Cory Doctorow (@doctorow) is a essayist, novelist, blogger, and co-editor of BoingBoing, and he is exhausting. The man is a production machine, churning out excellent book after excellent book as if writing were a job instead of something to agonize and procrastinate over. As of this writing, his latest books are Homeland and Pirate Cinema, and, with Charlie Stross, he wrote Rapture of the Nerds. Cory has also long been an advocate for the personal ownership of culture, demanding corporations and governments keep their hands off what we make and their noses out of our individual use and modification of media and hardware. To that end, he has fought endless wars against restrictive legislation.
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Cory worked for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a non-profit that defends individual rights and freedoms. Cory was part of the Humble Ebook Bundle, which put together several science fiction and fantasy books into a single name-your-price bundle in which the buyer chose how much of their payment went to authors and how much to three charities. Amazon has a price-matching arrangement when authors pick a 70%-royalty arrangement that allows them to match the lowest ebook price anywhere on the Net for any book they sell for Kindle.
BookScan tracks retail sales through integration with point-of-sale and online sales systems. My father and I run Books & Writers, a book-rank tracking service. Amazon has provided BookScan data to authors who register with them. At least one book distributor in 1996 was relying on IBM’s PROFS on a mainframe.
Cory documented in painstaking detail how his With a Little Help story collection was funded and produced. Artist friends created a set of four covers for print editions so that one could choose among them. The book was designed by John D. Berry, a friend of mine and one of the world’s best typographers. (His wife is Eileen Gunn, a science-friend and incubator of science-fiction writers.)
There’s a difference between the barter economy and the gift economy, and Cory explains the distinction. Andy Baio, who is part of the life’s blood of creativity on the Internet, released Kind of Bloop, a collection of 8-bit music, that had an homage of a famous Miles Davis photo as part of the cover. Despite it rather obviously being precisely within the reasonable confines of transformative work, it would have required exensive litigation. Andy settled to avoid destroying his family finances.
The partly crowdfunded movie Stripped had a second round of money raising to cover the clearance rights for some of the copyrighted material the filmmakers wanted to include. Cory pointed out that the Stanford Center for Internet and Society can help a filmmaker who wants to assert fair-use rights over material obtain the errors and omissions insurance required to have a film shown in a theater and released in other ways.
Ursula K. LeGuin likely wouldn’t have a found a publisher who would have been willing to let her quote from The Beatles’ “A Little Help from My Friends” today, a critical component of her The Lathe of Heaven. In fact, the 1980 PBS movie of the book couldn’t be re-released for many years because of both negotiating with the original cast and crew, and obtaining rights. The Beatles’ original version of the song was replaced with a cover in the re-release. (Cory notes that LeGuin doesn’t like fair use of her own work.)
Aereo is a Barry Diller-controlled company that is selling access to tiny HDTV antennas over the Internet to skirt rules about re-broadcasting. It’s clever. So clever that a dissenting judge in an appeals panel was rather unhappy about it. Fox filed takedown notices under the DMCA for Cory’s book Homeland on various sites asserting it was the rightsholder, as opposed to being the rightsholder for its TV series Homeland.
Scott Turow wrote a spectacularly uninformed and self-serving Op-Ed in the New York Times that conflated a number of different factors, mostly specious and relatively absurd, about how authors were getting a squeeze on royalties. The issue at hand was the Supreme Court allowing the importation of foreign editions of books. Such editions may be sold cheaply abroad, but also are often made more cheaply and thus not as appealing to American buyers. Turow is head of the Author’s Guild, which purports to speak for all authors, but only a tiny number of writers belong relative to all published authors. (I used to.)
The Registrar of Copyrights may approve temporary and limited exemptions to the DMCA, but these are reviewed every three years. RealDVD got pulled from the market by RealNetworks in order to avoid disturbing studio partners. Kaleidescape makes servers that let users rip CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray and then space shift them around a house.