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Copyright… a discussion


Ser Scot A Ellison
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3 hours ago, One-Winged Balrog said:

@Ser Not Appearing

Let's cut to the chase.

...

However, would you not agree that someone who is only buying used books does not directly compensate the authors in any way?

 

I'm going to jump to this part because it seems the Crux of what you either don't understand about my opinion or what you think I don't understand about yours.

Purchase of a used book doesn't directly benefit an author. Someone buying used cars doesn't directly benefit an auto manufacturer. Someone buying a Pokemon card online doesn't directly benefit the card makers. Someone buying clothes at a thrift store doesn't benefit Nike.

This is a simple result of the way that our society has monetized distribution of assets.

The issue, as far as I can tell, is that you don't accept that by selling a single copy or issuance of an asset, the creator should lose control of that single copy or issuance ... yet that's exactly what has been paid for. When I buy a book, I am buying control over the use of that book.

You seem to think this system is inherently immoral. I don't. At all.

Control is what was purchased. The author or the car manufacturer or the Pokemon card maker sold and directly benefited and transferred ownership of that issuance. Not giving up control would mean that the person buying the asset isn't actually buying the asset. That would be odd to me. Perhaps I'm just conditioned but I see no problem with someone trying to sell me something and then me having control over it because we agreed on that.

And if they no longer have control, they should never again benefit from that asset unless they buy control back from me. Because ... It's not theirs anymore. It's mine.

Edited by Ser Not Appearing
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I also want to add that, even if we decide how a better system would be to only sell non-transferable rights to assets, that means we are decreasing what is purchased and a fundamental aspect of economics means that, all else equal, such copies of books would necessarily sell for less and the resulting shifts may not even garner more money for authors.

And, by the way, this is exactly why I don't buy ebooks (well, that and how I have no time to sit and read). They are a lesser asset for a more expensive price. The economics of it make absolutely no sense.

Edited by Ser Not Appearing
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9 hours ago, One-Winged Balrog said:

The labor of the author was writing the book. The author is not the one who makes new copies, so why should they be compensated for every single one?

One-Winged Balrog -- the author isn't compensated for each copy. He's only compensated for each copy sold between producer and consumer. This is legal and facilitates the author's economic, natural, moral, and social rights. Moreover, its cooperative.

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There are different sorts of property involved here.

The book, as a material object, is one kind of property, a piece of chattel property, i.e a piece of property like your car, that once purchased, can be left on one's own shelves in perpetuity, taken off and read by members of the family, loaned out, and then returned to the shelves.  It can also be resold if there is a second hand bookstore / market for it.  It can be literally given away.

However that physical piece of chattel property's only real value (generally, unless a special edition and so on) is what is contained in the printed matter within that physical, material object. That is intellectual/creative property and belongs to the author, not you or anyone else, unless the author has signed it over as inheritance -- or signed it to the publisher as a work-for-hire

Work-for-hire is what mostly textbooks are, thus the authors/writers aren't entitled to royalties. That content is the property of the publisher.

The content of the commercial ebooks still belongs to the author because that content wasn't written as work-for-hire.  The publisher pays, or is obligated to pay, an agreed-upon royalty rate for each sale of the ebook edition as they are obligated to pay on the  royalty for each purchase of the physical book.  But they don't have to pay royalties unless, or until, the production costs of the e-edition is earned out, just the same as with physical print books.

As you see, copyright isn't necessarily the same thing as a royalty.  If a publisher possessess the copyright, there are no royalties to be paid.  But if there is a copyright holder that isn't the publishers, that holder also is to receive the royalty.

 

Edited by Zorral
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13 hours ago, Ser Not Appearing said:

I'm going to jump to this part because it seems the Crux of what you either don't understand about my opinion or what you think I don't understand about yours.

Purchase of a used book doesn't directly benefit an author. Someone buying used cars doesn't directly benefit an auto manufacturer. Someone buying a Pokemon card online doesn't directly benefit the card makers. Someone buying clothes at a thrift store doesn't benefit Nike.

This is a simple result of the way that our society has monetized distribution of assets.

The issue, as far as I can tell, is that you don't accept that by selling a single copy or issuance of an asset, the creator should lose control of that single copy or issuance ... yet that's exactly what has been paid for. When I buy a book, I am buying control over the use of that book.

You seem to think this system is inherently immoral. I don't. At all.

Control is what was purchased. The author or the car manufacturer or the Pokemon card maker sold and directly benefited and transferred ownership of that issuance. Not giving up control would mean that the person buying the asset isn't actually buying the asset. That would be odd to me. Perhaps I'm just conditioned but I see no problem with someone trying to sell me something and then me having control over it because we agreed on that.

And if they no longer have control, they should never again benefit from that asset unless they buy control back from me. Because ... It's not theirs anymore. It's mine.

We seem to be talking past each other, so I'll try again to explain what I was trying to say before.

It is true that once a new book has been purchased, the physical copy of the book now belongs to the buyer and they can do with it as they please (in USA and most of the western world, at least).

However, the very existence of the market of used books is predicated on the existence of the market of new books. Someone else needs to buy a book first, for it to become used.

You seem to think that because the author has agreed to participate in this system, then everything is fine, but I think it's more complicated than this. The market is shaped by the behavior of the buyers. It is not different from cars. If suddenly a lot more people had decided to only buy used cars, the shape of the market would change. Some car producers would collapse, others would shift to invest more in servicing cars, there would be fewer new cars produced, these cars would be more expensive and they'd be different types of cars, adapted to a new situation (which would probably be better for the environment, but that's off-topic).

Of course, in case of books it is not only a large corporation (the publisher) who would be affected by the change, and also an individual author. And art as a product is different from cars or clothes, in that it is a lot less fungible. If your favorite author stops writing for any reason, you can't get their new books from someone else.

The question then is, what is the ethical thing to do if you like an author and want them to write more books?

As an example of a similar situation, consider presidential elections. The chances that a single vote would change the outcome are extremely small. The chance that the results of a single elections would affect your life are also not very big. It is also perfectly legal to not vote (in most countries). Yet a lot of people vote out of civic duty.

Now consider that a median author has a lot fewer readers than a presidential candidate has voters (thousands rather than tens of millions). The influence of an individual decision to buy or not buy a new book is therefore much more influential. What, then, should be the civic duty of the reader?

Edited by One-Winged Balrog
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A comparison to elections seems ill-chosen to me.

I see no civic duty in spending money on anything. What I do see is a practical reasoning that might lead me to say I want to support artists of various kinds because they bring value to my life. It's more comparable to buying a subscription to X newspaper. I hardly read newspapers anymore but I do find value in true journalism and that's an industry that is struggling to monetize in the modern age. Practically, I may want to try and help keep it alive ... but that's entirely optional and there exists a complete absence of anything resembling compulsion in any way.

And, for the sake of clarity, the current distribution and monetization method (one book, one sale) is not fine simply because people have chosen to participate in it. It's fine because it's a reasonable and practical approach.

Edited by Ser Not Appearing
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I certainly believe authors should be compensated for their work but it’s also true that society in general believes that compensation for authors (and other sorts of artists) partly consists of people simply consuming their work. That’s been true for as long as people have been making stories and songs and artworks and it’s also the reason why generally authors, with only a few exceptions, are significantly under compensated for the amount of work they put in.

These days I don’t go to libraries much but I read extensively cheap ebooks that I get in cheap ebook deals. If I like an author or am interested in something new I will pay full price, or even (gasp) buy a physical copy, but often I am not compensating the authors I read adequately. It’s a shame but Thats how the market works and I almost certainly am not reading these books otherwise

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On 9/9/2022 at 8:03 AM, john said:

I certainly believe authors should be compensated for their work but it’s also true that society in general believes that compensation for authors (and other sorts of artists) partly consists of people simply consuming their work. That’s been true for as long as people have been making stories and songs and artworks and it’s also the reason why generally authors, with only a few exceptions, are significantly under compensated for the amount of work they put in.

These days I don’t go to libraries much but I read extensively cheap ebooks that I get in cheap ebook deals. If I like an author or am interested in something new I will pay full price, or even (gasp) buy a physical copy, but often I am not compensating the authors I read adequately. It’s a shame but Thats how the market works and I almost certainly am not reading these books otherwise

I hate reading on an eReader… hate it.

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7 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

compensation for authors (and other sorts of artists) partly consists of people simply consuming their work.

Yes, that's what everybody thinks authors think, why when attempting to cajole a writer into writing for them for nothing, they say, "Exposure."

Exposure means getting mumps and covid.  It is not compensation.

Even in ye oldest days of yore writers got compensated materially, even before copyrights and licenses.  The people who write had patrons of some sort, whether directly as with Augustus and Virgil, or a bit more indirectly, but the money came from him, Charlemagne and the minstrels, jonguleurs, poets and historians, and / or the Church as providing the means, the time and the materials, while feeding and caring for the writers and artists.

Fer pete's sake without compensation painters can't / couldn't even afford to paint.

 

Edited by Zorral
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1 hour ago, Zorral said:

Yes, that's what everybody thinks authors think, why when attempting to cajole a writer into writing for them for nothing, they say, "Exposure."

Exposure means getting mumps and covid.  It is not compensation.

Even in ye oldest days of yore writers got compensated materially, even before copyrights and licenses.  The people who write had patrons of some sort, whether directly as with Augustus and Virgil, or a bit more indirectly, but the money came from him, Charlemagne and the minstrels, jonguleurs, poets and historians, and / or the Church as providing the means, the time and the materials, while feeding and caring for the writers and artists.

Fer pete's sake without compensation painters can't / couldn't even afford to paint.

 

For the record… that was something quoted in my post… I didn’t say that.

;)

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Yeah, well, I have a problem with Harlan Ellison here. I absolutely think writers deserve to be compensated for anything they have written. And his point at the end about not even getting a free copy of the DVD is valid -- that's rude for them not to send that. But I don't think answering someone's questions in an interview is the same thing as "writing".  That's like participating in journalism or someone else's historical research. There's actually a problem with journalists paying people they interview in terms of it casting some doubt on the objectivity of their answers.  So I really think Ellison had the designation of "asshole" backwards here. It's not the people who granted permission to use interviews who were the assholes. It's those who don't.

Again, if he had written anything or even spontaneously put up a video himself somewhere that they wanted to use clips from in their work, he should be compensated and have copyright. But if you get called up by someone with a request for an interview and then agree to do an interview in the first place without compensation, you shouldn't expect to be compensated beyond something like a free copy of the video when they use part of that video in their presenation, IMHO.

Edited by Ormond
typo correction
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On 9/12/2022 at 2:45 PM, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

I hate reading on an eReader… hate it.

I like it. You can change the text size, brightness, zoom on images, find things easier. The lack of book smell is a shame but I’m sure they’ll develop an e-reader sniff function sooner or later.

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2 hours ago, Ormond said:

Yeah, well, I have a problem with Harlan Ellison here. I absolutely think writers deserve to be compensated for anything they have written. And his point at the end about not even getting a free copy of the DVD is valid -- that's rude for them not to send that. But I don't think answering someone's questions in an interview is the same thing as "writing".  That's like participating in journalism or someone else's historical research.

He was talking about the DVDs for Babylon 5. He was credited as a conceptual consultant on all episodes of the series, and credited for the story of a couple of episodes. As he said, the actors were getting paid for their contributions to the DVD extras, so he expected the same treatment. 

Other writers have similar attitudes. I recall GRRM remarking that media cons that pay actors to come in and pay all their expenses don't do the same for writers, and so he makes a point of not attending them generally speaking.

 

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1 hour ago, Ran said:

He was talking about the DVDs for Babylon 5. He was credited as a conceptual consultant on all episodes of the series, and credited for the story of a couple of episodes. As he said, the actors were getting paid for their contributions to the DVD extras, so he expected the same treatment. 

Other writers have similar attitudes. I recall GRRM remarking that media cons that pay actors to come in and pay all their expenses don't do the same for writers, and so he makes a point of not attending them generally speaking.

 

A "consultant" is more than just an interviewee, and should be paid. However, if Ellison was a consultant, why didn't he have a contract and refuse to do any consulting work without a contact saying he would be paid?

I don't think either a writer or an actor should be paid for just an interview, however. 

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20 minutes ago, Ormond said:

A "consultant" is more than just an interviewee, and should be paid. However, if Ellison was a consultant, why didn't he have a contract and refuse to do any consulting work without a contact saying he would be paid?

I'm sure he did have a contract for his consulting work.

20 minutes ago, Ormond said:

I don't think either a writer or an actor should be paid for just an interview, however. 

It's not "an interview". It's promotional material to give added value to a commercial product where other participants are being paid, but he, "lowly" consultant and writer, was being offered "exposure" as recompense. 

ETA: GRRM has a similar attitude in the realm of media conventions where the cons pay actors big money to appear, cover their expenses, etc... but writers? Writers are there on their own dime. He doesn't attend media cons generally (SDCC being an exception because HBO asks him to do so) for this reason. 

Edited by Ran
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