Friday, November 19, 2010

Copyright Alliance Blog Day

Recently, a magazine called Cook’s Source pilfered a woman’s article from the internet. After telling her that publishing the article on line put it into the “public domain,” the editor claimed that she had to practically rewrite the piece and that the writer should thank her or even pay her for the work she did to make the article “print-worthy.” The editor went on to say that she had a stable of young writers who were quite grateful to write free articles for her because of the exposure she gave them. This sounds a lot like my last publisher who always seemed to disappear when it was time to produce royalty statements, and had a lot of loopholes written into our contracts that enabled her to continue selling our books long after our contracts expired. She claimed we should be grateful she gave us a chance to be published. Grateful is one thing, hearing her brag that she made seventy thousand last year while she was telling me I didn't made enough to earn a lousy twenty dollar royalty check didn't make me that "grateful."

I will admit I’m guilty of buying books at used bookstores, passing books I’ve read to family and friends, and donating used books to hospital libraries—especially Veteran’s hospitals. Technically that could probably be considered a violation of copyright laws. People are reading author’s books without paying for them and the authors are missing out on those royalties. No, I don’t buy them if the cover’s been removed. I have some principles. I’m on a fixed income and I save money where I can.

But I know what it’s like to put a year or more of my heart and soul into a book and not see any money in return. I’ve seen one publisher go out of business due to financial problems, and I’ve been ripped off by another. I have not seen my work on any pirate sites yet, but I’m sure that will happen eventually unless we convince the world that the internet is not the public domain. Yes, I am repeating that with Patrick Ross of the Copyright Alliance said on their blog, “When a Writer is Pilfered,” which you can read at: http://blog.copyrightalliance.org/2010/11/when-a-writer-is-pilfered/.

So—if you believe a person should get paid for the work he/she does, then you should support copyright laws. Buy a new book every once in awhile. Give Grandma a new book for Christmas or her birthday. I know one grandma who would love an e-book reader, hint, hint. That laptop is awfully heavy to schlep to the VA, and new e-books are much less expensive than new paperbacks. Where was I? Oh, yeah. How long would you last if you worked for free? Maybe Tom Clancy or J. K. Rowling can afford to have their books go through a few hands without collecting royalties, but I once heard a statistic that out of the many thousands of writers in this country, only about eighteen hundred actually earn enough money to make a full-time living as writers. That doesn’t count those who take other jobs in the industry such as editors, administrative assistants, slush readers, book store clerks—anything to be near our beloved books. I’m not even writing about the musicians, artists, photographers or other people who rely on copyrights to protect their work and livelihoods. And I heard that statistic several years ago when I was in college. I’m not sure what it is now. I certainly could not afford to write if I did not live on Social Security and I could not afford to keep my car if I did not live with my daughter. But that’s a whole other blog.

Respect copyrights. Buy a book. And don’t publish our work without our permission or without compensating us. For any authors out there who are having problems with less than honest publishers, we have a group for you called Bogus Publishers Beware. The link is: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BogusPublishersBeware/?yguid=145986201.

8 comments:

  1. Hi Rochelle.

    Lending a book, checking a book out from the library, giving away books, buying used books, and gifting books are all definitely not a violation of copyright. You might think this because of the extreme positions of groups like The Copyright Alliance, whom certainly does not represent creators. They represent the middlemen like the publisher who tricked you into a bad deal. They are the ones paying for the lobbying The Copyright Alliance does. Just take a look at the list of Alliance Members.

    And copyright certainly did not help you in your bad publishing deal.

    I am in no way condoning the Cook’s Source scandal. It is not a popular view among anyone either in the publishing or the creator side that anything on the internet is public domain. Judith Griggs incorrect assumption is in the minority.

    The truth is you don't need to rely on copyright to earn a living as a creator. Please do a Google search for: Douglas Rushkoff publishing is broken. You don't need an agent, you don't need copyright. You need to ditch the old system entirely and innovate.

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  2. Thanks for this great post, Rochelle. And while the commenter above has chosen to present his own false perception of the Copyright Alliance, he is right that there's nothing wrong with buying a used book. I do it all the time, particularly when they're out of print .I have a collection of political biographies written from the 50s to the 70s and spent years scouring used bookstores across the country before the Internet has made finding them so much easier. In fact, the Internet allows me to find books about antique maps published a hundred years ago, basically the last time anyone wrote anything of substance on the topic.

    And it's fantastic that you donate books to charity. The right to do that is called first sale.

    The key with first sale is that while the author unfortunately generates no sales from the book, in theory anyway the seller of the book no longer has it. That is of course not the same on the Internet, where someone "sharing" a book or song or movie on a torrent or p2p site still has the creative work after someone (or many someones) takes it.

    By the way, you have written a beautiful post here, very heartfelt, and passionate on the subject of a creative's rights. Thank you for sharing your voice with others.

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  3. Thank you Nick and Patrick. Nick, I did not have an agent, nor was I published with a large publisher. Both of my books were e-publislhed. Inara Press was run by Dawn Seewer. She and her husband put everything they had into the business, got in over their heads, and had to close down. They let us all know, returned our rights promptly and since Dawn was the cover artist, she even gave up permission to use our cover art as long as we gave her credit. I am still using it now that I have broken away from Red Rose Publishing where Wendi Felter ripped us off. Bogus Publishers Beware is a there for authors, editors and cover artists who have been ripped off by publishers like Red Rose. We offer advice and support to our fellow creatives in the publishing world. Yes, I'm passionate.

    Again, thanks for your comments.

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  4. Patrick,

    How is a perception false? This is what I perceive to be true, and that not a lie on my part. We may disagree, but that is different. Is the list of Alliance Members not mostly a list of large corporations who have no concern for the true well being of artists and who are threaten by direct-to-consumer business models? Capitalism demands they they pay artists as little as they possibly can get away with. And the more organizations placed between the artists and the consumer, the easier it is to degrade the artists. But defending them is your job so I am done pointing out the obvious for now.

    Rochelle,
    The people I was saying you don't need are the ones who are in a position to rip you off. All you need are service providers who work only from your exact instructions and no one making decisions for you. Self publishing is here, and the dangers our friend Patrick likes to point out are overblown.

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