? ?

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Support Writers: Buy the Damn Book

So, I'm reading Mockingjay now because I got hooked on the trilogy. I even succumbed to Amazon's pre-order offer, and I hate Amazon.

This is technically not a spoiler, because I haven't actually finished the book yet, so I'm only making a prediction, but...

I'm gonna go ahead and call it -- Katniss winds up with Gale, and I think it was blatantly obvious that this is how the "love triangle" would be resolved since book one. And if I'm totally wrong here, then wait until I've finished the book before you "Ha!Ha!Ha!" me in the comments. :P

Anyway, I'm not posting this to talk about Mockingjay, but to talk about how totally fucking appalled I was to read this thread.

I am completely opposed to Digital Rights Management schemes. They don't work, they annoy customers, they encourage piracy. That's why the music industry is slowly coming around and iTunes has finally gone DRM-free.

That said, I can understand why people who make a living off of intellectual property are reluctant to relinquish the illusory protection that DRM offers. You can now take it for granted that anything that can be digitally reproduced (movies, music, books, software) is available on a torrent, and it's essentially your customers' good will (or ignorance) that keeps them from going there to get your work for free instead of paying for it.

Technologically, it is all but impossible to prevent this. Every form of encryption and copy-protection scheme will be cracked, so they are at most an inconvenience to pirates. You can go on a crusade against those who run the file servers or upload the files, but as the RIAA has found, there are just too many for it to have any real deterrent effect when you try to make an example out of a few individuals.

It's still worthwhile to send the C&D orders and take legal action against those you catch, because while keeping piracy underground doesn't stop it, at least it makes it a little less likely that Joe Consumer will become accustomed to routinely browsing for the latest book or album at Pirate Bay.

But here's the thing: a lot of people nowadays, especially younger people (shakes cane at those damn kids traipsing across his lawn) have grown up with filesharing and BitTorrent and just take it for granted that this is something you do and it's perfectly okay and normal.

Look, FOADIAF if you think that. The vast online slushpile created by allowing anyone to upload their unedited crap will not kill professional writing, but everybody feeling entitled to read someone's work without paying for it will. If a writer offers work for free (and an increasing number of them do), that's great. But if they're selling it, then you cannot simultaneously claim to be a fan of someone's work and want to see more of it while refusing to pay for it.

Libraries and used books are, of course, a slightly different kettle of fish. But I will say that, as I am privileged enough to be able to afford to buy a new book when I want one, I generally do.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 25th, 2010 05:53 am (UTC)
I've never understood that concept when you consider libraries. The number of books I've read through a library without paying for in any way, shape or form is staggering compared to the books I've downloaded. How am I cheating someone any less if I read their book by taking it out of the library than if I download it? I'm genuinely curious about this differentiation.

Aug. 25th, 2010 12:27 pm (UTC)
Just for starters, the library bought the book, and libraries also track the popularity of their books (and buy more copies when a book is particularly popular). So you are borrowing a legal, purchased copy and also registering an increased demand for that author's work. And a library book will eventually wear out and have to be replaced (requiring a new copy to be purchased).

One of the arguments pirates make in defense of pirated books is that people who download a pirated book will often end up buying the book in hardcopy, or buying more of an author's works, and that is probably true (it's another one of the reasons libraries are ultimately beneficial to authors). But I have noticed a marked difference between people who download pirated books and people who borrow from libraries -- there is, as I mentioned in my post, an appalling sense of entitlement from those who have no qualms about pirating. It's like you don't even believe the author is a human being who deserves to be paid for his/her work.

I mean, seriously, Mockingjay was nine bucks if you pre-ordered it. Not rent money (as some of the oh-I'm-so-poor whiners whined whiningly in that thread). If you wanted it badly enough to download it the day it came out, why did the publisher, author, and everyone else responsible for mkaing it available not deserve to be paid for their work?
Aug. 25th, 2010 01:22 pm (UTC)
The fact is simple: technology has forced the clock back to the days before the establishment of copyright laws (I looked it up, and they begun to be effective in the early eighteen hundreds, more in some countries than in others - the USA used to be notorious for pirate-friendly copyright laws, with the result that every visiting author from Charles Dickens on would launch a strafing run on American leglislation, and as late as the nineteen-sixties JRR Tolkien had to make an infrequent public statement against a virtually pirated edition of LOTR).

Now, the truth is that until copyright became an ironbound law, one did not become rich as a writer. Shakespeare made enough to become the leading landowner in his little home town, but he did that as a stage impresario, not as a writer - he barely cared about printed reproduction, and (if we are to take Heminges and Condell seriously) had only begun to think of a definitive revised edition when he died. In general, people wrote when they were already rich, or when they had a post or the protection of an important personage.

The rise of a capitalistic publishing industry - which I date to the late 17th and early 18th century - increased the number of professional writers, but certainly did not improve their lot. In fact, the Grub Street hack, the full time writer catering to the various needs of the ever-grinding presses, was a by-word for hunger and desperacy. There are a few exceptions, especially in France; but even Voltaire owed his prosperous life as much to his very ready pen - he wrote more or less continuously on every subject under the sun - and very high-placed admirers, from Madame Pompadour to Catherine II of Russia, as to his continent-wide popularity, and at any rate was hardly above rounding it off with illegal financial transactions and smuggling. (His relationship with Frederick II of Prussia eventually broke down over his apparently unstoppable eagerness for disreputable deals, and the reason why he eventually settled in Ferney near Geneva had a lot to do with the nearness of the French border.) A writer who, like Samuel Johnson, had no taste for dishonest dealings and no illustrious patron, could only be expected to come, like Johnson, to a modest prosperity, and that after decades of back-breaking work.

We are back to the age of Dr.Johnson now. Publishing is still a capitalistic enterprise, but it is looking more and more like the hand-to-mouth operations of Grubby Street and less and less like the arrogant cultural colossi of yesteryear. Copy is and remains in demand, but the prospect of wealth, or even of prosperity, is increasingly threatened. The related field of music has already reverted to the pre-recording situation where the largest source of income is public performance.

I have no idea where we go from here. I am not going to argue with you about the pracitcality of DMRs, you are probably right, and at any rate the unstoppable practice of piracy make them a marginal issue. All I can see is that copyright is a corpse that walks, and that this can only be bad news to authors.

Edited at 2010-08-25 01:26 pm (UTC)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

My Book Reviews

Recent Posts



Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Lilia Ahner