kaigou: this is what I do, darling (A2] start drinking heavily)
[personal profile] kaigou
So here's the deal behind the last post, with context. Have a seat. This might take a bit, but believe me, it's amusing enough. (Or is, if you're me.)

Awhile back I joined a number of comms on LJ while trying to track down some of the more obscure fan-translated manga out there. I'd search for what I wanted, maybe check each comm every few days to every other week or so, and the rest of the time none of them show up on my daily flist. (That flist is long enough already, without high-traffic comms making it worse.)

[Note: I am not even getting into the legalities of translations and copyrights in this post. I can, if you're wondering, since I did look them up, but that's beside the point for this rant.]

At some point, I opened one comm to see what was new, and what did I see but at the very top a post about -- and link to a mediafire download for -- an ebook. Not a fan-translated manga, not a raw/original-language manga, but an American e-publishing company's ebook, written by an American author, and one whose work I've enjoyed and support. (And you know who you are, my dear, so have a drink and relax, this story's got a happy ending.) Well, mystified as to what an English-language, clearly-copyrighted work was doing being traded in a manga forum, I went looking at the tags -- and lo and behold, there's not just one or two authors that have slipped into the middle of a manga-trading community.

No, more like seventy authors -- and for a lot of those authors, the comm's trading their entire body of work. Two titles. Three. Five. Entire series: seven titles, ten titles, more. If on average every author had around four titles, and let's say the average price might be around $5, that's fourteen hundred dollars worth of ebooks listed. For free download.

Perhaps I should also mention: this is all listed a comm with more than three thousand members.

Potential losses? Oh, in the area of about four million two hundred thousand dollars.

Flabbergasted doesn't really begin to cover it, but I say that with full awareness of my own borderline hypocrisy in this, so I'm going to pause a minute to explain some of the thinking I've done since then, as well.

See, it's positively ingrained in me that when I finish reading a book, I will pass it along. It's been very very hard for me to accept that an ebook starts, and ends, with me. I think "buy a book and read" and the very next step is "now give to someone else". The notion of buy-a-book without give-away just seems... well, empty. Books are expensive, and I read damn fast, so when the result is that I paid $6 for an hour's entertainment, it feels like I didn't get my money's worth -- and if I can't sell it to the used bookstore, then I give it away.

(Double this sensation when it's $6 and I didn't even get past the second chapter. Then I really feel like I paid an awful lot for a whole lot of nothing.)

And while I know this is detrimental to [author-income] monetary aspect, I've also rationalized that as long as it remains one-to-one and infrequent, then it's part of doing business. Once, we would purchase an album or tape or even a CD, and maybe make a copy for a friend, who then wouldn't be spending money on that music; to give away a book or loan it out is effectively the same thing. It means that for every five legitimate sales, we might expect that two of them will be cancelled out by the non-sales from duplication or passing along. I've never been entirely comfortable doing it with ebooks, but then again, neither have I ever truly grown comfortable with the absolute caveat-emptor nature of ebooks, either: no refund, no exchange, no resale, you break it, you buy it; you buy it, you... mostly buy it.

But in the past month, I've been reading and thinking a lot (well, mostly reading a little and then thinking a great deal while moving around great honking boulders building retaining walls gardening), and it dawned on me that the problem is that when I see "ebook," I think "book", when I should be thinking license.

That is, I'm not really buying a book, am I? I'm buying a one-time, single-seat license to read this work. It's just like software. It can go bad, in a year or two. It might corrupt and then if I want it again, I have to get the upgraded version -- that is, I must repurchase it. Or maybe I can't, by then, because it's no longer supported. I may have to continue using a way-backwards version of some other software to keep using this software (like refusing to leave Win98 behind because it means losing access to various awesome apps, that kind of enforced bassackwardsness).

And like some software, when the price is really freaking high compared to my actual personal benefit, I find myself less caring about the legalities or niceties of whether it's okay to say to a friend, "oh, you can just have a copy of what I've got, just don't register it online or whatever." That is, even if I have technically 'purchased a license', the cost is so above some threshold for me that I feel justified in acting as though I've 'purchased the full rights' (per a book, or a professional 'seat' license for software). Sure, legally this isn't right, but it is human nature -- paying $450 for a single-license software that I use maybe four or five times a year makes me feel like, well, I just paid a whole boatload of money for something I only use four or five times a year. Why not let my brother have a copy so he can use it four or five times a year, and then between us we'll get money's worth?

The corollary, of course, is that the cheaper the ebook, the less I feel compelled to 'pass it along' or 'make it worth my money'. I pay half the price of a paperback book, and it doesn't bother me so much -- I can consider it almost as disposable as single-purpose shareware -- because I paid half the price and I got half the rights. The closer I get to that paperback-book-threshold, of $7, $8, $9, the crankier and crankier I get when I'm reminded that I paid same price and got half the rights. That is the borderline where I really start to chafe at the 'book' versus 'license' issue.

(Which underlines the extreme idiocy in some NY publishers insisting that ebooks should have same prices as the hardcopy versions. They shouldn't, and if you think of it as a license, then it becomes really clear why: because you pay more for the sourcecode. For just using the work -- the ebook -- you pay a little. You want to be able to do something with that product, adapt it to your use, or pass it along, or let everyone in the company use it, then you'll have to pay more, but you'll get more related rights at the same time... and then suddenly I get twice as annoyed at the publishers saying I should pay $8 for an ebook when the paperback is, well, $8. No. That just reinforces that ebook = pbook, and drags me back into expecting the same usage-rights as 'professional copy' (read: hardcopy), versus 'shareware' (read: ebook). Hopefully I'm not the only one who gets this line of thinking.)

Thus, while my personal take on ebooks has settled down with this better metaphor for how to 'think' of the money spent, it still doesn't change the fact that I think what we're dealing with is proportionality. If I install a software on someone else's computer and delete it on mine, okay, technically that's transferral of license which I don't have the right to do, not having purchased a license that's transferable. But me to one other person, the damage is minimal.

I mention 'damage' specifically because there's copyright violation -- showing you broke the law -- and then there are damages -- for which one must demonstrate that monetary income was lost because of my actions. If that's so, then the damage is about, well, $6. Probably not worth some court's (or lawyer's) time, on the whole. It's a little different if I were to post an ebook on a filesharing service and propagate the file into a community with three thousand members.

That's where things stood for awhile, but I've been slowly fading from following all but two or three manga, now, so I just don't really bother checking the manga-sharing comms that often in the past few months. Until maybe a month or so ago, when I checked this one manga-plus-ebooks comm and wasn't sure whether to point and laugh or to, uhm, well, point and laugh.

It seems there had been some complaints about the ebook sharing. And oh, lordy, was the mod ever so upset about it. People -- not even the authors, the mod noted -- had written the mod! And were, like, mean! And insisted she had to take down the links! But that's not policy, she replied; the comm doesn't censor people. And, like, they're fans, and here are these author's fans being all mean to the author's real fans, who would never ever be mean like that and deny other fans the chance to read the author's works.

Dude. It's like being out of town and having your neighbors interrupt a burglary in progress and have the burglar tearfully cry that if your neighbors were real friends they wouldn't so cruelly threaten to call the cops on people who just love your decor so much they had to break in and see it for themselves. And, like, are doing your dishes after packing up all your stuff and hauling it out to the big white van in the driveway.

Unfortunately for you, it appears the mod has deleted those posts so I cannot quote and truly mock, but I recall enough to mock with some mild unambiguity. Oh, how I did mock as I pulled up weeds and dug trenches for drainage. (At once point I really was laughing while shovelling, and I think my own neighbors were ready to call me in for heat stroke. Or maybe I just crack myself up that bad, something. Or maybe it was heatstroke.)

Between that defensive post -- we are the true fans! *shakes fist* -- and the followup a few days later -- the inevitable hugfest of "oh, you guys are so awesome for supporting me when these author's friends are being so meeeeean" ... I mean, there's fanpoodles, but this is freaking ridiculous. Several paragraphs -- hrm, more like twelve or thirteen paragraphs, a good page's length -- going on and on about how hurtful these people are being to the author's real fans, calling the comm's members thieves and other nasty things...

...with introduction of straw man, which you probably guessed was coming: and if you go to these so-called friends-of-authors' pages, they have SOME PICTURE FROM AN ANIME ON THEIR HEADER.

(hint: this is where you are supposed to GASP in HORROR, and then nod along like good little bobbleheads as to how this reveals the Ultimate Hypocrisy Of These So-Called-Friends Who Aren't Even The Authors Themselves.)

OMG! Thieves! See! How dare they get on their high horse and call us such mean things? Sob. Sob. Sob. And lots of defensiveness. And so on.

Which not only raises the question of proportionality, but also fair use. I can quote a paragraph from a story (or more than that, if making a series of points), as long as it's a "reasonable amount needed to illustrate my point" or something along those lines. That's how we can quote from works for educational purposes, for discussion, for essays, for critical reviews. In a television show that lasts maybe forty minutes, we're talking about possibly seventy-two thousand frames -- or more -- from which I could pick five or six images to illustrate my point and still sit comfortably within fair use. After all, we're not talking about distributing the entirety of the original work, but an excerpt, be this a single sub-box on from a comic's page, or a screenshot of an animated film or television show or movie, or a quoted paragraph.

Now, there are gray areas -- fair use is still restricted, and it is still a copyrighted image (covered under the work's copyright as a whole) but it is not a redistribution of the original work. One might argue derivative work, but one might also get slammed in return with "damage to reputation" or "use of trademarked images" (such as a clip showing Superman, who is a trademarked image in his own right, IIRC). But it is still not the same as bundling up the latest Superman movie and putting it up on torrent for folks to d/l for free, and while the two may fall under "use of copyrighted material" I would daresay the damages for the latter are significantly more than they'd ever be for the former.

For that matter, even those companies most vicious about protecting their copyrights -- like 20th Century Fox can be, about websites that have extensive screenshots from broadcast shows -- do not jump on your case for the use of a single image. They have a general threshold.

Though, it's true, this is different from using a single image -- that is reproduced in its entirety. Like, say, if Da Vinci's Mona Lisa were copyrighted, then using that image would potentially be copyright violation, or posting a poem in its entirety, even if it's only six lines long. But if Da Vinci had done the full set of the Sandman stories, and you pulled a single frame from page 117 and used the lower-left box... see what I mean?

So, getting back to comm: straw man gets much indignant bashing by over-defensive loving fan damn pointy-headed thief freaking twit! And then the real topping on the cake was this one: the mod allowed as to how if the authors had bothered to contact the comm themselves, the mod would have been happy to -- and I quote, here, because this one was unforgettable -- "work something out."


That's like waking up to find someone's ransacking my sterling silver and they say -- with one hand shoving the fine china into a trash bag -- that they're sure we can "come to some kind of agreement." What? I get to use my own stuff half the year, and the rest of the year you get it? Which part of "NOT YOURS" are you NOT getting, you self-entitled moronic thieving excuse for a community moderator?

And, at the same time, I'm also thinking: hey, LJ. YOU FREAKING SUCK.

Let me get this straight, okay? Just to make sure we're perfectly clear. Last year or thereabouts, you LJ people got all riled up and decided the best option for all involved was to take a handful of fanartists and summarily throw them off LJ and delete their accounts without warning on the grounds that they might -- not 'are', not 'have been convicted of', but might -- be considered by some, on some planet in some bizarro-alternate universe to be creating child pornography -- just on the off-chance that it could be, at least.

Okay, then, yet here's a comm that's distributing copyrighted, Berne-Convention-protected, published works in their entirety in a clear and freaking unquestionable violation of copyright law observed by well over two-thirds of the recognized countries on this damn planet and you do WHAT, excactly, LJ? Could that be, oh, NOTHING?

Need I remind anyone, copyright violation IS a crime. It DOES carry financial damages, intended to dissuade folks from violations. I think it starts with $500, and the bigger your violation, the higher the price can go. Maybe it's just me, but while I might be able to weasel out of violation before a judge by promising to Cut That Out and Stop Giving Stuff Away To A Friend, I don't think I could quite manage the same if I had my sticky fingers on a mediafire file that showed it'd been downloaded more times than the original book had sold copies with its publisher. See, maybe it's just me, but I'd consider them some goddamned major apples of damage.

And what does LJ do about this? Nothing. Even though they insisted throughout that whole fanart fiasco that they'd be 'liable for anything coming through on their servers' -- it would seem to me that looking at potentially hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in damages (though granted, possibly shared among all liable purveyors -- LJ, and Mediafire, and the responsible comm members/moderators themselves) would sure count as reason enough to Cut That Out.

Or at the very LEAST to shut down the comm and boot the criminals and wash their hands of it. It's not like it's a gray area, people. This is NOT rocket science: we have text, we have copyright, we have repeated -- and significant -- illegal distribution. One plus one plus three thousand equals Way Major Law Breakage.

But noooooo. Apparently LJ gets way more up-in-arms over potential 'bad' pr0n than, say, the actual bad of seventy-plus American and UK authors getting ripped off, daily, by a bunch of freeloaders who like to consider their theft proof positive of their status as 'adoring fans'.

If that's there some true fans, then bloody hell, I don't ever want no freaking fans. PLEASE.

I mean, if I want to be punched in the face and have my money stolen, I'd rather come by it honestly, than from someone who does it while insisting they love me. (And yes, I mean that cloaked metaphor very intentionally.)

But here's the kicker! Here's the part where I stopped and said, no, no, no, no, this can NOT possibly be the next step in this trainwreck. But it is, and I'm not sure whether to laugh or to write the author and smack her upside the head, even as much as I dearly love her writing and have bought every damn thing she's ever written and will continue to do so short of a sudden cross-genre move into Inspirational Cowboy stories. With aliens. (Although I probably would read it anyway. But still. Carrying on.)

Ah, well, the next step was the mod returning saying that, well, some folks are decent people and willing to talk things out, and here is evidence A, a published author whose work was being distributed. We'll call this author, uhm, A, just to protect, uhm... you'll see why.

So A has this long letter she's sent to the mod to be forwarded. It starts out reasonably enough, stating that as a published author she cannot, under any circumstances, 'grant' someone the right to violate copyright by distributing her work, and that in fact, no author can, because it's a violation of the author's agreement with the publisher(s). If A wants to keep writing, that requires not pissing off the publishers. Not quite stated but implied -- perhaps too subtle for the twits at core of this self-righteous debacle -- was that if you want A and the other authors to keep writing, then don't push them to do something that will cause them to never get published again, kthxbai.

But A didn't stop there. Now, I give her points for trying to come up with a way to throw the dogs a bone settle the unwashed teeming masses make peace, by pointing out one of her first stories finished its run and the rights reverted to her, so now folks can d/l the story for free on her site. That's smart move on her part. It's what led up to that information that had my jaw bouncing on the desk.

Apparently the whining got to A, and it didn't just get to her, it convinced her: it's the cry of the nebulously-identified, broadly-implied, "we can't order that in our country because it's illegal!" crowd. And, oh, A was all sympathy, while at the same time trying to make it clear that if her stories are not illegal, then please do pay for them, but she feels really bad for those folks who can't get her stories in their country because...

I think that's where my brain snapped.

I've heard this argument before, after all. It holds water only to a certain point, and it does extend to the case of the comics collector that's on everyone's mind (and was mentioned in my question thread). If you order a physical product that has graphic content and it comes through customs and the customs official opens it and sees SEX -- or drug use! or lesbians! or WHATEVER -- then yes, your ass will be nailed to the wall. If you order a copy of the Satanic Verses and you're in a conservative Moslem country, they're probably not going to be happy with you. If you order shouta, yaoi, yuri, whatever, yeah.

But these are not comics books with graphic illustrations, and neither are they letters from Hustler. These are fiction novels, which could ostensibly be literature -- having, unlike Hustler's letters, actual characters! And conflicts! And plots! And resolutions! and so on. Hell, the majority of these are marketed as 'romance', and are coming from legitimate publishers who (for the most part) usually sound pretty mainstream, or at least their TBA names do, or they're just obscure enough that they're not obvious (unlike, say, Playboy).

BUT. More than that, these are ebooks.

Which means, they're being downloaded.

By people who insist that they must download these books because they can't get them legally in their country -- a process which would require them to, uhm, DOWNLOAD THE BOOKS.

Because maybe 90% of these books? HAVE NO HARDCOPY AVAILABLE.

So unless you're in that Great Big Exception To the Rule, it's a fair chance that you could get to Fictionwise, or B&N, or Sony, or even any of the myriad independent publishers, select that title, use Paypal to pay for it, download the copy, and NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW. I mean, come on. Sure, it's possible for it to be tracked *waves at the FBI* but the attempt would be massive, would be incredible, and if you're discreet about it, chances are your download will get lost in the bazillions of others, along with the trail between your Paypal account and some bland-sounding TBA name on your billing list.*


You could join the fifth-largest (fourth? sixth? whatever) social networking site in the freaking WORLD, and then JOIN A COMM that's clearly stated as created to trade ADULT MATERIALS, and then request a file or thank someone for posting a file and ANYONE CAN JOIN AND WATCH YOU DO IT.

I mean, if I wanted to catch your ass at this, why would I bother watching your downloads? I just go to where the porn is, and I wait for you to come to me. And then I nail you.

Oh, sure, buying that pornnoriffic text is illegal, and if it had to come through customs, it'd be snagged and you might be thwacked, but going on a public social networking site and downloading it, that's okay? Given the options, I'd much rather buy it privately -- at least then the only folks who know are me and some foreign company not beholden to my country's laws (and therefore possibly able to say, "nope!" if my country demands info on its customers), and of course Paypal or my foreignly-held credit card, and my ISP, and me. There are ways around everything, but the point here is that of those involved, I'm seeing a lot less chances for tipping off authorities (pretty much limited to my ISP as biggest risk), because why would Paypal, or the ebook publisher, want to tell my country what I've ordered? They'd lose a customer.

Compare that to getting online here, logging in as identifiable account with tracked IP, and then downloading a file -- which, incidentally, can equally be tracked by your ISP, as yet another downloaded file.


Sounds like an elaborate, if completely unjustifiable, rationalization that really amounts to a whine of, "but I want it for freeeeeeeee and you should give it to me because otherwise I won't read your stuff, so there."

Given the way the mod acted the rest of the time, I'm not that surprised A may have ended up somewhat worn down, especially if she was defending her own copyright and none of her publisher's lawyers were getting involved (which, if you ask me, they should have, because that's what they're paid to do, damn it; not all battles should be fought by authors). But it still boggles me that A bought into this, even expressed sympathy (unless she was being very tongue-in-cheek-sarcastic) -- because isn't the correct response, "well, if it's illegal in your country, then it's illegal ANYWAY, and you're ALREADY downloading it, so at least have the decency to PAY for it, you moron. If you're so convinced that purchasing it will get you in trouble, did it never occur to you that possession would do the same?"

Now, in the end (yay!), the mod did opt to delete all ebook posts and declare that all ebooks will, from now on, no longer be allowable in the comm. And it does seem, from the mod's words, that the author-in-question was instrumental in bringing the mod down off her entitled horse and seeing that copyright violation is not something fans get to do if they can prove they really loooove an author's work, but in fact is a violation and a damage, and quadruply so when it's on the scale of being broadcast to three thousand members who in turn tell someone who then tell someone and so on -- and need I add, the actual files, that is, the file-sharing links, may or may not remain. The mod only mentioned deleting the posts and all related tags, and did not specify whether she also deleted the file-shares she'd created for those ebooks.

But this was still done with a heavy sigh, a kind of weariness, all apologetic for removing links when it's "comm policy not to do so", as though this trouble (as has been the mod's attitude since the beginning) was brought on by some bad apples out there who just wanted to make trouble. Because, y'know, now the mod herself can't get those stories she loves, herself. Tissues, anyone?

Frankly, by that second self-entitled post, I didn't want to see some author making peace. I wanted to see some lawyer nailing the comm's ass to the wall -- along with LJ's ass for enabling the damages for so long, while LJ was busy freaking about potential crimes being committed over some freaking amateur fanart. Because fanart, oh, yeah, that's so a reason to flip out, but having thousands of dollars stolen from the pockets of hard-working ebook authors and publishers? Oh, whatevah!

Thus, to sum:

Dear author: I adore your work, but please to stop enabling the cabbages in the audience, mmkay?

Dear LJ: you still suck. Even when you don't do anything at all. Sometimes, especially when you don't do anything at all.

Dear mod: this is a bucket of ice water, this is your head, this is your head in a bucket of ice water.


* slight footnote per [livejournal.com profile] autopope's comment:

Yes, some companies (such as Fictionwise) have introduced IP-restrictions, but this is not because of legality of purchasing the book, but because of issues regarding author-rights in terms of international distribution. In other words, if an author has sold the rights to a publisher to distribute the book in Sweden, and I buy it over the internet while I'm in the US, then I have purchased gray market material. Not entirely legal but not entirely il-legal, either; the restriction in that case is not that the book is "illegal in my country" but that I'm subverting the author's/publisher's distribution agreements.

However, looking at a lot of the e-publisher submission agreements, it appears to be that in e-publishing, the 'international distribution' element is wrapped up in things. It might explain, too, why ebook royalties are significantly higher (35% or so) compared to traditional publishing (8% to 10%) -- because there's no chance of reselling the rights so a work can be translated.

I suspect that Fictionwise may have the IP-restrictions due to the large number of trad-publshing titles it now carries, which do have international restrictions per author rights -- but for every ebook title, you can still go to the publisher directly and make your purchases. For that matter, many ebooks out there don't even distribute through Fictionwise and its sister-distributors. You have to go to the publisher's site anyway, and if they're not playing the IP-restriction game... you are back to the issue I've raised here, which is: if you can get to the site, you can find a way to get the items from it -- and at the same time, if it's illegal then it's illegal.

Date: 11 Jun 2009 08:51 am (UTC)
ext_58972: Mad! (Default)
From: [identity profile] autopope.livejournal.com
So unless you're in that Great Big Exception To the Rule, it's a fair chance that you could get to Fictionwise, or B&N, or Sony, or even any of the myriad independent publishers, select that title, use Paypal to pay for it, download the copy, and NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW.

Minor nit: actually, you can't do that.

Fictionwise et al have lately started implementing geographical rights restrictions in software; if your credit card or paypal account is geared to country A and the book is only licensed for sale in country B, you can't buy it. (Even if you're physically located in country A at the time and could walk to a bookshop two blocks away and buy the hardcopy. As I discovered last month.)

This is of course a problem with the IP regime under which publication is licensed -- the trans-Atlantic rights split in particular -- but it's a problem that didn't formerly whack consumers in the face. Pre-internet, if you wanted a book that was published overseas, you either found a specialist bookstore who imported grey-market copies, or -- more likely -- you didn't know the book existed. Today, though, you get to the "pay for your shopping cart" stage before the geographical rights issue hits you. Doubleplusungood ...

Date: 11 Jun 2009 09:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Fictionwise et al have lately started implementing geographical rights restrictions in software; if your credit card or paypal account is geared to country A and the book is only licensed for sale in country B, you can't buy it.

I know this has been true of Amazon for a long time -- if you're in Oz, frex, you must pay Oz-rates and order from Oz-version of the site. I'm not surprised that Fictionwise now follows that, given they just got bought by B&N or Borders or whichever of the two it was.

But for the majority of ebooks, you can still purchase either from Fictionwise, or from the publisher -- and we're talking little guys. Some publishers don't even distribute at all through Fictionwise (or eBooks or the other distributors). And from the asking-around I did with a handful of those publishers, they don't have such restrictions, though I suppose if Paypal denies a purchaser then maybe it just shows up as a failed purchase for the publisher (and maybe doesn't get logged as a 'because of the IP'?)

And yet it's STILL moot, if you ask me. You just do the same as overseas friends have asked me to do: you send a friend paypal $ that comes through, the friend orders, and you get your copy. It's not impossible. It takes a little bit of finagling, if you really want the book, but it's just not true that you are absolutely totally cut off.

For that matter, a lot of the publishers now do gift-cards or the like -- in which case, if you have gift card (and aren't presenting c'card or Paypal), I wonder if you could then order and d/l without that additional country-checking step?

Although the geographical restrictions in this case are less due to country-laws and more due to some authors/agents/publishers demanding that books licensed "in english" not be sold in countries where the intended translation may become competition -- the author licenses rights to this country. I seem to recall reading something about how that was a growing discussion, but with the caveat that a lot of the ebook publishers expect international sales, and this broad sale of rights is offset by the higher percentages for authors selling pure ebooks (with no associated hardcopy).

ETA: which doesn't make overseas/gray market purchase 'illegal' although it might be arguable that it's 'illicit', especially in those cases where it's someone trying to get around paying a domestic price that's considerably higher than international (as is the case with Oz-folks paying so much more for books than we do in the US, even when you factor in exchange rates).

And if that's jumbled, my apologies. Long long day.

Date: 15 Jun 2009 04:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] starlady38.livejournal.com
Drive-by commenting: It's completely legal for American citizens to import one copy of a book published overseas per household, as I learned in the days before Scholastic started releasing Harry Potter at the same time as Bloomsbury. I don't know about other countries, and I'm not sure how the law applies to e-books, but theoretically an e-book should be the same as a book for legal purposes, as things stand currently?

[Though I agree with people who say that purchasing an ebook isn't the same as purchasing a book: it's purchasing a (limited-time) license.]

Date: 15 Jun 2009 04:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
As I understand it, it's not illegal to purchase something from somewhere else as a citizen/resident of not-there, but it's certainly frowned upon -- mostly because it's a way to circumvent customs, taxes, and areas of distribution. For the most part, though, those kinds of rules really only come into major effect if you're doing it in bulk -- then they think you're doing it specifically to get around those taxes, possibly even reselling. But no, not illegal, per se.

However, the problem with ebooks is that they don't appear to have the same issues about internat'l distribution as trad-pubs. That is, trad-pubs crack down hard on international distribution because it means they're not going to be able to sell the rights, then, to have the book translated into that country's language (yes, including going from "American-English" to "British-English". Complete with different covers and names... ffffttt). But nearly every ebook publisher with submission guidelines that talk about rights, etc, don't mention "First North American Rights," like you'd see elsewhere. They just talk about "distribution" in general -- and I've always been under the impression that strictly-ebook publishers (not t-pubs masquerading as epubs, mind you) pretty much assume that any sales will/can potentially be international. So those extra distribution rights... not really an issue.

I dunno. I think I may drop a line to someone who works in the management side of an ebook distribution company, and ask, because now I'm really curious.

Date: 11 Jun 2009 03:25 pm (UTC)
tiercel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] tiercel
"And, like, they're fans, and here are these author's fans being all mean to the author's real fans, who would never ever be mean like that and deny other fans the chance to read the author's works."

I'm sorry; at this point my head exploded with such force I was unable to read the rest of the post because my eyeballs are now in Tennessee.

Date: 11 Jun 2009 04:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
You have my sympathies. It took me so long to get around to posting this rant, myself, because I had to wait to have my ears shipped back from Kansas.

Date: 11 Jun 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rurounitriv.livejournal.com
And the only response to this can be, "You love the author? Then pay them for their work!"

Except, of course, that these twits would probably come back with crap about how writing is an art and to pay for it would only sully the purity of the writer's inspiration...

...I don't know about anyone else, but I did a lot more writing when I wasn't working to keep a roof over my head and could spend the time I needed on my writing instead of putting all my energy into the job. :P

Date: 11 Jun 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ldragoon.livejournal.com
But it's not like writing is really work or anything! I mean, it's super easy! Why should writers expect money for their brain dribblings?

/end raging sarcasm

Except, of course, that these twits would probably come back with crap about how writing is an art and to pay for it would only sully the purity of the writer's inspiration..


(LOL directed at the hypothetical person in your statement, not you)

Date: 11 Jun 2009 04:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rurounitriv.livejournal.com
And yet, if they're like most of the fanbrats I know, they'll talk about how "oh, you're such a good writer, blahblahblahblah and I could never write as good as you..."

But when it comes time to open the wallet, oh no, writing isn't "real work". :P (I've actually heard a variation on that purity of artistic vision vs getting paid to do a job before. Vision doesn't pay the bills unless you're an optometrist. >:P )

Date: 11 Jun 2009 04:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ldragoon.livejournal.com
HAH. I'm a working artist. I want my fucking pay check. I guess that makes me not a REAL artist though.

I try not to be a dick, but I've had some conversations with certain members of fandom that made my brain explode. My favorite? "Well, swiping another author's work and selling fan produced work* based directly on it is totally not stealing -- it's just a continuation of a long tradition of collaborative storytelling!"

HAHAHA. Whatever! WHAT THE FUCK EVER. You know who says stuff like that? People who aren't published. You know people who don't say stuff like that? PEOPLE WHO ARE PUBLISHED.

*and I don't mean people doing fan art of characters in novels -- I mean people selling fanFICTION based directly on FICTION.

Date: 11 Jun 2009 04:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Vision doesn't pay the bills unless you're an optometrist.

That totally deserves to be iconified.

Date: 11 Jun 2009 04:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Except, of course, that these twits would probably come back with crap about how writing is an art and to pay for it would only sully the purity of the writer's inspiration...

Or, as CP would say, "if you so good, why ain't you poor?"

The idea of a financially-successful artist being suspect because only commercialized styles actually, y'know, make money. It's the real artists who are freaking starving.

(I say, screw that! Gimme the money!)

Date: 11 Jun 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ldragoon.livejournal.com
Great post! I'll have to read it again to really absorb it. I must say, the sense of entitlement in the fandom community, in general, really tends to piss me the fuck off.

Date: 11 Jun 2009 04:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
It's situations like these that make me shake my head over DRM, because I'm willing to bet (based on the formats I saw when I first went and actually looked at what was there for d/l, in a kind of disbelieving trance) that a good number of them were stripped-DRM files. There are actually freeware apps that now walk you through doing that. Which means, to me: not only does DRM annoy the hell out of those of us who are honest, it doesn't even work.

It's really becoming clear to me that someone needs to come up with a friendly kind of DRM, one that is seamless to the user -- that is, lets me do what I want with my limited rights without getting in my way -- but that also makes it possible for someone to crack that shared file and determine the original purchaser, and then nail them to the wall for the damage they're doing. (As, I believe, I would also be justifiably liable if I gave/transferred an ebook to a friend who then turned around and distributed -- because I purchased and it was my actions/choice that led to someone else being able to do that.)

Date: 11 Jun 2009 05:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ldragoon.livejournal.com

That makes sense. I hope they can figure out SOMETHING, because I think eBooks really have the potential to open up the publishing industry.

Date: 14 Jun 2009 05:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Oh, I'd say ebooks already have -- it's just a matter, now, of getting some kind of basic standard. Every industry goes through that process, some more reluctantly than others, and not always to the consumer's benefit, but it does happen. I walk into a fabric store, and every single pattern follows the same measurements to determine size; I buy a videotape, and it's VHS all the way down the line, baby, no more betamax (even if in the latter example, I'm told, betamax would've been a better choice).

Eventually ebooks will standardize into a single format, because that's the nature of advancement -- the important thing here is that consumers make as much noise as possible about which direction we want. The market just can't bear up under eighty different formats for much longer, not to mention the distributors/publishers will eventually get cranky at not being able to access massive segments of the potential buying market (like, say, ME) who do not own the Speshul High-Priced Equipment required to read/use their product.

The only place I heard anything remotely about a 'friendly-DRM' (and maybe sometimes called a 'sunrise DRM' or a 'sunset DRM', I think?) was in relation to Apple. I've been asking since, but it doesn't seem like anyone else knows much about it, or whether any of the PTB have/are actually considering such an option. As both a reader and a writer, I think a friendly DRM is the way to go.

Now if I could just get someone in power to listen to me...

Date: 11 Jun 2009 05:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moffit.livejournal.com
This.. wow. My mind has been successfully, seriously boggled.

If I'd seen all this before the ebooks were removed, I would have gathered information then emailed each author a little head's up.

Just imagine that mod's expression if she had those 70+ authors ALL jumping down her throat for encouraging people like this.

Date: 14 Jun 2009 05:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com

Well, let's just say I'm sure there were little birdies flying about, I'm sure.

Date: 11 Jun 2009 06:16 pm (UTC)
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] branchandroot
[sarcasm] Oh, but those maybe-pornifiers were reported to LJ! They can't do anything without a report or they'll damage their common carrier status! Even when the administration has just directed the executioners to go directly against previous and explicit policy and delete without actual investigation, because that's not the same thing! [/sarcasm]

Yeah. *shakes head*

On the general subject of DRM, I won't be surprised if the copy-for-a-friend exception gets erased now that it's getting so much easier to copy so many products, but there's no excuse for doing that with the pass-it-on exception. And, as you say, the publishers need to stop trying to screw full-rights prices out of us for a limited-rights product. I'm willing to pay equal prices to, say, Baen, because I get a non-drm-ed product that is very much equivalent to a hard copy. But the general run of ebooks these days? Won't touch 'em.

Date: 14 Jun 2009 05:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
My understanding is that, in fact, there is no copy-for-a-friend for a friend exception to the ebook/licensing agreements when you purchase. It's a violation of license. If someone were to ask me (which, sadly, no one is, damn it, why don't they RECOGNIZE my GENIUS? *shakes fist*) -- I'd say to insert a give-a-friend explicitly into the basic license, on the business grounds that if person A purchases the book and does not want to keep it, then person B probably won't buy the book anyway based on A's negative rec -- and that in a perfect world, if B likes the book and A doesn't, A never would've bought the book in the first place -- so it becomes zero-sum: get A's money or B's, but probably not both.

Baen, though... I dunno if they're selling copies with full hardcopy-equivalent rights. Are they? Do they have an agreement you have to okay before getting? Because lack of DRM does not constitute full purchaser rights; every single ebook I get is non-DRM -- mostly b/c the majority of the software to read DRM'd stuff is proprietary and naturally all but .01% is Windows-only -- and yet every ebook I own is locked down with that "this is only for you and no transfers, etc" partial-rights license.

Of course, it probably goes without saying that due to not having the s/w or the tech to read the multitudes of formats, I'm locked out of about 75% of the ebook market, anyway. Sigh.

Date: 14 Jun 2009 05:24 pm (UTC)
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] branchandroot
Baen are the ones who encourage their authors to put old books in the free online library and bundle new hardcovers with CDs containing the entire series to date, the latter coming with an explicit license to copy, share and pass it on as long as the CD is not resold. The non-paper books I get from them through webscriptions have no license attached beyond the copyright statement that a paper copy would have. They're also in html, pfd and text formats, no funky ebook encoding at all.

Baen is a little unusual.

Date: 14 Jun 2009 05:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
Baen is most definitely unusual, and not just a little!

Sounds like they're doing what Kassia (over at Booksquare) has been suggesting: to sell the book, and not a format -- whereas right now, really, with most ebooks, you're paying for the format, and if you want hardcopy, you pay for that format separately.

Personally, I don't mind paying for different formats, because I find these days I lean hard towards reading ebooks. It's easier and simpler for me, more convenient, and I can read while multi-tasking -- hell, even read hands-free, which means I can munch on dinner while catching another chapter or two.

The problem with Baen's notion -- of ebook+pbook being "paid for story, not format" -- is that it locks out the ebook publishers who only produce an e-version, and don't (or can't afford to, which is more likely and understandable given the overhead in trad publishing) produce a hardcopy except in very rare circumstances. Hell, most ebook pubs out there don't even do hardcopy, at all. It's not their area -- so if the market moves towards "buy the story, not the format," this advantages the trad publishers and leaves the e-pubs with consumers who're likely to say, "why should I pay X to you and just get the single file, when I could spend a little more and pay Y and get it all?"

Date: 16 Jun 2009 02:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ekbell.livejournal.com
I doubt that they'd be able to lock out any publisher that wasn't in the science fiction and fantasy genres.

Baen does sell ebook only material though webscriptions and the CD's are not packaged with every hardcover.

As far as I'm concerned the very best bit is that unless you wish to pay extra to read a book before the hardcopy is released, Baen's ebooks are less expensive then a paperback.

The CD's and free library are basically advertising, an extremely low risk method of finding for yourself what type of books they sell. They are hoping (and it appears to work) that after reading the free books, the consumer will buy other books (either hardcopy or ebooks) from Baen if they liked the free books and that if the consumer hated the books they will refain from badmouthing something they read for free.

It worked for me, I doubt I'd ever have bought an ebook if I hadn't read the free ones. I found out that I liked a certain series and didn't have a problem reading e-books so I bought more. I've also tried a number of books that I otherwise would never have tried and I've discovered a few new authors that way.

The Baen free library site has articles which explain the philosophy behind the free books.

Date: 12 Jun 2009 02:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sharibet.livejournal.com
Thank you. Just thank you.

I'm a published author, via a small press and distributed primarily in ebook, and since I don't write erotica, I'm lucky if I sell 15-20 copies a month of my books. *sigh* The idea of having my work downloaded 3000 times for free makes me want to weep.

And yes, each novel is a labor of love, but they're also 12-24 months' worth of nights and weekend work, plus all the associated promotion work that follows once the book is accepted for publication.

"You love the author? Then pay them for their work!"

Except, of course, that these twits would probably come back with crap about how writing is an art and to pay for it would only sully the purity of the writer's inspiration...

Amen! No one expects a plumber to work for free, even if if s/he enjoys the hell out of the job. But writers are a different animal in the eye of the general public.

I also think (and I say this very cautiously, since I do write and post fanfiction) think that the current vast availability of fanfiction online, in all genres and in all manner of writing styles from the barely-literate to the "as good as any of the literary fiction I've read" level, has trained a vast number of readers to expect to read stories for free.

Does that mean I want to ban fanfiction? Nope. But I do recognize that the existence of copious amounts of fiction, free and online, makes trying to convince people to *pay* for my work a losing proposition.

It was a rather different situation way back when fanfiction was available only through fanzines, which were photocopied and sold for the cost of producing the 'zine.

So, no conclusions, just a lot of nodding in agreement and sighing privately over the sad state of my career as a small-time historical fantasy/historical romance author.

Date: 14 Jun 2009 05:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
The idea of having my work downloaded 3000 times for free makes me want to weep.

No kidding. When I first realized they were trading ebooks, I was just completely stunned. I honestly had the first thought of, "uhm, maybe it's truncated, or something?" because I just couldn't imagine the gall required to publicly distribute the entire freaking book -- let alone an author's entire shelf. That was... I mean, okay, if it were a single book and the message was, "if you like this, buy the rest," then I might be a little less taken-aback, and see it as a poor/student person's way of trying to do good while also getting books you can't get in the library... (granted with a bit of unease anyway) but still. The unmitigated gall just had me speechless for at least fifteen minutes, and that's saying something.

writers are a different animal in the eye of the general public

I'm not sure that's entirely it -- there is a romanticized view of writers, that you sit at home and dash off a few pages and then head off to another fancy (or at least very chic) party with other writers and come home to massive royalties and Hollywood camping on your door. Or something. And most people do love books enough to believe them valuable... but I think in this case, it's a sense that "sure, people should pay for books -- people who aren't me." For all that I'd like to think most people are inherently good, when they start acting like consumers, they get very greedy and very self-entitled and even destructive on the markets they claim to love.

Date: 14 Jun 2009 05:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaigou.livejournal.com
(whoops, maybe this should've been its own post, but hey. too lazy to do that right now.)

the current vast availability of fanfiction online [...] has trained a vast number of readers to expect to read stories for free.

Hrmmm. Been thinking about this since you posted, and gonna have to say: hmmm, not entirely certain I agree. Or at least, I don't think it's entirely fanfiction's fault -- the actual proportion of folks out there who read fanfic are an incredibly tiny percentage of the general net-going populace. For that matter, a lot of folks who read fanfic don't also read ofic; the drive/reason to read each can be very different. That is, just because you love this story does not mean you love all others -- so I might, instead, argue that the predominance of fanfiction has, at times, cut into the ofic market, b/c a chunk of readers would rather retell the same story than go looking for more, especially when the retelling is free and accessible.

No, I think the real foundation of the issue is that ebooks, like fanfiction, like online news articles, or downloaded iTunes, are electronic: there is nothing physical that you hold. It makes the product nebulous. It becomes expendable, in a way, or perhaps I should say 'disposable' -- it's not a 'real' thing.

We have a growing net-cultural association of "timely things" such that "e-files" are going to be dated just as fast as the rest of what we read: blogs, our own LJs, news articles: how many people really, truly, go back and read what someone's written two years ago? three years ago? we see the date and think, "oh, that's out-of-date, now," as though all information can expire. That's going to affect (effect?) all e-products, eventually, and already is, perhaps.

Which is one reason I think ebooks should emphasize they're like software -- that is, that you're buying a license to 'use' the product -- which is a thought-process we already understand as NOT being the same as "you read this online at the LA Times, and next week it'll be gone, so if you take it and do whatever, we don't care because next week, hey, who cares at all?"

I get that there's a business model underneath the Kindle et al, in that you're making consumers pay a lot for something, such that they can feel like they actually "bought" a product -- in hopes the $300 cost will transfer over and make the $5 ebook get part of that "here is something real", like by osmosis or something. But I think it's risky, and experientially not really working all that well -- because it seems consumers instead are acting like it's any other computer: I paid X-thousand dollars for this computer, how the hell can I afford anything but freeware, now?

I really, honestly, truly think it's time someone came up with a DRM that will let authors track down the original purchaser of a pirated copy -- and at the same time, not get in the way of we honest readers who don't get so bowled over by an e-product's fungible qualities that we forget it is, still, a product that requires us to respect its cost-to-use.

Date: 14 Jun 2009 06:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sharibet.livejournal.com
I think the real foundation of the issue is that ebooks, like fanfiction, like online news articles, or downloaded iTunes, are electronic: there is nothing physical that you hold. It makes the product nebulous.

An excellent point. Ebooks aren't real books by the measure of tangibility; therefore, the copyright is also less tangible. Or something like that.

To take it one step further, the format (electronic) also make the ebook a much easier thing to pirate. A paper book can be resold a number of times, but still, it's only one physical copy and someone presumably paid for it at some point. Pirating a paper book is difficult, expensive (if you're photocopying), and time-consuming.

Pirating an ebook or audiobook is, in comparison, very easy. Break the DRM (as you pointed out earlier, the software for doing so is freely available and either open-source or very low-cost), package it up as a .torrent file or put it on Sendspace, and ouila! 3000 downloads for the presumable purchase of a single copy.

I really, honestly, truly think it's time someone came up with a DRM that will let authors track down the original purchaser of a pirated copy

Great idea! Seriously.

...and approximately five minutes later, a hacker who believe all information, everywhere, should be free creates and distributes software to remove the DRM component from a file. Because DRM software is the Evil Tool of the Man.