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January 7, 2008
Start With the Right To Speak Freely
Cory Doctorow continues his campaign to educate the SFWA on what modern technology means for authors. Writing in Locus, the science-fiction writer's trade rag, he puts forth the notion that the attention being paid to use and infringement is hopeless and even counter-productive.
Due to the explosive nature of personal writing and publishing, as well as the basic open structure of the net, the only possible way to enforce the kind of infringement management that the Cartel wants would be to "throttle" the most basic right of writing, that of free speech.
We're all aware that the Cartel would gleefully sign up for such a Stalinist regime - their entire model is based on them-as-sole-producers with the vast majority of us positioned only as individual consumer units. But there's no reason for writers or any other real human beings to sign onto this corporate notion. Doctorow points out that not only is it an insanely arrogant position to take, it's actually bad for writers, who are presently at the mercy of big publishing houses.
The streaks of independence that are beginning to be shown in, say, the music business are just not present in the publishing world. You can be as world-famous as a Stephen King or a Neil Gaiman and you still don't publish independently. You go through a major publishing house, you get the word rate your agent is able to negotiate, and you sign over your work to their corporate system.
Writers have griped about the system for as long as I can remember - I don't see that changing anytime soon. But it'd be nice for the writers to realize where their interests lie, and I don't think it's with the Cartel's position, which has little or nothing to do with the right to speak freely.
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