Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Time to Reform Copyright

In 1787 the Philadelphia Convention took place between May and September, to address problems in the newly formed USA. The result was the Consitituion, which included Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

From this clause came US copyright law. 

Almost 100 years later, in 1886, the Berne Convention required its signatories to accept copyright or works from other signatory countries. The USA didn't sign it because Berne stated that an inventor or writer automatically owned the rights to their creation, whereas US law said the work must be registered to be protected, via copyright or patent. The US also wasn't in agreement with Berne on moral rights.

Then came the Buenos Aires Convention, which was an alternative to Berne that the USA did sign, and then the Universal Copyright Convention in 1952, which expanded on the Buenos Aires Convention.

The US finally become a  Berne signatory in 1989 with the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988.

The Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights came in 1994. The US signed in 1995. It included this:

National exceptions to copyright (such as "fair use" in the United States) are constrained by the Berne three-step test.

The first two steps of the three-step test are:

Right of Reproduction: (1) Authors of literary and artistic works protected by this Convention shall have the exclusive right of authorizing the reproduction of these works, in any manner or form. (2) It shall be a matter for legislation in the countries of the Union to permit the reproduction of such works in certain special cases, provided that such reproduction does not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and does not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author.

Next came the WIPO Copyright Treaty in 1996 which was implemented in US law by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Besides protecting the copyright holder from unauthorized reporduction of their work, it also criminalzed production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works.

Now, before I get into my feelings about what all of this means, I want to say that I did most of the above research on Wikipedia, and even cribbed most of my final sentence verbatim from the Wikipedia DMCA page. It could be argued that my blantant plagiarism is fair use, but happily I don't need to argue that, because Wikipedia has a Creative Commons License. I don't violate any copyright by copying Wikipedia enteries because they allow it.

Got all that?

So, according to US law, if I write something original, I own that work and own the rights to reproduce and exploit that work.

I cannot copy the works of others unless I get their permission.

I cannot sell the works of others unless I get their permission.

I cannot jailbreak the devices I own (or write programs that allow people to jailbreak their devices).

I cannot plagiarise. 

I cannot strip DRM from works I legally obained.

I can own an online service provider where users can violate the Berne Act and DMCA.

Hmm. Things seem to be getting sort of confusing. So I can buy a paper book, let all of my friends borrow it, then resell it on eBay, and that's perfectly legal according to the first sale doctrine. But I can't lend my ebooks to my friends or my mom without getting the author's permission, and I can't jailbreak my phone or PS3, and I can't strip DRM from ebooks I paid for.

Can I post images I find on the Internet on this blog, like the one above?

Not without permsission. (In the case of the above image of the copyright page, I downloaded it from www.morguefile.com which allows people to copy their free images.)

Can I make copies of songs I own? Yes, I'm allowed to make back-ups, but only if I retain the hard copy of the original. If I ever sell a CD I ripped, the mp3s I own are illegal. Ditto with DVDs. But I can record movies off of TV and put them on DVD for personal use, and I can record songs off the radio legally.

Is it me, or are things becoming sort of cloudy, if not convolted? 

Don't think so? Think this is a simple black and white issue?

Answer these questions:

Have you ever recorded a TV show? That's legal.
Have you ever downloaded a TV show from a filesharing sight that aired last night because you missed it and forgot to record it? That's illegal.
Have you ever found an image on the Internet and put it on your blog without permission? That's illegal.
Have you ever borrowed a book from the library? That's legal.
Have you ever burned a friend's CD? That's illegal.
Have you ever bought a used video game? That's legal.
Have you ever downloaded a videogame without permission from the copyright holder? That's illegal, even if the game is out of print and unavailable for sale.
Do you allow people to lend your ebooks via the Kindle Book Lending feature? That's legal.
Do you use DRM on your ebook titles? That's legal.
Have you ever stripped DRM from an ebook title? That's illegal.
Have you ever jailbroken a device? That's illegal.
Have you ever heard a parody song? That's legal.
Have you written fan fiction? That could be illegal.
Have you every watched a cable TV show at a friend's house? That's legal.
Can you sell ebooks and mp3 songs you don't want anymore? That's illegal.
Have you ever listened to a live band that played cover songs? That's legal.
Have you ever brought a recording device into a concert? That's illegal.

Lot's of gray there, huh?

Here's what I perceive the primary problem with current aspects of US copyright law is: it punishes the consumer and has no proven advantage for the copyright holder.

The world is changing. With the advent of digital media, ebooks can be reproduced indefinitely for zero cost, and destributed for near zero cost.

People are consistenly and routinely breaking copyright laws with no measurable impact on the artist.

People want to be able to do whatever they want with the stuff they buy. They don't want restrictions.

People increasingly treat information and entertainment as attainable for cheap or free.

Stealing something digital does not equate a lost sale.

The problem isn't piracy. It's discoverablilty.

Suing people for filesharing is ineffective. 

Closing filesharing websites is ineffective.

Restricting digital media is impossible. 

Rights holders who don't make their IPs easily available, via fair cost and convenience, are asking to be pirated.

Open source always beats closed source in the long run, even with current copyright law.

DRM gets broken all the time.

Billions of files are shared daily.

Jailbreaking, modding, homebrewing, sampling, remixing, and fan fiction (among other activities) are always going to happen because that's what human beings do.

We're a species that uploads Vines and Harlem Shake videos to YouTube. We make mix tapes. We install Linux on our PCs. We post anonymous stories where Spock nails Harry Potter. We tweet links and pics. We mod Donkey Kong so Mario is naked. We have the majesty that is Beatallica. We share our digital information and entertainment. And I think all of that is good.

I'm not a lawyer. I'm not a judge. But I see a problem in the Berne three-step test. To reiterate:

Right of Reproduction: (1) Authors of literary and artistic works protected by this Convention shall have the exclusive right of authorizing the reproduction of these works, in any manner or form. (2) It shall be a matter for legislation in the countries of the Union to permit the reproduction of such works in certain special cases, provided that such reproduction does not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and does not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author.

I'm reading a conflict between steps 1 and 2. Because I don't think the free reproduction and distribution of my work conflicts with my ability to exploit my work. Anyone can get my ebooks for free, yet I still sell well. My legitimate interests are protected, even with abundant piracy.

Here's what I think the extent of copyright law should be:

Authors of literary and artistic works shall have the exclusive right of authorizing the reproduction of these works, in any manner or form, for the purpose of financial exploitation, for the term of the author's lifetime.

If anyone wants to copy it, or share it, they're free to as long as they aren't doing it to make money. Only the artist (or those the artist assigns rights to) can monetaily benefit from an IP. 

Some might argue that such a thing would seriously impair an artist's ability to make money. If every ebook on Amazon.com for $$$ was available on a mirrorite PirateAmazon.com for free, wouldn't everyone use PirateAmazon.com?

I don't think so. Some readers only get free ebooks on Amazon.com, and never pay for anything. Others go to libraries. Others buy used books. And just about every ebook available on Amazon.com is already available on filesharing sites. Yet many writers, me included, still manage to make decent money, even though all of my books are freely available, both legally and illegally.

The fear of piracy is an irrational fear. I don't know of any reputable study that shows piracy hurts sales.

Trying to restrict and control information and entertainment is short-sighted. Eventually everything can be gotten for free. No one can stop that from happening. As soon as you create something and post it on the World Wide Web, the genie is out of the bottle and not ever going back in. And as much as you stamp your feet and say, "That's not fair! I'm the copyright holder!" it's not going to stop it. The DMCA isn't going to stop it. DRM isn't going to stop it. Stronger copyright laws won't stop it. 

Irritating fans is going to hurt you, not help you. And worrying about people stealing your IP is time better spent worrying about something you have more control over, like the weather.

It's human nature to share. Because we share we have wonderful things like YouTube and Wikipedia. We have Bittersweet Symphony. We have My Sweet Lord. Like it or not, we have Fifty Shades of Grey. What if Monet had been able to copyright the Impressionist Movement so no one else could try it? What if Hume required a license before anyone could teach Empiricism? What if Faraday had patented his homopolar motor and dynamo instead of allowing others to use them freely, resulting in electric motors and generators?

I'm a thriller writer today because I was influenced by thriller writers I read for free at the library, or bought used because I was poor. I don't believe Ed McBain or Robert B. Parker ever made a dime off of me, but they shaped the way I write and what I write about.

Hopefully, somewhere, my books are influencing some new writer. And I don't care if she got them off of Demonoid. 

I believe one of the most authentic and meaningful political movements in the last hundred years is the Pirate Party. Their logo is on the left. I didn't ask for permission to use it, but I'm guessing they'll be okay with that.

The Pirate Party supports civil rights, direct democracy and participation in government, open content, information privacy, transparency, freedom of information, and net neutrality. They oppose censorship and warrantless surveillance. 

All good things, right?

They also support the reform of copyright and patent laws. And I believe they are just as right about that as they are about everything else I just listed.

You can't police the Internet without trampling on rights and restricting freedoms. No one should even be trying to.

Q: But Joe, that's insane! How will authors make money if everything is free?

A: I just incorporated a business that will do just that: pay the artist while the content is free. More soon.

Q: But the Pirate Party believes copyright should only last five years! That's too little!

A: How do you know that's too little unless we try it and see what happens? Personally, I'd prefer a longer copyright. I propose the lifetime of the author. But I wouldn't say no to 30 years. Walk Disney is long dead. Why should his heirs and company continue to make money off of Mickey Mouse? What did they do to earn it? What if we still had to pay Shakespeare's estate to perform his plays? Would he still be the most popular writer in history?

Q: If you're so gung-ho about free, why don't you make everything you write free?

A: At one point or another everything I write has been free, using Amazon promotions. I'm also widely pirated. If someone wants to find my work for free, they can Google it easily.

Q: But are't you losing money when you get pirated?

A: I don't see how. When I was looking for an image to use on this blog, I looked for free images. I wasn't in the market to buy an image (like I do for my book covers). No photographer, anywhere, was going to get any money out of me for a copyright page picture. I was going to keep looking until I found something free.

That's what many pirates do. They download things they wouldn't have ever bought. Or things they are unable to buy because they are too expensive, out of print, or unavailable.

I used to download TV shows like Through the Wormhole via bit torrent, because if I missed an episode there was no way to watch it otherwise. Now I just download them for $1.99 an episode on Amazon. It's easier and faster, and the price is right.

If all copyright holders allowed for fast, easy, cheap downloads, I bet they'd make more money. But what the hell do I know? I'm just a guy who made his backlist downloads fast, easy, and cheap...

Q: Why are you even blogging about this?

A: Because in the past week I was spammed twice by services advertising "help" for authors removing their ebooks from pirate websites, and I also got a copyright registration in the mail for one of my Amazon published books and thought, "Why the hell do I need this? What a waste of time, money, and common sense."

It's 2014. Establishing authorship is as easy as Googling. And the only entities who benefit from DRM and anti-piracy services are those selling DRM and anti-piracy services.

Paranoia is ugly. Get over it.

Q: Wasn't your last blog about keeping old titles visible? Isn't that the opposite of saying people can steal them?

A: If my ebooks became the most pirated ebooks on the Internet, I bet my income would go way up. I should be so lucky.

Q: I think you're just being intentionally provactive for link bait.

A: I don't need link bait, because I don't think fans read this blog. This blog is for writers. And I believe writers would be doing themselves a big favor if they stopped worrying about piracy.

You hear that. Roxana Robinson? When Scott Turow was president of the Authors Guild, he wasted a lot of time, money, and hot air ineffectively trying to combat piracy. Now that you're president, how about you do something worthwhile? Like affordable health insurance for members? Or having members boycott publishers who refuse to raise ebook royalties?

Piracy can't be stopped. And I don't believe it should be stopped. This belief is growing, and will continue to grow until laws are changed. And they will be.

You can't win when it runs contrary to what most people want.

And for the record, even though I shouldn't need to say this, anyone is welcome to repost this entire blog entry--and my entire blog for that matter--for free anywhere they'd like. 

77 comments:

Anonymous said...

Can I reprint and sell your books myself?

Anonymous said...

By the way, it's not a rhetorical question. I'm an active pirate, creating tons of torrents weekly. I always look at posts like this and at blogs like people from Cory Doctorow (I admire both immensely, really) and it always amuse me. Because, really, it's easy to say that I can "repost this blog post anywhere" or "pirate this already free or 99c book anyway" but in the end of the day if I'm caught scanning and uploading something you really depend upon, say, all your books you sell on Amazon, thing would be different. I know, i know, all this are already pirated and available in torrent sites, but I'm talking about a reality where this would be really common ground. Like, without copyright laws *at all*. So, can I officially create a website, under my own name, and sell my own editions of all your books available at Amazon, iBooks and Kobo (who cares about Nook?). Because, in the end of the day, this is what Pirate Party (and all of us tormenters) wants. Whaddusay?

Anonymous said...

tormenters = torrenters

damn autospell

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:16

So, can I take your children, raise them, and call them my own? I didn't create them, but I like them, so I'll just take them and say they are mine.

Joe Konrath said...

Can I reprint and sell your books myself?

As I said in the post:

If anyone wants to copy it, or share it, they're free to as long as they aren't doing it to make money. Only the artist (or those the artist assigns rights to) can monetaily benefit from an IP.

Because, in the end of the day, this is what Pirate Party (and all of us torrenters) wants.

Can you point out where the Pirate Party states it wants to make money selling pirated work? I linked to a post where they said they wanted to reform copyright, but not abolish it.

AFAIK, torrent sites earn money via advertising, not selling torrents. Most pirates I know would be offended by the very idea of selling torrents. And the sites themselves get irriated when invitations to the site are sold.

So, can I officially create a website, under my own name, and sell my own editions of all your books

Why do you think people would go to your website to buy my books, rather than my website, or Amazon?

That's a serious question. Finding readers isn't easy. And when you get fans, they know where to find your work and don't look elsewhere for it.

I did an experiment years ago where a few bestselling author friends and I sold each others' books on our respective websites. We sold very, very few. I just don't see it working.

But you can try an experiment. Shakespeare still sells very well. So do Twain, Doyle, Dickens, and a lot of other public domain writers, and they all outsell me. Print up a bunch of Twain and see how it sells on your website, and let me know how it goes.

Joe Konrath said...

So, can I take your children, raise them, and call them my own?

Don't take his children.

Take mine. Please.

Joseph said...

Lol Joe. Sure to piss people off here.

To make double sure your bottom line isn't impacted all you need to do is make it take an extra step to pirate you.

Easy click on Amazon for 5 bucks versus downloading a torrent program or having to wade through pirate sites and figure out what to download. And then figure out how to get that into your kindle.

Just one extra step, that's all that needed, and piracy wont hurt sales. I know of some video game makers from yesteryear that had their stuff pirated to the point they obviously lost money (raid on bungling bay is what I'm thinking of here), because it was just as easy to pirate as buying.

People are paying for the hassle free experience, DRM tends to go a bit overboard.

Joseph said...

To the pirate guy above...if you could create a website that was as easy to use as Amazon then yes, you might make money selling people's stuff. At which point you wouldn't need to steal, people would give you their stuff to sell, giving you a slice of each sale.

But you are not able to make anything like that. So Amazon will continue to do so. People would rather shop Amazon than use a pirate site for free, let alone any other pay site.

Think about that. It's a truly amazing sociological phenomena. The convenience of a reputable site, people would rather pay to use it than a pirate site.

It's the same with music and movies, they are even easier to find streaming on the web. But both industries are as robust as ever. It flies in the face of reason but the reality is clear for all to see.

Ty for the post Konrath.

Anonymous said...

i think we should be able to copy and sell others works and keep all the money. That's what a real pirate does. THe money made by the owners of pirate sites is immense. Do you know who owns them, by name? Where they live? What they use the money for?

Free use of others works for commercial gain should be the reality. If pirates do it via happy torrenters uploading like crazy, then all persons should be able to do it too, with anyone's work and without sharing proceeds with orginator.

Also, discoverability and distribution are the huge enormous gargantuan advantages any writer has who has been pub'd by a big publisher once, twice or ten times. HUGE advantage that will never be gotten by 99.99% of self publishing authors.. Even if pub'd by a big pub with a 10 or 20k sellthrough of each book [which is low] one still has 10-20k more readers than a self pub'd ONLY author with sales of hundreds. Big publishing has distribution.

Patents on medicine are important things to break so the world can have cheap and effective medicines... books? most are not life saving.

If one were on the great need of first time self published authors, the emphasis would be on bilding distrib networks, for a decent income for writers, not a 'maybe' game, nor thinking copyright changes are the most critical. Most writers are so engorged with ideas they cant live long enough to bring them all. What they need s income to write on, and distribution for a living wage.

Al Sendall said...

Thanks for another informative post Joe.
It never ceases to surprise me that otherwise intelligent people, (one would hope), do not see the futility of digital protection, be it on music, eBooks or software.
I am relatively new to the world of eBooks, but based on more than thirty years involvement with software, the following statement is key.
‘If all copyright holders allowed for fast, easy, cheap downloads, I bet they'd make more money’
Another small consideration is the security factor. Trolling around torrent sites comes with a degree of risk, as does downloading any pirated product. I believe that most readers would prefer to pay if we can get the price/convenience/security equation right. Who wants to walk the extra mile for a free takeaway if the risk is food poisoning?

My first novel is due for release without DRM in a few weeks, and I hope the 'Pirates' get right into it.

antares said...

Outstanding post. Gonna generate a lot of comments and a lot of traffic.

The current copyright duration -- life of the author plus 70 years -- is insane. I think it was driven by Hollywood film makers who wanted exclusive rights to Batman XXVII.

Question: Why should I patent a device (patent valid for only 20 years) when I can copyright the specifications (valid for my life plus 70 years)?

I have always thought the US should not have signed the Berne Convention. By signing, we gave the French control of US copyright law. The French see copyright as an extension of the author's moral rights. In the US, copyright obtains to promote useful arts for the benefit of the public, not for the benefit of the author. These two purposes have no intersection.

Kit Power said...

Useful addition to the debate, as always, Joe. Thanks for this. At the end of the day, I think those of us who do pay for our books or music do it out of a combination of believing it's the right thing to do/wanting to financially support artists, and in the case of Kindle specifically, the awesome convenience of clicking buy and having the book on our reader within 60 seconds. I think you're right that as long as file-sharing is not-for-profit it's probably beneficial rather than a drag on sales.
That said, I can't get behind 5 year copyright - it cuts against a lot of what you've previously said about e-books being 'forever'. The idea that in 5 years someone could take my book and repackage and sell in for 0.01c...

adan said...

Joe,

re "fast, easy, cheap downloads" - using subscription services like Oyster and Scribd seems to be working for me, at least based on my "views" on Scribd (still waiting on sales data from March).

Is this something you might consider also? So far, Be the Monkey's the only title of yours I've been able to find.

Thanks!

Adan

daneyul said...

Full disclosure: I pirate the occasional tv show or movie, never books. Use to get software that way. And have been doing it for more years than most.

That said: My worry, with a true "do what you want, as long as you're not making money" is that, if there was no perceived illegality or stigma--if sites like Pirate Bay weren't fought with fake torrents, take down notices, ISP throttling, RIAA lawsuits for sharers, and being forced to move or constantly come up with new methods, piracy might indeed began to make a very real impact on artists bottom line.

If, without fear, or guilt, someone could post a professional, easy-to-use web site, legal, with torrented downloads accesses from easy, safe HTTP links--and offer pretty much everything for free in a way that appealed to grandma and 12 year olds--with anti-virus scanning and forums and upvotes for good seeds---and NO fear of breaking a law, or getting a virus, or being constantly harassed by the lawyers--then I think the current statistics on how many pirate, and what impact it has, might well change. Currently, the number of those who choose to pirate is severely reduced by the perceived illegality, the sketchiness of even relatively nice sites like Pirate Bay, and the general inconvenience.

Take all that away, and would it be the same situation?

I think there's some purpose to "shaming" the pirate, and making things more difficult or perceived as risky just to make the competition--Amazon, ITunes, whatever--competitive. As Joe said--he used to pirate, now its more convenient to just pay the 1.99 on Amazon.

What if it WASN'T?

Anonymous said...

There's something disingenuous about a guy who was trad published multiple times with a huge platform that he created when piracy wasn't really a thing patting me on the head telling me I shouldn't worry about my books being stolen.

You have no idea what the ultimate impact of piracy will be on people who rely on self-publishing, but I guess it's always easier to gamble with other people's money now that you've made your own.

You're just perpetuating the idea that creative careers have no value. Make a widget and someone steals it? That's theft and they go to jail. Write a book or a song and someone steals it? Well that's art and it's not worth anything.

If it was worth stealing, it was worth paying for. Otherwise why would you bother to download it from a pirate site

Millionaries telling me I should be happy to be poor and that my work has no value. SMH.

Dale Day said...

I really enjoyed reading this. But, I'm as confused now as when I started reading it.

Let me see if I've got this straight:

It seems to me that, unless a work has a © or ® on it and you are NOT using it for financial gain, you are not infringing a copyright.

So, I'm going to post this on some of the political and writing forums I visit daily and hope I'm not in hot water for doing so.

Carlos Cooper said...

I just incorporated a business that will do just that: pay the artist while the content is free. More soon.

You sneaky bastard. You keep dropping little hints about this new venture. Spill the beans, dude :)

Thanks for another good one, Joe.

P.S. to the Anon who just went on a rant about millionaires giving advice: I look forward to hearing Joe's retort.

Steven Cameron said...

"Why should his heirs and company continue to make money off of Mickey Mouse?"

Why should anyone else make money off of Mickey Mouse?

lauralisscott.com said...

An important topic. Did you see the announcement of the Authors Alliance? Very promising. https://authorsalliance.org/intro.html

Joe Konrath said...

i think we should be able to copy and sell others works and keep all the money. That's what a real pirate does

For this debate thing to work you should respond to my earlier points. If you think you can make money from others' works, try it with Sherlock Holmes and see if you can. A simpke, legal test and no one will complain.

FWIW, I bet I could make money off of Holmes, either with an annotated version, or my using him in my universe. If I added to Doyle somehow rather than just copied him, I'd increase the value of the reader experience for some people, who would be willing to pay (esp when you can get most of Holmes for free).

And Joseph above is correct. It will be tough to beat Amazon in the retail game. So you have to work with Amazon, And they police their own site for multiple copies of works.

Joe Konrath said...

Adan, I don't see subsription ebook models as sustainable.

i have a rock star friend who is on Pandora, and the royalties are a joke. For Scribd and Oyster to lure and author like me they'd need to pay comparably to Amazon, Then it becomes a quasi pyramid scheme (Subscribers pay them $10 a month for unlimted downlaods but pay me $2.70 per view means new users who don't read more than two books a month have to pay for those that do,)

Joe Konrath said...

Why should I patent a device (patent valid for only 20 years) when I can copyright the specifications (valid for my life plus 70 years)

I'm not a lawyer, but I assume a copyright only covers things like writing, software, music--artsy stuff. A patent for an invention or medicine protects the actual invention or medicine. So copyrighting the chemical formula for Viagra wouldn't allow people to sell Viagra, it would just prevent others from publishing the formula.

Consider how-to books. A how-to book about how to make a boat doesn't prevent people from making their own boat. Make sense?

Joe Konrath said...

if there was no perceived illegality or stigma--if sites like Pirate Bay weren't fought with fake torrents, take down notices, ISP throttling, RIAA lawsuits for sharers, and being forced to move or constantly come up with new methods, piracy might indeed began to make a very real impact on artists bottom line.

That seems like an obvious prediction, but we simply just don't know. Do laws prevent people from doing illegal things? The war on drugs is a giant failure because many don't mind breaking the law. Laws don't stop them. But when pot is legal, I expect to see more users.

The trick would be to somehow allow authors to make money off of free downloads. Which I think is not only possibly, but likely.

Joe Konrath said...

There's something disingenuous about a guy who was trad published multiple times with a huge platform that he created when piracy wasn't really a thing patting me on the head telling me I shouldn't worry about my books being stolen.

You mean, I'm disengenuous when I sign my name to my posts, and some anonymous poster is being completely up front and genuine? :)

I was being pirated before the Kindle was invented. I also had many of my ebooks--as pdfs--available for free on my site. It never hurt my sales.

And being trad published held me back and prevented me from making money. If you read my blog you'd no that. It gave me no advantages, but it did prevent me from a lot of sales and royalties. I didn't start making great money until I got my backlist back from the legacy industry.

That said, you shouldn't worry about your books being stolen. You should worry about being so insignificant that no one bothers to steal you.

You have no idea what the ultimate impact of piracy will be on people who rely on self-publishing,

Uh... I rely on self-publishing. Remember?

but I guess it's always easier to gamble with other people's money now that you've made your own.

I'm gambling with my own money now by saying I don't mind being pirated. Do you think pirates won't notice my blog post?

I've been gambling for years, by the way, and I've put my money where my mouth is.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/05/piracy-again.html

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/05/steal-this-ebook.html

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/01/booty-call.html

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/04/fair-use.html

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2009/08/great-ebook-experiment.html

Ty Johnston said...

Joe, I read every single word of your post, yet the only word I can remember is "Beatallica."

Joe Konrath said...

You're just perpetuating the idea that creative careers have no value.

Can you point out where I say that, or anything close to that?

Make a widget and someone steals it? That's theft and they go to jail. Write a book or a song and someone steals it? Well that's art and it's not worth anything.

Do you really want to get into a philosophical argument about the intrinsic value in things? I think not. But surely you see a difference between a physicial object that costs money to manufacture and ship, and some 1s and 0s that costs nothing to reproduce or deliver.

If I take your car, you no longer have a car. If I copy your ebook, you can't even successfully prove you lost money, because file sharing doesn't eqate a lost sale, as I explained in my post.

If it was worth stealing, it was worth paying for. Otherwise why would you bother to download it from a pirate site

Exactly! That's why I went to morguefiles.com to get that image I used! Because I didn't want to pay for it because it wasn't worth stealing!

Wait... that's actually the opposite of what you said.

BTW, I admitted to pirating Through the Wormhole. Well, I now buy downloads on Amazon AND I also have all the available seasons of that show on DVD. So I'm double-buying content I once got for free.

I'm not alone:

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2009/apr/21/study-finds-pirates-buy-more-music

http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/Another-Study-Pirates-Are-Industrys-Biggest-Paying-Customers-122852

Studies abound where pirates admit they buy content, and lots of it.

Where are the reputable studies that show how piracy hurts sales? Does anyone have one?

Millionaries telling me I should be happy to be poor and that my work has no value.

Maybe your work has no value because no one wants it? Just sayin'.

And don't put words in my mouth and accuse me of arguments I didn't make. It's lame.

Joe Konrath said...

the only word I can remember is "Beatallica."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTjMRhZ0-GI

Best. Song. Ever. Especially if you like Danzig as well.

Joe Konrath said...

Why should anyone else make money off of Mickey Mouse?

I tried to make that point in my post. I'll try to distill it.

The ability for human beings to improve upon ideas, concepts, arts, sciences, and pretty much every human endeavor requires access to those endeavors.

We protect parody as fair use, but can't develop better drugs if they are based on a similar patented drug. Simple inspiration can be called copyright or patent infringement, and how often have we missed out on important discoveries or art because someone couldn't afford a license?

I'd love to see Warner Brothers make a Mickey Mouse cartoon, and I'd love to see Batman fight Iron Man, and I think I'd write a pretty damn good James Bond novel. But none of that will happen because of copyright.

And yet, I can rewrite Wuthering Heights and add zombies, or do a musical version of Romeo and Juliet with street gangs. Shouldn't we have more of that kind of thing?

How is letting heirs benefit from copyright after a creator's death fair? And to be honest, copyright is more about benefiting giant companies than it is heirs. Or artists.

Alan Tucker said...

It seems to me there are different levels to this issue and people easily get confused as to which one they are talking about. These are all referred to as piracy:

1) Breaking DRM on an ebook you purchased so you can copy it to another device or give it to a friend.

2) Copying a book you either purchased or got for free to a torrent (download) site and offering it to others for free.

3) Copying a book you either purchased or got for free to a torrent (download) site and offering it to others for purchase and you keep the proceeds.

4) Copying a book you either purchased or got for free and putting your own name on it as the author/creator and selling it to others.

Lots of people are okay with 1 or 2, but not 3 or 4. Others seem to think all of it is okay. So, before everyone grabs their torches and pitchforks, let's all try to be clear on what we're either angry about or defending.

Personally, I try to think about ebooks in the same way as paperbacks. Once a paperback is sold, I have absolutely no control over what happens to it. It might immediately thrown in the trash, or it might be bought and sold a hundred times in garage sales and used book stores. Is it really worth agonizing over those potential "lost sales"? And, as far as example 4 above goes, yes it sucks, but it happens all the time in Hollywood and the music industry. Does that make it right? No. Is it possible for me to fight it? Probably not.

McVickers said...

Pure anecdotal, but I've found that a lot of the people who get super angry about their books being pirated are authors who are selling 1-5 copies a day (tops). Successful authors just don't have time to bother sending out DCMA letters. There are probably exceptions, but based on all the writing boards I regularly visit, this seems to be the case.

It's also pretty obvious that all the anonymous folks posting here pretending to be pirates fit that category. VERY RARELY do I see successful indie authors wasting their time "combating" Internet piracy.

w. adam mandelbaum esq. said...

I knew if I lived long enough, I would disagree with some things you say Joe. First of all, how can you possibly know if copyright infringers are NOT making money off of distributing your works? Second,why should heirs to copyrighted works continue to profit from them? Because it is the intellectual property of the decedent, and they are his/her heirs--that's why. You have kids--why should they profit from tangible assets you leave behind? Cause they were yours. Intellectual property generates royalty income, why is that so different than a portfolio of dividend stocks that generate income vis a vis your heirs' entitlement to the income produced therefrom (had to throw in a lawyer word for gravitas). Because of a creative element? Don't buy the argument. I think there is something on YouTube by Harlan Ellison re: copyright and the internet--re: comparison to stealing a car, and then leaving it so someone else can steal it. Free unauthorized distribution might help promote a work, (in fact many years ago I defended a copyright infringement, where paid unauthorized distribution benefited the original artist)but the danger is that free can easily become paid and undetected. I for one, both as attorney and author (both trad and indie published) want strong copyright laws. Of course for a reality check, most victims of infringement are not going to have the doubloons to pay for a legal challenge anyway.

Burritoclock said...

This argument is just like gay rights, abortion, and other debates that turned into a religion at some point. Everything will work it's self out when the old people die off and take their outdated locked in views with them.

James Gill said...

Congratulations on getting closer to where Cory Doctorow, Creative Commons and many others arrived at over a decade ago. The world of "copyright" out there is so much broader and creative than the narrow, hoary old wikipedia article you cribbed.

Joe Konrath said...

First of all, how can you possibly know if copyright infringers are NOT making money off of distributing your works?

They are.

Amazon considered booting me out of KDP Select because they thought I was not exclusive. I explained they were pirate sites.

Second,why should heirs to copyrighted works continue to profit from them? Because it is the intellectual property of the decedent, and they are his/her heirs--that's why.

I didn't get anything when my father died, nor did I expect anything.

If my kids think they're getting everything when I kick off, they're mistaken. I don't mind helping my children, but I'm not going to support them into adulthood, even after I die. Warren Buffet has the right idea. You want to make money? Earn it. Then you'll appreciate it. Otherwise you won't.

The desire to care for your children should be tempered byt he desire to spoil them. And an adult without a job who lives off of money they didn't earn is spoiled--and probably unhappy. Holy sense of entitlement. :P

Intellectual property generates royalty income, why is that so different than a portfolio of dividend stocks that generate income vis a vis your heirs' entitlement to the income produced therefrom

As it stands now, there is no difference. But there will be a difference when copyright law changes.

The concept of ownership comes into play here. Stocks are representations of capital investments. Goods are tangible and inheritible.

Services are not. I cannot inherit the years my dad worked at his job, except in cases where he saved the money (or bought stock). He worked an hour, got paid for an hour, and either spent it or saved it. If he saved it, his heirs can benefit. If he didn't, they get nothing.

Why should my heirs inherit anything from the hours I worked beyond what I saved?

We're in a very interesting moment in history. Ebooks don't ascribe to supply and demand. They are forever, with an infinite sales capactiy. Why does the rest of the world get paid weekly and then their money is gone, and I get paid forever? Especially when access to my ideas an art could spur other creators?

I for one, both as attorney and author (both trad and indie published) want strong copyright laws.

Of course you do. Why wouldn't you? I want Dark Lord to be available year round and a three way. I doubt either will happen. And I doubt copyright law will remain unchanged, because more and more people are disregarding it.

Prohibition doesn't work. Ever. You can't tell people to stop doing something they want to do. That they feel entitled to do. That they are genetically predisposed to do (sharing is genetic).

We have a whole generation of readers who actively fileshare, and a whole generation of writers who despise DRM. How do you predict the future will play out?

Joe Flynn said...

w. adam mandelbaum esq. said...Of course for a reality check, most victims of infringement are not going to have the doubloons to pay for a legal challenge anyway.

Oh, so true, WAM. Try suing a big Hollywood studio for copyright infringement and see what happens. The side with more money and more lawyers wins.

Joe Konrath said...

The world of "copyright" out there is so much broader and creative than the narrow, hoary old wikipedia article you cribbed.

That hoary old article was updated by ten times in the past week by ten different people. It's a great example as to why copyright law is archaic. Crowd sourcing keeps Wikipedia current, unlike previous incarnations of encyclopedias that were copyrighted.

Joe Konrath said...

The side with more money and more lawyers wins.

We're talking about filesharing here, not Hollywood filming your book without permission.

Copyright reform is needed to better differentiate between non-profit sharing and plagiarism.

Colleen said...

You're wrong, Joe - I'm a fan (and NOT a writer), and I check your site daily because I'm a fan of your fiction AND your nonfiction.

So let me weigh in here. I will probably never buy a book for $10 again. I'll get it at the library if I absolutely must read it, or I'll get it at a used bookstore, or I'll borrow it. Or I just won't read it. I MIGHT pay $5 for something, but I won't buy anything now until I know it is something I really want to read.

So my method is to find new (to me) authors via places like Bookbub and Pixel of Ink for a free book - a free sample, if you will. If I like it, I'll go buy more, assuming the price is reasonable TO ME. Right now, that pretty much means $3.99 or less. So discoverability is definitely key.

I discover new writers mostly because I find something interesting on a book-oriented website, or friends email me. Nearly all my family and good friends are avid readers, and we share fanatically. (Christmas presents among my family used to consist of paper bags full of used books. YAY!) And we all buy a lot of books - for ourselves and as gifts.

When I search for free books, I try to use reputable sites; but I don't know that they all are. Still, I don't see a great difference between them and the library and used bookstores - they're places I find new authors. Once I'm buying? It's Amazon for me. I love the one-click purchasing.

Bottom line: I'm willing to pay, just not what I'd call unreasonable prices. If the price is unreasonable, I don't blame anyone for searching for a lower price. And while I believe I should own what I buy - and then be able to sell it or give it away or loan it - I don't think I should be able to replicate it and sell multiple copies, thus depriving the author of that income.

Joe Konrath said...

I check your site daily because I'm a fan of your fiction AND your nonfiction.

Thanks! :)

selenite said...

One caveat on your proposal: I'd prefer "Twenty years or life of the author, whichever is longer." I might get hit by a bus the day after my novel is published. I'd like my wife and kids to get a bit back for all the hours they gave up so I could scribble in the corner.

Joe Konrath said...

"Twenty years or life of the author, whichever is longer."

I like that.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Provocative post, as usual, Joe. I *am* an intellectual property attorney, and I agree that things will have to change. Careful distinctions between profit-making vs. benign sharing activity will have to be carved out. Price, convenience, and secure interactions will all be part of what makes a legit site more attractive than a pirate site.

I self-publish and publish others. I'm in the tens of thousands of copies range for my ebooks, though I'm not Big Pub. To Anonymous at 3:00 a.m.--we don't care about distribution in the sense you're talking about. Why would we care about print when bookstores are struggling and you can make far more with ebooks? You're thinking old-fashioned thoughts.

Bottom line for me is that it takes constant effort--and very good books--to make money. I suggest that most "pirates" don't care to make their systems as convenient and secure as the legit sites, because... after all... they're pirates.

Aargh!

Alan Spade said...

I think daneyul have made a great point.

You are an interesting paradox, Joe, because as a self-published author, you have made huge money by discrediting, to some extent, the inherent value of your work.

And you have showed in the past you wanted to go further in this way. When you wanted to put ads in ebooks, for instance, I had the feeling at some point, the ads would be more valuable than the books.

Because the value of art is so hard to define and so subjective, you seem to rally to the state of mind of businessmen who thinks art has no value at all.

It's an incredible paradox, because you also valiantly fight businessmen who screw authors.

Don't get me wrong: as an indie author, I use permafree and free promo to gain readers. I do it reluctantly, because I believe in the value of education, and I think it's education that can give our children a sense of the value of intangible things.

I would accept a world where all ebooks were free and authors would gain money with ads (or other means), if all intellectual property became free and paid with ads (or other means).

I have a feeling this would'nt work, though...

John Ellsworth said...

Ironic how the one guild charged with keeping inviolate the rights of authors is itself founded on the writes of others. We're talking lawyers, here, the largest group of licensed plagiarizers in the world who are, in fact, encouraged to plagiarize, to rely on precedent and quote it freely in their own writings, who lift templates and pleadings from each other as the need arises--all of it done in fashioning the justice which they seek when other than the learned at the bar attempt theft of another's work. You said you like irony? How's that irony?!

As a writer of legal fiction I strain to remember, daily, that the words must come from me, that the words cannot come from Joe or any other.

Such being the case, I do hope the right to profit--at least in the first instance--remains mine alone.

Fun to be here!

Joe Konrath said...

you seem to rally to the state of mind of businessmen who thinks art has no value at all. It's an incredible paradox, because you also valiantly fight businessmen who screw authors.

I think art is a business, and it has value. But who pays for the art is open to interpretation.

Being a businessman doesn't mean you have to screw the artist. I don't see why being fair is so damn difficult, in business or in life.

J.R. Pearse Nelson said...

I'm not worried about people stealing my books. I've given away many thousands of books in the past three years. Most of my IP is still in my brain, and there's no stealing what I'm writing now and what I will write. But gaining readers because they found your book somewhere is a possibility. And as you mentioned, discoverability is the problem.

Interesting debate. I don't want to see copyright diminish to a term less than the author's life, or possibly 10 or 20 years beyond it. But I've wondered how in the world my heirs -- weird word to use when you're deep in the red. lol -- will want with my copyrights 50 years after my death.

Alan Spade said...

But if it's not the reader who pays for the art, is it not some kind of subvention? Or sponsoring by some power?

I'd rather not return to the period of Michelangelo and the Italian prince who sponsored him, because it would mean that favor would only be awarded to a very very few chosen.

And for businessmen, it is more easy to forget the human side of things if you only have to deal with numbers. Look at traders, for example: empathy is prohibed in this job, yet the consequences of speculation have direct impact on many beings.

David R Anderson said...

Joe I agree with your basic argument that copyright should simply prevent people making money off work that's not their own and not prevent reasonable access to entertainment. That the bigger issue is undiscovered art over exploited art. However I do think that in focusing on books you may be neglecting the factor of capital investment. An independent film maker may have invested thousands of dollars getting a doco completed and find that everyone's talking about the content but have neither paid for nor care about who brought the information to them. All because pirated copies went viral.

Craig Hansen said...

Joe, you wrote:

I didn't get anything when my father died, nor did I expect anything....The desire to care for your children should be tempered by the desire to spoil them. And an adult without a job who lives off of money they didn't earn is spoiled--and probably unhappy. Holy sense of entitlement. :P

While you make a compelling case, the counter-point to your logic is this:

The concept of "enlightened self-interest" informs most of what is categorized as common law.

Current copyright law exists in a way that protects any novels or other IP I write for "life plus 70."

Reasonable people can disagree or agree on whether the length of term is appropriate or not. I think it might be a bit lengthy, but, contrary to your position, I would argue that the length-of-term should outlast the author. By how long is where I think the discussion should take place, but that's me.

And here's why: mistrust of large corporations and corporate greed.

Craig Hansen said...

Let me paint you a scenario.

As long as Stephen King draws breath, movie studios have to compete with each other to secure the rights to make a film version of anything he writes. He makes dang good money because of this, and because of his work ethic, I believe he's earned every penny.

But King has produced a lot of IP already, so when does it become "enough" in the eyes of corporations? When has King reached the point where he's "outlived his usefulness" and is now just a financial barrier to Hollywood suits looking to cash in on his IP?

I mean, if all "for-profit" licensing rights cease once King's heart stops beating, then you'd have two opposing interests: the corporations who own rights to King's IP would probably want him to continue living, but what about other publishers and film studios? It seems they'd have an interest in King's demise as early as possible, because suddenly ANY publisher or film studio could publish his work, or adaptations of it, and without having to pay a penny for the right.

Craig Hansen said...

On the opposite end of the scale: think of a relatively-poor author whose work begins when he's retired and he only gets a few books completed before expiring. He gets, say, a trilogy of novels published, puts them on the 'zon, then gets a costly disease like cancer, before his works really take off, and dies deeply in debt.

Upon his death, somehow lets say his work is discovered. Who's profiting?

Under your rules, Amazon would go from keeping 30 percent to keeping 100 percent overnight, just as the work starts finding an audience and selling well. Other retailers could pick up the works in unauthorized editions and profit from it, too, because Amazon no longer has exclusive rights... simply because the author's heart stopped beating.

Film studios notice. Movies are made. Merchandising. TV series. Because the guy was maybe a genius, but he died before anyone realized it.

So you have TV networks and movie studios and publishers making a crap-ton of money off this dead author's work, starting from the very moment he began pushing daisies.

And the author's family? Doesn't get a cent, even though they have maybe seven-figure medical bills due to him passing from cancer after an expensive fight. And those heirs have no way out of that debt, under your copyright rules, because all financial claim on his IP expired when he did. Corporations get even richer off him while his family doesn't get a lick of help, because they now "have to earn it themselves."

Does that seen consistent with enlightened self-interest to you?

I'm not a big fan of piracy, but it doesn't worry me too much, either, when it happens on the level of a few people who can afford internet and tech devices, but somehow can't afford $2.99 for an eBook they want to read. It's not the rosiest scenario, but it's not something that makes me lose sleep.

Same goes for fan-fiction. A few authors who are inspired by anything I might write, who go on to write something based off my characters and plots might not thrill me if they're making money off it and I'm getting nothing, but it's not something I'd lose tons of sleep over, either.

However....

The second scenario I had in mind is loosely based on Steigg Larsen. I don't know if he died a costly death, but I do know 90 percent or more of his success happened after he died. To suggest that his family should stop benefiting the moment his heart stopped beating is, to me, disturbingly overbalanced to the interests of big corporations.

Here's where "enlightened self-interest" comes into play for me.

I'm closer (in theory) to a Steigg Larsen than Stephen King, in terms of success. I'm still early in my writing career and haven't found a lot of success yet. It's entirely possible I could suffer a heart attack or something and die before my works gain traction and become successful. Quite easily, I could die before I become successful.

But if my works DO become successful after my death, why should complete strangers and faceless corporations experience ALL the benefit while I leave behind a bunch of unpaid medical bills because I died before my work became popular?

So, that's why I think some post-death protection should be there. Even if it's reduced from 70 years to, say, 10 years. Those who survive me (my wife, any kids we might have, charities I might name in any will I leave behind) should have SOME participation in any post-death success my works might experience. At least for a while.

NOTE: I've been working on a satire-ish novel based off the idea of the lives of authors becoming pawns in corporate licensing of IP, because it's such a deliciously-paranoid fear. I think it could be funny.

Anyway, that's my two cents.

ED Martin said...

Very informative article, made better by bringing in Beatallica. The local radio station plays them occasionally, and it's impossible to be in a bad mood after hearing some of their songs.

Anonymous said...

5 years is too short. Essentially what will happen in 5 years is that each book will be copied not by 1, but by 100 other people and uploaded to Amazon for .01 or .05 or whatever. Nobody's going to find your 2.99 or 3.99 original and pay for it when the same content is there for .01.

Life of author +70 years is too long, but 5 years is too short. Personally I think it should be life of the author. I see nothing wrong with the author holding rights to the product of their own labor for their lifetime.

Anonymous said...

patrice wrote: I self-publish and publish others. I'm in the tens of thousands of copies range for my ebooks, though I'm not Big Pub. To Anonymous at 3:00 a.m.--we don't care about distribution in the sense you're talking about. Why would we care about print when bookstores are struggling and you can make far more with ebooks? You're thinking old-fashioned thoughts.

good that youre self pub'd even though could do better in DISTRIB. I didnt say bookstores. My specialty in law school was IP. And you're right, it is a changing scene, including legal def of 'distrib' which had always meant to separate, divide up and assign. Readership is gotten by those means first order. One second order joint is bookstores. There aer many more means for distrib the fact that you even have a something for sale besides brick/mortar

Aaron Speca said...

There are studies that show a reduction in sales in the music industry starting around 1999, which is when piracy started to get pretty big. There is also data that shows that concert revenue started to climb more steeply around the same time. Movie ticket prices, which had been flat for about the prior ten to fifteen years, also started to rise more steeply in 1999, doubling in about ten years. So one could make an argument that those industries were able to raise prices for other products to make up the loss of sales revenue and the market did indeed support it (although they've lost a lot of my personal business because I can't afford to go to concerts and movies like I was able to back then). The issue with books is that authors do not have other revenue streams - it's book sales and ... what else?

I can agree with you that combative efforts, to date, have been pretty ineffectual in the grand scheme.

Joe Konrath said...

There are studies that show a reduction in sales in the music industry starting around 1999, which is when piracy started to get pretty big.

If that's true, there are many possible explanations other than piracy. Such as the music industry being slow in selling mp3s until Apple became the largest distributor. And music companies forcing customers to buy $17 CDs even though they wanted a single song.

Also, the RIAA is widely known to be full of shit with their scare tactics and so-called facts.

Watch this. It's hilarious:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZadCj8O1-0

w.adam mandelbaum said...

Re:Ellsworth comment-yes, lawyers use legal precedent & quote from cases where the decision, being government generated, is public domain. Yes, we use boilerplate language that others used,for having been litigated, its legal meaning has been determined. It is somewhat ironic-and Ellsworth makes a good point, that we beg, borrow and steal contract language from other documents--but who the hell knows who came up with the original lingo in the first place.

Anonymous said...

w. adams

i think same is true for cooking recipes. Not sure, but seems like contract forms, you're not dealing with creative ideas, but ingredients avail to all. Contracts/ tort law is more like ingredients in recipes than like a precis, creative burst for a novel.

Anonymous said...

@ Craig Hansen - Good points.

John Ellsworth said...

Very provocative topic, Joe. You know, laws, in theory, including copyright law, are passed in order to establish/reflect public policy. In other words, the U.S. Congress saw fit to say "life plus 70" and, like all legislation, we mere citizens will never know what inputs (particularly from lobbyists) went into that decision. It's like saying the speed limit is 25. Uh, why 25? Why not 26? So you make a good point, that "life plus 70" must be based on good social policy or it's useless. Your discussion is a good place to begin.

The bottom-line is that that social policy is realistically not going to be changed by Congress anytime soon. While the pirates (the other pirates, the ones outside Congress) might effect a modification in fact, laws like this tend to stay around forever.
Thanks,
John Ellsworth.

Aaron Speca said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron Speca said...

"If that's true, there are many possible explanations other than piracy. Such as the music industry being slow in selling mp3s until Apple became the largest distributor. And music companies forcing customers to buy $17 CDs even though they wanted a single song... Also, the RIAA is widely known to be full of shit with their scare tactics and so-called facts."

First, I agree that the market is complex and trying to pin down any up-or-down movement to any single cause is extremely difficult. I suspect that there were multiple factors at work - but I believe piracy could have been one of them.

Second, the particular study I am referring to was actually a study done in Norway. The reason I became aware of it was because a pro-piracy advocate was using that study to say that piracy had actually caused music industry revenue to increase. I used the same study to show that while overall music industry revenue had increased, sales (which included both digital AND physical sales) had decreased significantly while other sources of revenue had increased just as significantly in concert (pun intended) with an acceleration of increases in concert ticket prices. My point to him was this - you can use the same study to make the case for both a positive and a negative effect on the music industry.

The facts appear to be that SALES have gone down. There are also fewer people that identify themselves as professional musicians despite overall population increases. Is this necessarily a good thing?

The reason I bring up music in this discussion is to contrast that industry with the book publishing industry. Musicians have alternative sources of income within their field. Authors' alternatives are severly limited in comparison.

Do I take at face value the stories of authors that have sold just 200 copies but discover their title has been downloaded illegally over 5000 times? And then they get asked by "fans" when their next book in the series is coming out? Yeah, I do. Maybe they are just anecdotes, maybe not. But even if they are just anecdotes, these authors have certainly been hurt by the practice.

You also make a comparison with purchasing a paperback copy of a book and then reselling, lending, or gifting that book once it is read. I feel there is a significant flaw in this comparison in that once a physical copy of a book is transferred like this, it becomes unavailable to the original owner. With a digital e-book, once it is uploaded to a file share site, every upload and download creates a new COPY of that book and the original is still in the possession of the original owner. These copies proliferate rather than transfer, and I feel this is a difference that should not be ignored.

Just as an aside, I've seen what is either a proliferation of sites that CHARGE for pirated copies, or simply myself becoming more aware of them. I believe from your post that you would certainly be against this practice even if you are in favor of free file sharing.

Understand that I do enjoy visiting your blog and find many of your posts very insightful and fun to read. I simply disagree with some of your points in this particular post, and especially with minimizing or marginalizing the impact to people trying to make a living. I do agree with a couple of things - fighting the tide in order to maintain the status quo is very likely a losing battle; the industry needs to do SOMETHING in order to make "non-piracy" options more attractive. I'm hopeful, and looking forward to seeing that happen.

Joe Konrath said...

that piracy had actually caused music industry revenue to increase.

It isn't easy to prove correlation and causation. The rise in pirating coincided with the adoption of a new tech (digital files). And record companies were very slow to adapt to that tech (so slow that a computer company, Apple, with no previous stakes in music, became the #1 music retailer int he world.)

We'll never know if piracy played a part. But my bet is that stupidity played a huge part.

Silas Payton said...

I tend to agree with Craig Hansen in regards to protecting your rights after death. All authors have the right to drop copyright if they choose, but if they created something they should be able to retain the IP as long as they live -- we're not talking life-saving meds or technology here.

I also believe that if profit is still being made off selling ebooks an author has created, why shouldn't their heirs make some of that. Why should a large corporation continue to profit. And again, an author if they choose, can always put in their Will that upon their death, they would like their IP to be open market. For that matter, they could also state in their Will that once they die, as a thank-you to the big corporation that helped with their success, they can leave the rights to them if they wish.

Joe, I thought you were working on recommendations for leaving the rights to your family in a recent post (sometime in 2013). Have you changed your mind on this?

Silas

DeeJay said...

Joe - while it may be legal to listen to a live band perform cover songs in a bar, it may not be legal for the bar and the band to have them performed. There's a lawsuit against a bar file by BMI a couple of months back on this very issue. http://www.onstagemagazine.com/bmi-sues-bar-for-cover-band-show-over-1-5m/

AlanD said...

WE NEED A NEW BUSINESS MODEL FOR THE MUSIC INDUSTRY (Time To Decriminalize Music File Sharing)

As you know music fans visit web sites where they download folders filled with songs from albums in the MP3 format. Then, one at a time, they play the songs they downloaded in WinAmp or Real Player.

If the music fan likes a song, he adds the song to his iTunes Player. If the music fan dislikes the song he drops it into his recycle bin. Over time, the music fan will build some number of playlists in his iTunes and he will accumulate a substantial number of music files.

Here comes the hard part. Someone, a software engineer, has to write a software package purpose built for use by Apple and Amazon and all the on line music companies. When the music fan links up with the package on line. The software scans the meta data in all of his music files, his MP3's (could be FLAC files also).

First, the software package breaks the music fans music files into two main categories:

1. MP3's showing a receipt for payment in the meta data.
2. MP3's not showing a receipt for payment in the meta data.

Next, the software package presents a bill at say 97 cents a song to the music fan. If the fan pays with a credit card, the software package adds a receipt to the meta data of all of the MP3's in question. In this way we can decriminalize music file sharing and, at the same time, restore the profit margins to the music industry.

(Feel free to run with this thread as if it were your own)

Have A Nice Day!

V. M. Black said...

So, it should be fine to steal stuff for your own use or to give away to others? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

When you write posts such as this one, it throws every opinion you've ever expressed into the "probably nuts" bucket. Well, I stop by here every year or two, just to be sure you're still ranting happily, and irrationally, along. Congrats! You're doing fine.

William J. Thomas said...

AlanD, that idea feels way too invasive to me.

Plus, I see two issues. First, it would be a matter of hours before hackers figured out how to add/remove receipts from the meta data in digital music.

Second, what's my recourse for getting my credit card charged $77.60 for the 80 songs I legally purchased that have no receipt meta data because of a software glitch? Or hacker attack? So then I have to spend hours/days proving my 'innocence' to get a refund?

Forget it. I want no part of that mess.

William J. Thomas said...

V.M. Black, I don't think anyone is arguing the morality of 'stealing' ebooks or digital music.

The larger point is that it doesn't necessarily harm the artist. Exposure is everything.

Back in the day when I was heavy into music file sharing, the files I downloaded are ones I never would have purchased anyway. Does that make it right? No. BUT, if I did like what I heard then I supported the artist from then on and *purchased* new music and concert tickets. Without being able to sample the illegal files, that wouldn't have happened.

Same with ebooks. If I liked what I read, then I started purchasing new material. If I didn't, then no harm done, since I wouldn't have purchased it to sample anyway.

These days doing the file downloading thing is too much of a pain in the arse. It's so easy to sample CD's from the library, or on YouTube - almost any song or band.

And it's so easy to sample ebooks on Amazon or get free ebooks from BOOKBUB/PIXEL OF INK and the like. But I will fully admit to sharing many ebooks by Joe with family & friends *for free*. Some have then become fans, and started purchasing his stuff. See how that works?

Craig Hansen said...

A little interesting that Joe responds to the easy-to-pick-apart posters and replies, but I write a thoughtful, three-post response bringing up valid concerns with the idea that all income to an author ceases upon death (no income to the surviving family at all) as being especially weighted in favor of big companies and corporate interests and... no response from him at all.

Too bad. I was interested in how he saw it balancing out under his proposal.

Mr. RCollins said...

Creative Commons already allows the author/artist/creator to assign these exact same rights on their creations. No change in copyright law required.

I do agree that current copyright law is way too long. Do you know why Disney had to buy Pixar? Pixar was able to put out hit after hit of original material. Disney couldn't compete because they were so bent on milking everything they could out of their existing copyrighted material.

Shorter copyright would promote the progress of the arts and science.

Pete Miller said...

Joe - I think there is something you missed here - CORPORATIONs and copyright. The copyright lasts for the life of the owner plus 70 years. Walt Disney may have died, but Disney Studios can't die. Movie Studios own the copyrights. Will these copyrights in a company name ever lapse?

Charmaine T. Davis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Austin said...

Joe, you're a really cool guy. I - ahem - collected most of your books via giveaways, though I've purchased a few here and there.

I'm a Pirate. Not a scurvy rat. Not a pillager, a member of the Pirate Party.

5 years is a tad short. 20 years is fairly good. Eric Flint suggests 40 or life - whichever is longer.

Flint's proposal is pretty decent.

The rest of the commenters can sod off.

Also, making Copyright non-transferable would be good. Why should #bigcorporation benefit off of the hard work of indies? Why should #stupidfamily horde wealth from fans?

Broken Yogi said...

"Why should anyone else make money off of Mickey Mouse?"

Here's why. Stories and characters who become popular mythic icons in our culture have taken an important step outside of their creator's mind and life. Mickey Mouse is a perfect example. It certainly makes sense to have a period of total copyright protection for specific works, maybe thirty years, maybe the lifetime of the creator. But past a certain time frame, that creation no longer belongs to its creator, it belongs to the culture it has become a part of. It takes on a life within that culture, and people ought to be able to creatively use that life.

Which is why I think at this point, Mickey Mouse ought to be public domain, at least as a character. Maybe Disney's original works could still be protected as IP, so that you can't just sell old Mickey Mouse movies. But you ought to be able to create your own original Mickey Mouse stories, novels, movies, etc.

Same goes for a lot of things. The purpose of copyright is not to protect the creator forever, but to foster creativity within the culture. Past a certain points, these never-ending IP laws actually dampen cultural creativity. Where that line is passed is hard for me to say, but the life of the creator is certainly the furthest reach I can see any justification for.

It's important to realize that stories that pass into the realm of cultural mythology literally need to be creatively retold in all kinds of new and interesting ways. That's how it went with the ancient Greeks. They took the same mythic stories and told them over and over again. If they'd had IP laws, it would have dampened the creativity of their writers and dramatic producers. And we'd all be poorer for it. The fact that no one but Disney can make a Mickey Mouse story of any kind lessens his cultural power and creative meaning. And we are indeed poorer for that across the board.

Anonymous said...

Common people are basically honest and will pay for what they want, especially when it's cheap. The sociopaths and psychopaths are the one's that rather steal than pay.