Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Hopelessness of Copyright

Just returned from a panel discussion with law professor, university counsel, expert on Internet, and technical-research librarian: In short, for writers, copyright is hopeless. Because writers aren't organized like musicians, and won't be soon, the Internet (and Google's book-scanning, and office photocopying, and Amazon.com's cut of the take on your e-book, and so on) has made a morass of the laws surrounding published material and dimmed the rewards you may have expected as a writer. There are laws but few feel bound by them.

So, for best results: Write your book. Publish it yourself and own all rights. If you like, release portions of it electronically and LICENSE the material -- meaning anybody can read it or listen to it, but nobody is allowed make money from it -- with a creativecommons.org license. Take your payment in good will and prestige. Then use those to make money not from your writing but from readings, or leading classes, or becoming a small-press publisher, or serving on discussion panels, or editing, or advising, or -- get a day job.

After the panel I thought, "This sounds so hopeless," but it suddenly occured to me that this is exactly what has happened to me, and what I do.

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