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View Diary: Confessions Of A Hollywood Professional: Why I Can't Support the Stop Online Piracy Act (UPDATED) (272 comments)

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  •  We live and die by CP/IP protections (7+ / 0-)

    And I am opposed to these new laws, and have written to both of my Senators explaining why.

    I've spent a fair amount of my work time in the last 15 years doing searches on the Web and contacting publishers to send out DCMA notices when I find the works of SF/F writers being illegally distributed by pirate sites, and even 'non-pirate' sites like Scrbd, which blithely allows users to put up the works of others, and then screws up again by not having actual eyes on the 'offending' materials.

    Say you write an essay about how women characters in Asimov's works are one-dimensional parodies of women scientists. You might use a few lines form the Foundation novels to illustrate your points. All quotes from Asimov would be considered 'fair use' in a printed publication. But the software at Scrbd just sees "Asimov" and takes down the essay without contacting the writer or allowing them to make their case before the essay is removed. It's like using a shotgun to hit one damn fly.

    Over the years, I've dealt with internet piracy and banged my head against the desk many times, but these two laws would vastly increase the powers of corporations to shut down any sites, writers or movements they don't like. Some would call that action 'prior restraint', and it ain't right or fair.

    Here's another example:

    Writers who have a back list that extends back in time to the 70's, 60's or earlier, are fighting to retain their rights to sell their works via e-books. Publishers are claiming that that contracts the writers signed in, say 1965, give the publishers the complete and total right to now sell those works as e-texts. Despite the fact that the Internet, the Web and e-book readers such as the Kindle and iPad were not even shiny objects on the horizon, and such 'rights' were not contemplated by the contracts signed in 1965.

    Some writers/agents/estates who have the money and the means to fight these claims are ending up in court, and the legal fights will drag on for years. Many other writers, or their estates, either can't afford the legal battle or have no idea what means of recourse they have. This is especially true of the heirs of many literary estates, they may be totally clueless about the publishing business, and are often taken advantage of by publishers.

    So imagine a writer with a good back list of work who decides they want to sell their e-book rights to a small entrepreneurial e-book company. Those works were originally published in the 1960's, and the original contracts have no mention of who owns the e-book rights because such right did not exist in the 1960's. The publisher of the 'hard copy' editions have pulled their editions from the market, and the works have been out of print for years, if not decades. The writer makes a deal with an e-book company, there's an advance paid, a royalty set, and the works get published in e-book formats. Old fans and new readers are happy to see the older works now available again. Sales may be modest, but are enough to keep the e-book company and the writer happy that they've made the works available once again.

    Then the writer's former publisher finds out that these older back list works are now being published by an e-book company. Without a legal proceeding of any sort, without any adjudication on whether the writer or the publisher actually owns the rights to publish in the e-book format, the publisher can get not only those 'offending' titles taken down, they can close down an entire e-book company without proving a damn thing in court.

    Is that fair? Hell no.

    I am an advocate for the rights of all artists to control their work. I have argued with countless trolls on the internet when I've found the works of writers I know on piracy sites to no avail. I've urged professional organizations in our genre to stand up and fight back against piracy. Hell, I've even given a deposition in a well known case from the 90's about piracy sites bootlegging the works of writers I know did not give permission for their works to be put out for free downloading on pirate sites.

    Without CP/IP rights protection, Mr Red and I would not have an income. Hell, the pirates could even take works by writers and re-write them at will with no recourse available to the creator.

    But these proposed laws are wrong, too broad and give too much power to corporations that have entrenched themselves in our political and legal processes. So I wrote to my Senators this morning, and will continue to pressure them to oppose these two laws.

    Your diary is an excellent discussion of why even people in the industries that have been affected by piracy are not supporting these bills, and I hope that many more people read it today. Thanks for letting me add my rant to yours.

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