Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fair Use

This popped up in my Twitter feed:

https://twitter.com/PublishersAssoc/status/323427947539218433/photo/1

It is a picture from DigiCon. The quote below is:

"Copyright is fundamental to creative industries, those who believe it's not relevant are mistaken"

I find that interesting on a few levels. And by "interesting" I mean "bullshit".

First, because it talks about "industries" and not "artists". I was unaware that industries own copyrights. I thought the creator of the work owns the work, and industries are made of companies that exist to exploit the work that artists create.

Second, because I don't believe copyright law, as it currently exists, is fundamental.

When I write something, I believe I should be the only one allowed to make money from that writing (unless I assign rights to that work). I believe I should have the sole ability to do this for a reasonable length of time.

But anyone who isn't making money from my work should be allowed to do whatever they like with it.

Trade it, copy it, share it, borrow it, create derivative works, etc. As long as you aren't doing it for cash, I'm okay with it.

If you use my work to do something that does make money, or you use a significant amount of my work in order to create a work of your own with the intent to make money, I ask you to get my permission

So many writers seem unduly concerned about copyright infringement. On one hand, if someone makes a film called AFRAID and uses my plot and characters without paying me, then releases that film nationwide, I'm going to sue.

But if someone makes a student film out of AFRAID to show on YouTube without monetizing it, go for it.

Want to write a song about a book I wrote? Knock yourself out.

Share my ebooks with your family? Go for it.

Quote a paragraph I wrote in your work? Be my guest.

Sample my voice and put it in a song? Cool.

Seed a Jack Kilborn torrent? Enjoy yourself.

Sell your used copy of WHISKEY SOUR, paper or ebook or audio, to somebody else? No problem. I'm for first-sale doctrine.

I define "fair use" as: You can do whatever you want with my intellectual property, as long as you're doing it without intending to make money. Once you want to make money from it, get in touch and we'll try to work something out.

Having monetary control over my work does not mean I get to control my readers.

My readers should be able to do anything they want to with my work, whether they bought it or obtained it freely. Once I create something, it takes on a life of its own. It exists independent of me. In fact, as I've said many times this past decade, the book does not exist as words on a page. It exists as a story in the reader's head. And I have no claims on that, monetary or otherwise.

If you do want to use my work to make money for yourself, I think it is fair to include me somehow, by negotiating for the rights to do so. But if you want to use my work for anything else, enjoy yourself.

The world is becoming digital. Human beings are born to share. Information wants to be free.

Copyright laws will have to change to encompass this point of view. Because this is what the majority of people want.

Don't bet against the masses. And if you're an artist aching to worry about something, worry about the giant industries (publishing, film, TV, recording) treating you unfairly, not the fan who lends your audiobook to his Mom.

91 comments:

Angry_Games said...

Industries don't like reasonable voices. I've been a loud opponent of DRM and 'fair use' in the video game industry for more than a decade (DRM only hurts the paying customer and 'modding' a game to make it do something else is akin to fan fiction if no one is making money off it)

Ryan Fitzgerald said...

Hear, hear. Amidst all of the insightful blog posts you've posted in the past, this one is the one I agree with absolutely, 100%.

Corey Ostman said...

Joe, can't you just publish your books using the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported license? Or do retailers balk when they don't see the word "copyright" in the front matter?

Bruce Grubbs said...

Spot on.

Jude Hardin said...

The problem is, there are sites that ARE making money from your books. And mine.

Tuan Ho said...

DRM in video games especially sucks. It's a huge pain the ass.

And I agree with everything you said Joe! That's the way to go!

Thomas Knip said...

"The world is becoming digital."

Nope, it is not. It still is soil and dirt. If you want to live on the Grid, watch Tron.

"Human beings are born to share."

Nope, human beings are born to cooperate.

"Information wants to be free."

Yup, but (mass market) literature is entertainment, not information. And I never heard the phrase "entertainment wants to be free."

This article is your personal opinion. I allow myself a different one.

G. M. Frazier said...

"Sell your used copy of WHISKEY SOUR ... ebook ... to somebody else? No problem. I'm for first-sale doctrine."

How do you feel about a person selling 100 "used" copies of his/her "used" ebook copy of WHISKEY SOUR?

Tony Hursh said...

@Corey: Amazon, at least, doesn't care. You just have to certify that you own the copyright or are otherwise permitted to publish the work.

There's even a checkbox for public domain material.


Dan DeWitt said...

@ G.M. Frazier

"How do you feel about a person selling 100 'used' copies of his/her 'used' ebook copy of WHISKEY SOUR?"

I don't know about Joe (although I can kinda guess what his answer will be), but I'd rather be read 100 times for free than not be read at all.

Jude Hardin said...

I don't know about Joe (although I can kinda guess what his answer will be), but I'd rather be read 100 times for free than not be read at all.

Did you see my link? We're not being read for free. People are making money from our work, and they're not giving us any of it. That sucks.

And that is why copyright laws ARE fundamental. If anything, they need to be stricter now that IP is so easily copied and shared.

Joe Konrath said...

It still is soil and dirt.

Oh, we're being technical and not metaphorical? In that case it is iron, oxygen, silicon, and magnesium as the major elements.

But in reference to copyright, which is about media, which is what this blog is about, I'd say that the world is indeed becoming digital.

Nope, human beings are born to cooperate.

And sharing isn't a part of cooperation? Sharing is also part of something else humans are born to do: communication. The passing on of information is one of the big reasons our species is thriving.

literature is entertainment, not information.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information

I believe I can include entertainment under the umbrella of information.

And a great amount of information is indeed free to most who receive it. For example, I didn't get paid to entertain or inform you with my blog.

How do you feel about a person selling 100 "used" copies of his/her "used" ebook copy of WHISKEY SOUR?

I spelled it out already. The scenario that you outlined isn't first-sale doctrine. It is making money off my IP without including me.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported

That essentially sounds what I'm doing. How is labeling it advantageous to me?

Joe Konrath said...

If anything, they need to be stricter now that IP is so easily copied and shared.

Anyone who buys something off that site is looking to have their money and identity stolen. It didn't look like a safe transaction to me...

Butch said...

JA I am a huge fan of your career since the release of Whiskey sour, and appreciate everything you've done as a writer and as a pioneer of self publishing.
I agree with most of what you say from this post. You guessed it there is a but coming... The copying thing gets me whenever I've had a discussion on similar topics in the past with friends. Sure one person buys your book and makes a digital copy to let his sister read it, big whoop. What if that person made digital copies of every single one of your books and gave them away to anyone and everyone who has a pulse, you'd be pissed. Sure that is an extreme case, but it's a legitimate argument. Where does that line get drawn... before or after you feel it in your wallet?
I guess my question to you and anyone else on this blog when would you say thats enough free / ripped off amount of my content? sure a ripped off of your product could lead to a future customer, but it could just lead to another rip off of your future products, and it could lead to more people, those who would have been paying customers to get the free version from where ever they could get their hands on it.
For me it's a principle thing. I based this rant on what seems like the acceptance of people copying content, and maybe I misunderstood JA's stance, like I said I agree with most of your POV, but thinking copying of your material is ok seems off to me.

Butch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
V. J. Chambers said...

Amen, and thanks for being one of the few authors who talks sense about this stuff. It's brave, and I dig it.

Joe Konrath said...

What if that person made digital copies of every single one of your books and gave them away to anyone and everyone who has a pulse, you'd be pissed.

I recently got the rights back to Whiskey Sour, and last month gave away 100,000 copies on Amazon.

In April I've earned $18,000 on Whiskey Sour.

Reread that. It is April 14th. And I made $18,000 on just Whiskey Sour in those two weeks.

Just gave away 100k copies, now earning $1285 on it daily. That one book. It has also, as you can guess, helped my other titles sell well.

No, I don't fear free. And if someone found a way where I could give away 10 million copies of Whiskey Sour, sign me up.

Jude Hardin said...

Anyone who buys something off that site is looking to have their money and identity stolen. It didn't look like a safe transaction to me...

They don't have to steal our money and our identities. They're stealing our ebooks.

A person on Kindle Boards going by the name of Dark Scribe bought a bunch of ebooks from the site (which apparently operates out of China) in an effort to report them to the credit card companies and have them shut down that way. Apparently it didn't work.

http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,144789.25.html

I reported them to Jacque, who said she was going to pass it on to legal. This was over a month ago. Yet the site is still there, and my book SNUFF TAG 9 is still for sale. $1.90 there vs $4.99 on Amazon. A bargain!

Face it, Joe. There are people stealing your books and selling them for profit. And there doesn't seem to be anything anyone can do about it.

Joe Konrath said...

There are people stealing your books and selling them for profit.

I think the best thing to do is worry constantly and try to lose as much sleep over it as possible.

Maybe if we made ebooks more expensive, and DRM harder to crack, this wouldn't happen.

Also, we should spend thousands of dollars on International lawyers to recoup the hundreds this website has sold.

No.. wait! We don't have to! Because the Authors Guild has a yearly budget of over 4 million dollars. I'm sure they're all over this, helping their members confront the piracy menace. Like that huge pirate, Google Book Scan.

/Sarcasm

I'm done worrying about this stuff, Jude. And bored hearing from those who are worried about it.

There are a lot of great discussions to have about ebooks. Discussions that could help us all learn.

Piracy isn't one of those discussions. It's fear-mongering, and unhelpful.

Jude Hardin said...

I'm done worrying about this stuff, Jude. And bored hearing from those who are worried about it.

And yet...

...if someone makes a film called AFRAID and uses my plot and characters without paying me, then releases that film nationwide, I'm going to sue.

I mean, you can't really have it both ways, can you? You either care about copyright infringement where the IP thief is making a profit from your work, or you don't.

For the record, I do.

G. M. Frazier said...

I recently got the rights back to Whiskey Sour, and last month gave away 100,000 copies on Amazon.

That's more or less the point, Joe. It's your book and you can give it away if you want. But if someone else sets up a "store" and starts giving it away, with the tagline, "Why pay Amazon $3.99 when you can get it here for free?" don't you think you'd be singing a different tune? I think the only reason you're okay with people pirating your work is because so far it has not affected your bottom line. If it did, I think your generous spirit would land, and right quick.

As for my other point, how do you regulate first sale of a digital copy when you're not really transferring your copy to another person in the transaction, but rather reproducing it?

Colleen Cowley said...

I agree, and I think authors almost always benefit when fans create derivative (free) works.

J.K. Rowling said fanfiction was OK with her, and she ended up with fans who were even more rabidly eager for the sequels than they otherwise would have been -- because they were reading, writing and thinking about her universe on a daily basis. You can't BUY that kind of engagement.

Butch said...

Point taken. thanks for the response.
I won't deny your numbers are impressive, and can agree to similar results. Just scaled down to my lowly level (I'm new at this self pub stuff).
I think you're right that piracy might just be something we shouldn't worry about, and I don't. I was just surprised to see and get the idea that you're ok with it. So would you say that making content like books more easily pirated is actually better for your overall bottom line?
Thanks again for the time you take

Joe Konrath said...

You either care about copyright infringement where the IP thief is making a profit from your work, or you don't.

I dunno. Can't I care sometimes and not care other times?

If someone keys my car, I'm mildly annoyed. If someone totals my car, I'm very upset.

A Chinese site pirating me? Why would anyone use that when they can get the books on Pirate Bay for free instead of $1.90?

Or, for convenience's sake, upload them directly to their Kindle for $3.99? Maybe some people like giving their credit card info to ebook stores tehy've never heard of. I'm okay paying twice as much for the convenience of a quick and safe download. I'm betting others do to.

Of course, here's where it gets interesting. China doesn't have the Kindle yet. I'm looking forward to when they do, because I'd love to enter that market.

Joe Konrath said...

if someone else sets up a "store" and starts giving it away, with the tagline, "Why pay Amazon $3.99 when you can get it here for free?" don't you think you'd be singing a different tune?

Why would they do this unless they could monetize it somehow. And I've admitted I don't approve of that.

Let's do a thought experiment. Let's pretend that publishers, in order to spread the word about a book and get it attention and reviews, give away thousands of copies of the book.

Hmm. Scratch that. It isn't a pretend thought experiment. It's what publishers actually do.

Yet this is okay.

I've signed ARCs and galleys for booksellers, who intended to sell them, even though I didn't make money from that.

I really am okay with free. And if no one every paid for an ebook again, I'd figure out a different way to make money with my words.

Joe Konrath said...

As for my other point, how do you regulate first sale of a digital copy when you're not really transferring your copy to another person in the transaction, but rather reproducing it?

ReDigi has figured it out.

I'm happy to wait and see what happens instead of worrying about what the future might hold. So far the future, as it arrives, has been awesome.

Jude Hardin said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VO48Vr4KIc8

:)

Anonymous said...


People should stop using tiny URL.

You can't see the destination website until it's too late.

Who knows what could pop up after you click the tiny URL link.

And it doesn't help people all that much by giving them a shorter link.
In a digital age, if you can copy and paste a tiny URL link, then you can copy and paste a regular long URL. It's not that hard.

Sabine A. Reed said...

I agree completely. Artists and writers worry too much about their work being reproduced. Good post.

Jim Self said...

“And it doesn't help people all that much by giving them a shorter link."

I guess you don't use twitter.

Joe, I agree with you about everything here except used ebooks. Actually, my reason for not liking used ebooks is the same as one of the points you made above. Used ebook sales are all about big companies making money off of your work without paying you. That, and the intrinsic nature of digital vs. paper means the "reach" of a resold ebook is much, much farther. That said, I agree with you that good storytellers will always be able to make money with their words, especially now that communication channels are so cheap and abundant.

Anonymous said...

the far smaller matter is books. Meh.

The far greater matter is copyrights/patents/ trademarks on lifesaving medicines, re which big pharma changes the formula only slightly in order to hold it on their own pitchfork for another many decades... so no generics can be made, no derivatives, no foreign nations in poverty, no public domestically can gain access to that 'medicines want to be free.'

Book money, who the book money goes to, people making money off an authors first result, doesnt cost lives. But big corps who squat on lifesaving meddies, do.

book copyright, or not doesnt seem to rise to the same life and death level. And wondering how more can place emphasis where it could matter most for other human beings.

Anonymous said...

I didnt realize there were still idealists left in the world of ebook scramble to publish. Humans as far as I can tell, are NOT made 'to cooperate' or 'to share.' The millions of news stories across the world daily bear out that....

They are made to compete for resources, to share only with one's own, to cooperate in order to get a lion's share, to outrun, out do, out garner, out sell, our reserve, out think, out build, out seize all others. Oh, and throw a kindly bone on some basis, sometimes, too.

Humans, as borne out by the huge killing wars over resources raging right now and the miniscule tiny war about books/pirate-tinis/ authors... are funded not by cooperation but by naked lust for resources, whether it be money, meaning, or fame or dominance.

Humans are made as takers... WIth or without permission. With or without contact or contract. With or without care with or without contempt and guile.

Competitive, thy name is man.

Paolo Amoroso said...

Joe, what do you think about attribution? If someone uses your work but doesn't make money from it, should he be required to mention you as the original author?

Liz/moth said...

Thanks for a really sensible approach! I'm a writer (just starting out at self publishing) and I'm also involved in fanfiction, and in activism re things like copyright reform. You really have hit all the nails on the head here. Too many people, including some of your commenters, use the umbrella term 'piracy' to cover people who share things freely as well as people who actually make money out of other people's work. I'm all for fair use, engaging with a work by derivative stories, vids, etc. and passing on a good read to friends or family. The actual 'pirates' who steal and resell work are mostly based in China, which isn't a signatory to international copyright law and therefore can't be dealt with by the increasingly draconian laws that US and Europe are trying to dream up. Their customers can, but it might be simpler to re-educate the customers... And as you point out - the increased availabilty of genuinely free material is going to be what puts those pirates out of business. You have made it clear that you don't want anyone making money from your work without your permission - and that's the big difference between pirates and people who share. Thanks for pointing it out! I follow articles about this on e.g. EFF publications and La Quadrature du Net, and am impressed that you have put it all so succinctly in such a popular blog.

adan said...

ditto, great piece, thanks joe ;-)

Stig Rudeholm said...

Jude said:

"""The problem is, there are sites that ARE making money from your books. And mine."""

Jude, I really don't think this is the real problem. Apart from the reasons Joe has already mentioned, I'd like to point out a few other things:

I didn't know about that website until you just linked to it. By mentioning it, you're just contributing to the Streisand Effect. (You're actually bringing more attention to it. If you don't want people to go there, don't advertise it.)

You shouldn't fear piracy, you should fear obscurity. Attention is scarce, information is not. Don't waste time and energy worrying about, and fighting, piracy. (If the largest media corporations in the world can't stop piracy, how big a chance have you got?) Invest the time and effort in your work instead. You'll have more fun and you'll sleep a lot better.

Also, I downloaded your short, "Rattled," when you gave it away for free a few weeks ago. It wasn't bad. I enjoyed it. But it was missing so much! It has a decent cover and a decent story, but that's it. Cover - story - nothing. Where is the information about the author? List of other titles available? Samples? Info on upcoming books? Links to where I can buy those other books? Recommendations? Link to your website?

Speaking of your website... How long have you had it now? Four of the pages (News, Events, Press and Links) still says "Coming soon..." (And by the way, when I click on "Press," the "Reviews" link disappears from the menu.) How about listing all authorised retailers on your website? Don't tell people where not to go, tell them where you want them to go.

"""And that is why copyright laws ARE fundamental. If anything, they need to be stricter now that IP is so easily copied and shared."""

No, no, no... Stricter copyright laws are making people respect copyright less, not more. (It's already ridiculous. We need a global copyright reform.)

You want to make money on your craft? I've been saying it for years... It's not easy, but it's simple:

1: Offer a product that people want. (A good book.)
2: Offer it in a format that people want. (Kindle and other major formats, NO DRM!)
3: Offer it at a price that people are willing to pay. (Less than $5 seems right.)
4: Offer it in a way that is convenient for the customer. (Easy and convenient beats free for most people.)

For each one of those four points that you ignore, you decrease your chances of getting paid.

Becca Mills said...

I think some piracy sites that don't sell your work still "monetize" it through subscription fees and advertising -- as YouTube might also in the case of a student film of Afraid. But whatever -- I don't worry about these things, either.

But I have to admit, I do worry a bit when I hear that Amazon has patented a method of marketed used ebooks. How would the windfall you describe -- giving away 100K Whiskey Sours and then making $18K thru follow-up sales -- work if 100K people were offering their used copies of Whiskey Sour for sale on the Amazon book page, the way they offer used paper books on the book page alongside the regular new copy of the book? Would many people buy a new copy of Whiskey Sour when the used digital copy is indistinguishable, and might be priced at $.10 instead of $3.99? And there might be 100K used copies for sale. Most people don't bother selling their used paper books online: mailing them is a pain. A lot of people don't sell their paper books at all: they might want to read them again, and they're expensive to replace. But if you can pick up a new copy of Whiskey Sour for $.10, why not sell yours? If you do want to reread it, getting another one will be so cheap?

All this is to say that I'm not sure we should assume the first-sale doctrine is as good a idea with digital books as it is with paper books. I can see the market in used ebooks becoming huge and vibrant because they're just as convenient as new ebooks, and much cheaper. If Amazon is in on the action, you wouldn't even need to learn to sideload them; they'd show up directly on your Kindle.

I'd like to hear more of your thoughts on this issue.

Becca Mills said...

"You shouldn't fear piracy, you should fear obscurity."

Stig Rudeholm, that should be a bumper sticker, and all authors should have it on their cars -- the best summing-up of the issue I've seen.

Stitch said...

Becca, I agree! But I can't take credit for the words.

I can't remember who said it first, though, unfortunately... :)

/Stig, posting as Stitch

Mark Edward Hall said...

Joe said, "if someone found a way where I could give away 10 million copies of Whiskey Sour, sign me up."

I agree with Joe on that one.

From April 4 to April 8 I gave away 70,000 copies of my novel Apocalypse Island. Since then I've been making $600.00 a day on that book alone and it has fueled the sale of my other books.

Makes you wonder why two hundred readers a day are now buying the book for 3.99 a pop when they could have had it for free.

Hope I give away a million copies next time around.

Jude Hardin said...

You shouldn't fear piracy, you should fear obscurity.

I don't fear piracy; it pisses me off.

When people take something that doesn't belong to them, it's called stealing. I don't like it when people steal from me for their own personal gain. Even if it isn't hurting my sales (which can't really be proved or disproved), there's a principle involved.

I don't spend a lot of time worrying about IP theft, because--and you're right about this--there's really nothing I can do about it. Still, as someone who always tries to play fair and by the rules, it angers me when others do not.

Joe says he would sue if someone made a movie from his book for profit. How is that different from pirating ebooks? It's only different in degree. The principle is the same.

And, actually, an internationally-distributed feature film would probably boost book sales more than anything you could think of. So should we encourage Hollywood producers to steal our film rights? It would, after all, take care of the old obscurity problem, wouldn't it?

You make some good points about my story and my website. As I delve deeper into self-publishing, I'll be working to improve on those things. Thanks for taking the time to check out my work.

The Other Stephen King said...

"Deja moo: the feeling you've heard all this Bull before."

Good post, Joe. I've always--well, usually, anyway--enjoyed your straightforward approach to what can be some pretty complex topics. This one's no exception, and it was fun to read despite the fact that you've approached it roughly the same way before, and you've had roughly the same objections, and you've responded in roughly the same way to the objections.

It seems never-ending. I've stopped talking about IP issues in the groups I'm in, because it's such a hot-button topic. People jump from being irritated about it, an attitude I share, right to worrying that the sky is going to fall and we're all going to stop being able to make any money at it, and we'll all end up living in a trailer, down by the river!

But that's when I talk about it. What I don't get is how you can post your numbers and then have anybody who doesn't pull in the same sort of numbers argue with you on the matter of how giveaways, intended or not, accentuate sales.

- TOSK

Jude Hardin said...

What I don't get is how you can post your numbers and then have anybody who doesn't pull in the same sort of numbers argue with you on the matter of how giveaways, intended or not, accentuate sales.

Giveaways don't accentuate sales. Visibility accentuates sales.

It would be interesting to know how many of those 100,000 people who downloaded WS went on to buy other titles of the series at regular price. My guess is not very many. But, by giving away a bunch of books, you land on some bestseller lists and catch some algorithms on Amazon that give you much greater visibility.

I've noticed that many of the offerings advertised on BookBub are for $.99 now instead of free. Authors are earning some money on the ads while gaining visibility at the same time. Which is smart, I think. I predict we'll see more and more $.99 books vs free, as authors come to realize they don't have to give their work away to get the visibility they desire.

Wickergirl said...

Hi Mark Edward Hall

"From April 4 to April 8 I gave away 70,000 copies of my novel Apocalypse Island. Since then I've been making $600.00 a day on that book alone and it has fueled the sale of my other books."

That's very impressive. Congratulations.


There's a balance to be struck, for sure. But usually something that is heavily pirated is also heavily bought. People want it because it's good or popular.

If you released a book online and no one bothered to pirate it, what would that tell you?

Wickergirl

wickergirl

Joseph Ratliff said...

@Jude,

Do you want to be pissed off at piracy, or do you want to focus on taking care of your readers and making money?

Because if you do both, you're losing focus on the most important one... no matter how little time you invest.

Grandpa once taught me "Never, ever skip over dollar bills to pick up nickels."

The Internet is so vast, with so many users, it is an impossible feat to try and police everything that is happening with your digital goods, good or bad. You can try though, of course.

Besides, it's digital, it's only easier to copy... but it's really not that different than the physical world (libraries, people handing books to friends, people selling their books to used book stores etc...).

As for the visibility thing, giveaways increase visibility. It doesn't matter if most of 100,000 people went and bought or not... the ones that did resulted in sales... the ones that didn't weren't Joe's customer anyhow (for now).

Walter Knight said...

I like to decorate by website with U=tube video, but notice those video sometimes get removed because corporations have not given U-tube permission. In a way my website is an advertisement, But I doubt is makes much money for me. My intent is to just have a cool website.

Walter Knight said...

China reads a tremendous amount of E-books. They use their cell phones instead of Kindles. I'm curious if Chinese will switch to Kindles when Amazon makes them available.

Can Amazon change an established habit?

Mark Edward Hall said...

Wickergirl said, "That's very impressive. Congratulations."

Yeah, it was a successful promo, in my opinion. There are those who don't like giving away books, but it certainly is a good way to get noticed. I'm all in with Amazon right now because it's working for me. If it stops working I'll do something else.

Sales are slowing down now but that is expected. It has been a week since the end of the promo and I'm very happy with the bounce. Can't argue with the numbers.

Jude Hardin said...

...but it's really not that different than the physical world

When someone starts illegally printing up thousand of paperbacks and sharply undercutting legitimate retailers on the price, then it will be comparable.

One thing that amazes me about the Chinese site is that titles exclusive to Amazon are available there in epub format. So, if you own a Nook or a Kobo or anything other than a Kindle, and you want, say, a Thomas and Mercer title, it would be easier to get it there than to buy it from Amazon and convert it yourself. Easier, and cheaper. And, the site looks like a real store, as opposed to a pirate site.

It's just hard for me to believe that I could possibly benefit from people stealing my work and selling it for profit.

Anonymous said...

The Select rate just dropped, so much for being "exclusive".

Although 98% of the indies don't have Amazon promoting their works.

What's Amazon doing for you? Did they lower their take in return for the "All Select Now Baby!" slogan?

You know, just curious...

Stitch said...

Jude said:

"""I don't fear piracy; it pisses me off."""

Fair point, I guess. Although I think maybe a lot of that can stem from the fear of making less money. Plus, being pissed off about something you can't do anything about, while understandable, will still drain your energy just as fast as worrying about it.

"""You make some good points about my story and my website. As I delve deeper into self-publishing, I'll be working to improve on those things. Thanks for taking the time to check out my work."""

No problem. And if you need help with that website, get in touch. I enjoy helping people with that sort of thing. And my rates vary between "free" and "cheap" depending on the job and the person I'm doing it for. :D

"""One thing that amazes me about the Chinese site is that titles exclusive to Amazon are available there in epub format. So, if you own a Nook or a Kobo or anything other than a Kindle, and you want, say, a Thomas and Mercer title, it would be easier to get it there than to buy it from Amazon and convert it yourself. Easier, and cheaper."""

Then why doesn't Amazon offer the T&M titles in epub format? Amazon is a trusted retailer. People love shopping on Amazon. But if they're not offering what people want, then they will go elsewhere.

Jude Hardin said...

Then why doesn't Amazon offer the T&M titles in epub format?

Perhaps they will eventually, and I'll be cheering them on when they do.

Up to now it has been about selling Kindles, but as more and more book buyers choose tablets as their reading devices, it would only make sense for Amazon Publishing to offer their titles in other formats.

Jude Hardin said...

And if you need help with that website, get in touch.

I've already prepaid for some maintenance hours, but I'll keep that in mind for the future. Thanks!

Joe Flynn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Flynn said...

Sorry if I missed this point in a prior comment, but unless you register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office (assuming you live in the U.S.), you have no standing to sue anyone for ripping you off. And if you might want to sue, say, a movie studio or production company for stealing major elements of one of your novels, and you haven't registered your copyright, forget it. You'd be lucky to find an honest lawyer to take your case. The odds are already stacked against a plaintiff (ever hear of the concept of "prior art?"), and ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the side with more money is going to win a lawsuit. I've been there (with a registered copyright) and done that. Lost. It is not fun.

Joseph Ratliff said...

"It's just hard for me to believe that I could possibly benefit from people stealing my work and selling it for profit."

When it comes to that, those particular folks weren't going to be your customers anyhow (the ones who actually steal then profit from your work). But you could gain new readers from the work being sold I suppose (if the thieves don't alter attribution, that is)?

But bottom line here is... I'm saying it won't do you any good to worry about it because from a cost benefits analysis, it probably won't be worth it.

You stop one, but another pops up in its place... meanwhile, while you're focusing on these pirates, even for just a little bit, you could have used that time to market or sell your book... develop a new relationship that would help you sell books, build your fan base bigger etc...

There are so many more honest people out there than dishonest people. Makes more sense to build your business from the bigger group, doesn't it?

Joe Konrath said...

The Select rate just dropped, so much for being "exclusive".

I assume you mean for borrows? Amazon added a few million the last few months, for the holidays. That ended in Feb. So it didn't drop. Rather, it went back to normal.

That said, March was the first KDP month ever where I broke $100k.

So much for being "exclusive". ;)

Anonymous said...

re pirate sites out of china. The naivete. Stig/stitch. The servers may be in china, but the thugs who have found book and video and music piracy lucrative are funding far more than a little bling for themselves. Most armchair authors would be shocked to know to what inhumane means some of the 'pirate' sites garner and then put to use in the criminal trades to do things most authors would never ever agree to. Cartels/mafias/ call them what you will, they operate on unprotected assets whether it be drugs, alcohol, vulnerable human beings, unprotected land, arms, or digital assets.

One can praise all one wants. But the reality of many money garnering 'pirate' sites will turn the stomachs of most decent people. Those who leach income illicitly must love to hear how many readers authors are garnering, without looking at the rotted roots of many many of the schemes.

The rule of crime, is make the host happy while you bloodsucker him.

Anonymous said...


The Other Stephen King said...
" "Deja moo: the feeling you've heard all this Bull before." "

That's funny. :)

Anonymous said...

Joseph Ratliff said...
"you're losing focus on the most important one

Grandpa once taught me "Never, ever skip over dollar bills to pick up nickels." "

Yeah. It never pays to be "penny wise and dollar foolish."

D.S. said...

I never put DRM on my eBooks.

Heck, I have even been known to give them away during free promotions - speaking of which, I have a vampire novella that is free on Kindle until midnight (PST) tonight. It's sporting a great Carl Graves premade cover (thanks for letting us know about him, Joe)!

My eBook has been as high as #5 the last few days on the free Kindle list for Horror/Occult!

If you want a copy: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BY8655Q (and, all other Amazon sites)

If you miss the promotion deadline, drop me a line and I'll hook you up.

Angry_Games said...

You want to make money on your craft? I've been saying it for years... It's not easy, but it's simple:

1: Offer a product that people want. (A good book.)
2: Offer it in a format that people want. (Kindle and other major formats, NO DRM!)
3: Offer it at a price that people are willing to pay. (Less than $5 seems right.)
4: Offer it in a way that is convenient for the customer. (Easy and convenient beats free for most people.)

For each one of those four points that you ignore, you decrease your chances of getting paid.

I have to agree with Stig. I'm a no-name author with a single short story on Amazon but two books on the way, and I really want to sell books so I can do this for a living, but I am absolutely not interested in being worried, upset, angry, or anything else negative about piracy.

I buy just about everything from Amazon these days as a Prime member. Whenever I see paperbacks new from Amazon or used for $2 cheaper, I just get the new one from Amazon. Free shipping (which usually evens the cost vs. the used ones), it's brand new, and the author is getting first-sale royalties of some sort.

As for sites making ad money from listing copyrighted materials...I just don't care. I'm spending my energy trying to create something a reader wants to read (whether free or paid). If you go after 500 websites offering your goods for free or selling them without you getting anything, then be prepared to go after probably 50,000 more. You just can't win, and you shouldn't bother trying. Again, as Stig said, focus on creating something that others will want to consume.

As for Hollywood stealing your idea and making a movie about it...there's a difference in the sense that the money Hollywood typically pays for a creator's work is significant and lump sum. If you sell a screenplay or the movie rights for a story, you can expect for example a $100k payout (or whatever you normally would negotiate). Going after Chinese websites or pirate sites that might have given away $600 of your work is just not worth the effort. Especially when you consider where the infringers are located.

I think the biggest thing that annoys me about this argument is that creators end up sounding too much like it is all about the money instead of it being all about the craft, the creation. Sure everyone wants to get paid, but the creation is the magic that makes others spend their money.

And finally I'm going to wager that big name authors like Konrath will be pirated, but as he shows, it isn't hurting his bottom line. The rest of us scrubs who are hoping to give up our day jobs...I doubt the 12 copies someone pirates or buys off a pirate site is going to let you quit your job. And that's 12 copies that might end up turning into 100 reads, and those 100 reads turning into 1000, and so on, until someone actually buys it legitimately.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

The Select rate just dropped, so much for being "exclusive".

The Select rate was raised from December through February for the holidays and was expected to drop again back to normal rates. This is not news to anyone enrolled in select. We're still getting $2+ per borrow.

What's Amazon doing for you?

Yesterday they sent out a newsletter to the 42,000 people who downloaded my last book and the 50,000 people who bought it and not only told them about my latest release, but featured several of my other books as well. This was a targeted email featuring only me. No one else.

I didn't ask them to do this. They just did it. And I know they've done it for others.

Every time I see someone slam Amazon or look at them with skepticism, I realize how little you know about them. They have supported me from day one. And I don't even publish on one of their imprints.

David Gaughran said...

Corey Ostman said...

"Joe, can't you just publish your books using the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported license? Or do retailers balk when they don't see the word "copyright" in the front matter?"

You can actually do both. I released Let's Get Digital on Amazon etc. AND released a CC version which is available free on my blog, Scribd etc. People can copy and share (but not profit from it).

Releasing a CC version does not legally impair your ability to release a copyrighted commercial version if you wish (or, indeed, to sell/license those rights in any way if you so chose). Some may argue that releasing a CC version might devalue your rights in a commercial sense, but I beg to differ.

Celeste said...

"It would be interesting to know how many of those 100,000 people who downloaded WS went on to buy other titles of the series at regular price. My guess is not very many."

I can't be the only one who has done it, but I picked up WS, then purchased every single one of the follow-ups. And then bought the Kilborn books as well. And then found this blog thanks to the links in the back of Konrath's books, and since then have purchased books from Ann Voss Peterson, Jeff Strand and Blake Crouch as well. And when I see a guest post from an author that looks interesting, I at least end up downloading samples of their work from Amazon, and tend to follow up and purchase about 50% of the samples I read. And I tend to read at least 3 novels a week.

There are consumers out there who not only want to be entertained, but want to be sure that the actual creator of the work they're reading is the one profiting off of it. If the choice is between paying .99c or less at a pirate/discount site, or paying 4.99 on Amazon and knowing the author is getting their cut, I'm buying on Amazon.

Jimmy D said...

Why does the dollar factor matter so much? If you're happy for a kid to use your stuff for a project, or someone to sample your book or do a 'cover version,' why do you suddenly balk just because money is involved? If you're happy to give your stuff away, you shouldn't claim any right to suggest what's done with it once you do. That's like giving someone a Xmas gift with a set of conditions attached.

Joe Konrath said...

If you're happy to give your stuff away, you shouldn't claim any right to suggest what's done with it once you do.

Actually, I do have that right.

It's called a copyright.

I make a living with my words. If, as soon as I wrote something, everyone in the world could also sell what I just created, that would impede my ability to make a living.

Ask George Romero how much money he missed out on by changing his title to Night of the Living Dead.

File sharing doesn't prevent me from earning money.

Which is why I think copyright laws should be updated. Hence the point of this blog.

Joe Konrath said...

If you're happy to give your stuff away, you shouldn't claim any right to suggest what's done with it once you do.

Actually, I do have that right.

It's called a copyright.

I make a living with my words. If, as soon as I wrote something, everyone in the world could also sell what I just created, that would impede my ability to make a living.

Ask George Romero how much money he missed out on by changing his title to Night of the Living Dead.

File sharing doesn't prevent me from earning money.

Which is why I think copyright laws should be updated. Hence the point of this blog.

Jude Hardin said...

@Celeste: You are the best kind of reader an author could ask for. The absolute best.

I did a guest post here last year if you want to check it out.

Jude Hardin said...

I make a living with my words. If, as soon as I wrote something, everyone in the world could also sell what I just created, that would impede my ability to make a living.

I was just about to tell Jimmy D the same thing.

If someone gives you a CD for Christmas, Jimmy, do you really think it's okay to burn a bunch of copies and sell them at the flea market? That's the kind of thing we're talking about.

Jude Hardin said...

And Celeste, if you would like a free advance Kindle copy of KEY DEATH, my June release this year, in exchange for a review on Amazon, just shoot me an email:

novelistjude at yahoo dot com.

And that goes for anyone else who would like a copy.

Terri Herman-Ponce said...

Konrath's last line says it all. Authors need to worry about the important things that, unfortunately, they've not been worried about for decades. The system is broken and needs fixing, and the only people who truly can drive the change are the authors.

Celeste said...

As a follow-up, I'd like to add that there was a time when I was a broke teenager who had a friend who worked at a bookstore. The majority of my reading back then was in the form of stripped paperbacks, which are sort of the moral equivalent of torrents. But it cemented my love of reading.

Now Amazon makes it so convenient to buy new books, I can't imagine someone stealing them, unless they don't have any money. Downloading samples has replaced the hours I would spend hanging out reading the first few chapters in the book store, and instant delivery means lower-priced titles end up getting purchased without blinking. And the dratted kindle app means I'm reading even more than I was when I had to lug a book around with me! Basically, the ebook revolution has been awesome for me.

Jude Hardin said...

I bought a KIndle ebook for $11.04 yesterday (non-fiction, Big 6 publisher) and I can't even loan it to a friend when I'm finished reading it. To me, that is not only unfair, it's downright stupid. It's practices like this that ENCOURAGE piracy, IMO. And it's practically across the board with major publishers. Lending: Not Enabled.

You can loan a paper book to someone, so you should be able to do the same with an ebook. Lending is enabled on all my books. Can someone explain to me why Big 6 publishers won't allow it?

R J Terrell said...

I agree that the copyright law needs an update. I don't put DRM on any of my books because to me it seems foolish. Some traditionally published authors think it's a matter of, "you can't buy the hardback and then expect to get the same title in paperback for free. You have to buy the paperback." My thinking is, the devices we read ebooks on are like bookshelves. If I want to put my hardback on a brand new bookshelf I bought from the local furniture store to replace my ikea one, I'm entitled to have that book on that shelf. Same with reading devices. Why can't I reformat my nookbook to read on my brand new kindle? It's a book I already purchased, it's just on a different shelf.


And Celeste, you rock. You're the kind of reader authors dream of attracting. :)

Alan Spade said...

Regarding DRM, at the end of the ebook description on the Kindle Store page, Tor (a fantasy publisher owned by Macmillan) enters this sentence : "At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied."

I do the same with each ebook I sell on the Kindle Store : "Ebook sans DRM (verrou numérique)."

I would advise every indie author or small press to do the same in the description field. In this way, we would know which ebooks in the Kindle Store are more easy to lend (or reproduce, to be correct) to a friend .

Anonymous said...

"David Gaughran said...
Scribd etc."

I found Scribd, what websites would the etc be?

David Gaughran said...

Anonymous said...

"I found Scribd, what websites would the etc be?"

That was short-hand for: under the terms of my CC license, others are free to out the CC edition (PDF only) of that book up on their own site for others to download and share (and put up on their own site etc.) - as long as they respect the terms of the license (i.e. attributing me as the author, not changing the contents, not stripping out the CC license terms, and not chargining anyone for it). I know that quite a few people did this, as they emailed me to check it was okay to put the PDF up on their own sites, but I never kept a list or anything like that.

Anonymous said...

Joe,
I see on some of your books copyright - Jack Kilborn. I have been told that only real names can legally be used for copyright. Can you comment?
Thanks

Jude Hardin said...

THE LONG WALK says copyright Richard Bachman...

Jill James said...

You can copyright with a pseudonym but the length is different, I believe.

I have my copyrights as Jill James.

Dang Ren Bo said...

As mentioned by another poster above, you should look into publishing your content under the Creative Commons Derivatives, Non-Commercial license. I, however, would stop short of that if my living depended on selling copies of my work. (It doesn't, so I often publish shorter stuff with share-alike added to the CC license above.)

Anonymous said...


Jill James said...
"You can copyright with a pseudonym but the length is different, I believe.

I have my copyrights as Jill James."


If you use a pseudonym on your copyright, how do you prove you are the pseudonym if your work gets pirated and Amazon takes down your work and demands that you prove you have the rights to the work?

Liz/moth said...

Even if Amazon took your work down they would still have your information, with your real name alongside your tax information etc. linked to the book with the pen name. Amazon are hardly likely to throw all that out while there is a dispute going on. Meanwhile, keep copies of everything you tell them, and of course of your work, all dated, and try not to let paranoia creep in!!

Jude Hardin said...

I just notice that the SNUFF TAG 9 audiobook is currently $2.03. A bargain if I've ever seen one.

No need to get the pirated version when you can have it legit at that price.


Jill James said...

I have a FBN filed with my county, used that to open a checking business account with pseudonym. My pseudonym and real name are on file with my small epress publisher and on my copyright certificates.

Anonymous said...


Liz/moth said...
"Even if Amazon took your work down they would still have your information, with your real name alongside your tax information etc. linked to the book with the pen name. Amazon are hardly likely to throw all that out while there is a dispute going on. Meanwhile, keep copies of everything you tell them, and of course of your work, all dated, and try not to let paranoia creep in!!"


Thanks.

Anonymous said...


Jill James said...
"I have a FBN filed with my county, used that to open a checking business account with pseudonym. My pseudonym and real name are on file with my small epress publisher and on my copyright certificates."


Thanks.

Daniel said...

Don't know if this is relevant, don't know if it's been reported, but it's good news. I was just stumbling around Amazon and found Hugh Howey's WOOL is free. Seize the day! Thank you, Hugh and Amazon. Spread the word.
GLTA.
Daniel Berenson
Freaky Dude Books

Jude Hardin said...

Hugh Howey's WOOL is free

Part One, the first fifty pages or so, has been perma-free for a long time. The entire book is $5.99.

That's one I keep meaning to read, but haven't gotten around to yet.

dhmeir said...

If I placed a book on Amazon and people copied it and gave it away for free I'd be thrilled by the fact someone thought it was good enough to do so.

Then I'd post on my blog how people are copying my work and giving it away free so the entire world can become enlightened. I'd look like a hero.

Seriously.

I have been a professional portrait photographer for 18 years and copyright has always been a major bone of contention for photographers. In our case it's a different deal - you very likely don't want a portrait of my high school senior and I certainly don't want one of your kid.

Most portrait photographers earn their living selling paper - the paper the portraits are printed on. If we let people copy our work and make their own prints - we're out of business.

Unless.

Unless, as Joe says - we can find a way to do it differently. I have - by charging a larger up front fee and giving my clients all their images. Sounds pretty simple and it is.

I am truly intrigued by Joe's business model. Having dabbled in internet marketing for a few years I can say with certainty - FREE works. I give away tons of good free information on my Portrait Expert blog - and then many people buy the stuff I have for sale.

It is important to remember - this does take time and commitment. If you read Joe's Newbie Book there's a post about his promotional schedule. Excruciating. (If I ever get to the point of having to attend seminars, stay up 'til four in the morning drinking and then get up again at seven AND be nice to people; I'm screwed.)

In the end, as difficult and challenging as it can be, I would rather be in control of my own destiny than at the mercy of a large publishing house. (Damn I hope none of the publishers I will eventually submit to read this blog.)

Just my two cents.