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opinions from the head lemur
[Posted] Saturday, September 01, 2001

I am a Source Code Thief

My name is the head lemur and I am a recovering Source Code Thief!

I started in 1994 with my first internet connection. Netscape and Internet Explorer gave me the ability to peek behind the scenes. I thought that View Source would take me to the First Page of the Internet. It didn't.

Instead it revealed your code. All those weird characters that weren't on the page suddenly appeared on my computer screen. I thought that I had made a mistake, and when I went to close the Window it asked my if I would like to Save It. I am weak. I said Yes.

I couldn't help myself. I binged. I spent hours, days, even weeks, stealing code. I began to study this HTML stuff. I stole more. My code stealing habit got so bad that I had to spend 400 dollars on a 40MB harddrive to have a place to keep it. I plundered, pillaged and looted. I stole entire sites and saved them on floppy's. You could then.

Your code was mine. Then I discovered that I could take your images too. With the images the code began to make sense. I saw nothing wrong. It was there, I was here and all I needed to do was to save it. I saw the same images appearing on all sorts of different sites. I felt no guilt.

Now I could push the code around and see what happened. It began to make sense. The things that worked, the things that didn't. I discovered entire websites that people built to give away free images, code secrets, and links to sites that were giving away even more stuff.

I discovered a shareware HTML code editor. I stole that too. I began to build webpages. It was orgasmic. I had the power to create my own worlds. I could make big letters, I could make letters flow around pictures. I became enraptured with the power of a few simple tags. I stole, I coded, I stole.

I joined the HTML Writers Guild. I lurked, I saved, I stole. I stole the tips you gave me and hid them in my work. I built more pages. I discovered that I could put my pages on the web. I did. I stole my first FTP program. My theft knew no bounds. I began to learn about where the HTML code came from and how it was supposed to work. I printed pages of the HTML 3.2 spec. I downloaded image editors, I downloaded browsers, I bought Netscape.

Copyright? Hah! Copyright just let me know that I was getting the freshest stuff. Intellectual Property? Hah! Thanks for doing my work for me. You have saved me a lot of time so I could steal more code. God I loved cut and paste!! I stole a program to track the images I had stolen.

I began to develop my own code, images, and styles. I became a web designer in 1997. One of my very first sites was stolen. Code, Images, Content and directory. It was one of my largest sites, having 80 pages and 20 handcrafted images. I had already stopped using other folks stuff and began designing my own. I was outraged. I was angry. I screamed, I yelled, I wrote long raving rants about these thieves to every list I could find.

It was the worst day of my web life.

When I contacted these miscreants, I discovered that My Client had given permission to post the fruits on my labors on another site. They hadn't done anything different than I had done, except post it on the web.

I had to examine what I had been doing daily for the past three years. This marked the beginning of my recovery.

My stealing had been tapering off as so many people were sharing and giving away their information, code and images. They were sharing with me, a source code thief.

They knew what I had been doing, and they forgave me. I would email them to ask permission to use something I had seen and they wrote back. They said sure, it's okay. That is how we all learn on the web.

I came to realize that I was not a code god. I was not using anything you could not use. My work can be seen by everyone with a browser and an internet connection. I can be stolen from, judged on my code, have my sites and images stolen. That is how the web works. We all have the same building blocks. Most of you are far better at arranging them than I. This is how I learned, You will too. You may even never look at source code. But I doubt it.You cannot hide HTML source code. It doesn't work that way. This is the nature of the Internet. You may not binge like I did.

The web is an Open System. The protocols, the tags, the hardware, are all available for examination and use. We have agreed implicitly and in a lot of cases overtly that it is okay to look under the hood.

If you cannot accept the fact that "The Emperor Truly Has No Clothes" on the web, this is not the place for you. I will respect your decision and wish you well in your new career.

Yes, I still peek.

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