Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fair Use

This popped up in my Twitter feed:

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.