By Letitia Coyne
Posted June 28, 2012
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I thought I’d start this blog entry with the first line of one of my favourite Bob Dylan songs, then I realized that would actually be a breach of copyright; the sort of breach users of the internet are very familiar with and rarely give thought to in our day to day chatting and posting.
It’s a confusing line, actually, about iron idols with glowing eyes, and casting bread onto water. We all know what is supposed to happen when you cast bread on the water, “After many days it will return to you,” – so we are told in Ecc 11:1, and generousity of spirit is common to every religion and all humane philosophies. Of course, we also know that the reality is that we will cast our bread and feed some fish. What eventually washes back to shore will be a bit of soggy crust.
Bob himself has done very well out of protesting against the Man and the Machine. Very nicely indeed. But he loves a bit of his own right to copyright, and is not so picky about those rights which belong to others – so I won’t risk quoting his lyrics.
The whole copyright thing is buzzing the airwaves again.
Mark Coker at Smashwords is in the middle of negotiating an arrangement in which Califa can and will go ahead with single-copy-loaning of Smashwords bestselling titles in a library of ebooks. Califa will buy the single titles and then loan them out. The plan will go on to include options for self-published authors, too.
The deal is based on the whole ‘single copy’ idea, and Digital rights management (DRM) will be applied to the files.
This is where I climb onto the fence, not least because the argument over DRM gets so heated neither side is a comfortable place to be if you harbor any doubts. It’s fierce.
I’m of the ‘IDK party’. I don’t know what the solution is to marketing in the digital age. I understand the artists, who do not usually make squillions of dollars, wanting the right to sell what they make just as any other producer of goods can, but I’m a perpetual bread-thrower. I can’t help it. Give me something to sell and I’ll say “I have plenty; you have that one if you want it.” I’m very bad at it. I have a history.
See, I don’t believe for one moment that the argument of the publishers has much to do with money for the artists. I don’t believe for a moment that the argument over SOPA and its many-acronymed likes have anything to do with the rights of artists or individuals of any ilk. I don’t even know what it means to me that I don’t own what I write on my facebook page, that facebook can redirect my email to their servers, or that they can change the rules without telling me. I can’t begin to guess what it will all mean into the future.
I do know that I have never suffered for giving everything away. That’s not true – I grew up with my parents’ plant nursery, and saying to buyers then, “That’ll grow from cuttings; hang on and I’ll cut you a bit,” did not go down well. I suffered for it. On the other hand, it did mean I was seldom required to give up weekends selling plants for my dear mother …. Swings and roundabouts.
I do know that my ancient belief that if we all just gave what we had extra to the people who didn’t have enough, somehow we’d all end up with enough to go around, is outdated. It has worked out well enough for me, though. I came to the world of the internet with absolutely nothing. I did not even know how to use a WYSIWYG. I didn’t know what a wysiwyg was. I didn’t know how to make a hyperlink. Since I arrived on these fair shores, someone has shown me, or taught me, or offered me help to learn all of these things and never once – NOT ONCE – have they asked to be paid.
I hope the world of the internet does not become a wholly user pays place. I hope there are ways for people who want or need to live on the sale of their skills to make enough money to get by. I hope Smashwords and Califa and all of the millions of readers worldwide who will want to use a free library service can make this plan a reality.
I just hope that we don’t cut off too many freedoms in pursuit of our rights.
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