My Creative Commons licensed 2013 novel Homeland, the sequel to my 2008 novel Little Brother, spent four weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and got great reviews around the country. But Fox apparently hasn’t heard of it — or doesn’t care. They’ve been sending takedown notices to Google (and possibly other sites), demanding that links to legally shared copies of the book be removed.
These notices, sent under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, require that the person who signs them swears, on pain of perjury, that they have a good faith basis to assert that they represent the rightsholder to the work in question. So Fox has been swearing solemn, legally binding oaths to the effect that it is the rightsholder to a file called, for example, “Cory Doctorow Homeland novel.”
It’s clear that Fox is mistaking these files for episodes of the TV show “Homeland.” What’s not clear is why or how anyone sending a censorship request could be so sloppy, careless and indifferent to the rights of others that they could get it so utterly wrong. I have made inquiries about the possible legal avenues for addressing this with Fox, but I’m not optimistic. The DMCA makes it easy to carelessly censor the Internet, and makes it hard to get redress for this kind of perjurious, depraved indifference.
A young man named Alex came out to my Decatur, GA Homeland tour-stop and we had a charming (if brief) conversation, and subsequently snapped this quite wonderful photo. One of Alex’s teachers subsequently wrote to me to say that Alex had taken high academic honors in a Letters About Literature contest about Little Brother, and he was kind enough to allow me to reproduce both the photo and the letter here.
Dear Cory Doctorow,
Little Brother is one of those drastically important books that deals with real issues affecting everyone. This book was, in my opinion, more than just a book; it was a persuasive, life-changing book, the kind of gem that comes around too infrequently.
Before I read Little Brother I was scared to try something different. I surrounded myself with the same old young-adult novels (you know- goes on a quest, learns many things, big fight with a troll, the end) and never dared to step out of my little box.
One day during the sixth grade I saw a kid with too many teeth sitting in a dusty corner, reading Little Brother, and asked him what it was about. He shrugged and muttered something incoherent about Harajuku Fun Madness. When I arrived at home I looked up the book on the internet. Before long I discovered your website, and became intrigued by the fact that you were just giving away your e-books.
The book shipped in two days.
I am always thinking. Constantly tossing up an idea, usually shooting it down, tossing up another one, sometimes it flies, I wait for it to crash, then I walk over to it and shoot it another three or four times for good measure. The few months before I read Little Brother this had dumbed down a bit. I could feel it, like I was wearing earplugs, and only low, muffled, blurry ideas wandered through occasionally to stop and say hi before continuing on their way.
After (and during) the reading of Little Brother the haze had lifted and was replaced by an energetic excitement that jumpstarted my brain to life. My neurons hummed like lawnmowers. A refreshing feeling of urgency and eagerness surged through me– a feeling I’d not experienced since being eight years old on Christmas. And I started thinking again.
I put my flawless (yeah, right) guess-and-test technique to work, meticulously weeding through all the information to make sense of things. I realized just how possible the police-state situation could be- after 9/11 security everywhere was increased and tightened. The scanners updated. The rules stricter. The pat-downs more, ahem, thorough. What if this happened, but on a much larger scale?
Also, I’m a bit more paranoid. I know about those looming possibilities, terrifying ones- that technology could be used against me, that my freedom is more fragile than I thought. Already I’ve begun questioning the things presented to me as fact. I look at something and decide for myself if it’s the opinion I want to have.
My favorite part about Little Brother is how, in some way or another, it opened me up to so many other books and authors- Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Jack Kerouac, George Orwell, the list could go on and on.
Little Brother was and still remains the most important book I’ve ever read. If I had not read your book I would be awfully different, and probably much more ignorant and stubborn. Because of your book I started writing. I read more. I think more. You have written a book that is not only good, but life-changing as well. Thanks.
Thomas “Command Line” Gideon came out for the DC stop on my Homeland tour, at Busboys and Poets, and mic’ed me up for the event. He’s mastered the audio and posted it. It’s a 40 minute talk about the promise of technology to improve our lives, the risks from allowing technology to be used to surveil and control us, and the contributions Aaron Swartz made to this cause and to the book. There’s also about 20 minutes of Q&A.
A pair of nice interviews about my new novel Homeland hit the Web today: this fun chat with Rob “CmdrTaco” Malda on the Washington Post, and this one with David Klein at Las Vegas City Life:
It’s about conveying your enthusiasm. My readers like that enthusiastic voice. The dirty secret about geeking out is that it becomes a meditation. What starts as a frivolous “whatever” and people go, “whatever, look at that guy with too much time on his hands” becomes a meditation. Thinking about anything and doing it well becomes meditative.
Part of the plot in Homeland revolves around “hidden services” on the Tor network. Now, a fan of mine in Norway called Tor Inge Røttum has set up a hidden service and stashed copies of all my books there. He writes:
A hidden service in Tor is a server, it can be any server, a web server, chat server, etc. A hidden service can only be accessed through Tor. When accessing a hidden service you don’t need an exit node, which means that they are more secure than accessing the “clearnet” or the normal Internet (if you want). Because then the exit nodes can’t snoop up what you are browsing. Hidden services are hard to locate as most of them aren’t even connected to the clearnet.
I don’t have any servers or computers that I can run 24/7 to host a hidden service, but fortunately there is a free webhost that is hosting websites on Tor: http://torhostg5s7pa2sn.onion.to
After creating the domain I wrote a dirty bash script to download most of Cory’s books and create a HTML file linking to them. It’s available on pastebin: http://pastebin.com/3YR6j8zJ