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. icon
    Mike (profile), 2 Apr 2009 @ 1:09am

    Re:

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

    Intellectual property is not property. It is not "stolen." For something to be stolen, it needs to have been removed from the original owner. That's not the case here.

    Even the term "intellectual property" is a recent invention. It is highly inaccurate. Arguing that IP is the same as real property will get you nowhere. That idea has been debunked for years. It's difficult to take anyone seriously if they don't understand the difference.

    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.

    We've written in great detail about the history of copyright from its earliest beginnings -- and even explained how misguided folks like Mark Twain were in their belief that copyright should last forever. Dickens, by the way, is also a dreadful example -- because part of his fight was over the US's lack of copyright... and recent studies showed two things:

    1. American publishers quite often STILL PAID UK authors such as Dickens for their works -- sometimes MORE than other countries where foreign copyright was respected, because there was value in having the official versions.

    2. The more efficient market in the US allowed Dickens' books to become MORE WIDESPREAD in the US than in the UK, his hometown.

    In fact, there are arguments that the lack of copyright coverage for Dickens works in the US is WHAT MADE HIM SO POPULAR in the US.

    Don't try to school us on history lessons when it's apparent you haven't done your own homework.

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


    Don't twist someone's words. That's not what was said, and it makes you look much more of a fool than I'm sure you are to set up such a strawman.

    Apologies, but your logic escapes me.


    Ah, when you finish history class, try the basic logic 101 class next door.

    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.

    The only logical fallacy is yours. No one came anywhere close to saying people shouldn't get paid. The question is what WILL (not SHOULD) they get paid for.

    The whole point of what we discussed is that authors who have put together smart business models GET PAID MORE than those who do stupid things like freak out over free copies online. It's about putting together a smart business model. It's got nothing to do with not getting paid. It's got everything to do with getting PAID MORE.

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


    Huh? So you totally misinterpret history and basic logic and then finish off with a total non sequitur. I'm at a loss. What does Josef Stalin have to do with better business models for authors?

    In the meantime, Peter, you still haven't responded to the basic criticism of your quote. You claimed that you didn't want to "make the same mistake" as the music industry. But what you're proposing is exactly what the music industry DID. And it failed. So why repeat it?

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