Skip to main content

Free Poems vs. Copyright Infringement

There's a battle of opinions regarding copyright at The Guardian. In "You like my poems? So pay for them," British poet Wendy Cope states her case regarding how copyright infringement damages the sales of her work. In "Free verse: getting copyright wrong," Oliver Burkeman counters with his arguments.

Meanwhile, the NYT's, "Crossover Dreams: Turning Free Web Work Into Real Book Sales," describes a few success stories. (No poetry books cited, alas.)

I don't have a dog in this fight, since I don't have poetry sales to worry about. (Yes, I've published a couple of chapbooks, but I give most of those away anyhow.) On the one hand, I sympathize with Cope's concern about people not buying the cow when they're getting the milk for free; but fretting about people e-mailing each other your work? I agree with Burkeman's take that it has the potential to build sales (and name recognition) rather than destroy it. And popular thinking about free online content is that it encourages readers to purchase a book. (As someone who has often been influenced by onlilne content not to buy a book, though, I'm on the fence about this thinking.)

Overall, I agree that poetry needs to be shared freely to help build its audience and promote the poets themselves. I'd hate to see the Copyright Police hovering in cyberspace, waiting to swoop in as soon as Aunt Helga e-mails a poem to Cousin Rusty to inspire him after his wife's cancer diagnosis. (Is it also damaging to sales if we bloggers link to poems on The Academy of American Poets or The Poetry Foundation sites or posted on a poet's own site or blog? Lots of issues when you start peeling back all the layers.) There's always that problem with something going viral without being properly credited to the author, such as this piece.

I prefer to believe a poem well received will lead to a reader investigating more of that poet's work; and after reading several pieces individually online, the reader will decide he/she wants those poems, and more, in one easily accessible place, i.e., within the covers of a book. It's still too early to see how this will play out in the real world, but we can all hope.

--Nancy

Your Story Writing Prompts

94 Your Story Writing Prompts

Due to popular demand, we've assembled all the Your Story writing prompts on WritersDigest.com in one post. Click the link to find each prompt, the winners, and more.

How Inspiration and Research Shape a Novel

How Inspiration and Research Shape a Novel

Historical fiction relies on research to help a story’s authenticity—but it can also lead to developments in the story itself. Here, author Lora Davies discusses how inspiration and research helped shape her new novel, The Widow’s Last Secret.

Poetic Forms

Saraband: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the saraband, a septet (or seven-line) form based on a forbidden dance.

Karen Hamilton: On Cause and Effect

Karen Hamilton: On Cause and Effect

International bestselling author Karen Hamilton discusses the “then and now” format of her new domestic thriller, The Ex-Husband.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character give or face an ultimatum.

6 Things Every Writer Should Know About Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare and Company

6 Things Every Writer Should Know About Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare and Company

Sylvia Beach was friend to many writers who wrote what we consider classics today. Here, author Kerri Maher shares six things everyone should know about her and Shakespeare and Company.

How Writers Can Apply Business Tools to Their Writing

How Writers Can Apply Business Tools to Their Writing

Author Katherine Quevedo takes an analytical look at the creative process in hopes to help other writers find writing success.

Nick Petrie: On Following the Most Compelling Story

Nick Petrie: On Following the Most Compelling Story

Award-winning author Nick Petrie discusses how he listened to the story that wanted to be told in his new Peter Ash thriller novel, The Runaway.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 596

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a punishment poem.