Is Miss Snark Headed for Oz?

Dear Miss Snark,

I have truly been enjoying the bits of poetry that you have been sharing on your blog. At my young blog about writing and art, I have also been posting selections of poetry to inspire discussion and share poetic works which I enjoy.

My question for you is this: do you request permission from the authors of the poems you have reprinted on your website? (no) After posting a few poems at my blog site, I began to wonder if perhaps I was not infringing on someone?s copyright, even though I provide complete and consistent credit to the authors. (yes)

After reviewing some information available online on the subjects of copyright and fair use, I'm inclined to think that perhaps it is not ok for me to publish the work of others in their entirety on my blog, even if I provide credit and say nice things about them. (true)

While I know you are not a lawyer or legal advisor, could you please toss in your two cents on the subject, provided you have the time and the inclination?

Yes, I'm a criminal copyright violater. Yes, I confess it freely. The good folks over at FSG have every right to call me up and say "Hey Snark for Brains, we control the copyright to Seamus Heaney's Beowulf and you've posted more lines that are covered in fair use. Knock it off". And I'd probably whine, moan, bitch, moan, screech, yap, complain and moan... and remove it.

So, knowing I'm bound for publishing prison, how do I justify this? Well, I don't. It's wrong. I shouldn't do it. The fact that maybe someone will see the poems, and it will prompt them to buy the book, or ask for it to be added to the collection at the library isn't enough. It's still wrong. Don't do it.


Cara said...

Love that honesty, in a convoluted sort of way!

Annie Dean said...

You know, it just shows how non-TV oriented I am that when I read that headline, I thought, "Cool, she's going to Australia!"

And then read on, blankly going, huh, what does this have to do with Australia... Took about thirty seconds of furrowed brow study before I realized it was that prison show on HBO (showtime? skinemax?) And I'm not even blonde.

Eric Rosenfield said...

In my experience, most poets don't mind having their work posted illegally online, since it gives them publicity which for poets is relatively rare. As Cory Doctorow once put it, obscurity is a greater threat than piracy. Especially for poets.

Feisty said...

Don't feel bad. I thought she was making a reference to the Wizard of Oz. I don't get out much.

Bugwit Homilies said...


If you don't know all the HBO shows, maybe you get out TOO much! ;-)

That TV stuff will just rot your brains, anyway. Well except for Simpsons. But then, you've got to watch a lot of TV to properly appreciate the Simpsons...it's a vicious cycle, really.

Simon Haynes said...

I'm IN Australia and I didn't get the convict connection either.
I thought Ms Snark was on the way over here for a coast-to-coast tour. Pity.

Skylar said...

It's illegal unless the poem is in the public domain...True, most poets are not likely to protest if they are credited. There's little money in poetry, and publicity costs.

-c- said...

I wondered about this too, when I started posting poetry on my own blog, because I know darn well it is illegal. But when I saw Miss Snark doing it, and since thousand read hers and, like, 10 people read mine, I said what the hell.

Unless you have actually pocketed money from your illegal posting, the worst that's going to happen is you'll get a nasty letter saying "stop that!"

However, I will say I am always amused by some lists that boot members because they cut and paste others' comments and post them to other lists. They are villified for copyright infringement, of all things. Please. If you're stupid enough to leave evidence of acting like an ass, you shouldn't hide behind copyright law for damage control.

But I digress. Rock on with the poetry.

B. Dagger Lee said...

O Dear Miss Snark,

Don't go to prison! Roll over on your grandma before you do that! I used to teach in one and the women slop around in slippers all day and eat bad food and are bullied by petty authoritarians dressed in uniforms.

Mind you, that's pretty much all I do all day long at home except that here I'm bullied by a petty authoritarian dressed in an out-of-date poodle suit.

I can also tell you in general the books in prison suck, at least in the Federal prison in Manhattan that I taught in. I suspect Bedford Hills has a real library thanks to the admirable Miss Harris and Eve Ensler; it's also a state prison, which makes a big difference.

I'm afraid I smuggled poetry into the prison, so my poetry practices are fast, loose, promiscuous and black market.

I shall adhere to the strictest of standards from now on and you have my sincerest apologies.

I shall post only my own driveling:

There was a New York agent named Snark;
Whose rules were really quite stark;
She was tart, she was frosty,
And really NOT narsty--
But directions were snapped with a bark!

And, of course, in the last line I refer to K.Y. and it’s crazy talk to say otherwise. I’m also sorry to report that the first line originally read “There was a young agent named Snark,” but I had to sacrifice ‘young’ to the artistic integrity of the limerick—I mean poem (La! The life of the mind!), and use ‘New York’ as it captured the essential.

I am, yrs, chastened,

B. Dagger Lee

LJCohen said...

I participate in a blog-circle called 'poetry thursday' in which (on thursdays--what a surprise!) member blogs post poetry to share. They have this post about copyrights vis a vis poetry.

Sue said...

Good points, but your posting of that translation of Beowulf has indeed gotten me to consider purchasing that book and planning a late summer "sit around the fire pit" with my "mill around at party friends because we're too lazy to think of anything interesting to do" crowd and have a good, old-fashioned reading and food roast. Like the good, old days when they recited Beowulf to begin with.

Rik said...

It would be nice to have a link alongside the poem, either to the poet's website or the magazine the poem appears in or to the book at Amazon/B&N/etc. Just a thought ...

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, you set an example by doing this. A lot of people set a lot of store in what you say on this blog. If you do it, then it must be okay. And they may start posting a lot more than poetry. How about at least getting permission from the poet? After all, today it's a poem, tomorrow a paragraph, the next day a chapter. Piracy is wrong.

-c- said...

Actually, piracy is just illegal. In many cases, I don't think it's wrong at all. Copyright law is about protecting the copyright holder's ability to make money. Fair use is about sharing information in a free society. Do your homework. It is perfectly legal to post a paragraph, and perhaps a chapter, and while it is illegal to post a poem because it is an entire work, you aren't taking a dime out of anyone's pocket, and are possibly increasing sales of that poet's book. A link to that book, or a reference, helps mightily.

I think poems are for reading. I think any poet would agree. So sue me.

Nessie said...

I asked this question to a lot of blogger oldies and it seems that though they discouraged taking content from a book and re-writing it they okayed anything that was available on the internet. Their defence was that blogs are completly open source. If you post a poem that I think is cool I have the green light to make the link. Of course yes source the material and should someone ask the poem be removed than well go for it. Online blog content is a go ahead not hardback Beowolfe poems... no matter how much gin you drink :)

Anonymous said...

Piracy is intellectual theft and it's wrong. The net has left authors and artists open to the 'it should all be free' attitude. Next time somebody asks you to contribute a day's or month's or year's work free, let's see how quickly you are to say sure. Authors aren't usually getting rich off their work, and if you can read it on the net, why bother buying it? It's the old, why bother buying the cow if you get the milk for free mentality.

-c- said...

Nessie, your sources are wrong about blog content having less copyright protection than something that is printed. Anything that is in written form is immediately copyrighted by the author and therefore protected by copyright law (which has a fair use allowance). Linking is thus far not illegal outright--it has courtesy rules around it, and guidelines, and some threats have been made by big corporations who are pissed at folks who link to pages deep in their websites and bypass their front-page ads. I am not up on the latest and greatest on this, but I do know that copying anything that is not in the public domain is illegal unless you can claim fair use (great links about what all that means in someone's earlier post).

However, in my state, visiting a "lewd and bawdy place" is also illegal. I don't think "illegal" equals wrong in many cases. I use fair use liberally, try to put myself in the author's shoes, give credit, follow my concience, and don't worry about it. The slippery slope theory just doesn't wash with me. Especially since it has been demonstrated that artist who give away their stuff wind up making more money than those who only sell it.

Anyone who is truly interested in a fabulous compromise to this mess should google Creative Commons - free licensing language you can adapt to your work which lets people use it freely however they like, as long as they cite you and don't make any money off your stuff.