[LINK] Is copyright dead? [WAS: Special Report: The Future Of File Sharing]

David Boxall david.boxall at hunterlink.net.au
Mon Jun 8 16:09:03 EST 2009

On Mon, 08 Jun 2009 at 10:34:29 +1000 Chris Gilbey wrote:
> ... a levy on recordable media
A taxation regime, like that, is probably the only workable solution. 
Given the international nature of the problem though, can any national 
government solve it? Would it be more appropriate to levy media, 
hardware, infrastructure or services (or all of them - or some combination)?
> ... measuring what people actually consume.
Which is probably the best measure of what an artist should receive. It 
would more or less mirror the current sales/income model.

Copyright might not be dead, but it's deathly ill. I guess the basic 
principles are:
- copying can't be controlled without adverse impacts (market  & social) and
- we need a mechanism to support the artists (the rest of the industry 
hangers-on can sink or swim as the market dictates).

To that I'd add that eliminating restrictions on copying will 
potentially encourage derivative works, increasing the volume of 
content. More isn't necessarily better, but at least we'd have increased 

But how to avoid an expensive, bureaucratic nightmare?

Meanwhile, back at the farm:
Authors ready to throw the book at online pirates

Anne Davies
June 8, 2009

The rapidly evolving world of digital books is presenting new
challenges, writes Anne Davies.

FEEL like reading Australian author Colleen McCullough's Thorn Birds, 
but don't want to pay for a copy?

Then just hop onto a site like Wattpad.com and the book is available 
free as an electronic download. While this might be a bonus for readers, 
it is a disaster for authors, who get no royalties from the downloads.

Several other titles by McCullough, one of the most successful romance 
writers, are also available online, much to the horror of her literary 
agent, Capel & Land, which was stunned to learn of the pirate copies.

"I can't believe Col would licence such a thing," Georgina Capel said.

Like the music industry, which has fought and partly won the battle over 
free music downloads from sites like Kazaa and Limewire, the publishing 
industry is about to face a similar struggle with piracy as electronic 
books become a reality.

The copies of McCullough's works were the most flagrant breaches of 
copyright the Herald found on sites set up to allow file sharing. But 
other Australian authors' work are also available.

David Malouf's 1985 work Five Stories from the Antipodes is available in 
Russian from Scribd. And for a month, John Birmingham's science fiction 
work Weapons of Choice, the first in the Axis of Time trilogy, was 
available from the Suvudu Free Library.

Birmingham's agent in the US, Russell Galen, at Scovil Chickak Galen, 
said he believed the free download had been authorised by the publisher 
as a marketing tool for his new novel Without Warning, recently released 
in hard cover.

But for many authors, the morphing of these sites from file sharing 
sites into fully digital bookshops/libraries is just one more issue they 
must confront in the rapidly evolving world of digital books.

The big breakthrough on commercialising digital books has come with 
Amazon.com's portable reader, the Kindle, and with its aggressive 
promotion of downloads that can be read on an iPhone.

Last month Amazon launched the next version, the Kindle 2, for $US359 
($450), and despite the price tag, the new sleeker devices are walking 
off the shelves. Sales are expected to reach 800,000 this year.

Amazon's approach to the e-book market is very much "a walled garden" 
similar to the early days of the Apple iTunes store. Amazon controls 
books available for purchase from its electronic bookstore. It only 
publishes publishes books for which publishers give permission, it sets 
the price and they can only be downloaded to a Kindle or on an iPhone 
using Kindle software.

Google has announced it would begin selling electronic versions of new 
books online later this year, in a direct challenge to Amazon.

Google sent shockwaves through the industry in 2005 when it announced 
plans to scan millions of books through its Google Book search service. 
This allows people to browse and search millions of texts in libraries 
around the world.

Google has limited full downloads to books out of copyright, and only 
snippets are available from copyrighted books, but it has led to a brawl 
over who has the right to digitise a book: the author? The traditional 
publisher? Or anyone?

After all, books are available in libraries. Why not in a digital 
library? On the other hand shouldn't the author have control over 
digital publication of his or her work, because once it is on the 
internet it can be copied at the click of a mouse? Last October Google 
reached a settlement with authors and publishers who filed a class 
action alleging copyright infringement over the Google Book project, in 
effect acknowledging that authors had copyright.

Under the settlement Google agreed to establish an independent "Book 
Rights Registry" which will provide revenue from sales and advertising 
to authors and publishers who agree to digitise their books. Publishers 
and authors are now in the process of opting in or out of the Google 

The executive director of the Australian Society of Authors, Jeremy 
Fisher, said the Google settlement was an important acknowledgement that 
authors owned the copyright. But there is still seething resentment 
about the way Google has gone about digitising copyright material 
without permission.

Ms Capel, McCullough's agent, said she had not yet opted in on behalf of 
her clients because it is a bit like "paying a burglar to get your stuff 

The next step though - commercial sales - will surely involve Google 
seeking more explicit permissions. Unlike Amazon, publishers will be 
able to set their own retail prices at the Google e-book store. Also, 
unlike the Amazon store, Google will make the books available for 
download on any device, which could prove a big selling point, 
especially if the Kindle 2 fails to gain the dominance that Apple 
managed in music.

Meanwhile, there is more competition still from sites like Scribd, 
Wattpad and others.

Last month, Scribd, a Silicon Valley start-up, announced plans to morph 
itself from a document-sharing website into a vanity publisher.

Until now it has been the most popular of document-sharing sites, 
allowing authors to upload chapters of their books, power points or 
research reports, in the same way as people can upload video to YouTube.

But it now plans to set up a new store to allow authors to publish their 
works and set their own price, in an arrangement that will allow authors 
to keep 80 per cent of the revenue.

Google is offering more than 60 per cent, which will pose a real 
challenge to the traditional publishing industry standard of 20 per cent 
royalties to writers.

Scribd hopes its more flexible approach will give it the jump on Amazon 
and that authors and readers will prefer their service. But if it wants 
to play in this space it will need first to tackle the piracy problems 
and prevent unauthorised uploads without the author's permission.

The Australian Society of Authors provides advice for writers on how to 
seek redress if their works are digitised without authorisation. In the 
US there are take-down laws that can be activated and similarly in 
Australia, Mr Fisher said.

"Other countries though are more problematic. We have had success in 
having unauthorised works taken down, but it takes time. There's a whole 
heap of poetry up on the web as well, much of it unauthorised. Poems by 
Judith Wright and Les Murray are everywhere," he says.
David Boxall                         | "Cheer up" they said.
                                     | "Things could be worse."
                                     | So I cheered up and,
                                     | Sure enough, things got worse.
                                     |              --Murphy's musing

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