Friday, September 5, 2008

Top Secret! Do Not Read!

I don’t understand how leaks happen.

I’m not talking about plumbing leaks. Everyone knows that plumbing leaks result from your toddler putting live ammunition into the garbage disposal.

But there’s really no excuse for informational leaks, because there is a well-known, proven strategy for keeping secrets from spreading:

Don’t make them available to anyone.

Best-selling author Stephanie Meyer has her tights in a twist because details from her new book, “Midnight Sun,” have surfaced on the Internet.

This should be no big deal, because you can only write so many vampire romance novels before they all start to sound the same, anyway.

But it’s big news to some people, regardless. According to Reuters news service, Meyer made some “early drafts” available to a few “trusted” people, such as her editor, her parents, and her drug-addicted, gossip-obsessed, destitute ex-hairdresser.

Some people just can’t hold on to classified information, and Stephanie Meyer is apparently one of them.

I have some suggestions for her, and for anyone else who just can’t bear to keep anything “close to the vest.” Memorize these foolproof techniques so you’ll always be able to get a secret off your chest without facing any consequences:

1) Write down the secret, fold it up, and try to get Wal-Mart to sell it in the toy section. By the time anyone gets the fortress of packaging undone, and frees the paper from the relentless clenches of those stupid screws and plastic ties that turn Christmas morning into an agonizing Houdini ritual, all the concerned parties will be dead anyway.

2) Buy advertising on a sports pre-game show. I guarantee nobody will hear it, because everything blends together. (“You’re listening to the Chrysler-Lexus-Jeep-Peugeot-Doritos-Carl’s Taxidermy-Brian Is Sleeping With Sarah’s Best Friend-Pre-Game-Show, on the Shaw’s-WRKO Red Sox Radio Network.”)

3) Jot it down on the owner’s manual of a new gas grille, right next to where it says “WARNING.”

4) Have it printed in your town’s annual report, on the one page everyone always skips over (“Budget Information”).

5) Three words: Public Radio Telethon.

But in this age of piracy, even these reliable strategies are not entirely guaranteed to work.

Ms. Meyer is learning what the music industry has understood for more than a decade: the Internet has neutered the concept of intellectual property. It is no longer possible to tell for sure where anything came from.

There’s nothing to stop some lowlife annelid from copying this column and pasting it on his or her own blog for some incomprehensible personal gain.

Or, for all you know, maybe I stole these very words from some obscure website you’ve never heard of, and am now selling it as my own work.

Given the number of people who read my column regularly (nine, if you count family and editors), it would be virtually impossible for anyone to find out.

If high school term papers are any indication, the Stephanie Meyers of the world might as well resign themselves to the fact that anything they create will belong to everyone in the world at the moment it is published.

The leaders of tomorrow, I’m sure, will pass laws to legalize plagiarism, provided they can find such laws in some other country that are readily available for copying.

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