A letter to sticky-fingered beekeepers
Last week I was notified by a friend that a post of mine was sent to the membership of his local beekeeping club after the title, source, and author name were stripped. Legally, there is a name for this behavior: it’s called “theft.” Taking something that belongs to another without permission is stealing.
This bee club is not unique. Anyone who publishes on the internet is well aware of the scoundrels and lowlifes who take whatever they want. Usually the material pops up someplace where you least expect it. Sometimes it is stripped of ownership information, and sometimes the works are actually attributed to others. I’ve had my entire feed redirected to another bee blog. My photos appear everywhere. Right now, pictures of my homemade top-bar hive are being used to advertise someone else’s business. There is little we bloggers can do about it.
What is hurtful about this particular instance is the post they chose. In a way, posts about how to build a frame or how to mix sugar syrup are kind of standard and hardly worth defending as original. But this post, “The iterative method of swarm capture” was personal. It relays antics my husband and I performed while trying to hive a stubborn swarm. Because it is a unique story, only I could have written it. It is my story.
For some reason, people believe that because the internet is huge and impersonal, no one will ever notice. Maybe in some disciplines that is true. But the beekeeping world is amazingly small: someone always knows someone who knows someone.
Last fall I was enrolled in one of the online beekeeping courses offered by the University of Montana. Part of the course involved answering questions and posting them so the other students could see and discuss the answers. About half way through the course, I was shocked to see a student use as his answer a block of text taken straight from my blog. I recognized my writing instantly.
Now this person owns more hives than I own worker bees—no exaggeration. And yet he felt compelled to copy an answer from the internet rather than write it out himself. Instead of reporting him, I wrote and told him to knock it off. His answer amazed me. He said, “I thought that paragraph was worded better than what I had written . . . .”
Worded better? Seriously? I spent my life learning to write, but not so some lazy-brained beekeeper could save himself the trouble. I agonize over every word and where to place it. To me, writing is a labor of love. Writing for beekeepers is one way I have of giving back—a way of paying forward what others have given me.
Each year I get dozens of requests to reprint my stories and photos, or to use them in books, magazines, slide shows, and posters. I am honored by these requests. I have never said no to a single one. I would be equally happy to provide my work to this beekeeping group—even now—and I certainly would allow the dude with a gazillion hives to use a direct quote. You don’t have to steal what I produce; I will give it to you.
The internet has changed our lives because it makes information easy to share and simple to find. The material on the net—at least the stuff worth reading—is written by people who care and who put their hearts into their work. But I can tell you from experience that the thieves make it harder for the producers to find the motivation.