Re: Fear of Life (was Microsoft, Automation)

Dan Fabulich (
Sun, 03 May 1998 03:30:36 -0400


Warrl kyree Tale'sedrin wrote:
>In other words, the artist should get paid a certain amount for
>writing the book (who pays, and why?) without regard to whether many
>people prove they like it by, for example, buying copies.

An author sells the first copy to a private entity. The market decides
whether someone wants to buy it.

Meanwhile, a publisher will invest in new books, because having a new book
on the market should increase the total demand for books (from which, as an
externality, all publishers will benefit). However, the first buyer will
gain in part from that increase in demand. So as long as the increased
profit you get from increased demand outweighs the price the publisher must
pay the author for making the book, buying new art is still worthwhile,
though less worthwhile than it was when the government was granting
publishers monopoly status over copies of their books.

>And in general it is never reasonable to spread the cost of
>production facilities (the author's work is an essential part of
>producing a book) over the entire production run. The author must
>get his entire compensation for producing the book out of the sale
>price of the first book; the printer must get his entire
>compensation for creating the printshop out of the first item he

As usual, you are confusing the production of COPIES with the creation of
NEW ART. The guy who invents a printshop must get his entire compensation
from inventing the first printshop. The printer gets her compensation from
printing books.

>The cost of building an auto manufacturing plant should be
>tacked IN ITS ENTIRETY onto the FIRST car that plant produces.

No. The cost of INVENTING an auto manufacturing plant must be tacked onto
the first plant. The cost of BUILDING a plant which has already been
invented should be paid with the sales of every car which that plant
produces. See the difference?

>Yet you assume that this will somehow INCREASE the number of books being

And yet again, you confuse books being written and books being printed. I
contend that fewer books will be written but more copies of those books
will be printed.

>Higher price?
>It is true, if you want to hear the group Sublime, you will have to
>hire the group to come to you, and this will cost more than if you
>could just run down and buy a CD.

I could pay them a high price to make a CD for me. Or they could produce a
CD and sell it to the highest bidder.

>However, it is also true that the
>maximum you are likely to pay is far, far less than their portion of
>the sales price of a quarter million CDs.
>So, YOU pay a HIGHER price, but THEY collect a LOWER price.

Well, to some extent, we might expect this a little, seeing as it is a
system consisting of hundreds of thousands of tiny government enforced
monopolies. So I concede, the CD industry would lose some revenues due to
the abolition of their monopolies. However, so did the aviation industry
lose some revenues when it couldn't use the government to cartelize.

>Not to mention that all the people involved in producing, shipping,
>and marketing the CDs, must seek some other source of income -- not
>because their jobs are obsolete, but because we deny creative people
>ownership of their creations.

Again, CDs would and could be produced, shipped and marketed just as they
have been; only they would cost a lot less.

>You are entirely free, today, to write books and give them away if
>you choose. You were not free, then, to open an airline and give
>away air transportation.

Again, you confuse new art with copies. I am free to write books, but I am
not free to print copies of books which the government will not let me
print, even if I give them away. Even if I have no prior contract with the
author. (Especially in that case.)

>> In this case, by not allowing new companies to make copies, the artist
>> gains a coerced monopoly over book copies; as a result, the artist can set
>> a much higher price than the copies are actually worth.
>No company other than United Airlines ever has, or ever will, provide
>you a flight on United Airlines' work. So if you ever had a United
>Airlines flight, United Airlines was rewarded for your benefitting
>from their work.
>Anybody can go to a cheap copier and provide you a flight on Anne
>McCaffrey's work. And Anne McCaffrey will receive no reward for your
>benefitting from her work.

Without copyright, McCaffrey would have received all of her rewards when
she was paid for writing the novel in the first place. So, yes, she would
receive no FURTHER reward.

>That said, I agree with you: setting a minimum price which people
>*must* charge for their work, is wrong. But instead you propose to
>set a *maximum* price, and that is just as wrong.

The deregulation of a monopoly is not the same as setting a maximum price;
it's letting the market set the price at a reasonable level. The market,
today, does not set the price of copies of _DragonFlight_, but rather the
government grants the copyright holder of _DragonFlight_ monopoly status
over all copies of the book, so they can set the price to whatever they
want, with no fear of having to lower their price due to competition. The
demand curve still dictates the revenues, but it is the copyright holder
which determines the price. We'd be better off without this monopoly and
allowing the market to set the price of _DragonFlight_ copies, when prices
are pushed down by firms competing for business.

>> The novel-reader is not buying the work of the novel-writer. The
>> novel-reader is receiving the work of the novel-printer.
>What are those black marks on the pages? Their arrangement is the
>work of the novel-writer. If you think that it is the
>novel-printer's work that matters, go buy a hundred pages of notebook
>filler paper and enjoy your reading.

When I said the above, I said it in the same way that I would say that I am
not buying crude oil when I buy gasoline. Now, obviously, the creation of
gasoline would be impossible if no one were to pump crude oil; however, *I*
do not have to pay crude oil companies for my gasoline. My individual
gasoline station has ALREADY paid the crude oil company for its crude oil.
I am buying the work of my individual gas station, who in turn has
purchased the work of a refinery, who has purchased the work of a crude oil

When I buy a copy of a book, I buy the work of a novel-printer. The
novel-printer may have paid the novel-writer for its original copy; without
copyright it may simply have purchased the work of another novel-printer.
Either way, I do not pay the novel-writer for the book. I pay a bookstore,
who in turn pays a printer, [who in turn pays a novel-printer, if it is not
the last on the chain,] who in turn pays the novel-writer.

>The writer should be paid according to the agreement the writer makes
>with the publisher. You should not have the right to dictate the
>terms of that agreement, considering that you are neither the writer
>nor the publisher. Sometimes the agreement will specify that the
>publisher is paying only for a mold, and sometimes it's on a per-copy

True, I have no right to do so, nor do I wish to do so. However, I put
forward that they have no right stop me from producing my own copies of the
same book at a cheaper price, unless they have a contract over me.

>What we find in general in the fixed arts (which means, pretty much
>everything except live performances) is that the top artists are paid
>on some form of per-copy basis, and the hacks are paid for molds.
>And the hacks hope to get per-copy contracts. Some of them
>eventually become top artists.
>Writing specifically is a bit different, but not a whole lot
>different. Magazines pay for molds. Book contracts are almost
>always on a per-copy basis, with an "advance" that is non-refundable
>and amounts to a payment for the mold if the book doesn't sell well.
>Let me give you a clue: if you spend six months per book, and never
>get any payment beyond the advance, you won't be able to live for
>long as a book writer. But you propose to eliminate all other
>payment, and believe that this will increase the amount of art.

<sigh> COPIES, *NOT NEW ART*. And I'm not surprised that most artists vie
for government-protected status. As for whether an advance is sufficent to
live off of, keep in mind that today the advance is only part of the
payment, whereas tomorrow it would represent the full price of the book.
So we may expect to see this price change as an actual market begins to form.

>Look at it further down the line: a publisher starts printing a book
>in the belief that for a certain amount of time HE will be the ONLY
>publisher of that specific book. On this basis he dedicates the
>substantial capital of a printing plant to that book for a period of
>time, and he puts some effort into marketing the book. And he
>enforces his copyright to protect that assumption.
>But you choose to eliminate the copyright. The publisher sends the
>books out of his shop. Of the first five boxes, three go to
>copy-shop chains. The publisher paid the author an advance, and put
>in the capital and resources to print 25,000 copies of the book; the
>next day there are 250,000 copies on the market. For every dollar
>the publisher spent in marketing, $8 are spent on copies of the book,
>and the publisher gets 80 cents of that. Being a publisher who
>actually pays authors, is a complete loss. So publishers won't pay
>authors, and this is supposed to increase the amount of art.

On the contrary; buying a new novel is not a complete loss if you increase
sales by offering a new book.

>Today, an author can auction a work to the highest bidder -- who will
>probably be a publishing house and will probably pay $10,000 for a
>first novel, or $1,000,000 for something from someone with multiple
>previous hot sellers.
>Under your system, an author can auction a work to the highest bidder
>-- who will probably pay $8 for a first novel, and there will be no
>such thing as a "hot seller". Why? Because being the *second*
>highest bidder means you can't publish the book -- until half an hour
>after the highest bidder does. And the 8,427th highest bidder can
>publish at exactly the same time you can.

Again, as I noted above, the book will be worth as much as publishers would
benefit from the increased demand for book sales. So it IS worth it to pay
more than $8 for the first copy.

How much exactly? Best to let the market decide.

>If you don't think writing a good novel is hard work, try it.

I didn't say that writing a novel is easy. But, then, neither is flying an
airplane, and I won't grant THEM monopoly status either.

>And you want to eliminate the means by which the market communicates
>its decision.

I most certainly do not. I still think that authors should be paid, but
shouldn't receive monopoly status on their works. Say what you will, but
don't get to thinking I'm anti-market.

>Under the current system, authors do bear the full cost of a failed
>writing enterprise: they put all the work into writing the book, and
>no publisher buys it. On the other hand, if their writing enterprise
>is successful, they reap the rewards.

When a publisher buys a book which later fails, the publisher and author
both still reap the benefits of being able to set a non-competitive price
for the book so as to maximize their profits at the expense of consumers.
This is NOT bearing the full cost of a writing enterprise.

>Under your system, authors bear the full cost of a failed writing
>enterprise -- ALWAYS -- even if the book is a massive success.

Authors who offer books which will greatly increase demand can charge more
than authors who offer books which won't increase demand very much at all.
Thus, authors DO benefit from writing better books; they get paid more.

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