Robot 6

Quote of the Day #2 | Piracy or fair use?

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“Copyright is fundamental to creative industries, those who believe it’s not relevant are mistaken”

I find that interesting on a few levels. And by “interesting” I mean “bullshit.”

J.A. Konrath

Konrath is an author who escaped the midlist wilderness of traditional publishing to do extremely well for himself (to the tune of about $3,000 a day) by self-publishing on Amazon. As you may expect, he’s become an advocate for self-publishing and a strong critic of the traditional model and those who defend it. His quote above is in response to a tweet by the U.K’.s Publishers Association from the London Book Fair.

While Konrath is talking specifically about the business of prose books, his thoughts on copyright and fair use apply to comics as well. The comics community is divided on the subject, so Konrath (who’s been known to attend a comics convention or two, so he’s no stranger to our side of things either) offers some further points to consider. “My readers should be able to do anything they want to with my work,” he writes, “whether they bought it or obtained it freely. Once I create something, it takes on a life of its own. It exists independent of me. In fact, as I’ve said many times this past decade, the book does not exist as words on a page. It exists as a story in the reader’s head. And I have no claims on that, monetary or otherwise.”

He’s not talking about the freedom to exploit him for financial gain though. He continues, “If you do want to use my work to make money for yourself, I think it is fair to include me somehow, by negotiating for the rights to do so. But if you want to use my work for anything else, enjoy yourself.”

The article is full of quotable bits, so check it out for more detail and clarification on his points. While I don’t think it’s fair to tell another creator how to feel about the sharing of his or her work (not that Konrath is doing that), it’s a thought-provoking perspective. ”The world is becoming digital,” he writes.  ”Human beings are born to share. Information wants to be free.”

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Comments

10 Comments

“Information wants to be free”…

What a pretentious, meaningless statement.

Seriously, what does that obtuse declaration actually mean?

Martin Costello

April 16, 2013 at 2:36 pm

So create something and cross your fingers people will pay you for it, instead of getting for free?

Information doesn’t want anything. It’s just information. Art and entertainment doesn’t want to be free, either. It doesn’t want anything. Artists and writers who produce it, however, want to get paid.

Jonathan Couton has done very well letting people use his music for whatever they’d like. http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/05/14/136279162/an-internet-rock-star-tells-all

Not everyone does. In fact, if you read down to the comments, here is Konrath asserting what most creators want.

“If you’re happy to give your stuff away, you shouldn’t claim any right to suggest what’s done with it once you do.”

Konrath replies:

“Actually, I do have that right.

It’s called a copyright.”

Which is the point, actually. Every creator has the right to make these choices for themselves. Konrath can do what he wants with his work if it works for him. Other creators choose a different path if that works for them, if what Konrath does it not what is effective for them. It’s their right. The same right Konrath wants.

Joe Konrath decides copyright is not fundamental, then claims he is the only one who has the right to make money off his work.

And what law gives him the right to enforce that belief? Why, I believe it’s copyright!

And get this gem from someone who may know a little bit about comics: “I was unaware that industries own copyrights.”

Tell Jack Kirby.

As a better man than Konrath once said, if ignorance were corn flakes, he’d be General Mills.

I don’t understand the hate here. My interpretation is he’s saying, “if you’ve invested in his product (financially or emotionally) then you should have the freedom to do what you’d like with it as long as you’re not trying to use it to make money off it (without including him.) I interpret this as giving fans the ability and freedom to write fan-fiction, create their own versions, spin-offs etc, or open fan sites without having to fear copyright infringement. How is that not a good thing?
Haven’t we previously criticised the heavy-handedness of companies coming down on fans who use their images in fan sites or fan-fiction?

That’s not the problem, Jamie. That’s a great attitude to have. It’s that he’s wilfully misunderstanding that copyright does exactly what he wants. It’s also that Konrath’s default cranky attitude can be enormously irritating and gets in the way of his arguments.

Bill: Exactly! Any author at any time can just ignore fanfic or support it or whatever. You don’t have to run around suing everyone for every copyright violation. The law doesn’t require you to enforce copyright in order to maintain your copyright. People keep confusing copyright law with trademark law. There is nothing in copyright law that says authors must sue fanfic writers. But there is a requirement under trademark law that you must enforce trademark or lose your rights. Most fan activity doesn’t threaten trademark, so there is little reason for authors to oppose it.

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