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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Book Piracy Won't Destroy Writers

Why is it that people think so negatively about the Internet? Apparently the Society of Authors, whoever the heck they are, have spouted the doomsday report that the ever popular book group of book pirates will ruin us all:
For a while it will be great for readers because they will pay less and less but in the long run it’s going to ruin the information. People will stop writing. There’s a lot of ‘wait and see what the technology brings’ but the trouble is if you wait and see too long then it’s gone. That’s what happened to the music industry.
Except, the music industry never stopped. Where the heck do you live where you think people are no longer making music? That's absolutely absurd. The music industry never died. In fact, it's doing just fine. Yeah, there's some lost revenue, but has it stopped people from making music? No. The Internet has actually done the exact opposite: it's inspired musicians. Remember the old That site was like a haven to musicians everywhere, and quite a few relatively popular groups spawned from the historical incarnation of that site. There are loads of new sites today using similar models for music. They may not be making a whole lot of money, but they are making music.
The same thing has happened with writers. The Internet has opened up a whole new avenue for them to express themselves and become better known. Granted, just like in music there are loads of writers who suck, and the Internet has given them the avenue to spew their pointless dribble, but in the end my point still stands. They are writing, and I'd argue that the writing community is more vibrant now than it ever was in the past. There might not be a whole lot of superb writing, but does all writing have to be superb to be respected? A book might suck, but I can at least respect the author and the work that author put into it, can't I?
The stupidity, however, doesn't end with proclaiming disaster for the writing industry. It moves on to an idea that, quite frankly, makes my skin crawl:
In the 19th century and before, other models of paying writers existed, including lump-sum agreements and profit-sharing. She sees no reason why the book industry should not be equally innovative. She suggested four possible sources of income at an industry discussion on copyright law last week: the Government, business, rich patrons and the public. Government funding could take the form of an “academy” of salaried writers.
What would this do to the writing industry? You're suggesting we dispense with the current publishing model, which gives ample opportunity for a variety of new authors, and instead leave it up to the government to make the decision about what is acceptable reading material? Do these folks even realize what including the government in choosing the "pick of the litter" will do to the writing industry? This might have wroked just fine some hundreds of years ago, but let's face it, this is stupid, elitist tripe. Let's just let the government get involved in what we're reading. Great idea. Because that's not asking for censorship at all.
By the way, two examples that were used as examples to support the claim of the Society of Writers were: Stephen King and J. K. Rowling. There is mention that lesser known authors have suffered from piracy, but to claim that these two authors are actually suffering from the piracy of their books is like saying Bill Gates is broke.
Book piracy isn't going to kill the urge to write, just as music piracy isn't going to kill the urge to make music. This is stupid on too many different levels.

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