For my latest podcast, I read my latest Locus op-ed, A Lever Without a Fulcrum Is Just a Stick, which analyzes why giving creators more copyright hasn’t made them richer, and proposes other kinds of authors’ rights that would translate into real money for real creators.
The fact that the company can’t reproduce your book without your permission doesn’t mean much if the only way to get your book into the public’s hands is through that company, or one of a small handful of companies with identical negotiating positions. None of the Big Five publishers will let you keep your ebook rights, and increasingly they won’t let you split your commonwealth and US rights, or retain your audio rights, or even opt out of binding arbitration in your contract, meaning that all disputes you have with them need to be settled not in court, but in a private arbitration system where they pay the judge who decides whether you’ve been wronged by them.
In that monopolistic world, beefing up the author’s monopoly isn’t just useless – it’s counterproductive. You can extend the scope or duration of copyright all you like, but if those new rights are useful to the firms that monopolize the sector, they will simply acquire them as a condition of doing business with them, and add the rights to their arsenals, strengthening their market dominance.