Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Authors: Stand Up For Your Rights

There was an article called “Just An Online Minute … Book Piracy: Overrated Problem?” in yesterday’s MediaPost Publications that seemed a bit illogical. The author, Wendy Davis, compared the music and movie industries’ concerns over Web piracy of their products with the concerns of book publishers over piracy of their products (books).

Davis doesn’t see a problem for the book publishing industry.

She starts by saying that file-sharing isn’t a significant problem for book publishers. “After all, the general public hasn't yet taken to e-book readers the way it has to iPods or digital music,” she wrote.

Let’s look at this. Movie piracy didn’t used to be the problem it is today either. The movie industry has been doing everything possible for years to keep ahead of the problem and they’re still not on top of it totally. Does Davis think the book publishing industry should wait until the situation is out of control and can’t be held in check?

In addition, she points out that readers have long been able to check out audio books at the public library. To her, this means that, “While anxiety about Web piracy isn't totally irrational, it seems misplaced here.” She fails to include the fact that libraries have long offered music tapes and records for check-out. Most offer videos for check out, as well. Yet she seems to feel that the music and movie industries' concerns are legitimate while the publishing world’s concerns are not.

Should authors, because they have generously allowed libraries to lend their books free of charge, give up their rights, their royalties, their claims to their works? Every time a song is played on a commercial, used in a play, sung on a TV show, the artist is paid a fee. But authors are expected to sit back and not try to protect their rights, their livelihood?

I don’t believe authors and book publishers object to having books available online. They’ve been available in that format for years. What they object to is people or companies stealing their work without compensation. Just as the movie industry has worked to make it so someone could buy a video and watch it as many times as they want, but not be able to make copies and give or sell them, so should book publishers be able to do the same thing.

Davis concludes the article with: “Book publishers, who don't appear to face the same threat from file-sharing, also need to realize that consumers will be more likely to purchase their product, not less, when it comes in a format they want.”

She’s missed the whole point. If consumers buy the book, that’s great. No problem. Yippee!

Authors are artists just like musicians, actors, painters, and sculptors. They are not slugs in the mud who should shut up and let their work be copied and stolen. They work hard, sometimes years, to produce a piece of work. To not get paid what is rightfully – and I stress that word right-fully – theirs is not fair and those rights should not be ignored or trampled on.

Authors and book publishers don’t have a problem with someone buying a book. They have a problem with a book being made available so that a third party makes money instead of the publisher and author, the rightful owner of those words.

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