Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Copyright Tango

Copyright is still a subject I'm trying to figure out.

Not the legal side of it: that's what entertainment lawyers are for, and they can explain it to the rest of us when it's relevant.

It's how I want to use it, how it's applicable to me in particular, that I have to figure out. Creative Commons licensing is more appealing on a number of levels than traditional copyright. Creative Commons licensing is more accepting of educators using the material, explicitly allows for fan-created work, and all together embodies more of the tech-edged forward-thinking social movement that I'd like to target as readers.

On the other hand, if readers are free to redistribute digital copies wherever and however they like, I'm not always going to be getting paid.

Cory Doctorow makes his novels available online in any format a fan will translate it into, and lets his publishers just handle the print versions. This is fantastic, and I've taken advantage of it more than once.

But I think digital editions are a very future-friendly option: no dead trees (stone paper and elephant-poop paper still being too pricey to practically print books on), cheaper production costs, and easy transportation to any corner of the globe with internet access. I think that, while they will never replace print editions completely, digital editions may easily become the primary distribution method. If they do, I'm not sure I want to be giving my primary distribution method available for free.

Digital editions still have associated production costs in terms of the writer's time, the editor's time, the layout person's time, and the cover artist's time.

Machine of Death has made PDF available for free, but not any other digital edition. That was initially jarring, but seems to make sense upon examination of other factors. PDF is almost universally readable, even if it is awkward at times. Like the public library, it is available to everyone but not as convenient as buying. That seems to make sense.

But that raises the issue with the more arcane editions that fans might format it into: is the writer entitled to make money from the efforts of fans? And if not, isn't that just a lot of incentive to download the arcane edition and retranslate it into whatever format is most convenient for you?

A lot of Creative Commons licensing relies on the idea that fans who support an edition won't do that, and I like the attitude of generally not treating fans like criminals.

But the licensing I'll use for my own work (not short stories or collaborations) is still something I have to think hard about.

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