Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Copyright and Book Piracy

Writers can become manic about copyright.

“It’s my intellectual property and I’ll be damned if I’ll let anyone steal it!”

I read an interesting article by Scott Bradner (University Technology Security Officer at Harvard University.  Writes a weekly column for Network World. Serves as the Secretary to the Board of Trustees of the Internet Society (ISOC). A trustee of the American Registry of Internet Numbers (ARIN)), called Progress Only by Permission.

A few excerpts:

“The Copyright Clause in the U.S. Constitution reads: ‘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.’ The copyright part of this clause—the part referring to authors—has become a stick to bludgeon technology, not just to protect authors’ rights.”

“In theory, the office should be properly protecting authors’ rights while not interfering with activities that do not infringe on those rights. But a lot of the time it does not seem like the Copyright Office follows that theory. Far too often it seems eager to block technologies that have a chance of interfering rather than those that will, by necessity, interfere.”

[ referring to a legal statement by Ralph Oman ] — “In Oman’s world, Congress would have had to deliberate and preapprove of the Internet, music players, digital recorders, VCRs, personal computers, tablets and any of a thousand innovations of the last 30 years just because they might be able to be used to violate someone’s copyright.”

Smoothly switching gears

An article by Joe Konrath called, Piracy…Again:

[ after relating four instances of having his writing stolen ] — “What continues to amaze me is how freaked-out authors are by this. The thought that someone is sharing their work—without paying for it—seems to evoke the same reaction as having someone hack your bank account and drain your life savings.”

“Copyright is unenforceable in a digital world. Period. Exclamation point. At no time in history has any individual, company, or industry been able to stop file sharing. No country or law has been able to stop it.”

[ in response to a comment that an author doesn’t want their work stolen ] — “Then don’t write. Simple as that. JK Rowling has lost millions of dollars, because she refused to let Harry Potter come out in ebook form. Newsflash: you can get ebooks of all the Potter books from pirate sites. She didn’t cater to her fans, so her fans catered to themselves. And if Rowling can’t stop it, with her billions and armies of layers, you can’t either.”

“If you have an ounce of brains in your head, you will quickly realize that piracy is always going to be here, that nothing can be done to stop it, that artists can still make money, and that you’d be much better off worrying about something you have control over, like writing more and better books.”

So, that’s Joe

What do you think?

Is it possible to stop book piracy?

Does illegal file-sharing of a book actually increase its sales?

What good is a copyright?
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3 responses to “Copyright and Book Piracy

  1. Jane Watson February 15, 2013 at 3:05 am

    First of all, I feel that ‘copyright’, the notion thereof, has been hijacked….by greedy conglomerates who, for instance, will not allow someone in Australia to even gift online to someone in Britain or USA from iTunes or Amazon, because they state ‘copyright’ as the reason – I cannot see why the creators of these gifts, the musician or writers, would mind being paid by an Australian…. and really if the product is not *leaving* the USA or Britain, but being paid for by someone who is not there physically, but is *digitally there*, where is the ‘copyright territory’ violation? Let’s move into the 21st Century, folks, …because the whole concept of copyright was invented to protect the creator of the work from other folks stealing their actual work and pretending they made it. It was not invented to aid conglomerates in their search for the extra dollar.

    As this hijacking has taken place the meaning of the word ‘copyright’ has been devalued and rendered meaningless. We are now in the digital age and our terms should be updated to cater for this.

    Flouting ‘copyright’ is not ‘file sharing’…. I can see lots of *good uses* for file sharing and any author who does not object to it for their own work has my support, but…..

    I think that morally and ethically copyright enforcement should stop someone from taking the first chapter of your book and reproducing it in a book of their own as *their own work*, if you do not want that (and I very much doubt any writer does)…

    Stealing someone’s words is not file sharing, it is theft… and this is what ‘copyright’ *should* protect but it hardly ever does. It is expensive and difficult to sue someone else and writers are poor and often time challenged. I think the reason this notion of copyright is so difficult to enforce is because we do not accept the notion of artistic theft as theft…just as artists/writers, unless they are famous, are not real workers. It is not a chargeable offence.. I cannot go to the local police station and file a charge for this…I can if someone breaks in and steals my dvd player…which I value much less, by the way.

    I understand some writers want their books to be copied, emulated, shared but some folks are freaked out about this happening to their actual words, in much the same way you would be if your child was kidnapped… oh sorry she was only file shared…what I mean is, let’s be careful how we use terms here and in what context and let’s keep what is important here in our focus – the artistic integrity of creators, who should have the right to decide how their works are disseminated.

    In that respect, yes, I am manic… :-)

    And I agree with Scott Bradner: “…In theory, the office should be properly protecting authors’ rights while not interfering with activities that do not infringe on those rights…”


    • Alexander M Zoltai February 15, 2013 at 12:35 pm

      Dear Jane, thank you for such a Comprehensive Response to this issue :-)

      What I pick up on most from your comment is the idea that copyright is not treated as a “chargeable offense”—i.e., walking into a police station and saying my Property was stolen should include Intellectual Property


  2. Pingback: How To Sell Ebooks | Notes from An Alien

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