I’ve never been a fan of his fiction, but I’m thinking maybe Harlan Ellison is a man worth admiring:
Nine years ago, Mr. Ellison sued Internet service providers for failing to stop a user from posting four of his stories to an online newsgroup. Since settling that suit, he has pursued more than 240 people who have posted his work to the Internet without permission. “If you put your hand in my pocket, you’ll drag back six inches of bloody stump,” he said.
Now there’s a copyright warrior I could march into battle with. Sooner or later something will cut him down; I’ve come to the realization that the gurus are right, you can’t fight free, even law-abiding people don’t think it’s stealing when the person on the other end is just some face on a back cover, and anyway they’re probably rich and I’m not, so go ahead and download their book onto your Kindle, what’s the harm?
I’m getting ahead of myself.
The NYT looks at the latest frontier in copyright theft — books. Until now, stealing books didn’t pay, so to speak, but with the Kindle and other e-readers, the doors are open:
Sites like Scribd and Wattpad, which invite users to upload documents like college theses and self-published novels, have been the target of industry grumbling in recent weeks, as illegal reproductions of popular titles have turned up on them. Trip Adler, chief executive of Scribd, said it was his “gut feeling” that unauthorized editions represented only a small fraction of the site’s content. …An example of copyrighted material on Scribd recently included a digital version of “The Tales of Beedle the Bard,” a collection of fairy tales by J. K. Rowling. One commenter, posting as vicious-9690, wrote “thx for posting it up ur like the robinhood of ebooks.”
I’m trying to separate my intellectual reaction from that of my gut, which thinks vicious-9690 is most likely a 300-pound jerkoff with one hand buried in his pants and the other in a box of Froot Loops or, as Stephen King puts it succinctly later in the story:
“The question is, how much time and energy do I want to spend chasing these guys,” Stephen King wrote in an e-mail message. “And to what end? My sense is that most of them live in basements floored with carpeting remnants, living on Funions and discount beer.”
I suspect King is wrong, that there are Russian and Chinese and American hackers working on sites to sell the Twilight novels for half off the retail e-reader price. Or maybe not — maybe this is all a matter of the cheap and sleazy undercutting the talented and successful. “The robinhood of ebooks” says a lot about the ignorant mindset of the people who do this, as Robin Hood took from the rich and gave to the poor. I’ve known a few authors in my life, and they range from middle class to upper-middle. A few more can’t quit their day jobs (usually teaching). All of them work harder than most of us, and if you saw what they earn for every copy they sell, you’d be amazed — it’s far less than you probably think. The Stephen Kings and Stephenie Meyers and J.K. Rowlings are rare exceptions.
So bully for Ellison and his 240 takedown letters. He may be fighting a losing battle, but he’s on the side of the angels. (I sent a takedown letter of my own a while back. It was a beautiful feeling.)
So, a little bloggage? Sure:
As someone who wrote about the Vanessa Williams/Miss America explosion a thousand years ago, there’s something about seeing a headline like this — Pageant Double Standard? Steamy Photos of Miss Rhode Island Won’t Threaten Her Crown — that makes me feel 1,001 years old.
Dear Tom Friedman: In the past eight years my feelings about you have moved from admiration, to grudging admiration, to dislike, and now to contempt. With good reason, you greedy bastard.
We saw the preview for “Up” at the movies the other day. I can’t wait. Roger didn’t have to.
I have so much work to do this week I feel pre-emptively crippled by it. So I think I’ll do a little, right now.