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Novelist Blames Piracy On Open Source Culture 494

joeflies writes "CNN published an article entitled 'Digital Piracy Hits the e-Book Industry.' It quotes the following statement by novelist Sherman Alexie: 'With the open-source culture on the Internet, the idea of ownership — of artistic ownership — goes away. It terrifies me.'" The article also points out a couple of interesting statistics for a "slumping" industry beset by piracy: "Sales for digital books in the second quarter of 2009 totaled almost $37 million. That's more than three times the total for the same three months in 2008, according to the Association of American Publishers," and "consumers who purchase an e-reader buy more books than those who stick with traditional bound volumes. Amazon reports that Kindle owners buy, on average, 3.1 times as many books on the site as other customers."
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Novelist Blames Piracy On Open Source Culture

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:38AM (#30622128)
    from someone that doesn't understand technology?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:06AM (#30622326)

      (CNNNN) -- When Dan Brown's blockbuster novel "The Lost Symbol" hit stores in September, it may have offered a peek at the future of bookselling.

      On, the book sold more digital copies for the Kindle e-reader in its first few days than hardback editions. This was seen as something of a paradigm shift in the publishing industry, but it also may have come at a cost.

      Less than 24 hours after its release, printed paperback copies of the novel were found in library sites such as the New Your public library. Within days, it had been read for free more than 100,000 times.

      Library loans, long confined to books, are spreading to music and movies. And as electronic reading devices such as Amazon's Kindle, the Sony Reader, Barnes & Noble's Nook, smartphones and Apple's much-anticipated "tablet" boost demand for books, experts say the problem may only get worse.

      "It's fair to say that loaning of books is exploding," said Dilbert Drongo, an industry expert and professor of marketing at Fordham University.

      Sales for library books in the second quarter of 2009 totaled almost $37 million. That's more than three times the total for the same three months in 2008, according to the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

      Statistics are hard to come by, and many publishers are reluctant to discuss the subject for fear of encouraging more libraries. But library loans may pose a big headache in 2010 for the slumping publishing industry, which relies increasingly on electronic reading devices and e-books to stimulate sales.

      "Libraries are a serious issue for publishers," said Carnt Hakkit Book Group in a statement. The company that publishes Stephenie Meyer's wildly popular "Twilight" teen-vampire series says it "considers copyright protection to be of paramount importance."

      Authors are concerned as well.

      "I'd be really worried if I were Stephen King or James Patterson or a really big bestseller that when their books become completely lendable, how easy it's going to be to loan them," said novelist and poet Sherman Dyslexie on Stephen Colbert's show last month.

      "With the open-door culture of the Library, the idea of ownership -- of artistic ownership -- goes away," Dyslexie added. "It terrifies me."

      And it's not just bestsellers that are targeted by librarians.

      "Textbooks are frequently loaned, but so are many other categories," said Ed McCoyd, director of dubious policy at AAP. "We see shelving of professional content, such as medical books and technical guides; we see a lot of general fiction and non-fiction. So it really runs the gamut."

      Lending of music, thanks to cassette, CDs and other devices, has been a threat to recording companies for more than a decade. Over the years, the record companies tried different approaches to combat library loaning, from shutting down free publicity to encrypting songs with digital-rights management software to suing individual customers.

      Although legal lending of music persists, Apple's online iTunes store is now the world's biggest seller of music.

      To some industry observers, this may be where the future of the book industry is heading as well. But talk to publishers and authors about what can be done to combat libraries, and you'll get a wide range of opinions.

      Some publishers may try to minimize lending by delaying releases of books for several weeks after digital copies go on sale. Simon & Schuster recently did just that with Snorkel King's novel, "Under the Aquadome," although the publisher says the decision was made to prevent cheaper e-versions from cannibalizing hardcover sales.

      Some authors have even gone as far as to shrug off physical book technology altogether. J.K. Pot has thus far refused to make any of her Hairy Porter books available physically because of library fears and a desire to see readers experience her books in pixels.

      However, some evidence suggests that authors' and publishers' claims of damage from libraries may be overstated.

      Recent statistics

      • by SETIGuy ( 33768 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:33PM (#30623862) Homepage
        The disdain of publishers for libraries is well known. It's been well known that the recording industry and movie studios have been trying to prevent libraries from lending their works. The book and magazine publishers would love to go to a "pay per read" model. A library only buys a book once and lets as many people read it as want to. That's clearly theft of copyrighted material. The idea that you can go read a 3 year old copy of "People" in your dentists office without paying for it amounts to communism.

        This is all old news.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:36AM (#30622548)
      It is worse than that -- the person in question doesn't even know what is happening in his own profession. From TFA,

      "I'd be really worried if I were Stephen King..."

      Stephen King has already released a no-DRM ebook and made a lot of money from it, by releasing it piece by piece and requiring a certain minimum number of paid downloads before the next part of the story is released; this was discontinued because King himself could not figure out where to take the story. Perhaps if these people spent less time whining about how their fans are not paying their publishers, they could be more aware of how the Internet can change things and how they can use computers to publish their stories in new ways, connect with their fans, and provide their books to more people.
    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:37AM (#30622558)

      From a writer who has no idea how technology works [] you can expect kickass cyberpunk books! If, and only if, he has a good imagination.

      If your books don't sell, don't blame piracy. Blame the books.

    • by Dan541 ( 1032000 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:45AM (#30622636) Homepage

      It's standard routine. If your business fails blame someone else.

    • by mqduck ( 232646 ) <mqduck@m[ ] ['qdu' in gap]> on Saturday January 02, 2010 @04:27PM (#30625692)

      I think he clearly understands it quite well, or at least its sociological effect. The concept of "artistic ownership" is an unfortunate consequence of an economic system that commidifies everything, even ideas. Open source represents something outside of capitalist production, producing for use value [] instead of exchange value [].

      Open source culture has indeed spread the idea that ideas shouldn't be treated like property, and should be proud that it demonstrates an alternative.

  • by smchris ( 464899 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:41AM (#30622142)

    Wikipedia says much of his writing comes from his experiences growing up on the rez. Maybe a talk with Cory Doctorow would change his mind.

  • No shit. Duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:41AM (#30622146)

    Maybe if the consumer didn't feel ripped off, exploited, and raped by every business and company they have to deal with we'd be more receptive and less possessive of whatever goods we happen to come across. Half the damn stuff in my house I don't really own, I license or lease or rent it or whatever. Damn right I like the idea of open source and control.

  • BZZZZT WRONG (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:41AM (#30622150)

    Almost every aspect of open source/creative commons etc. requires attribution, and even pirates don't bother removing credits. Your 'artistic ownership' goes nowhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:44AM (#30622174)

    It's simple: don't offer your unfounded opinion.

    Clearly people pirate books they wouldn't have bought... I know one kid who has like 4000 ebooks, he's probably read two of. Also, making them "more" digitized doesn't matter. When there's one digital copy, there's 10,000,000. They are right about one thing, making them easier to buy (and part of easier means less copy protection) will mean they will sell more.

    Just look how iTunes completely stopped selling anything when they started offering non-copy-protected books - oh wait, they didn't.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      There's a 5GB ebook archive on the Pirate Bay with thousands of ebooks all RARed up, it's easier to download the whole thing and just extract the ones you're interested in.

      Or so they tell me...

    • by Demena ( 966987 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:02AM (#30622304)
      The books I respect I buy in hard cover, largely Pratchett and reference books The ones that will enjoy and read casually I want to carry around I buy in paperback. If they really wanted to promote sales they would include an electronic copy with the purchase. I don't pirate (really) so there are very few that I have in electronic form. The ones I have are very largely from Tor. The ones that I really enjoy I will buy in paperback or hard copy. Tor publishers have effectively proved that giving books away get them more sales. Many times I have read a book provided online and then bought the entire series in paperback or hardcover.
      • When I want a particular book then I check for availability of an eBook copy first. No book I have wanted has ever been available in eBook format. Something tells me that I'm not in the eBook target market -- I wonder how many open source proponents are?
      • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:40AM (#30622600)

        The books I respect I buy in hard cover, largely Pratchett and reference books The ones that will enjoy and read casually I want to carry around I buy in paperback. If they really wanted to promote sales they would include an electronic copy with the purchase.

        As an example of this, last time I bought a hardbound Honor Harrington novel, a CD was included with electronic copies of ALL the Honor Harrington books. Very nice, wish more publishers than Baen would do that.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Baen's been smart about avoiding e-copy paranoia for a long time now. You can even browse some of the backlist online for free. Great folks; I'm always glad to do business with them.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Baen's been smart about avoiding e-copy paranoia for a long time now. You can even browse some of the backlist online for free. Great folks; I'm always glad to do business with them.

            You can download the Free Library for free. In whatever format you like, ePub, Mobi, HTML, Kindle, etc. I've got about half of it in my Sony Reader now. Plus the couple hundred dollars worth of stuff I've bought from Baen at about $6 per eBook....

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So it's ok to steal, as long as you steal more than you could possibly have bought legitimately otherwise? Sounds great. I guess you'll have no problems then with me pirating millions of dollars worth of money. It's not like I could have earnt it legitimately anyway. And if they just made money easier to make, I wouldn't have to.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        To steal will deprive someone else of property, while you gain it yourself. Downloading the ebooks does not deprive anyone of property. Information, by its very nature, is not scarce once it has been discovered.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You're not paying for "information", you're paying for a "performance" by a certain person or group.

          There are only a handful of storylines. The art comes from the telling, and not every writer can do that well.

          You're paying to have a particular writer tell you a story without the expense of traveling to hear him tell it in person.

          Because technology has made it easy to duplicate a performance, first in print, later in recordings, now digitally, doesn't mean you're paying for "information".

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Narpak ( 961733 )

      Just look how iTunes completely stopped selling anything when they started offering non-copy-protected books - oh wait, they didn't.

      While not exactly the same; I checked out Scott Sigler s [] podcasts of his own novels (for free on his site), since I listened through all of it (and enjoyed it) I decided to buy his books in hardcover to support him. While I would probably have bought them in an e-book format if I could (as in if I had an e-reader and there was a good e-book service), ordering and buying them through my local store was fine and made me feel all warm and cuddly inside from supporting local businesses that I enjoy frequenting.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:46AM (#30622178)

    I just checked the kindle store; He has five books available there.

    I then checked and found pages and pages of paper books of his.

    Now, why would people pirate his books?

    Perhaps because they aren't legally available in ebook format?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by peragrin ( 659227 )

      exactly. Piracy is an economic problem. If you have piracy then you have an major imbalance in your supply and demand chain. Try to fix that first before blaming everyone else.

      People wanted portable music files on their computers and they got them where ever they could. movies, ebooks etc offer what they people really want and they will mostly buy the legal copies.

      Even in somlia the piracy is an economic problem. 20 hijackers get a million plus dollars for 2-3 months of work. it breaks down to each ge

    • by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:04PM (#30622820) Homepage
      The more I read about the guy the more I think he's an outdated douche. It sounds like it's not his publisher that's the problem. []

      Journalist Motoko Rich quoted Alexie as saying that he refused to allow his novels to be made available in digital form. Alexie called the expensive reading devices "elitist" and said that their widespread adoption would harm both readers from poor communities, as well as the authors themselves. He stated in an interview with Stephen Colbert that "digital books take away jobs" from the artists.[4] He said also in this interview that the culture surrounding books and bookstores is diminishing, and that the digital book phenomenon will only continue to decrease the value of hard copy.

  • by Chysn ( 898420 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:46AM (#30622180)
    There's really no critique of open source here. He said "open source," but he's just throwing the term around without knowing what "open source culture" is. He clearly means something along the lines of "peer-to-peer" culture.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      He clearly means something along the lines of "peer-to-peer" culture.

      Exactly. We have to find a way to stop peers talking to each other. It only breeds discontent and piracy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Unfortunately, there are quite a few authors who misuse FLOSS terms - even those terms that have a very specific meaning - as synonyms of "piracy". For another example, here's a (translated) citation from one fairly popular Russian sci-fi/fantasy writer, Sergey Lukyanenko (the guy who wrote the book on which this movie [] is directly based), from his essay on author's rights and Internet:

      "The text is stolen? This is the inevitable destiny of any good (and not even necessarily good) book. It will spread through

  • by amck ( 34780 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:47AM (#30622190) Homepage

    ebook readers buy more paper books than other readers, and this is a suprise ?

    Someone who is willing to spend 200-400 dollars on a e-reader is already a heavy reader, practically by definition. As much as I love my e-reader, there are a bunch of books its not good for - photo books, textbooks (no, A4 pdfs on a Sony e-reader are not a good option.) And for my favourite authors, i'll buy the hardback and get it signed by the author, and then lend to friends.

  • Gosh... books have been free to read for a very long time. It's called a library. So if authors and publishers are worried about piracy of books why don't they cut libraries off? Gimme a break. There are many ways to use the digital mediums ease of distribution to make money/protect artistic ownership. Publishers should consider giving away a very basic digital version of a book, could even make it time sensitive. It would be very cool and very useful to have a world wide public library. Perhaps that
  • sounds familiar (Score:2, Interesting)

    by phrostie ( 121428 )

    Sounds Familiar, just like when people complain that the publishing industry has become like the movie industry, controlled by a select few.
    like when people complain that books cost too much. sound familiar,,,,.
    too many writers are having to turn to self publishing because the publishing industry is trying to play OPEC/MPAA.

    when my favorite writers put out a book i buy it. they just don't as often as i'd like and the new writers that are getting fronted i'm not impressed by.

  • Haven't books really been open source all along anyway? They're not always copyright free, but anyone can read them.
  • I don't see what open source has to do with it. People, in general, like getting something for nothing. Most people could care less about copyright. If anything, the open source movement educates people about copyright. The first thing people always ask is 'how can this be free?'.
  • by Clover_Kicker ( 20761 ) <> on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:52AM (#30622222)

    Comparing ebooks to physical book sales is obviously stupid, because Amazon can't track how many physical books I bought at local chains, or the used shop downtown.

    • by Kneo24 ( 688412 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:37AM (#30622556)

      Nor do they have the ability to track your ebook purchases from other websites!


      But really, your point is moot. Amazon can and only tracks sales from within their own domain, which doesn't make their point "obviously stupid". Their customers buy 3.1 more ebooks on average. They have a shit ton more customers than your used shop or local chains, I would wager. In fact, I doubt most of those shops even sell ebooks. I hope next time you remember that when a website or a chain says, "consumers did this more than this", and you know they can't track from other vendors, it's implied that they mean their own customers.

  • by damburger ( 981828 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:54AM (#30622232)

    'With the more egalitarian culture in the North, the idea of ownership — of negro ownership — goes away. It terrifies me.'"

    The loss of something isn't inherently bad. That a change terrifies someone you might respect does not make it bad.

  • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:57AM (#30622270)
    "With the open-source culture on the Internet, the idea of taxpayer-funded artificial scarcity - of artistic monopoly -- goes away. It terrifies me." There, fixed that for you, Mr. Alexie.
    • by matt4077 ( 581118 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:27AM (#30622466) Homepage
      Open source licenses rely on the same system and are just as taxpayer-funded as "all rights reserved". There's a lot to criticize in his statements, but misleading data (as in the summary) or extremism like yours doesn't serve the cause. We-have-a-right-to-everything-for-free is not going to convince the general public, politicians and courts that copyright reform is necessary. The focus should be limited copyright terms (12 years is what I've read maximizes the public benefit) and strong fair use rules. If we want to get there, defending piracy and ridiculing artists isn't helpful.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Znork ( 31774 )

        Open source licenses rely on the same system

        They rely on the same system to counter the effects of the system. Without the system they would not need the system.

        The focus should be limited copyright terms

        Limiting copyright terms is ultimately futile. As long as copyright works as an artificial scarcity it damages the economy, and as long as it's implemented as a privatized taxation for you're basically not going to get it to stick at whatever number of years you want it stuck at. The incentive to increase i

    • What would you propose as a replacement? See we have an interesting quandary: We like creative works of all sorts. A massive part of our entertainment comes from this and these days we even need it for other things. So we want people to be able to work on "virtual goods" as it were. Well, these people still need to eat. They need physical goods to be able to do their work. That means they need to get paid. So what do you do about that? There is our current system, where we declare virtual goods to work like

      • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:30PM (#30623122)

        Let's start with the facts:

        1.Information can be copied at virtually no cost.
        2.The benefit of an intellectual work is multiplied by the number of people who use it.
        3.Creating intellectual works has a cost.

        The current system tries to satisfy 3 by limiting 1 in order to make the work behave more like a physical object, so that people will have to pay to get the work. Limiting 1 greatly reduces 2, and has all sorts of collateral damage.

        If we leave 1 intact, intellectual works have a far greater benefit to everyone. The challenge is to come up with a way to satisfy 3, without harming 1 and 2. The free-market solution to problems like this is to allow market participants to come up with innovative solutions. Those that solve the problem best stand to make the most profit, so there is incentive.

        With the current sub-optimal system in place, there is no incentive to come up with a free-market solution, since the current system is effectively subsidized by taxes, and it even makes it dangerous not to play, due to the possibility of frivolous lawsuit. There is no justification for the current system, because it's been created almost entirely to benefit a small group of people, and it's been done at a cost of everyone's property rights. And no, ideas aren't property. Property is a way of dealing with conflict over scarce resources; if a resource isn't scarce, then everyone can use it without conflict. So it's not that "I have to come up with an alternate", it's that "you have to justify your continued infringement of my property rights".

      • Well, these people still need to eat. They need physical goods to be able to do their work. That means they need to get paid.

        I have bought four guitars, two amps, cables, effect pedals, a saxophone and a clarinet, pooling together summer job wages, birthday gifts, savings of allowances, et cetera. I've been in a recording studio twice; I've performed on the local town square once, and at several events locally. Back when I was a kid (~14-18yo) and didn't have any real money.

        Musicians want to play. Actors want to act. Writers want to write.

        The publishers acted as quality assurance; they did searching and pruning, so we could have the best art. You know what also does that? A moderation system (/.). A review system (amazon). A simple counting mechanism ("most downloaded this day/week/month/year").

        None of them are perfect. So aren't the studios. And some artists already choose a life of material poverty in return for wealth in terms of self-expression and self-actualization.

        Exactly why is it that the people's need for art can't be satisfied well enough this way? Some amateurs are really good. Oh, so we'll go to the theatre and look at people rather than go to the cinema and look at screens, because making films is rather resource-intensive (i.e. expensive). Or we'll watch more shorts and/or more animated films. Won't we still be entertained?

  • by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:58AM (#30622276) Homepage Journal

    he keeps on using internet for everything. he doesnt object to being linked in forums/content sites using open source scripts for their engine, he doesnt object to using google, which not only uses numerous open source elements to power its operation but also provides open source back to the community, he probably is thrilled when someone gets to buy his books by finding him the through the searches google provides, and many many more.

    well, see, mr novelist, apparently you either dont know zit on what you are writing about, or just one of those who want everything self-centric.

    if you want to prove otherwise, drop your usage of ANYthing that includes open source. including google, any and all links it provides to your novels/ebooks, any potential traffic/sales you get from forums/sites using phpbb and the similar open source engines. and then lets talk. else, youre just another bastard to us.

    • by chrb ( 1083577 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:30AM (#30622500)

      The quoted novelist appears to have used an unfortunate choice of words - he probably means "non-respecting-of-intellectual-property culture" rather than "open-source culture". The distinction is obvious to most slashdot readers, but presumably not to this novelist. The quote does not indicate that he has any problems with open-source software, I would imagine that his complaint is more about sites like Pirate Bay than Google.

  • by JSBiff ( 87824 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:01AM (#30622292) Journal

    You know, I'm always. . . impressed. . . by the ability of the 'news' media (and people in general) to turn things around completely ass-backwards. The anecdote that the CNN story leads off with is about the Dan Brown book "The Lost Symbol". The book sold millions of copies, but was pirated over a hundred thousand times in the first few days. To me, that says "9 out of 10 People willing to pay for stuff they *could* have downloaded for free". The *real* story, which CNN apparently wishes to ignore, is that the vast majority of people are honest, and wish to pay the authors whose books they like, *instead* of pirating. The *real* story is the pirates are the vast minority of people. Of course, that doesn't generate page views.

    As for Sherman Alexie . . . why do I care if he (she?) is terrified? People get terrified about all sorts of irrational things. Many children are terrified of the dark. Why do I care if someone is irrationally terrified of something?

    • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:16AM (#30622404)

      You know, I'm always. . . impressed. . . by the ability of the 'news' media (and people in general) to turn things around completely ass-backwards.

      No worries! If you're right, all even-numbered rehashings of a story get it completely right!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by webdog314 ( 960286 )

      I have to wonder though, about those millions of people who bought "The Lost Symbol"... It would be easy to assume that they did so because they are good and honest people. But it could simply be that 9 out of 10 people don't have any idea where to find pirated digital books, or have access to do so.

      In my eyes, the publishing market has always been about convenience. People, in general will pay for something if it is convenient for them to do so. As soon as it becomes more convenient to simply download it o

  • by RunzWithScissors ( 567704 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:03AM (#30622314)
    The people I know and work with in the open source community are probably the most piracy conscious people I know, mostly because of jack holes like this guy. It bugs the hell out of me that people always tie open source and piracy when in fact, there could be nothing further from the truth. I'm the first one to pay for things like GAMES for Linux, or quality e-books because I want people to produce more of them! And honestly, there's nothing wrong with wanting to get paid for your work.

    I think ultimately this has nothing to do with Open Source and everything to do with people wanting something for nothing, and if they can get it, they'll take full advantage. Likely the tie to Open Source comes from the fact that people who are extremely cost conscious are going to prefer Open Source products because they align with their pricing criteria (The same way illegal copies of products align with their pricing criteria)

  • In HS and many MANY college sociology, anthropology, ethnic studies, etc. his books are required reading. So he's not hurting either way.

  • "Less than 24 hours after its release, pirated digital copies of the novel were found on file-sharing sites such as Rapidshare and BitTorrent. Within days, it had been downloaded for free more than 100,000 times."

    As usual this person makes the very false assumption that 100,000 downloads equals 100,000 lost sales, when in reality it is more likely that close to 100,000 people who would have never bought the book are now reading Dan Brown when they never would have otherwise. This will most likely result in

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      He didn't make any such assumption. You can't put words into people's mouths then complain that they're wrong!
  • I kind of find it funny that they're complaining about text books being pirated. After all they've been charging far too much for them for a very long time, and it's ridiculous since the people they're trying to screw over are students. If your parents aren't rich and paying for everything for you at school, you have to work to pay rent, food, bills and for classes/tuition, and a lot of those students can't get loans if their parents aren't on the up and up, so it's practically criminal that the text books
  • Novelists can't be trusted. It's always a story with those guys. Like Al Gore and his triffids, or Michael Crichton's genetic engineering alarmism -- nothing to see here. Pure fabrication. I'm pretty sure if we want to know the truth about piracy we have to dig really deep into the back part of the Bible...somewhere between Muhammed and the passages about Neo.
  • Grabbing publicity? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FrozenGeek ( 1219968 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:17AM (#30622410)
    What are the odds that Sherman Alexie is simply making a controversial statement to gain publicity?

    Prior to this article, I'd never heard of him. Given his statement, I doubt I'll every buy any of his work but his statement has gotten his name air-time.
  • Perhaps Sherman Alexie would like to pay a license fee for their continued use of the idea of artistic ownership.

  • Yes, my desire to steal the occasional shitty movie after all the crap the MPAA has pulled, is driven entirely by the fact that I like to share my code with others to use as well.


  • "Goes away"? Goes away from what? When was the idea of non-physical, mass-market licensing of intellectual property well established? When has there ever been consensus on this subject?

  • by arikol ( 728226 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:26AM (#30622458) Journal

    Not long ago I wanted to buy an ebook (just published. I went to Amazon and they wanted the hardcover price for the ebook. $25 for an ebook, just plain silly. So I went to barnes&noble, they offered the ebook for $10, similar to a paperback. So I tried to buy it.

    Aaaanndd.. an error came up saying that I could not buy this book from the area I was in (not USA). I looked around some more and did not find a european distributor for the ebook. Lot's of companies had the hardcover, but no ebook. I checked if I could order it from amazon (I had no intention of completing that !!$25!! transaction) and same thing. I was not allowed to buy the bloody book.

    So I went to my friends at thepiratebay and got the book. I needed to do some conversion to get the text to display properly on my device, but it worked. The legal alternatives, which I tried to follow, simply did not work. Maybe there was a way to get the legal options to work properly, but the way to get customers to do the legal thing is to make that EASIER than the illegal way.
    On iTunes I am guaranteed to get good quality files, on TPB I am not. Simple.

    Here in sweden the streaming service Spotify has changed the game. It's just so easy to do the legal thing that illegal downloading went down. Do the same with movies, books, programs.. basically everything else. Make the legal way the best and easiest way, and people will come.

    As for Cory Doctorow, I do wish that he gave me some way of giving him money for the digital copies I've gotten from him. I don't want to buy a paper version, and I don't want to donate a paper version. I just want to pay the author (and editor and all those involved) for his/their work.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Personally I'm just afraid of being locked out of my own collection (losing it overnight as with kindle, unable to transfer to new laptop/reader, unable to copy passages out of it for fair use or search/index it using my software, etc). Now that iTunes and Amazon offer unprotected music it's a great place to shop (I prefer amazon as it doesn't require bloatware in a VM to download, but iTunes often has better bitrate). Thing is that I'm not big on music, and most of what I like is free legally or I already

  • this currently works best with movies and songs but they need to look at how popular the torrents for a piece of media is and go from there.

    Day of release (or sooner) lots of fully working torrents: Great
    Day of release a few fully working torrents : very good
    week of release torrents that work : good (but not by much)
    month of release torrents can be found: not good (real sales will be down badly)
    if you work at it you may find a couple torrents: Bad (this is box office disaster territory)
    no torrents : Bad v

  • and why do we care about his opinion? It's trivial to find an "expert" who will give you any opinion you want.
  • " Amazon reports that Kindle owners buy, on average, 3.1 times as many books on the site as other customers."

    Whenever I hear something like this, I always feel like there is either a will to mislead or a statistical idiot on the other end. This would be much more impressive a statistic if it were statistically controlled for income.

    I think it is a reasonable presumption that Kindle owners are wealthier (or have more wealthier relatives) than the average person. If they have the money to put $ 259 on a Kindl

  • I'd have said that was one of the main things you kept with Open Source. The Open Source software I've originated has had fairly modest user bases but I've remained the lead developer. The main way I think I'd lose artistic ownership is if somebody took over and developed / maintained the software better than me - in which case they'd deserve it.

    Quite upsetting to see open source associated with piracy, etc but I can see how for somebody a) not necessarily as tech-literate as us and b) working closely wit

  • Artistic "ownership" is an abuse of the term. You can own physical property, such as a painting or book, but you can't "own" an idea or concept, and then morally prevent others from using their own property as they see fit. Intellectual property is a government sanctioned abuse of property rights. Such an innovation must be opposed on principled grounds.
  • 100,000 times? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Macka ( 9388 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:38AM (#30622580)

    TFA states:

    "Less than 24 hours after its release, pirated digital copies of the novel were found on file-sharing sites such as Rapidshare and BitTorrent. Within days, it had been downloaded for free more than 100,000 times"

    Where do they get these numbers from? Do Rapidshare release download stats? Is there some secret BitTorrent download counter/tracker these people have access to? This has got to be a figure someone has just pulled out of their ass.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:49AM (#30622678)

    Let's be honest here, how many people do you know that really had "that idea" of IP ownership? How many talk about "licensing" Windows and how many "buy" it? How many "license" a book and how many "buy" it?

    And that set in with the open source movement? My dad, who can't tell a toaster from a netbook and would think of a medical condition hearing about "open sores", is the proud "owner" of a very extensive dead tree library. And it's his firm belief that he "owns" those books, the idea that these books don't belong to him never crossed his mind.

    So let's be sensible here. The idea of intellectual property never made it into public conscience. And until recently that was very much in the interest of the same people that now bemoan it.

  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:08PM (#30622884) Homepage

    Unfortunately the average person has very little idea what the term "open source" actually means. It's a technical term that's vague to them. These are the kind of people who probably also aren't clear on the term "operating system," etc.

    I've seen both positive and negative misinterpretations flying around. The usage in TFA seems to be open source == piracy, or maybe open source == free as in beer. If you really parse the quote from the article in terms of the actual meaning of "open source," it doesn't make any sense. Actual quote: "With the open-source culture on the Internet, the idea of [artistic] ownership [...] goes away." Meaning: "People on the internet are used to being able to see the original programming instructions used to create their software, and with that culture, the idea of [artistic] ownership [...] goes away." It obviously doesn't make any sense. It also doesn't make sense when you consider that open-source licenses like BSD and GPL can only be enforced because the original authors own the copyright.

    There are also people who see "open-source" as a feel-good term, like "green," and they apply it inappropriately because they want some of that goodness to rub off on them. For instance, I went to a symposium in August here in California where the results of Schwarzenegger's Free Digital Textbook Initiative were announced. Participants included open-source types from Curriki, CK-12, and Connexions, as well as teachers, politicians, IT folks, hardware vendors, and textbook publishers. The only traditional publisher that submitted any books to the initiative was Pearson, and all they submitted was a consumable workbook, not actual textbooks. Pearson's rep referred to its workbook as "free and open-source," but in fact the workbook is not open source in any sense. (It's distributed in a non-editable format, and it's not distributed under an open-source license.)

    It's unfortunate that we haven't ended up with terminology that's more understandable to the average person. We had people like RMS advocating the term "free software," and others like Eric Raymond pushing for "open source." This had to do with an ideological agreement within the free software/OSS movement. The problem is that neither term is easy for outsiders to understand. "Free software" simply implies free as in beer to most people. They equate it to "freeware," i.e., low-quality, closed-source Windows software that you download from someone's Geocities page as a .exe file. "Open source" isn't understandable to most people, because they don't understand the distinction between source code and executable code.

  • How? (Score:5, Funny)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:08PM (#30622890)

    Alexie is a Native American. Those people have no sense of ownership anyway. Their tribes roam from book to book. It wasn't until the white man arrived with his culture of printing out books and putting his name on them and getting all upset if the Indians took them off the shelf and didn't return them within two weeks that the trouble started.

  • by florescent_beige ( 608235 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:57PM (#30623412) Journal

    There's an article [] up at the LA Times about Peter Drucker. If you don't know, Druker was an economist who said things like:

    The enterprise exists on sufferance and exists only as long as the society and the economy believe that it does a necessary, useful, and productive job.

    As pointed out above by noidentity and others, people who have risen in the economic hierarchy thanks to institutions built by the people for the people owe their success to society's edifices as much as themselves. Sure someone may be a talented corporate cost-cutter with the nickname "Chainsaw" or a writer nobody has ever heard of, but they would be flipping burgers if it wasn't for the artificial man-made constructs of incorporation and copyright.

    There's an implicit Ann Rand-ian quality to Alexie's thinking: progress for all depends on the special qualities of a few geniuses who naturally deserve the good life. Putting aside the fact that most admirers of Rand ignore that her elite characters all had a social conscience and gave back, few people who claim to be rainmakers stop to consider where they got the water that makes the rain.

    But that's all background really, the issue that Alexie is talking about is the economic value of what he does. That value is assigned by society and I think it's fair to say that the generation growing up doesn't see as much value in it as he does. And they may have a point. Upsetting as it may be to artists, would the world fall apart if it was even harder to make a living doing what they do? Did Avatar give us free electricity? Feed Africa?

    The artistic community might also want to ask itself if copyright had not been extended to ridiculous lengths and more books that people actually want to read were in the public domain, would that have prevented a lot of piracy? Experience has shown that where legal alternatives exist for people to get what they want they will chose those alternatives. I don't think too many people explicitly know how many works they have been denied by copyright reform but I think they can sense it.

    The conflict we have now exists because this generation's instincts clash with the status quo. It remains to be seen whether or not the interests represented by Rupert Murdoch`s media machine can keep the lid on things.

  • Usenet Was Here (Score:3, Insightful)

    by argent ( 18001 ) <peter@slashdot.2 ... m ['6.t' in gap]> on Saturday January 02, 2010 @03:41PM (#30625212) Homepage Journal

    Hello, the '80s are calling and want their news back.

  • by Fencepost ( 107992 ) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @07:43PM (#30627516) Journal
    Neil Gaiman has spoken at various times (e.g. Neil Gaiman at Open Rights Group []) about the fact that most of his readers found him free, then started to buy his books. Cory Doctorow summarizes this beautifully in the foreword to Little Brother (freely downloadable from Cory's Site [], read the section "The Copyright Thing."

    I recently saw Neil Gaiman give a talk at which someone asked him how he felt about piracy of his books. He said, "Hands up in the audience if you discovered your favorite writer for free -- because someone loaned you a copy, or because someone gave it to you? Now, hands up if you found your favorite writer by walking into a store and plunking down cash." Overwhelmingly, the audience said that they'd discovered their favorite writers for free, on a loan or as a gift. When it comes to my favorite writers, there's no boundaries: I'll buy every book they publish, just to own it (sometimes I buy two or three, to give away to friends who must read those books). I pay to see them live. I buy t-shirts with their book-covers on them. I'm a customer for life.

    Neil went on to say that he was part of the tribe of readers, the tiny minority of people in the world who read for pleasure, buying books because they love them. One thing he knows about everyone who downloads his books on the Internet without permission is that they're readers, they're people who love books.

    People who study the habits of music-buyers have discovered something curious: the biggest pirates are also the biggest spenders. If you pirate music all night long, chances are you're one of the few people left who also goes to the record store (remember those?) during the day. You probably go to concerts on the weekend, and you probably check music out of the library too. If you're a member of the red-hot music-fan tribe, you do lots of everything that has to do with music, from singing in the shower to paying for black-market vinyl bootlegs of rare Eastern European covers of your favorite death-metal band.

    Baen with Webscriptions and its Free Library has been making e-books in multiple formats available for years. They've found that after an author puts a few books into the Free Library the sales of that author's backlist (including the freely-available books) rise. I suspect that they get more sales & readers for Webscriptions as well - if I can buy individual ebooks for $6 or the entire set of releases for the month (up to 4 "frontlist" new publications plus some backlist) for $15, I might as well cough up the couple of extra books and see which writers I like.

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."