So, I got in trouble for making mix CDs. Heh.
I made the mixes from music CDs I owned and downloaded songs I found on artists' Web sites, and as far as I could tell, what I was doing was a legal gray area and definitely not a moral issue. My philosophy on mix CDs is sort of like this: Yes, you're not supposed to copy anything, because the law is on the artists' side (rightly so!). But just like copying several recipes out of cookbooks and making a file of collected cheesecake recipes does nothing to hurt the authors of the cookbooks, me making a CD is harmless. It would start to be harmful if, say, I copied the whole cookbook and then returned it to the store (cheating the author out of money), or similarly if I copied one single recipe and then printed it out for everyone in my neighborhood. Or, overall, if I had made some kind of profit off of it. On a small scale, it's called "fair use," and though technically you're supposed to get permission from artists if you use their stuff, I doubted when I was doing it that anyone would object to my making a sampler.
This is kind of where things went wrong.
My mistake was in mentioning on my Web site that I had collected some Pagan music on mix CDs. On several occasions I got e-mails from people asking if they could get the CDs. Twice, I consented to send copies to others, in return for just the price of the blank CD plus postage. I got a couple e-mails where the person never followed up, but in the entire time that part of my site was up (well over a year), I sent the CDs out twice: once domestically and once to a girl in Spain. It's not a very high-traffic site, at least not that part of it.
So, someone wrote me a really short e-mail telling me I needed to stop what I'm doing and that my behavior was shocking. Unsure of her intent, I asked for clarification (and assured her I was just making mix CDs, not distributing full CDs or selling them). What I got back was this weird incoherent rant about how I am committing Internet piracy, that I am hurting Pagan musicians by taking money out of their pockets, and that I am begging for a lawsuit and a karmic bitch-slap. Here she dropped a bomb that she has "proof" of what I do--having e-mailed me pretending she wanted the CDs to see what I offer--and kind of just went on from there reprimanding me, threatening me that the artists are going to band together for legal action and make me pay for their lawyer, and making appeals to me to consider the ethics of my behavior. It even went so far as to say "I know where you work" and that I was probably stealing the "copy supplies" from my employer, and to accuse me of "making a buck" with others' work.
So of course, my first reaction is, "Huh?" Who the hell does she think I am, anyway? Like, first of all, I don't need a moral lecture--it's not that I don't have morals, but that I perceived my actions weren't damaging to anyone. Secondly, there was never any money made off this--I found it difficult to find the music in this category to support the seasonal festivals and whatnot, so I displayed a list of appropriate songs on my site and unwisely mentioned that I had collected them on CDs. D'oh. But all this crap about how I should be ashamed, how I was making money doing this, how I was going to get sued big-time by this strange group of angry starving artists . . . well, that was all a little bit off. In fact it bordered on irrational, on par with my conversations with good old Miz Liz back in the day. In fact, it *sounded* like her. Creepy.
I wrote back anyway, and said several things. I told her I would go take the mention off my Web site because I understood that copyright laws didn't technically allow what I was doing--I just hadn't thought anyone would mind on this scale and this extent, and obviously I was wrong about it. End of story. I told her I knew how it was when people tried to take things that didn't belong to them and use them in ways the creator didn't approve of, because it had been done to me. And I assured her that I never made money off anything, that I didn't need chiding to behave like a moral person, and that if she thought I was taking supplies from work to help me pirate CDs she was mistaken (umm, I work at a bookstore, what the hell?). I finished up by reminding her that I'd made copies for TWO people (makes it tough to be rolling in the cash, eh? And for the international one I didn't even break even!) and that I was not some kind of hardened criminal--that I was open to be contacted if she had any other problems with something I was doing.
The saga continues in Trouble at the Ranch, Part II!
Can't leave a entry without a note. But I'll leave a note with meat in it on the next entry.