Despite Inflammatory Headline, UK Authors Society Looking To Embrace Free, Not Fight The Internet

from the history-says-otherwise dept

There's a really inflammatory headline and opening paragraph in an article in the Times Online in the UK stating that "book piracy on the internet will ultimately drive authors to stop writing." This claim is actually unsubstantiated by history (which has actually shown book piracy ends up helping authors) or, actually, by the rest of the article. Rather than a reactionary RIAA-style response from the UK's Society of Authors, the article shows that the group isn't so much fearing internet piracy, but simply noting that business models need to change. Once you get beyond the headline and first paragraph, it's actually a rather refreshing article, as the head of the Society of Authors basically says that new business models are needed, and even suggests a few.

This isn't a "doom and gloom" story as the opening suggests, but rather a "let's figure out how to change before it's forced upon us uncomfortably." While many are covering this story as if the authors group is acting like the RIAA, the head of the Society even notes: "We have to evolve and create a very different pay system, possibly by making the content available free to all and finding a way to get paid separately." That seems like a rather reasonable and thoughtful approach to a changing marketplace, rather than a "sky is falling! run! run! run! sue! sue! sue!" response. The group seems to recognize that shared files can act as promotion, and the article even highlights the story of the first known literary "pirates" who were later applauded by the author, who was thrilled at the publicity the piracy generated.

This actually is a really interesting (and even surprising) recognition by authors that the business model they're used to is changing. It's just too bad that the Times Online chose to portray it in a totally inaccurate manner.
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Filed Under: authors, business models, embracing, free, piracy, uk

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  1. icon
    james (profile), 2 Apr 2008 @ 10:56am


    Welcome to the world of sensationalism. Saying that artists (authors) are willing to allow their collective works to be distributed without monetary compensation would not have sold as many papers, or generated as many hits, or (in the case of this article itself) generate as many reviews. It is reporter sensationalism at it's best, even if it is misleading. It hooked the audience, and drew them in. As long as the article itself is factual, then no harm, no foul. A hook is a hook, and in the papers' world, thats the headline.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    another mike, 2 Apr 2008 @ 11:52am

    piracy before obscurity

    Everyone who creates content needs to consider whether piracy or obscurity is a bigger threat to their income.
    There are some authors I will buy their newest book right off the shelf without a second thought because I like the author and know I will enjoy the book. But I don't branch out, buying authors I haven't read before, because I don't know whether it will be worth the $30 for a new book.
    Maybe authors could start to think more like rock stars. Write a book and post it for free (money and DRM) on their own web site. Then go on tour. Sign copies, read exerpts, talk about your inspiration, introduce the people your characters are based on, the whole playing to the scarcity bit.
    Thinking about it, most rock stars need to come to grips with this concept, too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Jake, 2 Apr 2008 @ 12:03pm

    Re: Welcome....

    Actually, this being the Times, I'd say that the editorial staff -or at least their traditional target demographic- are just deeply and profoundly uncomfortable with new ideas; they're used to the world working in a particular way and get upset if they're suddenly obliged to think in new and mildly unusual ways. Fortunately, the British middle classes also consider RIAA-style sue-fests and ranting and suchlike to be beneath their dignity, so will probably take the changes in their stride with their collective upper lip held rigid and an almost-totally-unforced cry of 'Mustn't grumble!'.

    (In case you're wondering, I am British and middle class, and can therefore state with some authority that all our cultural stereotypes have extensive basis in fact.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), 2 Apr 2008 @ 12:16pm

    Re #2, another mike

    Yah, I do the same thing with Nine Inch Nails music. I know I am buying it as soon as it is announced before it is released. I know I will like it.
    Although, I really need to read more novels. =(

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Jake, 2 Apr 2008 @ 1:16pm

    Re: piracy before obscurity

    Baen Books are way ahead of you, other Mike. Eric Flint's introductory paragraph at the Baen Free Library ( is a masterful summary of the burning issue of DRM and what publishers ought to be doing instead.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Apr 2008 @ 6:54pm

    Give it away. Worked well for the Bible didn't it? Regardless of your own personal beliefs, you can't deny it's the most widely published literary work on the planet.

    In fact, the first book to go to press (Think Guttenburg) was the Bible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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