If you weren’t aware, I’m a huge geek.

In the very rare moments when I have spare time, I like to write Star Trek fan fiction in audio drama form. Think old-school radio programs like The Shadow and you’ve got the general idea.

Technically, doing that – publishing and distributing a work of fan fiction the way we do it – breaches all sorts of copyright laws. It’s not like it’s a parody or something that could be considered protected first amendment speech. It’s copyright infringement, pure and simple (even though we don’t make a dime from it).

Even so, Paramount and Viacom leave us and others like us alone. Why?

Because we’ve stolen like artists. We might be breaching copyright, but we’re feeding the beast – the drive to buy the DVDs and costumes and books and movies and pay insane amounts of money to go to conventions and wait hours in line for a chance to say hi to William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Kate Mulgrew, Avery Brooks, and Scott Bakula. We’ve taken our favorite series and expanded on it. We made our own characters, created our mark on a universe that was otherwise limited to what you saw on TV and in the movies. We’ve expanded on the original work, created something new and valuable, and made the original works that much more powerful.

I’ve taken to licensing most all of my work under Creative Commons. It’s a bolt-on to copyright – it doesn’t eliminate the copyright you hold on your work, but allows others to remix your work without having to seek out permission every time. Depending on the license, as long as they credit you for the original work you did, they can use your work to create new works of their own. To me, this is the future of creative processes – it’s the start of new markets, new mediums, new methodologies.

However, it does have a dark side – stealing like an artist can backfire when the new work devalues or damages the intent of the original. Take the commercials from the car dealerships featuring loud “occupiers” demanding cheaper cars and higher Miles Per Gallon. When mindless overspending was partially responsible for the mess that led to the anger which led to the protests, you’re not doing your business any favors by pretending you understand what the movement is about.

All of the header photos you see on my blog are Creative Commons licensed. All of the books I release are Creative Commons. All of my new projects have a creative commons component to them.

I challenge you to steal like an artist in December – taking the best bits and pieces, mingling and merging and molding disparate domains of work together into a new, amazingly complex hybrid. Whose ideas will you improve on? Tell me in the comments!

(Header photo: Sorry Today)

This post is part of the November Word Carnival series. For more on the Word Carnival, and for more great posts from my friends – check out the Carnival.