Authors Take Copyright So Seriously They Hides Jokes In Their Copyright Notices

from the lulz dept

Were you to hear from the lobbying groups for the major book publishers on the topic of copyright, their answers are generally to push for longer terms, stricter anti-piracy measures, and the most draconian reading of copyright law possible. Groups like The Authors Guild have been firm in their stances that copyright is the only thing that keeps authors in any kind of business, so important is it to their livelihoods. One would think, therefore, that all authors of books would likewise take copyright very, very seriously.

Fortunately, for those of us that appreciate irreverent humor, not so much.

When my first couple novels came out, I lobbied to add some kind of notation about “fair use” and “limitations and exceptions to copyright” on the copyright notice page and was told not even to try because legal would never allow even the slightest variance from the boilerplate; apparently Steve Stack is better connected than I am, because his book 21st Century Dodos, has a copyright notice that is full of whimsy and gags, as Rebecca discovered and documented.

The entire thread is a fun read, and we’ll get to other authors that do this sort of thing in a moment, but the whole thing kicks off with Stack’s copyright notice on one of his books.

In case you can’t read that or click through to the tweet, the bottom photos are of Stack’s copyright notices. They are mostly boilerplate, save for these fun exceptions:

Steve Stack asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work, and woe betide anyone who suggests otherwise

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library, whatever that means

The other image is more of the same, except too long for me to type out entirely. That said, to get an idea of its flavor, it includes lines such as “No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, cookie jar or spare room… Unless you want to write the whole thing out in green crayon, in which case feel free.” and “This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, carried across the country by relay, fired into space, turned upside down, eaten… On pain of death.”

You get the idea. That idea being that it doesn’t seem like the author is taking copyright all that seriously. And he’s not alone, as it turns out. Down the thread, another tweet points out that author Dave Eggers has a habit for this sort of thing as well.

Again, read the whole thing, but the opening paragraph is tasty enough that I will quote it below in case you cannot see it.

First published 2000 by Simon & Schuster, New York, a division of a larger and more powerful company called Viacom Inc., which is wealthier and more populous than eighteen of the fifty states of America, all of Central America, and all of the former Soviet Republic combined and tripled. That said, no matter how big such companies are, and how many things they own, or how much money they have or make or control, their influence over the daily lives and hearts of individuals, and thus, like ninety-nine percent of what is done by official people in cities like Washington, or Moscow, of Sao Paulo or Auckland, their effect on the short, fraught lives of human beings who limp around and sleep and dream of flying through bloodstreams, who love the smell of rubber cement and think of space travel while having intercourse, is very very small, and so hardly worth worrying about.

Copyright © David (Dave) Eggers 2000

Height: 5’11”; Weight: 170; Eyes: blue; Hair: Brown; Hands: chubbier than one would expect; Allergies: only to dander; Place on sexual-orientation scale, with one being perfectly straight, and 10 being perfectly gay: 3

It goes on from there.

Now, none of this is to suggest that these authors have any dislike of copyright law. In fact, I scoured the internet for comments either might have made on the subject of copyright and couldn’t find a thing. Which sort of leaves the literary graffiti both left in their books’ copyright notices as their only comment on the topic at all.

And, while it cannot be said that this defacing of their own rights is dismissive of those rights entirely, it certainly does suggest both that these authors don’t take the subject quite as seriously as groups like The Authors Guild and that they have a fantastic sense of humor.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Authors Take Copyright So Seriously They Hides Jokes In Their Copyright Notices”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
takitus (profile) says:

Re: It's not just Literature.

It’s worth pointing out that Futurama, like many, many other media that make fun of copyright maximalism, is itself all-rights-reserved, copyrighted material. The same goes for the books mentioned by Doctorow’s post: despite the jokes, the authors (including Doctorow) still allowed their books to be published under the standard restrictive copyright terms of the publishing industry.

While inserting pranks in copyright statements is funny, it does nothing to fix the problem. If the author isn’t making every effort to publish their work under open licenses, it’s smug posturing.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: It's not just Literature.

despite the jokes, the authors (including Doctorow) still allowed their books to be published under the standard restrictive copyright terms of the publishing industry.

Cory Doctorow at the very, very least offers versions of his books with sharable licenses and refuses to have anything published that has DRM in it. I can’t vouch for the other authors, though.

takitus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It's not just Literature.

Cory Doctorow at the very, very least offers versions of his books with sharable licenses and refuses to have anything published that has DRM in it.

I stand corrected. I knew he refused to allow DRM’d versions, but I recall seeing a few all-rights-reserved copies of his novels. Good to hear that he offers an alternative.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It's not just Literature.

Well for those productions they literally don’t own their works. They are owned by corporations because even if they did very well they wouldn’t be able to afford to publish it themselves. What they can do however is insert jokes to take the piss out of it. They don’t care and the owners don’t really care so long as they can still make money on it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Remember people, showing groups, like The Authors Guild, anything that includes a GPL license is a very bad idea.

Upon reading it they will think it’s a joke.

However if you manage say the correct things to convince them it’s real, they will, of course dismiss it as being completely inconsequential, and anathema to the modern world of progress.

If you some how managed to inform them that the majority of the internet is based on this very license… they will spend about 3 and and a half minutes boggling, after which their brains will explode.

Thereupon you will be a murder suspect.

So do not do it.

(Subject to them being anything like intellectually honest about their opinions… which… who believes that’s the case)

CharlieBrown says:

Home Video

A video cassette released by the BBC of "The Best Of Spike Milligan" opened with a joke version of the BBC video copyright warning (read by Spike) and ended with him checking to see if his recorder copied the video properly, particularly a scene of a female streaker on a cricket ground. This was included on the DVD release which followed a few years after the video cassette.

I’ve also seen a very long winded but quite funny copyright warning on a DVD of Russell Brand that I rented, but that was 15 years ago and I don’t remember it other than I didn’t find the show as funny as I thought I would. Still, I did get to support my local video rental store (which I absolutely loved!)

But for those of you who can be bothered, here is the opening from Australian sketch comedy show "Fast Forward" which had a few choice words hidden in the copyright warning included in the opening. However, you will have to be quick on that pause button as the idea is that you fast forward over that rubbish to get to the main movie. There’s nothing too rude, though. It still had to go on broadcast television.

ECA (profile) says:

Never again.

Its strange how the printing business works..
At one point the Authors got a fair amount from hard bound books..
And abit less from Paper backs..
Then digital came out, and now its all messed up.

What would you think Fair for the sale of 1 of these items and the Amount the author gets??
unless you are on the top, you dont get that much.

Its as bad as working in movies, or Creating games to sell to Distributors..Or being a Musician..
But digital is about the same.. but the over head is almost GONE..
And Some companies Understand it.

Have fun folks..

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...