Book Publishers Misguided Complaints About Scribd

from the sensationalism-at-work dept

If you're a bored journalist, it's easy to create a sensationalistic story about "piracy." Just find some pre-internet industry that's dealing with the shift to online content, get a few quotes about how awful "pirates" are, and then find a company to blame for all of it. That seems to be what the Times of London did with its story about publishers freaking out over people uploading books to Scribd. Scribd responded by pointing out numerous factual errors in the original article (specifically the parts that seem to try to place the blame on Scribd, despite it being a third party platform that actually has a pretty advanced anti-infringement system in place). However, this is the quote that struck me:
Peter Cox, a literary agent and editor of the Litopia blog, said: "These people are pirates. We don't have to give in to this. We can't afford to make the same mistakes the music industry did."
Apparently Mr. Cox hasn't been paying attention. The "music industry" (he means the recording industry) didn't give in on this. It fought it consistently. And lost pretty much every battle -- often making things worse for itself by simply never adjusting to the changing marketplace. So, Cox's response is to follow their exact mistakes by "fighting" this? That's exactly the mistake that the music industry made.

Instead, he might want to take a look at what folks like Paulo Coehlo discovered when he "pirated" his own books and saw sales jump. Or what Baen books has done. Or what tons of authors have found after they put their books online for free and combined it with a smart business model. Otherwise, Mr. Cox is making the exact mistake the recording industry made while thinking (incorrectly) that trying to "stop piracy" is somehow a workable solution.

Filed Under: books, piracy, publishers, publishing
Companies: scribd


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  1. identicon
    Peter Cox, 1 Apr 2009 @ 2:57pm

    “Did the author use their bandwidth or equipment to bring the user that copy? No? Then they didn't take money directly from the writer.”

    If you steal someone’s property - in this case, intellectual property- then you have stolen something of value from them. Disagree?

    I suggest you learn something about the long, hard struggle authors have had to be paid for their work. It’s an enlightening history - involving, amongst many others, Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. Please educate yourself.

    “Except for the very few full-time, career, freelance writers out there, most writers write with no expectation, let alone any guarantee, of being paid”

    This is nearly risible. Your essential argument, if one can call it such, seems to be:

    • Most writers aren’t paid
    • Therefore, no writer should be paid.

    Apologies, but your logic escapes me.

    And just where does this end, in your utopian existence? Clearly, writers should not be paid for their work. But what about programmers? They produce IP – maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to earn anything, too. And people who run websites like Techdirt? Nope, they shouldn’t be allowed any remuneration, either.

    An interesting world, certainly. You and Josef Stalin would be very happy there.

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