Chuck Palahniuk Apologizes For Blaming Piracy For His Business Partner Stealing His Money

from the it-really-was-stealing-this-time dept

Chuck Palahniuk has long been a personal hero of mine. Back when I fancied myself a fiction writer, I gobbled up his books, engrossed in the characters he was able to create. It was only years later, then writing for Techdirt, that a chip in my impression of Palahniuk emerged when he started his habit of blaming his finances on the piracy of his works. Palahniuk claimed that piracy was responsible for his “dwindling income.” This, despite selling a ton of books and movie options, sounded strange — especially given that book piracy is much more limited than things like music, movies or software. Where was he getting it from?

Well, Palahniuk himself answers that question in a recent blog post on his site. It turns out the idea that piracy was to blame for his money troubles came from the accountant in charge of his royalties at his literary agency. That same accountant, it turns out, has now been charged with defauding the agency out of millions of dollars. Palahniuk now says he knows exactly what dwindled his income and it wasn’t piracy.

On the plus side I’m not crazy. For several years my income has dwindled. Piracy, some people told me. Or the publishers were in crisis and slow to pay royalties, although the publishers insisted they’d sent the money.

You may have read about this over the weekend in the New York Post. All the royalties and advance monies and film option payments that had accumulated in my author’s account in New York, or had been delayed somewhere in the banking pipeline, it was gone. Poof. I can’t even guess how much income. Someone confessed on video he’d been stealing. I wasn’t crazy.

If you’ve written to me chances are that your letter passed through the hands of the accused. He’d collect the mail and forward it to me. He seemed like a good guy. Like a prince of a guy. Like man-crush material. And then he wasn’t.

And so now Palahniuk says he is close to broke. It’s a heartbreaking story, for sure, to have a great author in financial ruin because of the fraud perpetrated by another. But one thing worth calling out here is that piracy has become so prevalent a scapegoat in the copyright industries today that someone as intelligent as Palahniuk accepted it as the reason for not being paid, even when he claims his mental warning bells were going off roughly all the time. This is the danger in industry groups scapegoating piracy as the world’s greatest evil. And, frankly, how much daylight exists between Palahniuk’s story and that of all those deprived of income through the magic of “Hollywood accounting“, through which even the guy who played Darth Vader can’t get residuals from Jedi over claims that the movie has somehow not been profitable?

Not much at all, I would argue. It ought to be enough to counter the claims that piracy is responsible for the woes of content creators by simply pointing out that it just isn’t true, but we would do well to understand that the industry mantra blaming piracy is in part responsible for artists like Palahniuk buying into the hype and being swindled.

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Comments on “Chuck Palahniuk Apologizes For Blaming Piracy For His Business Partner Stealing His Money”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

ProTip: Perhaps the people telling you to blame the pirates are just distracting you from their actions.

Pity he had to learn this lesson the very hard way.
Maybe instead of another copyright expansion we need a law to stop the fun accounting games that screw creators out of what they were promised because somehow a film that pulled in billions is still in the red & can’t pay them whats in the contract.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Make sure the target is on target

Actually, he was a victim of piracy, except it wasn’t on the high seas. Someone stole his money, not just copied it.

It does however point up a few more problems. The first being the responsibility of fiduciaries. If there was required insurance, for example, those insurance companies would be auditing those fiduciaries they insure, and a lot less of this would happen. The second is, when one gets a lot of income, they have a tendency to turn things over to some money manager, and this might include either a power of attorney or signing rights on bank accounts. Whom should the blame for this fall upon?

There is a difference between getting financial advice, and turning your business over to someone else, without some protection, auditing, or follow through.

Anonymous Coward says:

Plausible and likely because true for many others every day.

You are pushing a feeble fable, as if there’s no piracy.

As a person who strings words together with presumed intent to inform, amuse, or as here, deceive, you are remarkably lousy at it, seem to have stopped all progress and are reverting to childish formula.

For instance, you have bad habit of "the slant that I want this story to have should prove for all time that facts are as I wish them to be". Example above:

"It ought to be enough to counter the claims that piracy is responsible for the woes of content creators by simply pointing out that it just isn’t true"

It’s a common template in the surreal modern era. First noted the "proof from fiction" in Hofstader (Godel, Escher, Bach), in which he frequently uses this template (not verbatim but accurate): "IF consciousness can be put into a computer, then it proves the soul is less than transcendant". — Yeah. This is true: IF you can get someone to accept your premise without question, then they’re almost certain to fall for the intended conclusion. You re-writers and Masnick deploy that template almost exclusively, first and worst because you’re not rigorously honest, and second because not overly competent.

Rocky says:

Re: Plausible and likely because true for many others every day.

I’ve found that people who use more words than necessary to make a point usually do it so they can rationalize their own belief while trying to bamboozle the audience. Especially telling is the multiple use of “fancy” words and references to works of the philosophical or metaphysical slant.

A cogent post will always trump your kind of word salad and your own first sentence describes your post in excruciating detail.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: tl;dr

One of the most valuable moments in my education came at the beginning of my senior year of high school.

I’d just turned in my first essay of the year to my humanities teacher. After he graded it, he took me aside and gave me the Hemingway Lecture. He put it more kindly than "stop showing off and get to the fucking point," but that was the gist of his feedback.

I think it helped me a lot. Since then, I’ve always tried to keep my writing clear and concise, above all else, because the purpose of writing is to communicate.

I don’t always succeed at the whole "clear and concise" thing, of course. But I try.

Anonymous Coward says:

The story in various forms is as old as civilization.

Do not let someone else ever manage your money.

For to them it is somebody else’s money.
In the securities industry this is called OPM (other people’s money).

The attitude is: If the owner of the money does not care and does not take responsibility for their own affairs then “Why should I?”

If the financial manipulations are above your comprehension you can be assured that your money will be manipulated from your pocket to theirs by one means or the other no mattered the advertised rate of return.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, I found it now, thanks. It was a link of a link that I finally navigated to that statement. Earlier, I checked out the first order of links only. I didn’t check out links to links or links to links to links, because that’s a lot of links and a lot to read to just to find that particular statement of apology.

John85851 (profile) says:

Record labels and musicians

Stories like this need to be spread to the public simply to counter the claims by people (like Taylor Swift) who claim marketplace websites don’t pay the musicians. People like this will rant about how they sell their music on iTunes but only make a few cents per download.
Yet Apple signed contracts with the record labels to pay *them*, not the individual musicians. So guess, musicians- it’s not Apple that’s ripping you off, but your record label. And the manager may also be to blame for not negotiating a better royalty payment.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s nice that he apologized, but I still think it was a dick move for him to have bitched about piracy in the first place.

He wrote books and films about extreme anarchy and screwing the system in the most violent, explosive ways possible, then complains when people don’t behave as model citizens when it comes to respecting copyright law. What the fuck is wrong with him?

He should have expected his fans to do that, especially the most loyal ones. What a fake-ass punk. This is nothing like when the Sex Pistols put a message in one of their albums encouraging fans to make copies of it on cassette decks in order to screw over their own publishers and industry.

Anonymous Coward says:

Yeah, I thought of more to say. What of it?!

Kinda glad he’s going broke. Karmic retribution, I say.

I was a big fan of his, too, but if he was dumb enough to go on an anti-piracy tirade instead of investigating the real issues, he got what was coming to him. He took the bait, got distracted and was played like the fool he is.

Maybe he’ll be a bit more humble now, if he ever makes a comeback. Watch your fucking money this time, Chuck.

Anon says:

Whoever the accountant is...

Whoever that accountant is, hire him as a salesman when he gets out of jail How do you manage to explain a lack of payment from Hollywood for film option rights on piracy???

Plus, the same guy who collects the money for you also filters your mail so you don’t see publishers’ sales reports? There’s such a ting as letting someone do too much for you.

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