If You Can’t Stand the Heat

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Yesterday evening, I looked yet again at the pictures of screaming, torch-carrying Nazis in Charlottesville, and something popped into my head. So I tweeted it.

“If you can’t stand the heat, don’t wave a tiki torch at a Nazi rally.”

Here’s a screenshot of my tweet, with the date and time. That’s important in light of what happened later that night.

slogan 6

Actually, I wrote it in the afternoon. At 5:08 pm, someone asked, “Can I steal this?” To which I replied, “You can RT it.”

At 10:44 pm, I got a tweet asking to use “this slogan” on the person’s podcast with my consent. I don’t know this person, this account, or anything about this podcast. I put them off with “let me think about it” so that I could find out what the podcast was about and who was associated with it. Then my neighbor came to the door. By the time I finished talking to her and got back to my computer, the user with the podcast had already decided that it was okay for them to use it because putting it on the Internet made it “fair use.”

That’s a load of manure, and I told them that they were incorrect. And then I spent hours fending off trolls . . . or tweets by the same person from multiple accounts . . . and reporting their tweets, including some that were sexually explicit. To a woman on the Internet, when a hostile, harassing man makes a sexual remark, it’s not a joke. It’s not “just trolling.” It’s threatening.

The person or persons with the podcast told me that I had FORCED them to reword my tweet so that they could use it as their own slogan. And they were foolish enough to put the copyright symbol at the end of their decidedly flat “slogan.”

People, please.

I’m not going to put the copyright symbol at the end of this post because I don’t have to. As soon as I write these original words and they appear on my screen, I own the copyright. Of course, registering your work with the United States Patent and Trademark Office is advisable because it makes it easier to defend your copyright in court, but I own these words.

Copyright and tweets is a new area of copyright law. Your tweet has to have some worth to be subject to copyright law. A poem, for example, has that worth. And if my “slogan” is worth people verbally attacking me for hours, telling me that I “deserve to be trolled off Twitter,” and rewording my tweet and showing it to me (I got a bunch of nice screenshots) then my tweet must have worth.

If I find the reworded tweet or my tweet being used for any type of advertising/moneymaking purposes, the people using it will get a DMCA takedown notice. And yes, I may consider a lawsuit. I told the people who so badly wanted my “slogan” that they did not have permission to use it in any way other than to retweet it. They’re already on notice.

I did not set out to write a slogan. I wrote a tweet about the stupidity of carrying a Tiki Torch to a Nazi rally, then whining about having one’s picture plastered all over the Internet. I don’t want the words that I wrote used to make money for some losers who can’t write their own slogans. I don’t want the words I wrote used to make money at all unless I choose to use them in some way and give the proceeds to the people injured at the Charlottesville rally and the family of the murdered woman. She was, like me, a bankruptcy paralegal, and she chose that career to help people, like I did.

Now I’m a freelance writer, and I know very well how much people want words written by a professional but don’t want to pay for them, or pay for what they’re really worth. I’ve written so much content for businesses that sell expensive products or services. They’ve made so much money off me. I’ve made minimum wage, if I was lucky, but I like the work, and it allows me to be at home with my mother in case she falls or has another episode of malignant high blood pressure. Freelancing allows me to make sure my mother eats three meals a day and doesn’t try to climb a ladder to cut down a tree branch or vacuum the basement stairs.

I pinned my tweet to my Twitter profile so that everyone can see the time and date stamps. If I see my tweet being used in any way, we’ll see just how much value a court thinks that it has.

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So Why Am I Crying?

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I’ve been working as a freelance writer since 2011. It’s hard work because every article has to be perfect by the AP Stylebook. It’s frustrating because you can’t please some clients, and because you have to spend years on short, low-paying articles, and it seems that you’re just wasting your time.

I kept working. I kept taking little articles for websites for exterminators, parking lot paving companies, and companies that install walk-in bathtubs. I’m not denigrating that work. The business owners needed well-written content to bring in clients, and the clients needed to learn about the businesses. And I feel good about writing anything that helps seniors or people with disabilities, because I’ve spent so much of my life caring for older relatives with physical problems or Alzheimer’s and dementia.

I applied for hundreds of jobs through websites, the local newspaper, and just walking into businesses. I’m 44. I’ve been out of the workforce since 2004. My ex-husband wouldn’t allow me to work. I know that’s the main reason that I can’t even get my foot in the door for an interview.

I kept freelancing, and over the last six months, I’ve gotten two major clients and one small but regular client. My two major clients are repped by the same editor. After I wrote, oh, 20 articles for him, he offered to double my rate of pay if I would agree to be available for 20-30 articles a month. He asked if he could add me to a team of writers for a particular subjects because he wants his best writers on that team. He sent me eight more articles today.

I can work from home. I can work whenever I want as long as I meet the deadline. There are disadvantages to working at home: you don’t have co-workers, you get used to living in your PJs, you get interrupted by family members. But there are advantages: no commute, no annoying co-workers, no meetings.

Freelance writing is feast or famine. Even with these great clients, I sometimes go weeks without work. If you freelance, you have save your money. Your “boss” tells you that a client has shut down their ad campaign. You get depressed. Then one morning you wake up to a week’s worth of work, and the client has decided to restart their campaign.

I looked at all the orders, and I know that the client likes my work, and I know that they will buy all my work, and I started crying. Not because of the time the work will take (two-four hours per article) but what if I fail this time? What if I do all the work, and the client decides they don’t like something?

What if I screw it up and lose the client?

There’s no job security these days, but I’m in a particularly tenuous position. Many, many days I wish that I could just stand behind a cash register in a department store eight hours a day.

That’s not my job. I applied for this job, got it, and I’m building a career. I just have to keep believing that I can do it.