One would hope it's sarcasm, but it's hard to call. There are plenty of examples of publishing houses that died due to the mishandling of the owner/s. The authors have no control over a publishing house. They don't usually cause one to fail, though I have seen a few authors with chips on their shoulders try their best to do it.
It doesn't matter. I sign good contracts, but we've been told in no uncertain terms that bankruptcy courts ignore the contract terms, even when you are signing contracts that include non-assignability, reverting rights in the case of bankruptcy or sale, and so forth.
Not to mention a few conglomerates and larger indies tie authors for life, but that is not the case in indie press, in general. None of my contracts are life; one of the reasons I work in indie press is that I refuse to sign a lifetime plus 70 contract. Ever.
We don't transfer Copyright via the publisher contract NOW. At least not unless the author is writing in a world (on spec) that is owned BY the publisher, but that's a special situation and doesn't occur often, overall.
Way too many people don't understand what an actual contract says. Every one of mine says that the material is still my copyright. The only thing I actually do is temporarily (2-7 years, in most cases) license the ability to reproduce and distribute my titles to a publisher, only as long as the publisher keeps up their end of the contract (payment, book availability, etc.). By definition, the bankrupt publisher going out of business stops royalty payments and often takes books off sale, therefore breaching their end of contract at that point. The contract says the publisher can aid me in defending my copyright...but they are under no obligation to do so, since it's my copyright. My contracts also say that the license cannot be sold and immediately reverts TO me in a case of bankruptcy or dissolution/sale of the publisher. Sounds good? It does.
Now, the problem comes in the form of the way bankruptcy courts function and their mistaken ideas about authors and contracts. They view contracts as "assets" of the publisher and don't pay attention to the time limits on the contracts. If the contract runs out while held by the courts, they still hold it as if it has value that doesn't exist to the business going bankrupt. Further, ownership of the actual valuable object (copyright) is misattributed to the publisher, where it never actually existed. Moreover, authors are not treated like the debtors they are, IMO. The publisher, almost without exception, owes the authors money. So, it's adding insult to injury. The bankruptcy courts not only hold up the rightful ownership of the stories, but they further don't protect author earnings and instead rule that authors get paid last in line. IOW, not at all, by the time the big fish have their bites of the pie.
Some people will argue that bankruptcy law trumps contract law, but that only goes so far in argument. Any way you look at it, they are holding the property of a debtor to satisfy the bills of a bankrupt entity. Something seriously whacked in execution there, any way you dissect it.
Thank goodness for Dark Helmet! I was beginning to worry that everyone on this thread was completely brain damaged.
For what it's worth, I have chosen my side of issues carefully and with a lot of thought. I'm anti-DRM and pro access to what you have legally purchased, whether that is text to speech or using the same ebook on several types of tech you own. I'm pro lending (but ONLY the ones we sanction or incidental sharing of friend to friend...I will NEVER support illegal reselling of ebooks...burning multiple copies of the same ebook and selling them or posting them on mass sharing venues).
I recognized Dale's site for what it was and spent time on Yahoo groups of authors and in private email, trying to put out the flames. To be honest, the only reason I didn't do a comment about it on Facebook (I don't tweet...if you check my Twitter, you'll see I get on there maybe every 6 months) was that so many other people already had. Sometimes adding more to the cacophony seems like screaming into the wind. I wish now that I had, but it seems to me that those who were going to listen to what I was trying to say had already asked before they jumped, and those that didn't...well they weren't going to, no matter how many times I said it.
But to hear some people on here tell it, I'm to be vilified because I send out LEGITIMATE DMCA notices to mass sharing sites and to eBay or iOffer (when someone is selling thousands of copies of my works illegally and claiming to sell resale rights they don't own...claiming my work is in the public domain, which it isn't). That's blatantly wrong, IMO. There is NOTHING wrong with what I'm doing. I don't even send a DMCA notice to a sale site I'm unsure about until I contact them and ask them nicely where they get their content. Often, they are affiliates of Fictionwise or LSI. In that case, I highly recommend to them that they post the information about it, so they don't have people going off half cocked and doing what was done to Dale. Again, no excuse for what was done to Dale. I don't want legitimate sales outlets or legitimate lending outlets stifled any more than most of the people on here do.
In fact, I TEACH other authors to be businesslike in sending take-downs, to make sure it's a pirate first, and not to engage in the petty back and forth some pirates shoot back. If the pirate isn't responding to the take-down, just go to the site or ISP or whoever is next up the line to make the same simple complaint. No embellishment. Just the take-down.
I'd counter the argument that this is all the fault of the "permission culture" with the solid fact that it's more than the copyright laws causing this. It's also authors overreacting, because they are stressed and worn down and leery, due to the rampant piracy they do deal with on a daily basis. No, there is no excuse for what happened to Dale, but you seem to think the copyright laws act in a bubble, unaffected by other factors, and that's not so. If you want reasonable authors, HELP them take down the real pirates. I'm not talking about downloaders here, because chasing downloaders is a ridiculous venture. I'm talking about the ones selling thousands of copies of illegal burns of the same ebooks (some of which were created by scans and some not), the ones uploading hundreds or more copies of clearly copyright protected ebooks onto mass sharing sites, the sites that ignore DMCA take-down notices or don't even provide a way to send them, forcing authors to go to the ISP to get any help at all.
All this talk about you'll (not you, Dark Helmet, but I've seen a lot of this on Techdirt) just go pirate the authors to teach them a lesson is counterproductive. It won't "teach" them crap. All it will do is make them more reactive to any perceived piracy and escalate the problem further. You push them, they push back. You throw threats and insults at them, they do the same in return. It's not the laws causing that. It's people on both sides running their mouths instead of trying to work toward a common goal they can agree on. Try meeting on common ground instead.
If you want to help matters, then join the fight of teaching readers to access what they have purchased but to limit themselves to incidental sharing and NEVER to play the games eBay pirates do. That would go a long way toward meeting on a middle ground and helping with the problem instead of escalating it.
Dale, I am heartily sorry this happened to you. If it makes you feel any better, there were plenty of authors like me out there (and publishers), trying to put out the fires as it was going down. A lot of us took one look at the site and knew what you were doing, recognized it from other incarnations of the same idea.
Personally, I sign up with lending on Amazon, even when my price is low enough I don't have to; though I do believe no one should be coerced into the lending by Amazon as they currently are, but that is a different subject entirely and no reflection on you or what you were doing.
Sites like yours perform the same function inter-library loan on my print books does. I don't know why this is so difficult for some authors to understand, but please do be aware that some authors and publishers actually appreciated what you were trying to do.
It's not all authors that are responsible for this. Please do be aware of it. I've lost count of how many times, in how many different forums, I've had to explain it to someone. Even when I'd painstakingly explained why it wasn't illegal (just people we'd already given limited sharing to in contract finding a more expedient way to find people to share with), I had most that would nod and move on and some that would STILL complain it should be illegal. What's illegal? If you willingly donated a copy of a paper book to a library, would you be upset that someone posted on a blog or site, "Hey! Her book is in the local library. Go borrow it."? I should hope not. Lendlink was not alone in what they were doing, and nothing about it is illegal. Whether you agree to lending just to get the 70% at Amazon (and personally, I think Amazon are idiots to make book price and lending part of that...no other distribution channel plays those sorts of games with royalties) or whether you knowingly agreed to it (hoping all the while that most people wouldn't use it...which is silly, since this CAN help build an audience, when it's very limited lending) or even if you didn't read it at all, the point stands that you did agree to it in contract (or your publisher did) so buck up and let people use it! If you feel so strongly that Amazon shouldn't allow lending at all, make a stink about them tying it to 70% and pull your books from there. Then have the readers complain about it. That's the way to attack the monopoly.