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Copyright, Copyleft, Shake Your Moneymaker, Repeat.

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  • Copyright, Copyleft, Shake Your Moneymaker, Repeat.

    Mr. Moorcock,

    I am an American expat currently living in China. Should I choose to patronize my local record/book/software/other media shop, I will inevitably end up buying pirated material. I can't order from Amazon or other Internet-based businesses, because they don't deliver to China, and I couldn't afford the shipping costs if they did. By the same token, having things shipped to my folks' place in the States and then forwarded here would be prohibitively expensive. All this being the case, I don't EVER buy music, or books, or software, or movies, I download them at home via my incredibly fast (and laughably cheap) VDSL connection.

    I have no intention of changing my piratical ways.

    I don't feel the least bit bad about enjoying these materials, in spite of my failure to further swell the coffers of record companies, movie studios, publishing houses and the like. To be bluntly vernacular: fuck 'em.

    I do have a personal policy regarding the artists themselves, however: should I happen to meet someone whose commercially available works I have enjoyed free of charge, I thank them for entertaining me, and give them five dollars. I'm no fanboy, but an artist's gotta eat.

    It's been a long time since I've read any of your books... I'm thirty-nine now, and I think I must have been about twelve or thirteen when I chanced upon your DANCERS AT THE END OF TIME trilogy. I enjoyed them very much, so naturally I read more of your work, and enjoyed a lot of that as well. In what I perceived as the spirit of the multiverse thing you were engaged in, I even drew a few Jerry Cornelius comic strips, recombining elements of your work as I saw fit, strictly for my own pleasure (the only one I can recall clearly now featured the Bishop, a mysterious group of decidedly subversive scientists, and a giant genetically-engineered Black Forest cockroach named BLATTELA).

    Thanks for entertaining me.

    I downloaded a Hawkwind album yesterday, and I'm listening to it now. It's nice, not the kind of thing that makes me gush all over my friends, but quite pleasant to listen to while websurfing or writing.

    Thanks again for entertaining me.

    I don't read much science/speculative fiction or much fantasy these days, preferring to stick mainly to classics. Now and then I'll read something recommended to me by friends, or I'll get nostalgic for something I read a long time ago, and read it again. I'm feeling that way about some of your stuff at the moment, and I'd especially like to read the DANCERS AT THE END OF TIME books again. I'm going to search for them when I'm done writing this, and download them when (not if) I find them.

    Thanks in advance for entertaining me once more.

    Having been out of the States for so long, I don't have a credit card that isn't expired... but I do still have some friends back in Ye Aulde Country, so if you'll give me some information as to how I can best transmit five dollars to you, I'll have someone take care of it right away. Do you have a PayPal account? Is there some other method you'd prefer? Would you rather I give the fin to the blind and brilliant old arhu player who busks outside my favorite bar?

    I'd also be interested to hear your opinion of my rampant and unabashed digital swashbuckling activities, and your opinion of intellectual property sharing in general.

    Cheers,

    M OTIS BEARD

  • #2
    It's an iffy subject since I would guess most of us have taken advantage of CD burners or the like to pass on copyright material to our friends.
    I'm not sure I'd be proud of making a habit of it. In fact I make a habit of buying a fair number of books and records new as my way of contributing to their producers, even when I could probably get more free, but it's something I can also afford to do. I think that's where I'd look at the morality of it, just as you might think less of a rich person who stole a loaf of bread. For my own part, I put free work on the net and don't take kindly to companies who exploit my work and name without permission. Where individuals are concerned, I'd think less of someone who could afford it stealing a book than I would of someone who couldn't afford it. I suspect this is pretty much the common morality most of us share. There again, if you put nothing back into the pot, you shouldn't complain if one day the pot has been scraped clean and there's nothing left for you to take.

    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
    The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
    Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
    The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
    Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks for your answer.

      I hope I didn't give the wrong impression above -- what I meant was that if I go to the store here in China, I'm going to be buying pirated material not by choice, but simply because there isn't anything else available.

      In the States, I often bought books and DVDs instead of just downloading them. God, especially books... a computer monitor or PDA could never replace the comfortable and portable medium of a book in the hand. I *miss* books in English. Likewise, the pirated movies they sell here often lack all the extra features of a commercial release, and half the time are substandard handicam versions anyway.

      When I lived in Moscow, the situation was more or less the same, but they do have several cinemas there that show current movies in English (with Russian translation via headphones). I believe Peter Jackson may have gotten some rubles of mine, which is fine.

      I've got a rock band here in China, and we're slowly gearing up to go on tour (hopefully this year). Naturally we'll be selling CDs, and I know that half an hour after we sell the first one, there will be pirate copies available locally. That's fine with me. I figure we should be making our money on playing live anyway. The free dissemination of a CD would only help us by bringing us a larger audience.

      I understand some band in the West recently released a CD that came with two "official" blank CDs inside, so the purchaser could make two copies for friends. I like that, it's consumer-friendly, yet it implies a request to limit the copying to two discs for each one purchased.

      Comment


      • #4
        When I was associated with Hawkwind, we always tried to keep seat prices low, for instance, and some people go to great efforts to keep books and CDs affordable, too. There's no doubt that the big companies do exploit everyone (including the artists they pretend to be representing when they prosecute kids who download material). And, as you say, you're in a position where only pirate versions are available. I, too, have been in that sort of position -- in Morocco, for instance. I buy the material because it's the only way I'm going to get to listen to it. But also in those circumstances I will be buying books via Amazon which might cost me more than if I found them in a discount store. As I say,
        there's a happy mean that the majority of us find acceptable. And context determines the case, as I like to show in my books as much as possible! :)

        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
        The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
        Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
        The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
        Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

        Comment


        • #5
          To arrrrrr, or not to arrrrrrr? That be the question, matey.

          Now that you mention it, I realize that my moral stance on piracy is entirely dependent on the context. In China, I pirate everything, because the alternative is to go without... but I won't give money to Microsoft for any reason whatsoever, no matter what country I'm in.

          I had an Altair 8800 when I was a kid back in the mid-'70s, and Bill Gates wrote a popular interpreter for it, without which the computer could not understand the programming language known as BASIC. At that time, it hadn't yet occurred to anyone that software was anything other than computer science, to be copied and shared without hindrance. Gates wrote a scathing little diatribe that was published in one of the big computer magazines of the day (Byte? I don't recall), calling us all thieves and pirates for making copies of the punch tape his interpreter lived on. I was shocked. It just seemed so very wrong.

          I'm a Linux user now, and when people come to me for help with their computers I try to gently encourage them to use open source software, of which there is an abundance of excellent programs that are free-as-in-beer. Thanks to Microsoft's chicanery, however, I have a CD-ROM burner drive that does not work under Linux. Microsoft "partnered" (bribed) the manufacturer to keep certain details of how their drives work secret, and this prevents Linux drivers for those devices from being written in a timely fashion, as they have to be reverse-engineered first. Upshot: when I want to burn a CD, I put on an eyepatch, staple a parrot to my shoulder, and boot into Windows, and I feel morally justified in doing so.

          You haven't yet told me what to do with that five dollars. I haven't found the DANCERS AT THE END OF TIME books online yet, but I did find and download ELRIC AT THE END OF TIME as well as BEHOLD THE MAN.

          Comment


          • #6
            Send the money to Womankind Worldwide (see sidebar).
            I didn't know Behold the Man or Elric at the End of Time were online!
            Oh, bugger.
            Breakfast in the Ruins and various Jerry Cornelius stories are, as well as my Maurice Richardson homages.
            Where did you find BTM and EatEoT ?

            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
            The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
            Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
            The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
            Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
              Send the money to Womankind Worldwide (see sidebar).
              I'll do that.

              Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
              I didn't know Behold the Man or Elric at the End of Time were online!
              Oh, bugger.
              Breakfast in the Ruins and various Jerry Cornelius stories are, as well as my Maurice Richardson homages.
              Where did you find BTM and EatEoT ?
              I found them using Kazaa Lite, so they may or may not be available at any given time.

              Where can I find BitR and the other stuff? *grin*

              Don't sweat it, MM... it's good for your bottom line. As evidence of that very non-intuitive fact I point to Cory Doctorow (http://www.craphound.com), who recently released his first two novels online to be downloaded free of charge, concurrent with the release of the print editions. Surprise, surprise: people are buying his books, in spite of being able to download them for free. In fact, he's selling a lot more of the print editions than he originally expected, thanks to the Internet's world-girdling word-of-mouth combined with consumer confidence in a product people know they like (having read it online). E-text, schme-text... people still like books. And if nothing else, this bit of literary judo insures that any electronic versions of Doctorow's stories floating around will be nicely formatted and free of the abundant typographical errors that litter pirate texts like the ones I found of your work.

              Is your copyright being violated? Yes, sure... but nobody other than you is selling your work, and the online versions are serving to build and maintain your fan base. It's all part of the glittering world of the future we live in, where cybernetic servants fetch narcotic daquiris for weary jetpack commuters at the end of a hard day of atomic moon-mining.

              My advice to you is as old as conflict itself: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Unfurrow thy brow, sir, and embrace the modern marvel that is Creative Commons licensing!


              M OTIS BEARD

              Comment


              • #8
                If I like something I will always want to own the original. I have various copies of things, which to be honest I dont really care whether I have them or not, often not even used.

                On the radio today I heard the witch hunters/lawyers are targeting file swappers in Canada now. The internet service providers are being forced to reveal peoples records and I am destroying possible evidence as I speak.

                Apparently last year they nabbed a 7 year old girl for downloading "barbie girl" and a 90 year old grandad who didnt even know how to use a computer and fined them $100Ks. I believe they said that here though they would be targeting big uploaders.

                I am uncertain though what the difference is between recording a few imperfect copies of songs on the top 20 show on FM radio and downloading a compressed MP3 file, but there we go. The main difference is that new technology helps make life more convenient. In the end big business will have to adapt to the changes. When a multi billion dollar company loses a few dollars that someone probably wouldnt have spent anyway it is difficult to be sympathetic.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I agree it's ridiculous the kind of people they are pursuing. Can't do them much good, I'd have thought.
                  And, yes, it's perfectly true that sales often get stimulated, at least in books, by other media offering them. For instance, if a book is read over the radio (as happens more in England than here in the US) it
                  will frequently turn it into a bestseller, even though people have already heard the story once. That goes for serialisation, too. Sometimes it seems that the more you expose something free, the more it sells.
                  When The War Hound and the World's Pain was read as a radio serial some years ago, sales increased.

                  Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                  The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                  Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                  Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                  The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                  Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
                    And, yes, it's perfectly true that sales often get stimulated, at least in books, by other media offering them. For instance, if a book is read over the radio (as happens more in England than here in the US) it
                    will frequently turn it into a bestseller, even though people have already heard the story once. That goes for serialisation, too. Sometimes it seems that the more you expose something free, the more it sells.
                    When The War Hound and the World's Pain was read as a radio serial some years ago, sales increased.
                    I hope this means that you are amenable to the idea of releasing some official e-texts. If so, I'd be happy to help out, since I am itching to revisit some of your old books, and can't get them here. Do you have, for instance, DatEoT in some sort of e-format? If not, you could get them scanned, and I could proof out the OCR errors while I read. I'm American, but I'm familiar with the differences between US and UK spelling... in fact, I sometimes get paid to edit text into separate US and UK versions for a local software company.

                    I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that you could significantly enhance the renewed popularity of anything you released in this fashion by touting it as an act of literary activism. Just write a nice foreword explaining your rationale for giving your work away, tie it in with the controversy over mp3 filesharing, and perhaps gently remind the reader that you do make your living from the sales of print editions.

                    M OTIS BEARD

                    Comment

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