Archives for posts with tag: nonsense

With the release of my first short story, “Roadkill, ” there’s one important issue I feel the need to explain. It’s one thing that, when people find out about it, is always met with an intense uncertainty, unease, and even derision. The question on their minds is: why release a book (or any type of artwork for that matter) without copyright?

Currently I’m working on a longer post for this blog called “Why I Am a Free Culture Artist,” but that is a rather complex tale. Even the term “Free Culture” might not be one most people are familiar with. To explain it all, I’ll have to explain some of the background of copyright itself, because it’s such a frequently misunderstood and confusing concept. This will make for a rather lengthy post, and I want to create a version for those who might take one look at the longer post and say TL;DR. That shorter version is what you’re reading now.

So, you might wonder, why is my short story “Roadkill” in the public domain?

Why am I releasing it without copyright? Isn’t copyright a good thing?

I don’t think that it is, despite the conventional understanding of its supposed virtues.

“But aren’t you worried about plagiarism?” you ask.

Yes, but I don’t believe copyright will stop plagiarism. Others’ recognition of me as an author, and my work, will be much better deterrents to plagiarism. Whenever I see an act of plagiarism online of an artist I like, I feel moved to draw attention to it, to see that it doesn’t go unnoticed by other fans. See my comment on a crappy ripoff upload of a beloved public domain Hussalonia album. I hope others will do the same for me if I’m ever the victim of such nonsense.

Don’t I want to get paid?

Yes I do, but I still don’t think copyright is the way to go.

Here, then, are my reasons:

“Roadkill” is in the public domain because I want people to share it without worrying about me suing them or sending threatening cease-and-desist letters.

I want people to share “Roadkill” because the more it is shared, the more it puts my name out there, the more people are exposed to the story.

The more people become aware of it, the higher the chance is that those who enjoy it will willingly pay for a copy. Paying me for the story gives me incentive and support to write more stories, and to have more time to write stories, and if you like “Roadkill,” there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy other things I write. If I make much money from this release, and/or if I receive positive feedback, that’s much more inspiration for me to want to release more stories I’ve written and plan to write. Perhaps, in the future, I could even write full-time. You never know.

Releasing the story under the traditional copyright system locks the story away and discourages sharing. It increases the likelihood that the story will be doomed to obscurity. People aren’t going to stumble onto the title of my story in the database of the U.S. Copyright Office and suddenly feel compelled to seek it out and pay for it.

Even if someone copies “Roadkill” and sells copies themselves, there is incentive for them to share profits with me, as that will encourage me to write more stories that they can also sell. Readers will be encouraged to buy copies or derivative works that I release or that share profits with me, as it increases the likelihood that I will write more for them to enjoy.

The availability of free copies ensures access to the story for those who can’t pay, and who simply wouldn’t pay even if payment was mandatory. I don’t want to deny anyone access to my work just because they can’t afford it. If someone can pay, I hope they will, but I wouldn’t expect anyone to do so if they have problems making ends meet. Making a living is difficult and there are more important things to worry about than paying for books, so if that’s your situation, I don’t want you to worry about paying for mine.

I don’t believe anyone owes me anything up front for “Roadkill.” Nobody paid me to write this book. I wasn’t contracted to write it. It exists, and is available, and is easily copied, whether anyone pays for it or not. I don’t see how I have a right to demand payment of anyone for something they didn’t ask for, even if they enjoy it once it’s there. Copying is not theft, it’s copying, plain and simple. No one steals from me by making a copy of my story. It did take a lot of my own hard work for this story to exist, but so does a carpenter work hard to build a park bench; that doesn’t mean he’s owed money every time someone sits on it while passing by.

Even if I accept that copyright is a sensible and valid concept, in order to enforce it, I would most likely have to violate much more important rights (to things like privacy), bringing to mind such widely protested legal movements as SOPA. Even if I were to believe that I’m owed money for every single copy of my book that someone downloads, I can’t imagine feeling justified trying to police everyone’s computers, and likely relying on some horrible, invasive spying organization to do so.

I also want to focus on writing and creating valuable, worthwhile content; spending all my time tracking down cases of copyright infringement of my work would waste more time than it would be worth. It’s time better spent just writing more and making sure people know my work and where to find it, and how to pay me if they enjoy it.

Lastly, I want “Roadkill” to connect with people. I want to connect with the people who enjoy it. (Please leave a comment if you enjoy it!) I want it to inspire more creativity. I want to see it become an animated film, a radio play, a painting, a comic book, and countless other things. Time will tell if any of those things come to be (if you’re interested in collaborating with me on one, please, send me an email, I’d love to talk to you) but if the story were released with the pretense of copyright enforcement, they almost certainly wouldn’t. At least by releasing my story with the Creative Commons Zero Waiver (a.k.a. CC0), it has a chance to become something more.

If you think I’m naive, idealistic, or crazy, so be it. I don’t have any regrets. I just hope you enjoy the story.

“Roadkill” will be released October 1st, 2013. A print edition will be released on CreateSpace, along with eBook editions on Kindle, Smashwords, and other retailers. The free version will be released a short while later on TUEBL and the Internet Archive. For more information, check the “Roadkill – A Short Story” page on this blog.

Thank you for reading,

Leo

P.S.

For another blog post that even more succinctly sums up my feelings about copyright, check out Leo Babuta’s “Uncopyright” page on his blog Zen Habits. For more information about copyright law and why I don’t believe in its validity, check out the resources on QuestionCopyright.org.

P.P.S.

The cover for “Roadkill” was made by the wonderful Piti Yindee, creator of the Wuffle, the Big Nice Wolf web comic series. Piti’s views are similar to mine, and you can read his own explanation of why he uses CC0 and rejects copyright here. The “Roadkill” cover will also be released via CC0.

I normally reserve this blog solely for things written by yours truly. However, as anyone who knows me is likely well aware, I tend to have rather strong views about copyright…namely, that copyright is a bad thing. Recently, my fellow blogger and author Aelius Blythe posted this essay on Medium, and I felt that it is a perfect description of the utterly backwards way the language surrounding the copyright debate is structured. As a signal boost, and to practice what I preach (specifically, sharing and spreading a good thing by copying it) I’ve decided to re-post her entire essay here. Thank you, Aelius, for the inspiration.

“Your Words Are Bad and You Should Feel Bad” by Aellius Blythe:

“A writer’s biggest threat is the laws meant to protect them.”

“Director Simon Klose has won his copyright battle. For now.

In case you haven’t been paying attention to this year’s drama in the pirate world, here’s the 5 minute summary: Simon Klose is not your usual Hollywood crusader fighting those damn kids pirating his movies. In fact, this year, he was fighting to defend his own film – the documentary on the Pirate Bay trial, TPB AFK – from overzealous DMCA takedowns. The takedown notices weren’t directed at the content – which he himself uploaded to YouTube and the Pirate Bay –they were rather attacks on Google for even linking to the content. While not removing his work, this made it harder to find for your average viewer who doesn’t have a favorite Google-alternative at the ready.

Mr. Klose isn’t alone – Google gets over a million takedown requests every month to remove links to so-called pirate sites. Chilling Effects keeps a record of DMCA takedowns, which occasionally contain hilarious errors, like requests to remove content from Hulu or even the rightsholder’s own website. However, sometimes these errors are not so hilarious. While they cannot be proved to be malicious, takedowns often target news sites, reviewers, and even other creators, like Mr. Klose.

Fortunately, this battle ended well for the creator.

Unfortunately, not all creators are fearless Swedish pirates with the Pirate Bay on their side.

What of the smaller creators who don’t make the news? What of the creators who don’t have the resources or connections to fight false copyright DMCAs? What about your average small-time, indie filmmaker or artist or author who doesn’t even know that they can fight the far more powerful DMCA-wielders?

What about me?

I’m a newbie to the writing world, and a relative unknown outside of my small circle of readers, writers and fellow bloggers. Having reliable ways to be able to reach readers is absolutely essential. With so many content creators online, it’s way too easy to get lost in the competition. If a reader hits an obstacle – like a disappeared link or DRM that doesn’t play well with their e-reader of choice – they’ll just move on. Here at the bottom rung of the ladder, it’s really hard to get noticed, and one stumbling block can set all your hard work back several paces.

Fortunately, for authors we have libraries.

Libraries – the old standby for access to information, art, and culture.

Libraries – free to all, and proud of it.

In their digital incarnation, libraries have been the subject of intense copyright debates over how the readers benefit at the expense of writers by getting things for free. But the reality is that libraries can be a serious advantage for authors as well.

It’s an advantage I am thankful for every time I reach a new reader.

But some people want to take it away.

Earlier this year, while Google was censoring Mr. Klose’s documentary, somebody was DMCA-ing my books at The Ultimate Ebook Library. And it wasn’t me.

And these weren’t just links disappearing, these were my books. Somebody took my books away. And it turns out, mine weren’t the only ones. I recently heard from another author whose books were removed without her consent, and from the owner of the Ebook Library who recognizes that, sadly, these are not isolated incidents. While the library of course reinstates the books as soon as they are told, the implications of these kinds of errors (“errors”) are troubling. How many others out there have had their work disappeared, and don’t even know it, or don’t know what they can do about it? As a creator, especially a small-time creator, I can tell you that it is an unbelievably helpless feeling to have your primary channel for reaching fans hobbled.

I blame Newspeak.

The Copying is stealing! mythos has terrorized the entertainment industries since the days of Napster. Almost fifteen years, later few people – not even the Supreme Court – hold onto the literal interpretation of that particular moral stance. We laugh (or glare) at the rich and powerful making 9 year old girls and grandmothers into hardened criminals. But while many don’t exactly believe that copying = stealing, the fact is that the newspeak of the copyright monopoly is so pervasive, their new language so obfuscated, that many have well and truly forgotten the meaning of the words.

As much as we laugh at the old You wouldn’t steal a car! interpretation of copyright infringement, we also laugh at – or worse, ignore – the counterargument that copying isn’t stealing. Whenever the topic comes up in writer’s circles, there’s eye-rolling and head-shaking. It’s old news, but no one remembers it. Authors still rail against their readers “stealing” their profits. And even journalists in the mainstream media, often and incorrectly, refer to infringement as theft.

Did we forget that actual theft meant taking something away?

Did we forget that actual stealing deprives a person of what’s taken?

Yeah, I think we did.

Whoever took books down from the Ebook Library, or links from Google, or videos from YouTube isn’t sharing something, isn’t copying something, isn’t borrowing something. They are taking something away.

And yet, this is ok.

You won’t hear journalists call that theft. You won’t hear writers complain about stolen profits. You won’t have the responsible parties disconnected from the internet or forced to take a class on DMCA abuse, or made to pay the victim 7,000 per book in restitution and punitive damages.

Sharing, copying, and borrowing are – under the new language – terrible, terrible acts of theft. And yet taking something away – whether it’s a distribution channel or other means of communicating with fans– is totally ok. That’s a mistake. That’s acceptable collateral damage.

Yeah, our creative work is collateral damage.

This isn’t just a consequence of overreaching laws, bumbling politicians, or greedy lobbyists. It is a consequence of a forceful and deliberate manipulation of the very building blocks we use to understand our world: our words.

Yes, languages change. Words shift, meanings appear and disappear, and our understanding evolves. That’s what makes language useful — it’s adaptable.

But in this case, I think I liked the old language better.”

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