Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dear Meryl: 

I was quite surprised upon perusing your website to feel a faint sense of deja vu. But more importantly, I was shocked -- shocked! -- to find myself accused and my honor besmirched as being one who would brazenly misappropriate your material. You said (if I may quote you without making matters worse):

On your website [AbbaGav], you ask your readers: “Please let me know if I’ve improperly used or quoted your material.”

You have improperly quoted my material, to wit, in the case of this post, and this one.

Okay, granted, I never actually wrote anything that you didn’t properly quote in your two posts, but I was thinking of writing something like both of them, and so you’re guilty of stealing my thoughts. [...]
You further complained:

Okay. So, if I did write a post like that (which I now can’t, because people would say I copied the idea from you), then you would have improperly quoted or used my material, and now I can’t even think of writing that post without being thought of as a copycat [...]
Let me say in my own defense that there are worse things than being a copycat, so if that is your attempt to establish damages, you'll have to work a little bit harder I think. However, damages should be the least of your concerns until you've established a stronger case.

Before getting to that, however, I would first like to thank you for clearing up a long-running point of curiosity for me. I think when they say "possession is nine tenths of the law" they include in that even the realm of ideas -- and if they don't, they should. And now thanks to your clear example I can finally stop wondering what that other tenth -- the tenth that no one ever tries to build a legal case on -- might be.

Be that as it may, I must make it clear that at no point did I willingly, knowingly, or otherwise steal that material -- the material you were thinking of writing, or might have thought of writing, or would have thought of writing had I not (allegedly) stolen it first. I will admit I may have THOUGHT of stealing material you were thinking of writing, but that is not a crime.

As to the matter of the any thoughts and/or material that I am accused of actually taking for myself and misusing, I can say with 100% certainty it was not yours. I distinctly remember thinking as I wrote those posts that they were the kinds of things Judith Weiss of Kesher Talk or Allison Kaplan Sommer of An Unsealed Room might write. Never did your potential thoughts even cross my mind. You are making the classic mistake of assuming that all women think alike, and that you somehow therefore have some sort of claim to thoughts I have stolen from OTHER female bloggers. This simply isn't true.

All right, full disclosure. I wasn't only stealing thoughts that other bloggers who happened to be female might have had. I also used a random thought that could very easily have been one of Jack's -- but I figured there wouldn't be any harm in stealing just one little thought of his because he has so darned many of them it wouldn't even be missed! Ok, so perhaps not every thought I am accused of stealing is completely consistent with my "gender appropriation" theory, but I believe that makes this other thought the necessary exception without which the rule could not be proven.

In the end, it seems to me your complaint is based only on some legally fictitious principal of "prior intended theft," wherein something which one person is thinking of stealing from a second is now no longer eligible for theft by a third party because of the first thief's prior claim. You are upset with me for using these other bloggers' potential ideas only because you didn't bother ripping them off first.

A pretty clever invention on your part, I must say, but I've never heard of such a thing in a court of law. And while I'm not a lawyer and have never even played one on TV, I did appear as a weed in my first grade class play, and portrayed a rat the next year. So I believe my dramatic qualifications alone carry enough legal authority to conclusively prove that this prior-intended-theft concept is what we like to call in Latin "a bunch of hooey." But if you're not convinced, feel free to ask Instapundit or one of the big blawgers what they think.

Nevertheless, I understand you are quite upset at having thoughts you were thinking of stealing from other bloggers stolen right out from under you by an entirely different blogger (me). That can be a traumatic experience. So you have asked for some sort of resolution to this whole sordid affair, and while this in no way obligates or implicates me in any way, I am willing to try to come to some sort of accomodation.

Here is my proposal. The next time I am considering stealing one of Jack's or Allison's or Judith's potential ideas, I will stop for approximately 20 seconds before hitting the publish button and try to imagine whether you will mind -- perhaps you will have already decided to steal those very thoughts yourself. If that is the case and you do indeed mind my stealing the material you had thought to steal for yourself, that would be the time for you to register your objection by dashing off a quick email in response to my mental query -- or just meditate on your objection since you apparently believe I can remotely extract your thoughts.

I believe that this is a most reasonable offer, considering I am in no way obligated based on any wrongdoing to you personally. If you feel that 20 seconds is more than you need, feel free to let me know. Further, with regard to any other blogger whose thoughts it may SEEM I've admitted to stealing in this post, they should not misconstrue that as legal testimony, or anything other than a thinly veiled excuse to help me avoid your accusation. So they shouldn't sue me either.

And thank you Soccer Dad, I have a feeling you might have answered these spurious charges in just this manner, and I am grateful for your unknowingly lending me your potential idea. I fully intend to return it when I'm done.



If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: