Why writers drink, Part Whoknows

An alert reader sends me this link to an article at Techdirt, in which the author of the article is lambasting The Authors Guild (the mandate of which is to protect the rights of its author-members; a mandate that it tries to fulfill, with mixed results)of being anti-education and anti-learning because it’s Being Mean to some university libraries who “got tired” of waiting for Congress to figure out copyright (yet again) and decided to take matters into their own hands.

These libraries decided that if a work was, in their sole judgement (using what methodology is unclear), “orphaned” then it belonged to no one, was thus free, and the library could therefore scan it and make it available.

Mind you, I’m a fan of libraries. I have some real issues with the rhetoric of certain professors, who, snug in their well-paying day-jobs like to talk about the Evils of Copyright! and Mean Intellectual Property Holders Keeping Information Hostage! and How an Author Never Made Money from Their Copyrights! …and a whole lot of other arrant nonsense that just makes me want to go lie down in a darkened room with a cool towel on my forehead.

There are a couple of issues regarding this article, and the comments to the article.

One: The whole Orphan Works Issue that we all hear so much about and which is the total justification put forth by universities and Google and proselytizing professors? Is a red herring. There are NOT millions or even hundreds of thousands of Brilliant! Works! Still! In! Copyright! just lying around the place whose authors-or-rights-holders have fallen off the face of the earth and cannot be found, that in-force copyright therefore Robbing! The! Ages! of those gems.

One-Ay: If a work appears to be “orphaned,” i.e. the author is dead, the last publisher of record knows nothing about who might be handling the literary estate? Still doesn’t mean there isn’t a rights-holder, somewhere, who is, either willfully or through ignorance, withholding the use of the work, and the universities, and Google and the proselytizing profs are still stealing from those rights-holders by taking matters into their own hands. “We don’t wanna look for them,” and “it’s too hard!” isn’t the same as “can’t be found.”

One-Bee: Just publishing everything you (see universities, Google and PP, above) can get your hands on and saying that, if a right-holder happens to notice that they’re being stolen from, they can file a DMCA notice is…oh, breathtakingly arrogant. For starters.

Two: Big Biz Education, Google, and Proselytizing Profs really need to get out into the real world, and talk to real writers — not! academic writers; real writers, by whom I mean exactly those Evil! Copyright! Holders! who, um, do and are making money, and sometimes their sole living from those copyrights; from the mouths of whom the universities, Google and the well-paid Proselytizing Professors are taking Actual Food.

Edited to add: Link to the Authors Guild side of the story

Edited again: Link to NYTimes story regarding Judge Chin’s rejection of Google’s Grand Plan to Digitize the Known Galaxy.

And!Judge Chin’s breakout quote, which I couldn’t find yesterday: “A copyright owner’s right to exclude others from using his property is fundamental and beyond dispute.” – Judge Chin, 2011

One thought on “Why writers drink, Part Whoknows”

  1. Sharon, the words of the U.S. Constitution are “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;”, which is a VERY good idea BUT the operative words there are limited times. The problem is that in our world things like Disney have perverted this to be in perpetuity which is not such a good idea. This leads to guerrilla actions such as these, which in many cases are not all bad. Both sides seem to have their weak points and as a result both authors and readers suffer.


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