When Taking Becomes Stealing

Free subscriptions. A free RSS feed. Free content for web sites with a new story every day. But for some people, it’s not enough: it pains me that some want more and more, and can’t abide by the simple rules in True’s Terms of Service in exchange for so much free stuff.

I refer to not forwarding just portions of the free issues, rather than the whole thing. I refer to posting stories on web sites without permission.

Please, people! I give a lot, please don’t take more than I offer. If you have copies of issues on your web site, please take them down. If you’re forwarding issues and are not conforming to the terms of the copyright notice included in every issue, please stop.

And if you can’t do that, then please leave the distribution. The theft of my work is hurting me, both personally and financially. A little respect for the rules is not too much to ask for what I give so freely. Thanks.

Terms of the Deal

So how can I give True away for free? The basic distribution is covered by the two outside ads in the text. These are the guys who are doing it right — coming into your mailbox legitimately, not spamming. That, I think, deserves some support.

I do get whines that some of True’s advertisers are a bit fly-by-night-looking. Rarely, I even agree with that. But at least they’re not stealing your attention; they’re trying hard to follow the rules.

I do prohibit certain types of ads, but beyond that it’s up to the advertisers as to how they come across. It’d be great if you didn’t skip the ads without looking at them; maybe glance and see if they’re offering something you can use? And if you do do business with them, make sure they know you heard about them in True. It helps support your free subscription.

But indeed ads don’t do it all. Back in 2000, they did, when there was a lot of foolish money competing for attention — the dotcom craze. Now, after the shakeout, there aren’t a lot of companies competing for that space, so prices have dropped. True’s ad prices are less than a third of what they were.

What has taken up the slack? Why didn’t True die, like so many online publications did when ad rates hit bottom? It was thanks to my readers: those who really like the stories pay just a few bucks per year to get more — and they get the stories without those outside ads. It’s called the Premium upgrade, and those readers are keeping True going. If you like True, please pay attention to the ads. But if you love True, please consider an upgrade. It sure beats supporting spammers!

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5 Comments on “When Taking Becomes Stealing

  1. I got the free edition of “This is True” for several years before finally upgrading to Premium. Honestly, I now wish I had upgraded sooner! I have always loved the stories in “This is True”, and with the Premium edition I get to read more of them. I would strongly encourage casual readers to upgrade to Premium if at all possible. They won’t be disappointed!

    And shame on those people who are stealing your work by forwarding the emails! While I wish that everyone could become familiar with “This is True”, there is a better way of doing it. I tell people to come to the website and check it out and sign up for the free edition if they like what they see. Hopefully some of them have actually done it. Anyway, thank you for all of your hard work Randy!

    To clarify, it’s OK to forward the free edition if it’s sent in its entirety. It’s not OK to forward a piece of it, or to post any of it on a web site or blog. The copyright notice included in every issue is quite clear, and there’s a copyright FAQ for more. -rc

  2. I own a small business that gets involved in a couple of different things. One of our areas is we run an Agency (a contract-run branch of a bank) in a town of 425 people. (Agencies are a Canadian thing, I’ve never heard of one in the US.) We created 2 real living wage jobs in a small town with very few jobs.

    I bought a bunch of cheap pens for trade shows and giving away. One day I put a plastic tub out on the bank counter with about 200 pens in it and a sign saying ‘please take one’. Later in the day one of the staff was surprised by a local business owner who as he was leaving the bank took the whole plastic tub and all the pens and walked out. I was surprised but not really as he always came across as cheap, and he constantly goes through staff which says a lot. The next day someone in town told me he was using them — tied up with string — at his business for his staff to fill out forms. He tied up stolen pens and obviously he doesn’t trust his staff.

    It doesn’t end there. A week later he comes back into the bank with the plastic tub under his arm and about 40-50 pens in it and demands to see me. When the ladies call me to come talk to him I was surprised by how angry he was. It seems those 40ish pens didn’t work and he wanted me to give him replacements for them. I said no thanks and I’d take my tub back, but he didn’t want to give it to me. In the end he left, I had my tub back and he left without extra pens. His logic was that the sign didn’t apply to him because rules didn’t apply to him.

    There will always be people who want more free stuff and won’t be happy with what they get. I’m very glad I upgraded last year to the premium subscription.

    Amazing story. Just goes to show there’s a lot of “entitled” people (read: clueless, selfish children) out there. -rc

  3. The story about the pens displays a common trait among people. When you point out that they’re doing exactly what they complain about others doing, their reply is, “That’s different.” How? Who knows, but apparently saying it’s so, makes it so.

    When my son was a young teenager, he asserted that he would NEVER steal. Well, he qualified it, unless he really, REALLY wanted it. Apparently, the level of desire is what justifies theft. One might think that a child has yet to learn the finer points of right and wrong before adulthood, but I’ve heard more than once from ADULTS that they would NEVER, EVER steal. Well, except from the government and large corporations since they do the same thing and it would be simple justification.

    But then, Robin Hood was a hero, a good guy, wasn’t he?

  4. I had bought a largish amount of cheap personalized stick pens from a door to door charity when I was taking a programming class some decades ago. I noticed that most folk that borrowed always borrowed, and never gave things back. So: I’d leave two pens on my desk, and they’d go away, and I’d replace them. It didn’t take long before almost everybody had at least two of my pens on *their* desk, with my name still on them. They didn’t know where they got the pens, but they did know that they weren’t mine — they were *theirs*. Some became indignant after figuring out the point I had made, but most just blithered along. *sigh* Most days I just *know* that most people are below average!

  5. 2 comments on this one:

    For a while I was buying a paper on my way to work so I could read it at lunch. One of my co-workers got upset with me because I wouldn’t let him read it before me (I wanted to make sure I got to read it all (he liked to cut things out)) and then again when I stopped bringing it in.

    When my daughter was stationed in Korea she commented that several of the technicians in her unit liked to “borrow” pens, so she never could find one when she needed it. As a joke I sent her 2 dozen pens. When one of the technicians noticed all the pens in her desk he asked her where she had got them all. When she told them, he said; “Neat!”, and tried to grab some. He couldn’t understand why she slammed the drawer and then locked it. I told her she should have let him take some and then filed charges for theft. (The previous pens were government issue; these would have been classed as personal property.)


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