Moving Beyond Copyright

August 5th, 2010 by Steve Pavlina

An inspired idea came to me today, one that struck me multiple times over the past few years. Until today I couldn’t bring myself to act on it. Now I’m ready to move forward with it.

The short version is that I’m going to give people permission to republish my articles far and wide, including translating them into other languages. In practical terms this means that I won’t be “protecting” them via copyright anymore.

I want to move forward on this, but I want to do it in such a way that it makes sense and doesn’t create undesirable complications. So I’m going to share the basics with you now. Then I’ll gather questions and feedback and see if I can craft a good solution that addresses people’s questions, so we can fill in all the gaps about the implementation details.

Copyrighted Material

Up to this point, all of my articles have been copyrighted. I’ve written about 1,000 articles, and I’d estimate they average about 2,000 words each, so that’s approximately 2 million words of content, enough to fill 25 books. It took me nearly 6 years to produce that much written material.

By way of comparison, my book Personal Development for Smart People is about 83,000 words. More than 95% of what I’ve written has been published on my website for free, so anyone can read it without paying me anything for it. My book was published by Hay House, so it wasn’t self published; I have an exclusive publishing agreement with them.

I also have several hours of audio podcasts and a small bit of video as well.

Over the years I’ve received many requests from people asking permission to share my content in other ways, such as by translating it into other languages or reposting it on their blogs. For a while I gave people permission to do this on a limited basis, but after a couple years I pulled back when it seemed to be getting out of hand. I felt that some people were abusing the limited rights I granted them, and that created some headaches for me.

Some people also came to me with fairly ambitious ideas, such as creating whole web sites in other languages based around my material. I must have received dozens of offers like that, but I always declined them. It seemed too messy, and I was concerned about losing control of my content, which I felt was my #1 business asset.

Copyright Violations

In some cases people would break the law to republish my content without permission. That happens pretty much every day now.

For example, around 2005 I learned that a self-help book was published where the author included two of my copyrighted articles without permission. Not only that, he edited my articles slightly to try to pass them off as his own, literally claiming that my personal stories came from his own life experience. I promptly contacted the publisher, and we worked out a cash settlement, whereby I gave them permission to continue publishing the book as-is. I was easily able to prove that I was the original author since both articles had been previously published in a print newsletter, so I just faxed them copies of it.

I felt I deserved at least some compensation if they were going to keep selling my work, and they readily agreed. Getting into a legal battle isn’t my style, so I really went easy on them. They seemed to relax once they realized I had no interest in raking them over the coals. I think they were pretty pissed at that author though. That book is still being sold today.

More recently I learned that Bob Proctor (from the movie The Secret) released a book called It’s Not About the Money that was heavily derived from my articles, such as 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job and 10 Stupid Mistakes Made by the Newly Self-Employed. The derivation is rather obvious since much of it is word-for-word the same and follows my content point by point. Long story short, I was told that Bob’s company hired a ghostwriter, who most likely used my content to create this product, and then it was released as Bob’s own work. The book is currently still being sold in audio, paperback, and Kindle formats. You can find it on Amazon.com. I haven’t received a dime from it.

Now if I were to view reality through an objective lens, I might be pretty pissed. I’m getting ripped off, right?

How do you personally feel about it? Does this bother you at all?

Subjective Reality and Intellectual Property

Since I’m on the subjective side now, I see this situation in a different light than I otherwise would have. Bob and that ghostwriter and I aren’t separate from each other. They are me.

If I look within myself, I would say that the dream character Bob currently represents a part of me that feels phony and false. And why is that part there? Perhaps it’s because part of me feels phony and false claiming ownership of the material I’ve been producing and publishing for years.

The truth is that I can’t really say that I’m the one creating all this content. It flows through me so effortlessly that I don’t really know where it’s coming from. I spent thousands of hours producing all this content, but did I really create it? Sure I worked hard, but I overwhelmingly enjoyed the process. Writing is a peaceful, flowing, and pleasurable experience for me.

When I write in the best way I know how (from inspiration), it’s like my consciousness steps aside, and content flows through me and onto the computer screen. I’m basically a pen. I let the dreamer communicate through me.

How can I possibly blame Bob or his ghostwriter or anyone else who’s tried to pass off my material as their own? If I do that, I’d just be projecting my own issues onto them.

I cannot solve this problem at that level. I could try of course, but what would that “solution” look like? Send Bob some nasty letters maybe. Get an attorney involved. Succumb to negative emotions like blame and resentment. Disconnect from who I really am. No thanks!

In the end, I’d only be fighting with myself, and I’d be injecting more conflict and negative drama into this dream world. That is not an intelligent solution.

To be totally truthful, I have to confess that I’m in the same boat, trying to pass off the dreamer’s content as my own. I’ve been doing that for years. Bob is simply reflecting that back to me. The problem is mine, not his. I’m responsible for it.

To go a little deeper, I would say that I did write a lot of content (hundreds of articles) at the level of my own mind. But by and large, that’s the content that sucks. The best content, the stuff that makes people freak out the most, flows through me, but it is not of me.

Inspired vs. Uninspired Content

Over the years I’ve noticed a strange pattern.

If I write content at the level of my own mind, such as by pulling an idea off my to-do list and mentally working through it point by point, I usually get feedback along the lines of “Great article.” People typically still like it, and they often report good results by applying those ideas. I can’t say this has been a negative experience per se.

But if I write from a place of inspiration, running to the keyboard when an energized idea comes to me out of the blue, something very different happens. First, my writing speed is 2-3 times faster. Sometimes the ideas are flowing through me as quickly as I can physically type.

Second, the feedback I get is very different. Someone ALWAYS reports back that reading that article was a synchronicity for them. Maybe they just wrote about that same topic in their journal the previous night. Maybe it’s exactly what they were wondering about before they read it. Maybe I share some specific detail that’s a major trigger for them.

Another way of explaining the difference between these two styles of writing is that in the first case, I’m writing with an objective lens. I choose topics based on what I think people will want to read, or what might give me a traffic boost, or to create and share value, or to teach, or for some other logical reason.

A good example of such an objectively written article is 10 Ways to Improve Your Technical Skills. It’s an article for the mind, but it doesn’t stir the heart and soul.

In the second case, however, I’m using a subjective lens when I write. I don’t pre-plan what I’ll write about. I simply wait for inspiration to hit me, and then I run with it. Sometimes I’ll write for hours without a break in order to record the ideas that are flowing through me. I get the ideas as mental downloads. I understand the information quickly, and my job is to translate it into words, sentences, and paragraphs. I often use stories from my own life or analogies from my background to explain the concepts more clearly. I’m essentially a human translator.

It was only recently that I really understood what was happening here. When I write subjectively, I’m receiving information directly from the dreamer of this subjective universe. My job is to give those ideas form and substance within the dream world.

As I reached this point of understanding, I was able to go deeper into the experience of subjective writing, more deeply than I’ve ever done before.

A good example of such an article is the last one I posted, Subjective Relationships.

Interestingly, the feedback I received on that article included many reports of synchronicities from my readers, perhaps more than I’ve ever seen. Some people said they were blown away by the mysterious parallels between that article and their own lives.

As far as I can recall, this really is an ALWAYS vs. NEVER thing. I never receive reports of synchronicities from my objective articles, and I always receive at least one synchronicity report after posting a subjective article. I can’t think of a single exception on either side. There is, however, a gray area in the middle, where some portions of articles were inspired and other parts were more mental. In those cases I receive synchronicity reports only about the inspired bits, or about the topic itself.

Now I know that the reason for those synchronicities is that we’re all projections of the same dreamer, so when I write from the dreamer’s perspective, a different form of communication is taking place.

Now that I’m aware of what’s going on, I can more deliberately write subjective articles, and so I expect to see a corresponding increase in the level of synchronicities that my readers report.

Forgiveness

It makes no sense to me to create conflict in the dream world since all conflict is inner conflict. I desire inner and outer harmony. I can’t fall into the trap of fighting with myself.

Trying to protect my copyrights may have made some sense objectively, but it doesn’t make sense subjectively. What am I protecting? And from whom? I’m trying to protect projections from projections, and that makes little sense.

So first I have to forgive myself for succumbing to such foolishness. I was deluded and didn’t know any better.

This includes forgiving anything I may have perceived as a transgression from someone else.

So I forgive all of that. I’m ready to let all of that go.

I love you, Bob. Keep spreading the message. We are one. :)

The ideas I’ve expressed belong to the dreamer and to the dream world. They belong to all of us.

Alternatives to Copyright

Now let’s talk big picture stuff. What’s a more intelligent way to approach content publishing, given a subjective perspective?

First, I can admit that all of this content isn’t really mine. Anything in this dream world belongs to the dreamer, not to the individual projection known as Steve Pavlina. At best I am a translator and a custodian, but I can’t really be an owner, not in the strictest sense.

As I move forward with the subjective lens, I want to be sure that I’m doing so wisely. This is still a fairly new experience for me, and I don’t want to create unintended consequences by acting foolishly. Early in this experiment, part of me expressed a desire for caution, so I’m heeding that voice now.

Instead of going crazy nutso and plowing forward in typical Aries fashion, let me pause at this point and ask you, my fellow dream characters, what do you feel would be an intelligent substitute for copyright with respect to all the free content I’ve created, including future content I have yet to publish?

While I may no longer wish to claim ownership of this content, as its custodian I still feel responsible for it. My intention is to make it easier for people to enjoy it with minimal friction (or at least that will be my perception). I wish to eliminate perceived language barriers and other blocks that restrict people’s access to it.

I want to allow people to republish it in any and all media, to translate it into any languages, and to share it to the ends of this dream world.

At the moment, however, I’m not clear on the best way to go about that.

Should I require attribution? That seems reasonable, if only to minimize confusion and to make it easier for people to find the source of related content.

What if someone wants to generate income from the content, such as by packaging and selling it in other forms? Would it be best to let people do that freely? Or with some restrictions such as a royalty to help support my ongoing work? Or should I only let people give the content away for free and not charge for it?

What if someone wants to generate income from the content indirectly, such as with ads and affiliate programs?

What if a print magazine or newspaper wishes to republish some articles? I do receive such requests from time to time.

What about translations? How do we handle people who want to create hubs for this material in other countries and languages? Can we do anything to help coordinate that, so people don’t duplicate each others’ efforts, such as by translating the same articles into the same language multiple times?

I’m looking for an overall solution that’s intelligent, fair, reasonable, and practical — and especially which meshes with the subjective view of reality. I want this solution to apply not only to the free content I’ve created in the past but also to new articles I have yet to write.

On the one side, I don’t need to copyright this work anymore. But on the other side, tossing the content into the public domain might feel like irresponsible abandonment. I expect that a workable solution will likely be somewhere in the middle, perhaps a variation on a Creative Commons license.

Although much of this content may have originally come from the dreamer of this world, that content now has a physical expression within the dream world, so it’s more than a collection of non-manifest ideas. I’m the current custodian of that collection, even if it is a dream collection in the hands of a dream custodian. Consequently, a good solution must pay attention to how the expressed forms of these ideas can be intelligently shared within the storyline of the dream world.

If you feel inspired to suggest one or more possible solutions, I’d very much appreciate it. The best place would be to share them in the forum thread for this post, so other dream characters can help build upon those ideas, and perhaps the resulting discussion will percolate some intelligent solutions.

Also, if you’re one of the dream characters who wanted to use such content to do something fairly big, like launching a new hub for it in another country or language, please let us know what you’d like to do. Maybe you can connect with like-minded individuals who can help.

I know I’m acting on inspiration when some part of me experiences a small freak-out just before I click “Publish.” :)

Edit Dec 15, 2010: I decided to put most of my content into the public domain. See Releasing My Copyrights for details.


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