Archiving Ourselves

 

I include Niki and Amy’s anti-piracy video not because it’s entirely relevant, but because it’s my favorite YouTube video.

As many of you know, despite the blogging and online forums where I also play, I still read and post on usenet (yes, I’m that old) on soc.sexuality.spanking.  A recent discussion there prompted these thoughts.

Question: Why anyone (like me) would object to any free site archiving stories we’ve given away anyway. There are authors like John Benson that give their work to be reproduced and archive freely. Why won’t I do that?

It’s not about money. I’ve only written a couple of stories for profit and even then I was paid peanuts and the copyright reverted to me after 24 months. Those stories are also, with only a few exceptions, archived on The Treehouse and have been for more than ten years now. So why *would* I care if someone else puts them up on another free site? Is it as simple as a selfish “they’re mine”?

Not exactly, but sort of. They are mine. Moreover, they’re me. I post them, but I can’t and don’t let go.

These stories aren’t just closely linked or even the product of my explorations of my spanking fantasies — the act of writing them and they themselves were explorations. Some early ones are accounts of child abuse, remember and relived in fear, anger and pain. Some are accounts of scenes with other people or were written as gifts to them — statements of love and hope. Others are fantasies that were so secret I’d never dared write them down before this moment when I did. They were all written in part as a gesture of thanks to my beloved alt.sex.spanking and soc.sexuality.spanking for freeing me to embrace this part of myself.

It’s been a long time, but when I re-read them, I remember writing each one, sometimes crying, sometimes shaking and sometimes incredibly turned on, almost burning with a desire to tell someone what I was seeing and feeling behind my eyes. I remember my heart thudding as I wrote and then again as I tried to decide whether or not to delete the story, whether or not I could bear to post it. This is all just a long way of saying that my stories may or may not be very good (and some are worse than others) but for me and to me they’re all very important.

When I first started posting to the group, someone put some of my stories on their website along with some pictures and a bunch of other work. They didn’t ask, but when I found the site (or rather someone else did) I was stunned and flattered. It was a simple little site on a free server (Free Yellow? — can’t remember). Within a month the owner got dropped from their free server because of content and bandwidth (remember when we used to have to worry about that? Yeah? Then you’re old too!). They moved the site to another free server, but this one was an adult server. The site had xxx banners with very explicit sexual imagines of, well, sex.

This wasn’t what the stories I wrote were about. This isn’t what I’m about or turned on by. I didn’t want them to be somewhere I felt I had to avert my eyes from every time I surfed over. I was horrified and asked that they be taken down. The owner was annoyed with me, feeling I didn’t understand the effort involved in formatting my stories and the difficulties of finding free hosting. I pointed out I hadn’t asked him to do this, that, in fact, I hadn’t even given permission.

At the same time, a number of authors on ASS were struggling to get their stories off any number of pay-sites that were sprouting like mushrooms and using the stories as both content and to drive traffic. Those stories, hundreds of them, had to a significant extent been ripped off a free archive, created with good intentions but without the permission of the authors involved. This struggle went on for years. In fact, for all I know, it’s still going on.

In response to this, and so we could say to people who wanted our work archived that it already was, Paul built The Treehouse, registered the domain and gave it to me as what is still the absolute bestest Christmas present ever. Although the site could do with a facelift (do you know how long 10 years is in internet terms?), it was and is the way I imagined those stories being presented. Every part of the site was talked about between us both at the time and after. The space was supposed to be an expression of innocence. Not innocence shattered or parodies, but reclaimed. Not dark or sexual, but light and fun. Nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.

We pay for the domain and the hosting — no ads or sponsors. The control of the space is important enough that even when we were broke the hosting fees for The Treehouse were always a priority. The control is that important. It’s why since then I’ve given permission for archiving only to good friends and only for a few stories here and there. I’m not alone in this — a number of story sites, both current and past, were started for the same reason. Others stopped posting stories altogether or only post them to their own sites — it was just too much work to explain Usenet isn’t public domain. I know at least one person who only sends out stories via email as PDF documents.

And yes, I do complain when my stories are on sites without permission. I won’t stop doing that — whatever the site’s intentions might be. But I am going to try and speak a little more softly when I do so remembering that there can be good intentions all around.

[edited 28/10/09]


10 thoughts on “Archiving Ourselves

  1. bridget

    Thanks Mija, I really appreciated this. I don’t write many stories at all, but when I do it is intensely personal. I would never want my work “picked up” by people it doesn’t belong to and I know it must be even more intense for you.

    Reply
  2. Karl Friedrich Gauss

    Mija, it’s interesting to read your take on this. What you say is fine for you.
    But what about those others who are not archiving their own work.
    Somehow I feel that in the early days, spanko culture was built out of the sharing of stories, and it seems a shame somehow if these old stories can’t be collected and shared because we’re over-concerned about authors rights or feelings.
    What about our cultural heritage as a spanko community? That’s the counter-pole I see as justification for re-using such material without explicit permission.
    It’s complicated on the net because you have people posting great masses of wonderful stuff and then some time later pulling it all down. That couldn’t have happened with books because there would be copies out there in circulation. Of course publishing books is several orders of magnitude more involved that starting a blog. Still, much is being lost that could be valuable for scholars of the future.
    I added a link to this post to my ongoing thread on this subject on Spanking Scouts forum: http://chross.blogt.ch/forum/read.php?2,3464,3712#msg-3712

    Reply
  3. Mija

    I wouldn’t claim it’s more intense for me than anyone else. It is intense though. Writing stories is intense for me, though maybe less so now than it once was.
    But I do need to keep in mind that not everyone feels that or sees it that way. And that doesn’t make them bad — it’s just a different way of seeing things.

    Reply
  4. Mija

    I think it depends. Some people aren’t archiving their work because they don’t have a place to archive it. Providing that place, as Laura Werner did, as Spanking Library seems to be doing, is a great thing. But other people aren’t archiving because maybe they shouldn’t or don’t want to.
    That’s the tricky part about not getting permissions. I know there were people, especially in the early days of usenet, that never imagined that their posts were anything other than temporary, if they thought about it at all. Some used their real names and / or names of other people in the stories, not guessing that these would one day be part of a searchable data base. Others wrote stories that are illegal (or possibly so) in the places they live now. They spent hours deleting posts from Deja News and then again, when they reappeared when the ownership was transfered, from Google Groups. They don’t want their stories to come back in any form, anywhere.
    People do post wonderful stories and then pull them down. Sites die and content is gone (except for http://www.archive.org/index.php ) That wouldn’t be true of books — but that’s because books have owners who’ve purchased access to the content. Web authors who’ve remained anonymous and never sold their content haven’t passed any rights to it to anyone else and won’t until 120 years after its creation when it moves into the public domain. It would be terrible if someone’s desire to post stories they don’t have permission for resulted in prosecution or public humiliation of their author.
    What those who are concerned about scene history can do, I suppose, if they don’t know and / or can’t find the author of stories they feel are worth saving, is print the stories out on archival paper and donate those copies to be archived until 120 years after publication. Once they pass into the public domain, they can be freely reproduced and republished.
    Authors are entitled not just legally, but in my opinion ethically, to control their own work unless they give up or sell those rights. Not respecting that right can result in people choosing not to post their stories at all or only post them within private email lists. That too is a loss and one we’re already seeing.

    Reply
  5. Abel

    Brilliant post. And I support you 100% in shouting as loudly as you feel you want to when you find that others have “borrowed” your material.
    Like you, I write for pleasure not profit. I love it when people read and enjoy my writing, and if anyone ever asks for permission to use a reasonable number of my stories on their website, I’m happy to agree – provided it’s a free site, and provided its content focuses on consensual spanking.
    On occasion, I’ve also allowed a couple of stories to appear on paid-for sites – if the site owner’s been a friend, or if I admire their work, or if I’ve thought it might get my stories exposure to a new audience, or (occasionally, more cynically) in return for a free pass to their site.
    Foreign-language translations are also pretty much fine with me: it amuses me that my work appears in (at least) French, German and Russian. Frankly, if someone wants to go to the trouble of translating, I’m flattered, and not too fussed about any copyright infringement.
    Where I get *irritated* is when people take stories without permission and use them on their free sites. That’s just discourteous and ignorant, no matter how well-intentioned they might be.
    Where I get, frankly, *angry* is where people take my material without permission and use it on their pay sites or in their written publications. I’ve even known people take my stories, change the character names, and submit them (earning a fee) to leading spanking magazines – who’ve gone ahead and published them. That, frankly, is little short of theft – but they know they’ll get away with it, as I’m hardly likely to sue.

    Reply
  6. Emma Jane

    Hi Mija
    I completely understand your feelings on this and especially what you wrote about not wanting your stories on sites where they seem out of place.
    The very reason I loved The Treehouse so much was because of that. I felt safe reading there, it didn’t feel wrong, like my first early ventrues online where the explicit porn sites scared me off.
    Thanks for going to all that effort to share those wonderful stories, you played a very important part in reassuring me about TTWD and I think The Treehouse looks great, just as it is 🙂

    Reply
  7. sparkle

    Mija,
    You know I am a fervent defender of authors and their ownership of said authored works, hm?
    I wish there was some sort of consistency possible in the online world – that when we started writing, we would put our body of work in a nice little file and that those who came along could snap their fingers, find the file and look at their leisure. Then an archive would be a pointer to our individual files. That’s why I have Out Of My Mind and why you have The Treehouse, I think – so that our file folders aren’t made from photos of naked bodies being led by leashes.
    Unfortunately, our writing doesn’t fit into those nice neat little files. Some of us start writing without realizing we need a folder for it. Some of us consciously or sub-consciously leave pages here and there around the Net, sometimes in other people’s folders, and often in the gutter behind the sidewalk. Some of us want to donate our files to a public institution so we can move to South America and sleep on a beach. Some of us decide to burn our files and not look back.
    Me? I think I’ll hang on to mine, even the parts I wouldn’t re-write and maybe aren’t very proud of, just in case.
    Just in case I have to grow up again, I suppose. But there it is. It’s a personal scrapbook of my fetish, and in many ways a scrapbook of my sexuality. It doesn’t feel quite right to give it away, cultural heritage or not. It feels, oddly, like publishing a woman’s private journal without her consent, and hoping her husband doesn’t pick it up at B&N while looking for something to read on a plane.
    But. In the year 2115 y’all are welcome to it publish it, provided the copyright notice remains intact. I don’t plan on minding much, then.
    s

    Reply
  8. dykegrrl

    I’m fully with you on this one. Yes, it is a loss when someone takes down stories they have posted, or even blog posts they have posted (I find this happens frequently on the DID-related blogs I read). I’ve made the choice not to erase things I have put out there, but that is my *choice*.
    I feel like if someone wants to share access to something I’ve written, there’s this handy thing called a hyperlink, where they can link to the story. I’m willing to accept that I might not agree with everyone who links to something I have created, but I do feel I should have a right to say where and how my writing is displayed. It’s my work, and I want to have a certain level of control over it.
    Just because I put it online, and just because I give people free access to read it, doesn’t mean that I want people to take my work and use it elsewhere.
    Also, I have to admit that there are some things that I think anyone who is capable of putting together a website should be required to be aware of, and one of them is that just because content is free to read, it doesn’t mean that it’s free to *take*, particularly without asking.

    Reply
  9. Mija

    Abel, EmmaJane, sparkle and dykegrrl, I really appreciate hearing you feel the same way about your writing as I do about mine. It surprises me sometimes how possessive I feel about my stories and how and where they’re archived / presented. As with everything else, it’s good to know I’m not alone.
    hugs to all four of you.

    Reply
  10. Ollie

    Mija,
    I’ve come to this late, but I have to say that you make many interesting and important points. Of course you should have control over where your work is posted, but given the nature of the net that’s very problematic. You mentioned books; if one was published in a book one would have no control over where it was sold, or where it appeared in the second hand market in later times.
    The fact is it’s just so easy to copy and paste.
    When I started writing I was flattered when I took the plunge and posted on what was and is a free text-only site because it felt safe there. No pictures of collars and such. I’m not sure if the owners of said site will want to rip off my work for their own paid site, but given the idiosyncratic nature of what I write I don’t expect so.
    I feel the same way that you do about the way the work has come out of a secret part of me. It’s not just a job, Most often it’s not just writing something because I think it will make the reader laugh or cry, but it’s because I wanted to express something of my own kink, and I found fiction to be a good way to do it.
    Sure things get taken down, and are lost to the community. I was upset when John Benson’s site disappeared, and equally glad when I found his work reproduced on the Spanking Library.
    I was interested in your mention of authors sending things out by pdf. I’ve started doing that now, although I also post on-line, but if I ever write something as a gift for a friend it is not posted.
    I regard it as theirs, as a gift. I would only post it with their permission, and then I’d always alter it to make it not quite the same story.

    Reply

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