The Law of Copyright (after Kipling)

Now this is the Law of Copyright – good subject for Poetry Day.

If you keep it some poets may prosper, in a modest and limited way.


And some of the people who break it have little idea of the wrong

They do to the indigent author who dreamed up the poem or song


That they put into print without asking, or perform in a theatre or hall

With an audience paying good money, while the writer gets nothing at all,


Or offer the world on their web-sites, assuming that poems are free.

They are shocked when you mention permission, aghast if there’s talk of a fee. 


This is the law: the creator has rights that you can’t overlook.

It isn’t ok to make copies – you have to fork out for the book.


It isn’t ok to use poems on posters or cards or in shows

Unless you have asked for permission. You may have to pay through the nose.


But not necessarily. Try it. If you’re a good cause, or you’re poor

And unlikely to make any profit, the cost of obeying the law


May be negligible, may be nothing. It’s one thing to ask for a gift

And another to take without asking, and we call that other thing theft.


And poets they need to eat supper, and poets they need to wear shoes

And you’ll seldom encounter a poet enjoying a luxury cruise, 


So remember the Law of Copyright, and make sure you do as you ought, 

And if you read this and ignore it, I bloody well hope you get caught.

© Wendy Cope