Laying My Cards on the Table

| | Comments (6)

This is extremely difficult, so please forgive the following for whatever it lacks in cohesion, it is excerpted from my part of a private correspondence:

But let me tell you about my experience. Someone took one of the poems I wrote, altered a few words akin to the example I published regarding racism and published it in their own magazine. The magazine was a marginal one anyway and I didn't have the money to go after these people, but they took my poem about the glory of diversity and changed it into a hymn to conformity and supremacy and left my name on it. The poem may not have been high art--in fact, it may not have been particularly good--so Art doesn't enter into it. But someone took my words, edited them for their own sense of suitability and then proclaimed the work to be my own. I only found out when I started to get angry looks/comments and letters about the poem.

Now, naturally, I have to repudiate the entire poem, and I don't even mention the incident lest it bring up the whole subject.

In other words, I know what it feels like when one takes it upon oneself to alter the work of another without proper acknowledgment of what has been done. And it hurts--tremendously.

This isn't mere wounded pride or vanity. This is stomach-churning horror and sickness. This is nauseating to the extreme because I have been saddled and labeled to with the name of racist for something I never even did. This hurts--a lot. It hurts because I have a child who may find this out in the future. amd if he does, what is he to think--that his own life with me has been a lie, or merely a means of atonement for past sins? It hurts because there is always the remote possibility my friends or acquaintances may discover it and make me a pariah. Sure, I can explain it--I can show copies of the original that even have comments on them from the professor who originally read it--so they can see its authenticity. But I can never escape from the shadow of it.

So none of this is theoretical to me. It is all factual--harsh reality. I know, as you do in a different way, whereof I speak. This is what impels me to the limits of politeness when I talk about the subject.

And it impels me to judge that the practice is immoral, unethical, and completely unallowable. This is what we are discussing here--the unilaterally transformation of a work and the republication of that work as the work of the original author. If what has been done to me is not immoral or unethical, what description might it travel under?

Later--I see that I did not make clear one essential ingredient of this stew. The poem that was published was not merely edited. It was taken from a previous publication and altered beyond recognition without my consent and republished with my name on it. This makes it the equivalent of the case I have been mistakenly referring to. We're not talking editorial changes in the act of creation, but rather usurpation with misrepresentation. Neither the orginal magazine nor I had any capability of fighting this legally--and fortunately (I hope) the incident was local and the publication that reprinted it hopefully remanded to the compost heap of time. But I lived with the consequences of it for several years.

Bookmark and Share


That was wrong, and I understand you being very upset about it, but when you apply it to the CleanFlicks scenario you are creating a straw man. CF shipped an uncut version of the film with every cut version and never represented the cut version as the original. What was wrong in what happened to you was not someone making a changed version of your poem having elided some pornography from it, but someone making an evil version of your poem and passing it off as your original. In other words, what was wrong was not making changes in the abstract, it was (independently) making substantively evil changes and passing off the work as unedited even though it was edited.

I remember being angry about the edits to a magazine article I wrote once because it was published without me getting a final look and as if it were exactly what I wrote. So I completely sympathize with being misrepresented. But that isn't what is at issue here, and I don't know why you keep pretending that it is.

Dear Zippy,

In your ignorance you do me an injustice by suggesting that I am lying (pretending). The facts of the matter are that in the articles I have read the detail you have mentioned has not been mentioned--perhaps as a result of someone wanting to make this more palatable to a certain audience. The dangers, once again, of unilateral alteration of the facts.

However, I have not, nore have I ever pretended what the issue was. I have, very evidently, misunderstood the facts surrounding it as a result of the reportorial sources I consulted. Whether those were in the source or not, I cannot say. But if they were and they were removed, they serve as a case in point of what I am trying to say. Unilateral alteration without attribution or acknowledgment is fundamentally wrong.

I, on the other hand, am fundamentally misinformed regarding the matter. But I was not "pretending." Until the last two points on this blog, that fact has never been brought to the surface here.

My apologies to you and to others I may have misled by my misunderstanding. But we should understand that these alterations DO take place and they are harmful when they are not acknowledged for what they are.



My apologies Steven, I thought you knew:

One of the companies affected by the decision is CleanFlicks. The family-values conscious company edits major Hollywood films for offensive content, and then sells the edited version along with an accompanying copy of the original, untouched film. The original is purchased by Cleanflicks, ensuring that the film studio receives proper remuneration for each edited film CleanFlicks sells.

Dear Zippy,

Thank you. That was not my source and if included in my original (I don't think it was) I didn't read it.

So this merely reduces the whole thing to a matter of bickering over property rights and on that issue I have relatively little to say because I can't claim to be particularly fond of copyright laws the way they stand now. If there were some hope of anything ever entering the public domain again, I might venture an opinion, but I'd almost support CleanFlicks in this endeavor as a civil disobedience slap in the face to our eternal-preservation-of-the-mouse copyright law. The Supreme Court deliberately misread the intent of the copyright provision of the U.S. Constitution as it had been implemented throughout history to mean that a limited terms is anything less than eternity--an obvious misrepresentation of what the thought of the founding fathers intended.

So, under these circumstances--may they go with God.

Thanks again.



Dear Steven,

I kinda know how you feel about your poem because I've also had stuff I've written cut, edited and abridged or outright banned.

One just has to live with it. There will always be people who distort what one says (they do it to Christ too). Seldom are they really malicious, mostly they just do not yet see.

I'd love to read your poem. A hymn to diversity. I wonder what St Blogs would make of that ?

I think that often the desire to impose conformity is driven from a smallness of vision, not yet seeing him present in the other, yet to see his full glory.

God Bless

Dear Chris,

I am used to my share of rejected manuscripts. And I have refused to have published things that editors wanted to change too dramatically, those are the hazards of the business, but the evil of this situation went beyond those. My work was stolen from me, it was altered from its original form and it was republished with my name still attached. If the editors had had the courage simply to take my name off and put someone else's there, I would have been upset, but I wouldn't have felt the way I did. However, for whatever reason, perhaps as a lesson in humility and forgiveness, they did not do so. But it goes beyond the necessary ego-shaving that is part and parcel of publishing.





About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 20, 2006 8:32 AM.

Probably Not Much of a Surprise was the previous entry in this blog.

CleanFlicks again is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll