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What’s this site?

Last year, in January 2003, my first novel came out. I was 31 years old, and I'd been calling myself a novelist since the age of 12. It was the storied dream-of-a-lifetime, come-true-at-last. I was and am proud as hell of that book, even though it is just one book among many released last year, better than some, poorer than others; and even though the print-run (which sold out very quickly!) though generous by science fiction standards, hardly qualifies it as a work of mass entertainment.

The thing that's extraordinary about that first novel is that it was released under terms governed by a Creative Commons license that allowed my readers to copy the book freely and distribute it far and wide. Hundreds of thousands of copies of the book were made and distributed this way. Hundreds of thousands.

Today, I release my second novel, and my third, a collaboration with Charlie Stross is due any day, and two more are under contract. My career as a novelist is now well underway -- in other words, I am firmly afoot on a long road that stretches into the future: my future, science fiction's future, publishing's future and the future of the world.

The future is my business, more or less. I'm a science fiction writer. One way to know the future is to look good and hard at the present. Here's a thing I've noticed about the present: more people are reading more words off of more screens than ever before. Here's another thing I've noticed about the present: fewer people are reading fewer words off of fewer pages than ever before. That doesn't mean that the book is dying -- no more than the advent of the printing press and the de-emphasis of Bible-copying monks meant that the book was dying -- but it does mean that the book is changing. I think that literature is alive and well: we're reading our brains out! I just think that the complex social practice of "book" -- of which a bunch of paper pages between two covers is the mere expression -- is transforming and will transform further.

I intend on figuring out what it's transforming into. I intend on figuring out the way that some writers -- that this writer, right here, wearing my underwear -- is going to get rich and famous from his craft. I intend on figuring out how this writer's words can become part of the social discourse, can be relevant in the way that literature at its best can be.

I don't know what the future of book looks like. To figure it out, I'm doing some pretty basic science. I'm peering into this opaque, inscrutable system of publishing as it sits in the year 2004, and I'm making a perturbation. I'm stirring the pot to see what surfaces, so that I can see if the system reveals itself to me any more thoroughly as it roils. Once that happens, maybe I'll be able to formulate an hypothesis and try an experiment or two and maybe -- just maybe -- I'll get to the bottom of book-in-2004 and beat the competition to making it work, and maybe I'll go home with all (or most) of the marbles.

It's a long shot, but I'm a pretty sharp guy, and I know as much about this stuff as anyone out there. More to the point, trying stuff and doing research yields a non-zero chance of success. The alternatives -- sitting pat, or worse, getting into a moral panic about "piracy" and accusing the readers who are blazing new trail of "the moral equivalent of shoplifting" -- have a zero percent chance of success.

Most artists never "succeed" in the sense of attaining fame and modest fortune. A career in the arts is a risky long-shot kind of business. I'm doing what I can to sweeten my odds.

So here we are, and here is novel number two, a book called Eastern Standard Tribe, which you can walk into shops all over the world and buy as a physical artifact -- a very nice physical artifact, designed by Chesley-award-winning art director Irene Gallo and her designer Shelley Eshkar, published by Tor Books, a huge, profit-making arm of an enormous, multinational publishing concern. Tor is watching what happens to this book nearly as keenly as I am, because we' re all very interested in what the book is turning into.

To that end, here is the book as a non-physical artifact. A file. A bunch of text, slithery bits that can cross the world in an instant, using the Internet, a tool designed to copy things very quickly from one place to another; and using personal computers, tools designed to slice, dice and rearrange collections of bits. These tools demand that their users copy and slice and dice -- rip, mix and burn! -- and that's what I'm hoping you will do with this.

Not (just) because I'm a swell guy, a big-hearted slob. Not because Tor is a run by addlepated dot-com refugees who have been sold some snake-oil about the e-book revolution. Because you -- the readers, the slicers, dicers and copiers -- hold in your collective action the secret of the future of publishing. Writers are a dime a dozen. Everybody's got a novel in her or him. Readers are a precious commodity. You've got all the money and all the attention and you run the word-of-mouth network that marks the difference between a little book, soon forgotten, and a book that becomes a lasting piece of posterity for its author, changing the world in some meaningful way.

I'm unashamedly exploiting your imagination. Imagine me a new practice of book, readers. Take this novel and pass it from inbox to inbox, through your IM clients, over P2P networks. Put it on webservers. Convert it to weird, obscure ebook formats. Show me -- and my colleagues, and my publisher -- what the future of book looks like.

I'll keep on writing them if you keep on reading them. But as cool and wonderful as writing is, it's not half so cool as inventing the future. Thanks for helping me do it.


171 Responses to “What’s this site?”

  1. Getting back on the Writing train

    So I've decided to write and syndicate a short story on Read/Write Web.

  2. John says:

    A great discussion of morality. However, morality is defined as being based on the views of the collective majority of society. In the views of the society in this thread the majority say that file sharing is not immoral.

    Anyway, I think that Mr. Doctorow's marketing strategy is ingenious and should be used by all authors, established and would-be. It will certainly not hurt sales and could and should recruit new readers into the fold by exposing readers to someone or something (sci-fi) that they would normally never even notice.

    Down and Out was great by the way. I bought it the old-fashioned way (I read your short stories in Asimov's etc. and knew I liked your style).

    Much success to you in the future.

  3. Kyle says:

    Tribeless and James:

    First let me start out by saying that, although I do not agree with your point of view, I do understand it. File-sharing is, indeed, stealing, but, in my opinion, in the legal sense of the word, not the moral sense. Morality is a very delicate subject. You obviously have a very deeply ingrained sense of "morality" which buys into the current legal ramifications of intellectual property and copyright, hence your views.

    Morality is like sand on which the stone of the law is laid. At one time it was not considered "moral", and thus illegal, for a black man in the United States to have the same rights as a white man. Morality changed, and the law along with it. Morals shift, like sand, and the law shifts to fit it.

    Now, somewhere deep beneath the sand is a deeper, bedrock sort of morality. Regardless of one's opinion of the Bible, "Thou shalt not steal" is pretty good from a social standpoint which, when you get right down to it, is what morals protect: our ability to live in a functioning society. But the thing is that nobody ever really defined "stealing", and they certainly didn't have any concept of intellectual property rights. That's part of the sand. And society shapes the sand.

    To you, 70 million Americans are immoral because they share files. I will agree that 70 million Americans are engaging in illegal activity by file-sharing, under the current law. And I will agree that, morally, the artists who produce those files should be recompensed for their time and effort. Those of these 70 million who, like James here, would not pay for something they receive for free are indeed immoral. You estimate that 1 in 100,000 of these 70 million are the type who would go ahead and buy that which they have already received for free; that, I feel, is a ridiculously cynical estimate.

    You see, most Americans have been raised in a capitalist community, and have been raised with capitalist mores, one of which happens to be "you don't get something for nothing". We also understand the concept of economy; if you take but do not give back, then eventually there is nothing left to take. This is part of the evolution of the capitalist ideal. An artist will not continue to produce music or literature unless paid; if he provides it for free, then it is our moral obligation to pay. Although you may believe that James "has his heart in the right place", he is less moral than most - given free art, he feels no compunction to pay. He is the type of capitalist that would clear forests and strip-mine mountains, eliminating the chance at profit tomorrow for profit today. This form of capitalism is ultimately self-defeating, as eventually there is nothing left for tomorrow. It is this that many political authors have against capitalism in general, that greed will, taken to its greatest extreme, devour itself.

    But as I have said, capitalism is evolving. More and more people realize daily that in order to get, you must give. You cannot chop down every tree in the forest, because then tomorrow there is no forest; a little effort spent replanting today ensures that there are trees to harvest tomorrow. Economy is the key.

    The chief thing that is shifting in morality is not whether or not the artist gets paid for his or her work, but when. People are tired of paying their hard-earned money for the right, when it gets right down to it, to try something out. They buy a book based on reviews and friends, don't like it, read half of it, and it sits on their shelf collecting dust. They buy a CD because of one song they enjoy, and wind up with ten other songs they don't remotely like. These are not good investments. So more and more people are turning to illegal means to preview things they would buy - and not just blurbs and excerpts, but honest, solid previews of the entire product in question - and then buying them anyway. Because you don't get something for nothing. Because you give back, in order to get more tomorrow.

    There are still holdouts to the more "traditional" form of capitalism - take James there, for one. One amid several dozen who have replied here stating that if they like Mr. Doctorow's book, they will gladly pay for it. If Mr. Doctorow were not to publish another book because he went bankrupt, no doubt James would not be bothered in the slightest. They do exist, yes, these old-fashioned capitalists, but they number fewer and fewer all the time. Pandering to their interests is the crime here. Capitalism is evolving, morality is evolving - and the law and industry will evolve along with it.

    Stamping out file-sharing, strictly regulating intellectual property, will not work. They've tried it before - video games from the Commodore era, movies from the early days of VHS - and it will not work this time any better than it did then. People will always find ways around. Embrace the new technology, find ways to make money off it, and suddenly you're ahead of the game. You shift with the sand, or you find yourself buried in it.

    Unfortunately, at the base of your argument, you have a flawed concept. You have said "just because everyone does it does not make it moral". Alas, this is simply not true. If it is acceptable to the masses, then it is moral. That's what morality is - not religious, not legal, but social. People define what is and is not moral, and the law must move to make room for them.

  4. Jamie Cason says:

    Phew. Great thread. Thanks Cory for pioneering and all that it entails *and* still finding time to produce creative objects. Thanks Tribeless for the tireless drawing out of the legal and moral fine points. The interventions of Michael Bernstein, Blisterpeanuts and Russell Coker were highlights for me, insightful, cogent, moved the thing on. I cut and pasted your posts to Notepad for future ref. (Tell me if not ok and I'll trash). A permissive, copying culture is where I've lived all my life, from taping from the radio to cut n pasting comments I like ;-) I wish my mouse right click sent micropayments back to all those whose work I've loved and built on, but never too late to start. "Piracy" is not a subculture anymore, it is the culture. The natural approach to any cultural threat is to have a war on ___. Insert file-sharing, drugs, terror. Whilst it may be hard to swallow, Don't Fight The Power Law. We should be looking at ways to co-opt, integrate and exploit all that energy. We thrive on compromise, we die in war. I think Cory's approach is backed up by the Cluetrain Manifesto. Mega-media behemoths who underwrite the production, marketing and distribution of our cultural artefacts are being routed around and rooted out by the natural behaviour of the network. The readers/listeners/viewers/users are conduits for content. They always have been. It's just that now word-of-mouth travels near instantly across the world and the thing under discussion with it. For artists, musicians, writers, performers, directors, all producers of work, this can only be a good thing. For when people love your output, they really love it. If you let them know that you appreciate that, and if they pay something, that would help you make more. Then all stand to benefit. I aver that the producer already engages in a kind of conversation with their public through their work. When the work itself can carry its own marketing, distribution and retail operation around as part of its identity, and there is a simple micro-revenue path back from it and all its copies to the original author, then that conversation will have got somewhere very exciting.
    Thanks all for a really stimulating Friday evening.

  5. A couple of book links

    Two links via Maud Newton: Pop-up and Movable Books from the University of North Texas: A collection of fabulous old...

  6. Nicholas Liu says:

    Tribeless: 'Just because the majority says it is right, NEVER makes it morally right. Anyway, from above:

    Lets us say that we put 19 Asian gentlemen into a room with one European guy. Lets now say that a democratic election is held and the 19 asians democratically elect to kill the European simply because he is a European (ie, on whim). The vote is 19 to 1, or 20 to 0 if the European guy is a complete moron. Note, either way, this is a fully democratic majority decision.

    Is it morally right? HELL NO.'

    The only reason your analogy works at all is that you know that of the people reading this, the vast majority of them will have a moral outlook that intersects with yours on the point of cold-blooded murder. This analogy has emotional appeal, but it is no argument.

  7. John says:

    Society defines morality period. That is the way it will always be. The problem with your analogy is that society has declared murder to be morally wrong (Thanks to the Bible). Now, this might not be right and we might be destroying the whole of Western Society, but morals have always been defined by society. I do not think this situation will ever change.

  8. John says:

    The only reason I even felt the need to post instead of lurk in the background is because the argument should not be centered on moral issues. It should be centered on the question: Is file sharing theft or not?

    The answer: Yes.

    Is there anything we can do about it?

    The answer: No.

    What next?

    The answer: Do what Mr. Doctorow is trying to do. Mold the situation to your advantage.

  9. Tribeless says:

    Hi John, I agree with your final analysis (but would have have no truck whatsoever with your first one). Of course where we differ is that I do believe that something can be done about it; that is, go after the copyright infringers ruthlessly and prosecute every case. That would be an action appropriately funded by the State (strange coming from me, but consistent, as I believe there is room for a State in a free society, one of its few functions being to uphold a criminal justice system).

    Oh, and for some of us it is a moral issue. It just happens to be in a file sharers best interests (guilt salving, and I'm not necessarily including you in this) to try and constantly divorce this topic from the moral realm - and a cop out to do so. We are, afterall, talking about peoples' livelihoods.

    But the reason for both my previous attacks, and the vehemence of them (when only indirectly related to the sale of Cory's book), is because thanks to the unthinking masses which assume democracy and majority rule are such wonderful things (BS), freedom going into the future is virtually still born now.

  10. John says:

    Morality can be defined by a single person. However, that person is unlikely to change the moral climate of any society when the majority of that society does not stand behind that persons moral stance. Maybe it is more of an ethical issue which is based on individuals and not on society as a whole.

    Anyway read this:

    I just read an article from Reuter's News that said that an Industry Trade Group for music swappers should be cut in on the money.

    "Rather than losing millions of dollars in potential sales to online song swappers, the recording industry should give them a cut of the revenues when they distribute songs in a protected format, the Distributed Computing Industry Association said.

    The scenario follows two others put forth by the trade group in an effort to forge peace between peer-to-peer networks and the major record labels that have hounded them and their users in court.

    DCIA chief executive Marty Lafferty said record labels could see sales grow by 10 percent over the next four years if they embraced the new technology, much as movie studios increased their market when they embraced the videocassette recorder in the 1980s.

    "Each time there's a technology breakthrough in entertainment distribution, once it's harnessed and embraced and an industry finds a way to capitalize on it, the industry does enjoy accelerated growth," he said.

    Under the plan, record labels would encode their songs with copy-protection technology so users would have to pay a small fee, between 80 cents and 40 cents, to listen to them.

    Prolific song-swappers would be encouraged to convert their collections of unprotected material into the protected format, and then paid a portion of the fees collected each time somebody purchases a song after copying it from them.

    Eventually, user-friendly software would allow amateur musicians without recording contracts to make their music available as well, DCIA said.

    But implementing the plan could be difficult as it would require the cooperation of Internet providers, record labels and peer-to-peer networks.

    Most peer-to-peer networks back a model in which musicians and record labels could be reimbursed through surcharges on blank CDs, CD burners, and fees from Internet providers and peer-to-peer networks themselves.

    Though any proposal to pay artists for peer-to-peer activity is welcome, DCIA's suggestions "need to be taken with a large portion of the salt shaker," said Adam Eisgrau, executive director of P2P United, a competing trade group.

    An earlier DCIA proposal would have positioned member company Brilliant Digital Entertainment Inc.'s copy-protection technology as a standard, Eisgrau noted.

    A spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America (news - web sites) said he had not had time to look over the proposal and declined comment."

    Source: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=582&e=5&u=/nm/20040205/wr_nm/tech_music_payment_dc

    If profit is an artists motive, embrace the tech and see your net worth climb. And, by the way, I have never file/shared. When I publish my books I expect to get all the money that I deserve. Mr. Doctorow's approach seems to be netting more gain so I'm all for it.

  11. Nicholas Liu says:

    Tribeless, my point is that you've intentionally chosen an analogy no one will disagree with. But try this on for size:

    A woman wants to get an abortion. 9 in 10 people agree that she should be able to. Does that make it moral? HELL NO!

    A man rapes and murder another man's wife. The husband tracks the murder down and kills him. 9 in 10 people agree that he was justified in doing so. Does that make it moral? HELL NO!

    Two men want to get married to each other. 9 in 10 people agree that they should be able to. Does that make it moral? HELL NO!

    Do these work as examples? Do their 'HELL NO!'s consist of sufficient support for your stand? Don't make me laugh. If you're going to tell me that you're in touch with the noumenon and know what's right and wrong for everybody else, you're going to have to support that claim with more than a fucking obvious scenario that you know most people happen to agree with you on.

  12. cholly says:

    No, not about to engage in the whole morality issue. Just here to congratulate Cory.

    Great story! Bravo!

    And, well, *I* think it's a smart distribution concept...

  13. Russell Coker says:

    Tribeless: why is it anyone else's business if Cory's actions are not in his own financial best interests? He had the right to choose not to write a book, he had the right to lock his manuscript in a safe instead of publishing it, he also has the right to publish it in ways that may not give him optimum financial returns. He believes that he is doing what is in his own best interests, and surely he is in the best position to judge.

    Maybe his actions do not serve the best interests of the "publishing industry". Should he be compelled to submit to the will of a cartel? Or should he be given the option of doing things his own way and letting the market determine the results? The legal system of every capitalistic country is based around the idea of competition. The competition is not designed to be best for the sellers, but for the buyers. Banning car sales over the Internet would help car salesmen, should it be done?

    Regardless of what you think about these issues, your opinion only matters if you are involved.

    Some people claim that I am a communist who is intent on destroying democracy because I wrote free software. The opinions of such people don't matter much, I and my friends write better software than they do anyway. Losers always whine.

  14. Tribeless says:

    Russell wrote:

    "Tribeless: why is it anyone else's business if Cory's actions are not in his own financial best interests? He had the right to choose not to write a book, he had the right to lock his manuscript in a safe instead of publishing it, he also has the right to publish it in ways that may not give him optimum financial returns. He believes that he is doing what is in his own best interests, and surely he is in the best position to judge."

    It is nobody else's business at all, except Cory published on this page his proposed model, and asked for comments. I gave my comment, as was his desire. Yes surely he is the best to judge what is in his own best interests; I don't have a problem with that, however, I don't agree, and he asked for comments, so I told him as much.

    "Maybe his actions do not serve the best interests of the "publishing industry". Should he be compelled to submit to the will of a cartel?"

    No! I've already said on a post above that I would die fighting for his right to have the freedom to sell his book anyway he likes; indeed, so long as he doesn't initiate force on me, or anybody else, he can do anything he wants, its none of my busines. But, you see, he asked for comments so I gave mine (which was opposing his own point of view, in the long term).

    "Losers always whine."

    As a rule I agree. But remember losing on this issue invariably means the loss of a rightfully earned livelihood via theft. Cory asked for comments on his scheme of sale, and so, as I've said, I gave mine, being that the result over the long term, when dead tree books disappear, would be as stated :)

    I really should leave this thread as I'm definitely trolling now.

    sorry.

  15. Technovia says:

    Cory on ebooks

    Cory Doctorow has a great thread on his new book Eastern Standard Tribe in which he discusses how releasing it (and his previous novel) for free download helped sales and points to the future of the publishing industry. I'll have

  16. The thing is that the IP maximalist position isn't internally supportable. if you truly believe that intellectual property is property (which it isn't, period, end of story, and to assert otherwise is to flatly deny the entire scholarship, practice, history, jurisprudence and statuatory basis of copyright), then surely it is my inalienable right to dispose of my property however I see fit.

    Imagine if we were competing hoteliers. We both have a property interest in the telephones we supply in our rooms. You charge a dollar a call. I give calls away for free. All your customers start staying in my room.

    Now, your extortionate telephone rates make you a lot of money. Say it's 80 percent of your bottom line. You essentially give away hotel rooms to sell telephone calls, which are pure margin. Me, I'm selling something else: maybe I've found a much cheaper way to build hotels and I'm just renting out rooms above the amortized sunk costs and the marginal costs of maintaining my hotel (in business, we call this, "Charging more for stuff than it costs")

    I need to do a volume business to stay afloat. You need to attract a much smaller volume of guests to stay afloat. When I start offering cheap-ass hotel rooms with free calling, the number of hotel guests in total shoots way up. Most of those new people stay with me -- I've introduce a whole new class of guests to the trade. You see a dip in your business, at least initially, and if you don't make the appropriate changes, you go out of business.

    Are my guests stealing telephone service? What about when they check into your hotel and start using the phone as though it's free, and then refuse to pay your bills and call you a crook for charging a buck a call? Have I *turned them* into thieves?

    This is, in fact, how the hotel trade has played out. One of the major differentiators between business hotels is whether they charge for local calling.

    Local calling is all margin. There's no new cost to a hotelier to support an additional local call (no more than there's a marginal cost to me supporting a new download of my book). When business hotels like Holiday Inn Express and Comfort Inn started offering free local calling, they a) expanded the overall size of the market, attracting new customers to it and b) "stole" tons of business from the Hiltons, Ws, and Marriotts of the world.

    This is the market. If you believe in property rights, then this is what you believe in. This is how property owners craftily dispose of their property in order to gain the maximal return on their investment in it.

    Here's a bigger point: when all the property owners get together and agree not to do something that would be in their individual interest (like free phone calls, or free downloads) in order to ensure that their high-margin business isn't disrupted, we call it *illegal price fixing* by a *conspiracy in restraint of trade* and our anti-trust regulators take their axes and their copies of Wealth of Nations in hand and they cut them to ribbons.

    And here's the final point: The Hilton didn't go out of business. What competition and innovation in business methods resulted in was:

    1) A new class of hotels that won in the market, indicating:

    2) Happy customers and a public good, with:

    3) A smarter, better Hilton that successfully "competed with free" by offering DSL, coffee makers, and a loyalty program

    Everyone won.

    If you believe that IP is property in a market, then suck it up and take your lumps as someone with a better production and sales method comes along and disrupts your business model. Markets exist to permit that kind of thing to happen.

  17. Tribeless says:

    Cory, the hotel example above is persuasive. Again, I'm really fighting some deadlines in my 'other' life, but there is obviously something important enough here to keep me coming back. Some passing comments (all quotes are from your post above - I won't have time to proof read below, so hope it ends up readable):

    "The thing is that the IP maximalist position isn't internally supportable. if you truly believe that intellectual property is property (which it isn't, period, end of story, and to assert otherwise is to flatly deny the entire scholarship, practice, history, jurisprudence and statuatory basis of copyright), then surely it is my inalienable right to dispose of my property however I see fit."

    It might sound trite, but again, IP is NOT property, it is IP, different, but no less valid because it is a construct, and, I believe, needs an enforceable construct (copyright) to protect it. (But as I've said this has led to its own set of internal contradictions with some of my own thinking). So long as you have control of your own IP (and that is the significant point for me), then yes, I agree, (as a Libertarian/objectivist) you are free to do anything you want with your

    "Are my guests stealing telephone service? What about when they check into your hotel and start using the phone as though it's free, and then refuse to pay your bills and call you a crook for charging a buck a call? Have I *turned them* into thieves?"

    I've been consistent on this point: if you officially allow free phone calls on your premises, the fine print of your 'copyright' in the example used, then no, this is quite obviously not theft. However, so long as the other hotel has clearly announced and posted the fact that they charge for calls, their particular copyright and contract with their customers, then yes, they have turned themselves into theives if they make calls and don't pay for them. Note the distinction; you have not turned them into theives, they have done that to themselves through a deliberate act/choice on their behalf to make calls with no intention of paying on premises where they knew this was not the case.

    Similarly, most creators (in the arts) have chosen to try and protect their works through a copyright contract which forbids file sharing. As ill conceived as a file sharer may think that policy is, it never changes the fact that they know how that contract works, and thus, if they deliberately breach it by file sharing, then it is categorically theft of that creator's work. That is cut and dried for me. That is also why I've said above, the individuals who are, and they are in huge numbers, sharing these creators' works are, sorry for grit, but low lifes of the highest order.

    I've always tried to my definitions clear. File sharing your novel is not theft, because you allow it. File sharing Heilein (a very apt example by the way) is theft.

    "If you believe that IP is property in a market, then suck it up and take your lumps as someone with a better production and sales method comes along and disrupts your business model. Markets exist to permit that kind of thing to happen."

    Yes :) I'm a laissez faire free marketer: besides the definitional issue around IP (see above), I agree, no problem at all. I do disagree about the long term systems effect of your experiment (but then I've been completely wrong on many things before, from land prices to, oh, US will become freer under Bush - before he started spending all your money at a huge rate and rack up major league deficits). Again, we have to leave democracy and the tyranny of the majority behind. But they are really off topic.

    Sidenote: I'm really enjoying your novel. Everybody who has lived with someone for at least five years just understands so well, on such a base level, Art and Linda's argument at his offices :) [Me from the point of view of Art].

    By the way, I just figured his name is indicative of a lot more than a character name ...

  18. Tribeless says:

    Okay I'm a pedant. That should be thieves, not theives above ... (message to self: its quicker just proof reading before posting). Now back to work for God's sake.

  19. EDG says:

    Tribeless, I think the problem that a lot of people are having with your posts is that despite your protestations, you do seem to be arguing from a position of hypothesized moral absolutism - that is, that there are Things That Are Right and Things That Are Wrong, and ne'er the twain shall meet - and they're disagreeing with you on whether the object of debate - in this case, file sharing in general and downloading books without the consent of the author in specific - is a Thing That Is Wrong. In particular, a lot of people appear to be getting annoyed at you because your position seems to be that of the moral arbiter, which is a position I don't think anybody here can assume.

    Quite honestly, morals are based on society, and your example above doesn't hold up:

    Lets us say that we put 19 Asian gentlemen into a room with one European guy. Lets now say that a democratic election is held and the 19 asians democratically elect to kill the European simply because he is a European (ie, on whim). The vote is 19 to 1, or 20 to 0 if the European guy is a complete moron. Note, either way, this is a fully democratic majority decision.

    Is it morally right?

    Absolutely - within the society delineated by the 20 people in the room. In the context of larger Western society, perhaps not - after all, there's a reason why the United States, at least, has laws against conspiracy to commit murder - but given the constraints of the limited society with which you've presented us, the only possible answer is yes.

    The same thing happens when we talk about file sharing. Within the context of people who are willing to download so-called intellectual property, with or without the creator's consent, it is probably thoroughly moral to do so. Within the context of society at large - well, to be honest, we don't know. I'd guess that most people thing it's wrong, but I could be mistaken.

    Switching topics for a moment, there's also an issue at stake with calling file sharing "theft" because it deprives the creator of a sale. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines "theft" as

    1. (Law) The act of stealing; specifically, the felonious taking and removing of personal property, with an intent to deprive the rightful owner of the same; larceny.

    Note: To constitute theft there must be a taking without the owner's consent, and it must be unlawful or felonious; every part of the property stolen must be removed, however slightly, from its former position; and it must be, at least momentarily, in the complete possession of the thief.

    Downloading a file from the Internet, unfortunately, doesn't fit any of these criteria - unless you want to reify the concept of the Sale. Even then, it's hard to do - how do you quantify or qualify "intent to purchase"? If you can demonstrate that J. Random Person downloading a book deprives the author of a sale (and here I presume, for the sake of simplicity within the argument, that every book has not more nor fewer than one author) then the downloading fulfills at least one of the criteria for theft - but can you definitively determine that there is a cost in sales?

    By direct contrast, I'd like to argue that the ability to download a book without (necessarily) paying for it helps authors and the general field of writing. I imagine that the first thing that's going to go through everybody's mind is "what kind of crack is he smoking?", but please hear me out. This argument depends on two things: a decentralized form of the concept that Cory used (introduced?) in Down and Out, "Whuffie"; and the existence of poor writers, or at the very least writers whose work I don't like, in the market.

    Let us presume that I am unable to read someone's writing except by buying their book in a bookstore. Let us presume further that I have bought a book that I simply didn't like - not necessarily for content, but for style and general writing quality. I have just rewarded this author for writing even though I did not enjoy what he wrote - and I no longer have that money to spend on a book by an author I do like. The end result is that I'm either

    a) not going to reward the authors that I like to read, or
    b) never read anybody new.

    On the other hand, if I can read at least a sample of the work beforehand, I can determine whether I like the style of the work, the content of the book, etc. I can reward the authors I like, fail to reward the authors I don't like, and encourage the market to grow in a direction that's favorable for me as a reader.

    I hope that made sense.

  20. EDG says:

    Downloading a file from the Internet, unfortunately, doesn't fit any of these criteria

    Well, okay, except for "without the owner's consent". And even that's fuzzy.

  21. Scott says:

    Check the URL above for a possible resolution to this tangle (also posted by Cory on Boing Boing). Let's follow the analogies:

    1) We have an existing system for music on radio and played in bars, clubs, etc. Artists record their songs, songs are played on radio, radio stations pay flat fees which are then divvied up among rights holders (let's not get into the whole payola mess, however - it seems to prove that artists should be paying 'pirates' and P2P sites for the favor of distribution).

    2) There seems no logical reason why this model should not be extended to high quality Internet radio; it's still a broadcast technology, right?

    3) The Sony Betamax case established that for TV as a broadcast technology, the manufacturer of a recording technology only needs to establish substantial noninfringing uses.

    4) Later interpretation has led to the position that 'time-shifting' of broadcasts by viewers/consumers is a legitimate activity. Keeping the recordings indefinitely is a gray area, but generally not of great concern unless selling them. There's also a 'tax' on recording media, again divvied out to rights holders.

    5) Internet broadcast of songs plus recording/time-shifting pretty much equals sharing. So long as we adopt a flat fee scheme of some sort and make sure the rights holders (hopefully the artists) are compensated, this is no more stealing than listening to them on the radio, recording Buffy so you can watch it on the weekend, or borrowing a book from the library (especially in England, where authors are actually compensated for library loans according to a similar scheme).

    Let's extend the technology to books, or rather the text of books, available as electronic files. Until really ergonomically great (good size, non-glowing) electronic book readers come along, there will continue to be a market for actual hard copy books. Having a 'radio' like setup for sharing of e-books could potentially serve the same *marketing* purpose for actual hard copies as radio currently does for recorded music. The mere fact that *some* people will choose to read all their books for free (apart from a small surcharge on connection fees and/or recording media and equipment) will no more kill the publishing industry than the fact that some people just listen to the radio has killed the music industry. Hey, some people (more patient than me, admittedly) get all their books from the library...

  22. To ebook or not to ebook, that is the question

    Over the past week I've been devouring a

  23. Sandra says:

    Cory,

    I stumbled across your site due to a link posted in my writer's group. I wonder how many actually fully checked out your site and it's links. A lot of good info here, especially on this thread, which I have been reading with quite a bit of amusement. I have to say that if your books read anything like this informative and amusing commentary on these posts, I may just have to download a copy. Mind you, I'm not at all a sci-fi person, but I admire intelligence and good writing skills.

    First I have to say that this idea is facinating to me, because I had read before about an author giving away her books, but the information was not detailed like this, and she never indicated anything about cc and the rights management they offer.

    I think it's brilliant. It gives people a good preview of what the book is about, and they can decide whether they want to purchase it, as opposed to buying it based on prehaps a well written blurb, and then opening it to discover they don't like it, it's not well written, or maybe being disappointed in other facets about the book.

    It also offers a lot of exposure to the author, prior to print publishing, so they can get a good feel on the market and how the book will do, as well as offer prepublishing pricing to perspective buyers.

    I must agree with Ken. First of all, I have barely gotten half way through the posts, but I too am a frequent infringer at Barnes and Nobles, and I can tell you from first hand experience; I have sat there and read a book in its entirety, within five hours, because I was so engrossed in it, and it answered some issues I was dealing with at the time. Upon completing the book, I was immediately compelled to buy it, and I did simply because I liked it so much. I figured I would want to reread it, because it has so much meaning to me. In addition, I knew of friends that would benefit from it as well.

    Once I got the book home, (one of Paulo Cuelo's books) I called my best friend and told her about it. She immediately was interested in seeing this book, so I loaned it to her. She still has it to this day, and this occurred two years ago. She refuses to return it to me, so I may end up having to purchase another, 'cause she's my friend, and I'm not gonna fight her over a book that meant as much to her as it did to me.

    Now I haven't yet replaced that particular book, but it was the first in a series of his books that I was exposed to, via Barnes and Nobles, and sitting on my ass reading. I've now collected almost every book this man has written...I want a library of his works. Therefore, he got subsequent sales, because I was allowed to "infringe" and got exposed to a writer I fell in love with.

    So for the small moment in time that I "infringed," Paulo got a sale nevertheless, and a potential second sale out of the deal.

    I also must agree with Phillip, who stated that no one is gonna read a book in its entirety on screen. I admit that whenever I download a pdf to read, I skim chapters...read a little but mostly, I'm only glancing, because I need to save my vision for other activities I need to do on my pc, and reading is for more of a relaxed state that cannot really be achieved while sitting at a computer. I personally have never used a palm reader, but I imagine there is a large degree of eye strain involved with those devices as well. I can't see that as way that I would ever ENJOY reading. I could see that maybe for informational reading, but not for the love of reading...no.

    And reading printout...he's right. It does not feel like a book...it feels like studying for a course in college, which is not always enjoyable, but maybe only necessary.

    As a writer, a new one at that, I'm very interested in this idea of sharing e-books, not because I wouldn't like to profit from my book. I'm very much in need of profits from somewhere, but Tribeless, the point is...people who are now known as big successes, whether in the book world, celebrities, music industry or whatever, all had to GIVE a bit of something...time, talent, advertising, or crosspromotion...something had to be given first, before they received. It's an immutable law.

    Nowadays, you gotta be willing to put up a minimum of $100 bucks, just to make $1.00. So I think this idea is sound, especially because it gives back to you in free promotion...the type that you'd have to pay thousands to get.

    Do you realize how fast the word "free" will spread? How much attention that word in its unhindered, no strings attached vernacular can draw? It's a very promising idea, and consider this.

    As a consumer, ideally, wouldn't you rather get to try a product prior to purchasing it? On a marketing tip, do you honestly think that you would get a sale from every customer who viewed your product, whether offered free or not? Most people, if they find value in a product will purchase it, right? For the handful of people that couldn't recognize value even if drowning in a pool of it, that would be your unreachable consumer's in either reality, so labeling everyone as infringers and thieves is really stupid.

    The unreachable customer will be unreachable whether it cost a million, or is free. Every market has unreachables and if you target your market, which is what the open free e-book will determine, your target market will find you and buy the book. It's totally sensible. Our system of marketing is a faith-based system, and this is a new faith-based angle to corner a market within that system. It's quite simple really.

    That said, I have no plans to be one of those that Cory said went kicking and screaming to the money tree. In order to find that tree, I gotta give something: info, money...it's the old exchange system at it's best.

    And for the kind of recognition and FREE publicity this would draw, let alone, additional promotional opportunities using the fact that it's a free download, ie: radio/tv interviews...I'm sorry, Tribeless, but I must disagree with your position. There is no better way to promote oneself, than a freebie.

    So if I decide through cc, to let a bunch of "thieves" as you call consumers, access to my first book, I have now gotten myself an established base of customers with which to promote my next project. Since they will already be familiar with my work, it's highly likely that I will generate far more for myself in sales on the second and forthcoming projects that will more than make up for any perceived losses I may have taken on the first project, which for promotion's sake, were none to begin with. An e-book cost little to nothing to create. That's my two cents. Peace.

  24. Sandra says:

    To sl1ck3r in regards to your post of February 4, 2004 07:55 PM:

    LMAO! Damn! Talk about on tap! All I can say is 2 snaps and a bag of chips!

    As to Tribeless, I'm curious about something. You said this:

    In the rest of your argument you made some interesting points. But, note, what I have been talking about is the immorality of file sharing. I also gave the specific set of circumstances that I was referring to: ie, individuals who deliberately go against an authors/songsters wishes, and share/loot their material - what do you call that if not theft (and don't give me the changing technology BS)?

    Since you define file sharing as immoral, based on a standard copyright, can you clarify what specifically is immoral about it? As I understand copyright protection, it is to guard not only against unauthorized use, but also unauthorized profit.

    However, in every single lawsuit that I have ever heard of, when the issue of unauthorized use came up, it was not, as in the music industry, because a user listened to it, but because by it being played for that user, the player, not the author, somehow profited from playing it.

    So what I have constantly seen, is that the authors object and/or file suit over unauthorized use only if their IP becomes brand recognized to someone else, or someone else's work, or, that other person somehow profits. I have never ever heard of unauthorized use claims being filed just because someone used the work, but in no way profited, and there was no kind of ill association or character damage done to the author or the author's work.

    So it seems to me that it is only when the author objects, that file sharing becomes an issue of piracy...well, the author and the publisher, because in some cases, the publisher owns the rights. So how can file sharing in a general sense be deemed immoral? It would only be immoral by your definition if it was taking profit from the artist who was seeking to profit, right?

    Therefore, it seems that Cory's idea is not as separate as you say it is, because technically, he is file sharing; he's not limiting how his product can be obtained.

    It seems to me that according to your position, the copyright laws, ie: infringement occurs and is immoral only when the author chooses to limit the access, and not otherwise. The entities we hear about, that are crying lost profits the most loudly and frequently, are not (in the case of the music industry) the authors, but the franchised corporations that like publishers, make profits off of the hard work of the authors, and basically, rob them of the majority of the profits.

    They let the author do all of the creative work, then tell them that in order to get their services, which the author has to pay for, and is not getting free (this is not a sponsorship deal in most cases); the author has to sign away his/her rights to the publisher.

    The publishers infringe upon the author's right to profit by paying them less than half of the profits in royalties, and by charging them for expenses and returns, yet sell the product created by the authors. Without the authors, would they have a product to sell? No.

    So they too, in a large sense, are "infringers and thieves," profiting off of the desire of the artist to be seen and heard, and published. So basically, isn't this a case of the pot calling the kettle black? What we have is a case of the thieves getting played by, IYO other thieves... better thieves maybe, yet, 3/4 of those so-called better thieves are more honourable, because they will purchase a good product after having the exposure to it.

    So right now...I'm just not sure if your point has any credence. It just makes me wonder if you aren't in the publishing business yourself. Maybe that's why you can afford the large screen etc. and the lifestyle you claim. Just my two cents.
    Peace.

  25. Tribeless says:

    Okay Sandra, I've been staying away from the thread, but I'm afraid you've earnt a hissy fit.

    You wrote: "Since you define file sharing as immoral, based on a standard copyright, can you clarify what specifically is immoral about it? ... So how can file sharing in a general sense be deemed immoral? It would only be immoral by your definition if it was taking profit from the artist who was seeking to profit, right?"

    READ all my posts. I explained myself very carefully and clearly. Do not offer yourself up to the temptation to intellectualise yourself into the moral abyss. Cory's book is not part of this debate as he is allowing file sharing. However, when my first stupendous novel is published, I will use a traditional copyright that forbids file sharing, as do probably about 99% of published authors currently; when you share a copy of my book, and while not paying me for that copy, then you have stolen from me what is rightfully mine. Whether you are stealing from my publisher or myself makes absolutely no difference - same result. If the publisher can't make a profit then he/she will go out of business, thus no publishing industry, no professional level writing.

    BUT READ MY ABOVE POSTS, SANDRA ... please :) all of them.

    CORY: my final word on why, IM(Not)HO, I think your model is doomed, over the long term.

    Sandra actually, completely without knowing it, signalled why: "no one is gonna read a book in its entirety on screen. I admit that whenever I download a pdf to read, I skim chapters...read a little but mostly, I'm only glancing, because I need to save my vision for other activities I need to do on my pc, and reading is for more of a relaxed state that cannot really be achieved while sitting at a computer".

    I agree, of course - who would be remotely interested in reading an ebook on a desktop. But this is where the filesharers, and Cory's argument/method breaks down. You cite 'change' as why you have to break the current copyright model, but you have not taken 'change' into account where it really does matter. Soon, the majority of the population will read ebooks on very comfortable handhelds.

    I read a LOT, however, over the last two to three years I have not purchased one dead tree book: all my e-reading matter has been purchased from either Fictionwise.com, or from Palm Media. (Incidentally, Palm's Secure Reader ebooks, which encrypt round my credit card number, are a lovely DRM solution - no incovenience, secure from file sharing abuse). With our increasingly electonic lives, we are not many years at all away from this being the norm. I wouldn't want to go back to the inconvenience of dead tree books.

    So, Cory's current achilles heel. His experiment still rests on people buying his dead tree book, that is still how he profits: thus we actually have a dinosaur concept backing the new concept, which must ultimately be a failure.

    Before you go destroying the old model, then shouldn't you have a much clearer course to follow on just how you are going to make money long term.

    My final proof: I have just read 'EST', enjoyed it and was thinking about actually purchasing the ebook version of 'Down and Out...' from Palm Media (retailing I think for about $9.00). However, I have also just purchased Richard Morgan's 'Altered Carbon' from Fictionwise, and am about to purchase Gibson's 'Pattern Recognition' from Palm Digitial Media. Now, copies of your ebook may not be scarce, but my cash is (like everybodies) - result, I purchased Morgan, I will purchase Gibson next week (they will both get my money); however, Cory allows me to download his for free, there is no point me purchasing his dead tree book, I don't read them, so Cory will miss out.

    Perhaps, Cory, if you sold using traditional methods, you would be making more money. How are you ever going to know???

    Finally, and I don't know if I'm allowed to say this, but I'm just connecting two publicly posted pieces of information, and then drawing an inference. From BoingBoing I see you're moving to London, ultimately, Cory, to work for Creative Commons. So perhaps a vested interest? Also, an income stream from the Creative Commons licence 'experiment' that will be of no use to other authors?

    Perhaps a low blow. But my own example above stands and my final comment (well, for now).

  26. Sven Neuhaus says:

    EST (the hardcover incarnation) has finally made it to Germany, I started reading it on the way to work today. Looking good so far, as expected :-) I'm looking forward to your arrival in GMT-Land; perhaps now I can attend one of your public appearances.
    Your paper "Ebooks: Neither E, Nor Books" has resparked my interest in ebooks (I mostly lost interest due to the lack of nice reading devices currently), I think I'll put an ascii version of EST on my smartphone so I don't ruin my precious 1st edition :-)

    Godspeed!

  27. The Passion of the Information Flow

    I've begun the push to introduce wiki and weblog technologies into the company I work for.

  28. allez-oop says:

    Tribeless, you be trippin' - don't be a hater.

  29. Audrey says:

    Over and over, I have seen this comment: "no one is gonna read a book in its entirety on screen."

    Not true. I read many books on screen. I don't have a hand-held device, but I download many e-books to read on my pc. Excuse me, but I am somebody.

    I understand what Cory is doing here, and I really hope it works for him. I can't speak for anyone else, but I know what I will do. I'm about to download Cory's book, and I will read it on my pc. Will I buy a hard copy? No. I don't pay for books I can get for free. Will I buy Cory's future books? I don't know yet. It depends on what I think of this one.

    I'm a writer too, but without a finished book yet. I have the first two chapters of my novel posted on my website, and I am getting a lot of interest from readers. When the book is finished and published, I may add a third chapter to my site, but I have no intention of giving the entire book away for free. I want it to be read, but I want to make money too. If I don't make money, I will have to keep working and won't have time to write.

    For those who keep saying that you can't own an idea, I agree. But when I take an idea and write a story, that is my creation. Nobody else can give you the exact same story I can. That is why a finished creation is considered to belong to the creator. Nobody else can create the exact same end product.

    I can't figure out why politics and morality have come into this discussion. Wasn't this meant to be a discussion of Cory's marketing idea?

  30. Refuge says:

    Cory,
    I find your above discussion with Tribeless to be of very high quality. Reformat and distribute, please?

  31. NewB says:

    Though this discussion appears to have petered out, I do have a couple comments/questions.

    I truly believe that the truth (if there is one) lies somewhere between the extremes laid out on this thread by Tribeless and Mr. Doctorow. I won't bother explaining what it is about Tribeless's POV that rings false, or at least out of touch with publishing realities, since the majority of folks here already agree on those points. Instead, I'd like to point out what I believe Tribeless is right about.

    First, let's talk about Mr. Doctorow's experiment. He claims that it's a resounding success -- that since *he's* making money doing this, that clearly others can. That's specious reasoning. I think Mr. Doctorow is making money doing this *because* he's one of the first doing so, and defends file-sharers at every opportunity. Anyone with even a smidgen of guilt about file sharing will cling to Mr. Doctorow's words on this topic; he makes them feel better about what they've done, providing them with moral justification. They support him because he is (one of) the first to do this.

    Another (big) factor is that right or wrong, Cory Doctorow is more famous for the experiment than he is for his writing. I'm not saying his writing isn't good; on the contrary, I think it's excellent. But the reality is that ALL of the publicity I have seen for him has stemmed from his somewhat revolutionary publishing experiment. "Doctorow releases latest novel for free!" is a common subject line. He gets publicity for his writing in places no other author does, like slashdot and other non-writing, non-literature fora. The publicity for the experiment results in sales. Logically, this can't work for everybody -- if this type of publishing/distribution were commonplace, it wouldn't be special and most authors wouldn't get the kind of publicity Mr. Doctorow gets.

    Lastly, I'll point out that theft of intellectual property is exactly that -- theft. Downloading Doctorow's stuff and reading it for free is not theft because he's giving it away to all. This does not apply to most authors -- when you download their stuff without paying for it, you are breaking the law and doing so is morally wrong, no matter how you try to justify it.

    NewB

  32. Every writer of note is sui generis. Lemony Snicket is Lemony Snicket not just because of how he writes, but because of how he reads aloud, how his books are packaged and how they're marketed. There's no shame in being one-of-a-kind; in not being a writer that is a "repeatable experiment" -- we have a phrase for the kind of fiction that comes out of the mentality that demands a repeatable experiment: "extruded fantasy product."

    As to infringement being "just theft." No, it isn't. You are 100% wrong. Repeating it doesn't make it so. It doesn't advance the debate.

    Here are some really significant, nontrivial ways in which infringement is unlike theft:

    * IP is nonrivalrous: you can infringe on IP without depriving the IP's "owner" of the enjoyment of her IP

    * IP infringement is covered by a completely different set of laws, treaties and moral theories from theft of goods or services

    * IP reverts to the public domain; real property doesn't

    * Many kinds of infringement are perfectly lawful, including criticism, parody, etc, as well as first sale *und zo weiter* -- we have no such parallel doctrine of "fair theft" of real property

    * IP laws are recent and are repeatedly revised in the face of new technologies. We legalized the "theft" of sheet music in the era of the piano roll, no one legalized the theft of bicycles in the era of skeleton keys

    * The US and, indeed, every successfully industrialized nation in the world has spent at least a century as a "pirate nation" infringing on other nations' IP rights -- by contrast, nations that have legalized theft (i.e., failed states that have lapsed into kleptocracies) never successfully industrialize

    There's more, but you can glean it from (re)reading the thread.

  33. NewB says:

    Wow, quick response.

    I'm not trying to imply that there's any shame in being unique, or in the fact that your fame/book sales are due in large part to the publishing experiment you're conducting here. What I'm saying is that your test case is a poor one for determining the viability of this form of publishing for others. If/when everybody's doing it this way, the breathless announcements of a (gasp!) *free* book everywhere you look simply won't exist.

    As for the rest of it -- I think you keyed on the wrong point in my final paragraph. To be honest, I'm not much interested in arguing about the definition of "theft," and I understand that intellectual property is different in several key ways than physical property.

    My primary concern is that whatever you want to call it, downloading a song or a story you haven't paid for the rights to is wrong, *if the copyright holder doesn't want to give it away for free.* It's copyright infringement, and it's wrong however the infringer tries to justify it.

    I think there are a good number of people here who put more weight on your words, Cory, than others -- simply because you are who you are. I'd only suggest that for the opposite POV, they refer to Harlan Ellison's numerous writings on this topic. His POV is that copyright infringement *is* theft, and is actually closer to Tribeless's POV than I am.

    NewB

  34. Well, no, you're still not getting it. Infringement isn't wrong per se. In fact, the traditional response to wide-scale infringement is legalization of the infringing activity. That is, in fact, the ONLY response to widescale infringement that the US has ever made and it's a response that's been made on numerous occassions, with universally beneficial, non-sky-falling outcomes.

    You're also not getting it abotu sui generis. Lots of people buy Lemony Snicket books. Fewer people buy books packaged to look like Lemony Snicket books. If all books were packaged like Lemony Snicket books, his sales would probably drop off. That doesn't invalidate the "Lemony Snicket experiment."

    As to Harlan: the last time we debated this, he called the chairman of EFF a "motherfucker" and threatened to "punch his face in." He's currently suing AOL to require the company to actively censor newsfeeds that, in his view carry too much infringing material. I'm not sure why anyone would want to listen to him on this score.

  35. NewB says:

    "Well, no, you're still not getting it. Infringement isn't wrong per se. In fact, the traditional response to wide-scale infringement is legalization of the infringing activity."

    I'm getting it just fine, thanks. The historical response to infringement is irrelevent to whether doing so is right or wrong. When a writer publishes a story under current copyright law, the assumption on the part of the writer and publisher is that those who want to read the story will pay to do so, with few exceptions. It's wrong to violate copyright simply because you don't want to pay for the right to read the story.

    "That is, in fact, the ONLY response to widescale infringement that the US has ever made and it's a response that's been made on numerous occassions, with universally beneficial, non-sky-falling outcomes."

    I believe this infringement is inherently different than the earlier examples, and holds a much greater potential to hurt the artist, and result in lesser-quality and quantity of art.

    "You're also not getting it abotu sui generis."

    I get it but I disagree. I never said your experiment was worthless; it's clearly a resounding success in terms of marketing *your* writing. But it really doesn't tell us much of anything about whether this type of publishing would work well in general.

    People point at this experiment as proof that wide-scale free sharing of IP will not result in poverty for artists. "See? Cory Doctorow is doing it and it's working great for him!" I say it's working great for Cory Doctorow not because it's an inherently good way to go about managing IP, but because the experiment itself is bringing fame and attention you wouldn't have gotten via the traditional publishing route.

    "As to Harlan: the last time we debated this, he called the chairman of EFF a "motherfucker" and threatened to "punch his face in." He's currently suing AOL to require the company to actively censor newsfeeds that, in his view carry too much infringing material."

    Harlan is passionate about his views, and (as anyone who's read anything about him knows) he has a short temper and a reputation for being cantankerous and rude. None of that invalidates his arguments.

    "I'm not sure why anyone would want to listen to him on this score."

    I suggested people read what he has to say on this topic because he's not a nameless face on the internet like I am. Right or wrong, many people take what *you* have to say more seriously than they take most of us, because of your fame. I'm suggesting that people might be more receptive to Harlan Ellison's views on the matter than they are to mine.

    NewB

  36. Saying that my posiition is extreme doesn't make it so. Saying that Harlan is passionate doesn't excuse the fact that he screams instead of arguing. Saying that infringement is wrong doesn't consitute evidence of its wrongness. Saying that the Internet's copying model is a different thing from radio, TVs, cable, or recordings and will harm artists doesn't prove it.

    Basically, we've got, on the one hand, evidence: a hundred years of technology enabling new forms of expression and new infringments, met at every turn by people screaming that the sky is falling, calling other people motherfuckers, suing to shut down general purpose communications media, and at every turn, being proven wrong. Every single time. All of them. Every single advance in copying technology has benefitted artists and creativity and has required new copyright laws.

    On the other hand, we have your "beliefs." For which you have not produced a shred of evidence or argument, other than, "I believe it" and "Harlan has a reputation for rudeness."

  37. NewB says:

    Your position is extreme because it sits at one end of the spectrum in the discussion, with Tribeless and Harlan Ellison at the other end, and most people falling somewhere in between.

    Further, Harlan's screaming does not discount the validity of his position.

    You still fail to grasp a simple concept: that the moral rightness or wrongness of something has nothing to do with:

    how many people are doing it;
    how people have dealt with similar situations in the past;
    how easily it can be done with new technology;
    how people attempt to justify their actions now.

    Address this hypothetical:

    Forget copyright law. For the purposes of this thought experiment, it simply doesn't exist.

    John is a writer. He writes a story. Philip expresses interest in the story, and John explains that he can have a copy for the low, low price of $1, as long as Philip agrees to the following single condition: He may not copy the story in any way, to any medium.

    Philip agrees, and pays $1 for the story. The following day he types it into his computer and posts it to a USENET newsgroup.

    Is what Philip did wrong? A simple "yes" or "no" will suffice.

    NewB

  38. In the absence of copyright law? Not wrong at all.

    Meanwhile, the timeless morality of copyright of which you speak is so new, the paint on it is hardly dry. It didn't come down off Sinai on two stone tablets: the greatest majority of works ever created were created under the regime you describe -- no copyright, nothing stopping anyone from copying anyone else. Copyright, and the morality of copying, is strictly local and strictly utilitarian. It was created in living memory to cope with the devices sitting in your living room, and revved every time a new device came along.

    And if you think that I -- who advocates a balance of copyright more in line with the one that the Framers of the Constitution set out -- represent the extreme end of the permissive copyright spectrum, you need to get out more.

  39. NewB says:

    "And if you think that I -- who advocates a balance of copyright more in line with the one that the Framers of the Constitution set out -- represent the extreme end of the permissive copyright spectrum, you need to get out more."

    Two points:

    1. I didn't say you sat at the extreme end of the "permissive copyright spectrum." I said you sit at "one end of the extreme in [this] discussion."

    2. Your contention that your view of copyright is in line with what the Framers of the Constitution set out is laughable.

    As for your answer to the hypothetical:

    Philip, after agreeing not to copy John's story, went ahead and did it anyway. Nothing could be further from "right." If you can't see how breaking a simple agreement between two people is wrong, then you have a moral blind spot that makes futher discussion pointless.

    Thanks for taking the time,
    NewB

  40. The Framers of the Constitution set out a copyright law that only entitled the author to 14 years' protection, if the work was registered and deposited with the LoC. If the creator was alive at the end of the 14 years, s/he could renew for another 14 years. The protection only extended to verbatim copying, not translations, adaptations, abridgements or other derived works. Tell me again about the Founders' Copyright?

  41. Jerry Wright says:

    NewB, you know me. You are correct in saying that Philip's posting of John's story was immoral in that he broke his word to John. However, legally, and morally, John doesn't really have the right to require Philip's compliance. In the real world, Philip would tell John to "get a life", and would spend his dollar on a beer, or something else. Stringent requirements such as John's are actually damaging to him, though he may not realize it.

    Such is the case with the frothing over Intellectual Property (a misnomer if ever there was one, and something that wants me say say "mu", unsay it...)

    Tribeless' comment about the death of books is also false to fact, as most writers write because they have no choice. It is a terrible addiction. And to get paid for it? Joy!

    Cory is not the only person to set up downloads of his works, nor is his experience atypical. The Baen experiment (again, see earlier posts) show that the free downloads actually build sales of dead-tree books, and as for music, visit Janis Ian's site. Since she started promoting downloads of her music (as quickly as she can get each piece of her music out the hands of the greedy music industry), her sales and profitablity have increased.

    Frankly, "intellectual property" as defined by many people today is actually what is immoral, because of the extremes it has gone to.

    (Cory, you got people coming over from the Asimov's.com website.)

    --Jerry

  42. You know, I'm still flabberghasted by the argument you're putting forward, NewB. First, the low-budget Socratic dialogue ("A yes or no will suffice"), then accusation of a "moral blind spot."

    Here's some Socrates back atcha. A blind person is guaranteed a statuatory right to convert any book to Braille or other assistive formats, under the Copyright Act. If I sell a book and put a piece of shrinkwrap around in with a sticker that says, "By unwrapping this shrinkwrap, you promise to waive your right to convert this book to Braille," is it all right if a blind person ignores the shrinkwrap "agreement?" What if I offer to sell you lunch but make you promise not to sue if I make you sick? What if I sell you a plane ticket but exact a promise that you won't seek redress if my drunken pilot crashes the plane on take-off?

    What if an author shrinkwraps her book with a sticker that makes you "agree" not to loan out the book? Should a library be bound by this agreement, despite the statuatorily guaranteed right of libraries, under first sale, to loan out copyrighted works without the authors' permission?

    A simple yes or no will suffice.

    Or, if you must elaborate, please do so while actually defending your position, rather than tossing off airy high-minded words about its 'morality." Did the morality spring fully formed from your forehead like Athena squeezing free from Zeus? Is there a reason behind your morality? Or is it just a religious convinction that we have to accept on faith?

  43. NewB says:

    "So I did the unthinkable. I violated the Code. I got into a bidding war with a buddy. [...]

    "And then I explained to him all about how you never bid against a craphound at a yard-sale [...]

    "...and how you never buy something that another craphound might be looking for..."

    -- All excerpts from "Craphound," by Cory Doctorow.

    Sigh... I wasn't going to continue the discussion, but I want to address Jerry's questions.

    "NewB, you know me. You are correct in saying that Philip's posting of John's story was immoral in that he broke his word to John."

    And that was the point of the hypothetical. No discussion of what's right or wrong can be meaningful if the two sides can't even agree on the simplest example -- that of a person agreeing to one thing and then immediately doing the opposite. You and I both, Jerry, agree that what Philip did was wrong (immoral).

    Cory says that what Philip did was "Not wrong at all." How can we even continue the discussion when we're speaking different languages? Frankly, this baffles me because Cory describes a similar kind of moral dilemma in "Craphound." There's no law that says Jerry (the character in "Craphound") can't try to outbid his friend. But there's an implicit agreement there -- you just don't do that. It's wrong. Jerry does it anyway, and *knows* what he did was wrong.

    Now we have the author of that story claiming that in the absence of copyright law, breaking a verbal agreement between two people is "not wrong at all."

    "However, legally, and morally, John doesn't really have the right to require Philip's compliance."

    I can't disagree more strongly with this statement, Jerry. John can put whatever stipulations he wants to on the sale of his story. Philip can take it or leave it. If he takes it, he has an ethical obligation to hold up his end of the deal.

    "Stringent requirements such as John's are actually damaging to him, though he may not realize it."

    Yes, I agree. That doesn't mean Philip should break his agreement with John, or that doing so is justified by Philip's belief that what he's doing is beneficial to John.

    "Tribeless' comment about the death of books is also false to fact, as most writers write because they have no choice. It is a terrible addiction. And to get paid for it? Joy!"

    This will probably be news to some, but I'm not Tribeless and I differ with him on several points here. I don't honestly think that what Cory's doing is going to mean the death of books, or that his choice to allow free copying and distribution of his books is detrimental to other writers. I do think that if copyright law is changed to allow free copying and distribution of all written works, whether the author wants it or not, that fewer authors will be able to make a living at writing and that consequently, the quality and quantity of writing will be reduced.

    I do not believe that copyrights extending hundreds of years (or author's life plus xx years) are a good thing. I'm in favor of copyrights lasting for some reasonable number of years (15, 20?) renewable in increments BY the author only, for the life of the author or until he/she decides not to renew.

    But that's getting off the point I was trying to discuss, which was large-scale copyright infringement by internet users.

    I have no sympathy for the big record companies or movie studios who are crying about losing money, when the truth is that they rip off the artists/performers under their labels far more than the fans are ripping them off.

    But that doesn't make copyright infringement *right* from a moral or ethical standpoint. Again, if the singer/writer/movie maker wants to distribute his/her work for free, more power to them. Many artists can benefit from this. If they realize this and agree to it, GREAT! If they don't understand that this can be beneficial to them, too bad -- for everyone involved.

    NewB

  44. Jerry Wright says:

    Uh. Okay, Newb. Ya got me. If John didn't like Philip's onerous requirements, he should walk away from the story rather than reneging on his word.

    However, some laws need to be broken. And frequently. It has been said that "hard cases make bad law", and here we have a situation where the rights of the creator contravene the rights of the public. As Cory has mentioned time and again, copyright law as exists at present is a relatively new thing, as is the concept of intellectual property. Brighter people than I have debated whether IP actually exists because in part they disagree on a definition of IP.

    For a wonderful example of intellectual property and copyright infringement, we have the case of George Harrison's song "My Sweet Lord" having been determined to be infringing upon the Chiffons' song "He's So Fine".

    If the monkey motion (as seen at http://abbeyrd.best.vwh.net/mysweet.htm ) involved in this case doesn't tell you that "copyright" and IP have gone too far, then, what can I say?

    For an SF look at how the whole DRM thing could play out, read Karl Schroeder's PERMANENCE, and pay close attention to the "Rights Economy". Shudder.

    By the way, Cory, I downloaded and read DAOITMK on my palm, and am now reading EST. Great work, and I will be purchasing a dead-tree copy shortly.
    --Jerry

  45. So if contract trumps all and the author's monopoly is supreme and should never be regulated, you'd be cool with me stipulating that any blind person who acquires my book waive her right to convert it to Braille? After all, we've agreed to it. If she doesn't like it, let her purchase someone else's book. Right?

    Glad you liked the book, Jerry!

  46. Not this novel, but Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is licensed for the creation of non-commercial derivative works (i.e., you could make a play if you didn't charge money for admission); otherwise, email me and I can put you in touch with my agent.

  47. Tribeless says:

    Thank Rand, NewB, there is someone else out there who actually understands the difference between moral right and moral wrong, and that it attaches to this issue absolutely. IP issues are now the litmus test of freedom issues. I've grown tired with banging my head against the brick wall of this issue in the face of forked tongued intellectuals ...

    By the way, NewB is obviously not me, as I am far more extreme in my views (for example, I only believe in a voluntary public domain, completely under the control of the creator).

    I've given all my arguments earlier in this thread, and on other forums where I've managed to fall out with black flag anarchists pushing Cory's line (I love Cory's writing, but the black flag anarchists are hopelessly mis-guided, and do the cause of freedom much harm), I've also fallen out with fellow Libertarians ... but I know the difference between right and wrong. However, on a more fundamental level, this issue for me is beginnining to boil down to this.

    'An individual has choice and control over their life. That individual can choose to ignore tyranny of the majority and attempt to live a noble life, trading value for value, and being true unto themselves. Or, they can choose a second hander ignoble back stabbing life. Those supporting P2P in the face of an author's express desire against this, have consiously chosen the latter cold, friendless road. And it is a friendless road, because they will find there truly are no friends among thieves.'

    A very good political writer, whom I respect, Claire Woolf, who wrote for a Libertarian/Anarchist readership, has announced on her site that she is no longer interested in writing further political books, as those who she thought her friends where trading her books P2P, thus denying her a livelihood (and now the rest of us her inspiration).

    That is the sort of world the P2P'ers will lead you to. The sick thing is, you know the best they offer in return ... to quote Aaron Swartz, P2P monster, 'if the author looks like they might need it, you could perhaps donate them some money' - yes, the creator as slave/charity case.

    If you want to really be chilled, read all of the below thread (by the way, the noble Tribeless has been round a lot longer than Cory's novel):

    http://www.corante.com/copyfight/archives/002642.html

    Fans of Monty Python will particularly find amusing Aaron's logic behind essentially calling me a homophobic rascist for my defence of copyright! Sick indeed - Swartz is one of the professed intellectuals in the P2P vanguard.

    They just don't get it. If you count these guys as your friends ... don't.

  48. Tribeless says:

    Cory wrote:

    "So if contract trumps all and the author's monopoly is supreme and should never be regulated, you'd be cool with me stipulating that any blind person who acquires my book waive her right to convert it to Braille? After all, we've agreed to it. If she doesn't like it, let her purchase someone else's book. Right?"

    Right in one, Cory, you're finally getting it. I might add that you making the decision not to allow the blind person to convert to Braille would be a compassionless one, and economically stupid as you would be missing legitimate sales, however, that right/decision SHOULD be yours as the creator of the work.

    The price of this not being the scenario, that is, the undermining of a capitalist economy, the undermining of an ethical approach to leading one's life, thus, freedom itself, is a far too higher price to be paid otherwise.

    To repeat what I've also said on another site: the price of freedom is the cost of costs and services, including IP - legitimately made and legitimately purchased.

  49. So, you're arguing, basically, that all those centuries, all the way up to 1975, when coyright required major formalities, or didn't exist at all, or expired quickly -- that all that work, created during those periods when copyright was nothing at all like a property regime, that creativity was somehow stifled? That every work created up until today (and possibly not even those, since works created today also expire, also have enormous easements though their propertization) is a pale shadow of the creativity that would have been enabled, the social benefit that would have been derived, had there been property in IP? And your argument for this is that it's "morality" and that anyone who doesn't hear that word and roll over on his back and bear his throat at the blinding obviousness of your argument is therefore "immoral" and a black-flag anarchist?

    Interesting argument. I hadn't realized we were talking relgion instead of social policy.

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