Because information and media is very accessible online, there’s a generation growing up that expects everything to be free. Because they’ve only known torrents and online sharing, they think nothing of taking what they don’t have the right to take, be it music, movies or content.

I’ve had this kind of thing happen to me on occasion. Things I’ve written have been reprinted without credit or permission, often in eBay listings, but sometimes in blogs. Bits of websites have also been grabbed, but usually for personal projects, by people who probably don’t grasp the way copyright works, and I’ve never seen a need to smack anyone with a legal hammer of doom.

What’s staggering, though, is how a general disregard and ignorance for copyright is spreading throughout the commercial arena. We had the BBC nicking a Robert Llewellyn YouTube clip, and Lily Allen stealing all sorts of content to, ironically, bitch about rights infringement in the music industry (and the subsequent revisionism that followed), but an hour or so ago something truly bizarre was reported.

Edgar Wright, he of Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame, said on Twitter: Answer me how this is cut down to this without my permission, blessing or approval.

The Times had, without permission, taken Wright’s heartfelt tribute to Edward Woodward, hacked it down and, in Wright’s words, “gut[ted] it of all feeling”. Amazingly, Media Monkey reports that the rip even made the print edition, with a photo of a grinning Wright placed cheekily alongside.

Although I utterly disagree with chilling government proposals regarding copyright infringement law, it is shocking how few people realise that just because something is online, that doesn’t mean it’s freely available to use and abuse as you see fit. That a supposedly professional organisation like The Times, stuffed full of journos who could write their own piece (or at least have the decency to ask Wright for permission), so blatantly stole work from anyone, let alone a famous film director, is almost beyond belief.

Update: The Times online has now updated the article, using all of Wright’s original copy and crediting his blog as the original source.

Update 2: Wright reports that, on his request, The Times will make a donation to a charity of Edward Woodward’s family’s choosing.