Recently a friend of mine discovered that someone he was aquainted with was going to use the title of his upcoming book for an anthology title. As you can imagine, this caused hurt feelings and a bit of outrage. For me, it was because I felt that a friend of mine was getting ripped off of something that was his, and because it went against the moral code I live by and the unspoken code amongst creative people.
There’s an honor amongst creative people that goes unspoken. It’s the knowledge that if someone creates something, it’s theirs and to infringe on that is to steal something of that person. The theift is personal, and it hurts.
I’m not saying that someone can’t use the same title, as titles are pretty much a “free for all.” What I’m saying is, you don’t do that to someone you know, especially if you call that someone a friend. It’s a low practice. In the instance of knowing the person you “creatively ripped off” it cuts deep. I would say it’s the same as kissing or having sex with the spouse of your best friend – that’s how deep the betrayal goes. You have to understand that when you create something, it’s part of who you are, and when someone violates that, there’s no way to make it right again.
What’s the right thing to do? Pick a different title, a different story, a different character… ANYTHING! Don’t use someone else’s ideas for your own gain.
I’ve actually had this happen to me, but unintentionally with no harm caused. I had this great story idea, and I was going to write a book called Bed Bugs. Guess what? A friend of mine (LA Taylor) beat me to it. I saw him announce his story on a social media site and I was bummed. There was no way that I could in good conscious use the title when someone I knew, albeit not well, but knew of, had already used it. To me, that would have seemed like stealing something from him. Logically I know that our stories would have been completely different, since no two writers are ever the same. Still… I couldn’t do it, and I still can’t. I never did write the story, although I might someday. One thing’s for sure, it won’t have the title of LA Taylor’s Bedbugs! LOL
Sadly, the kind of creative theft I’m talking about is commonplace – not only in writing, but music and other forms of creative art. People find out about something someone is working on and they steal the plans or ideas. While in the early idea stages, such things aren’t considered plagerism, but it’s the same in a lot of ways. You’re taking something from someone when it was theirs to begin with. Most creative people get to the point where they won’t even share their ideas with anyone for fear of them being stolen. I’m one of those people. I trust very few people with anything until it’s complete. At that point, it’s harder for someone to rip you off without being able to take legal action against them because you then own the copyright to your work.
The betrayal of my friend caused me to leave a group on a social media site. I don’t know for certain that the title theft was of malicious intent, but you can’t tell me the person didn’t see the title or know about it beforehand, because chances are high that they did. Regardless, I wasn’t going to stick around anywhere where creative theft MIGHT be occurring: 1) because I couldn’t stand by and watch my friend get used and hurt; and 2) because being a writer (creator) is hard enough without people making it that much harder with mistrust.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to come up with something special and uniquely yours? Or how hard it is to get the attention of the masses once you do? You don’t need someone making it that much harder, wondering if they’re going to betray your trust at any moment.
The best thing to do is to have a small circle of friends you know you can trust. That’s not an easy thing to do or build, but it’s worthwhile in the end.
Find the people who hold honor in their hearts and have respect for you as a person and a creator. There’s more than enough ideas to go around without stealing someone else’s.
©Rebecca Besser, 2013. All rights reserved.