, I don’t like that. The fact is, the law is on my side. It doesn’t matter what any of her excuses are. She cannot do what she wants to do just because she wants to despite the laws regarding the topic. Her friends are attacking me for standing up for my rights, because they say it is selfish of me to not want someone to take my photos and alter them to remove my work. Think that all they want. That is not my reasoning for being upset. I am upset because I got out my computer, my image program and my thoughts and I expressed myself in a vulnerable way to share with other survivors…only to have someone violate me by taking my work and altering it to fit their needs. It is an emotional and mental violation whether the infringer or her friends think I have the right to feel that way or not!
There are people in the world who do things that are illegal or immoral, but who become angry and claim to be the victim when they are asked to stop. Many of them are narcissists. Many of them are ignorant of the laws. Many of them are too selfish to think how they person they are stealing from feels.
I don’t let people treat me that way anymore…and boy do they get mad when you stand up for yourself!
I want to add a footnote about my personal use of copyrighted material:
I get all of my images from free image sites, (or my own camera.) I only choose images that are specifically available for public use without royalties or restrictions. These are images that photographers have specifically offered for public use, so I avoid any that aren’t specific. My thoughts are my own and come from my life experiences. When I see something I like on Facebook, I share it from where I got it to show appreciation for the person who created it. On the rare occasion when I find a photo that doesn’t really have any source, I specifically note that when I post it, because I don’t want to take credit for someone else’s work. I really do take my rights and others’ rights seriously!