Re: Fear of Life (was Microsoft, Automation)

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Tue, 5 May 1998 21:26:29 -0700 (PDT)

> > The number of completely groundless assumptions in this analysis
> > are too many to count. First, the idea that the author only makes
> > money from sales of his book is idiotic. He is much more valuable
> > than that; he can sell his presence, his expertise, his skill,
> > the consumer attention of his name, /and/ his labor in a thousand
> > other ways that authors today don't take advantage of because
> > their publishers are too lazy and unimaginative to see them.
> I defy you to name ONE such way that is not already in use.
> But some people who write books, DON'T want to become TV stars.

I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean: most programmers
don't want to do QA or tech support, but most of us have paid
our dues there because there's money in it. Making a living
is about doing what /other/ people want. I couldn't give a
damn how an author wants to make money; if ey wants mine, ey'd
better do what /I/ want em to do. I don't support abolition
of copyright because it will make authors happy--though it
will, in the long run, make them richer along with everyone
else--I support it because it is morally right.

Things authors generally don't do now: charge real money for
autographs and appearances (usually they just tour to support
book sales), host online forums for buyers of their books,
sell advertising space in their books, rework stories from
other books or other media in their own style, offer buyers
of authorized editions special access to future works or
other works of the same publisher. I'm sure there are more.
A few are probably done to some small degree already, but
generally they are not done because pubishers can more
easily exploit the current system.

> And, by eliminating intellectual property, you eliminate many of
> these ways...

Yes. And your point is?

> Because many of them are based on identity as the
> author, but the author has no more legal claim to that identity than
> anyone else. There would be nothing in law to stop you from taking a
> pseudonym that happens to be the name on the cover of a book written
> by someone else, and going around giving speeches as if you had
> written it.

Ah, but there is--I've said nothing about abolishing laws against
willful fraud, and that is a willful fraud prosecutable by any
civil court. Trademarks are not intellectual property in the
same way that copyrights and patents are, because they only exist
by use, and are only enforcible against those who act deliberately
to deceive the public about their identity. This, I wholeheartedly
agree, is a crime. It has nothing whatsoever to do with copyright
or patent law. (Our current government lumps them together into
the US Patent and Trademark Office--that no more implies that
they are the same thing than does the fact that they lump together
alcohol, tobacco, and firearms).

> Those items -- that the first publisher pays but the second publisher
> doesn't -- typically cost more than printing and binding the first
> print run, which is paid by both the first publisher and the second
> publisher.

In today's system, yes. Obviously, without copyright, it would be
stupid for publishers to keep doing things that way. They would
look for more ways to exploit the non-copyable things: the authors'
time and talents, good name, market share, consumer attention, etc.

> > they want information customized to their needs. The author is
> > in the best position to do that, even after initial publication.
> Please explain how this applies to a typical romance novel.

It doesn't. In a world without copyright, the typical romance
novel would probably be published by the same folks who today
print uncopyrighted works like Shakespeare collections and Bibles.
Without copyright, Barbara Cartland would have to find a new job.
I can't say that distresses me much. Maybe she could do live
readings, or equivalently, just run $4/minute 900 number more
suited to her talents.

> Some of us don't think a man's labor is worthless simply because the
> essence of his production is non-material.

Nor do I. But nor do I think one man's labor is worth more than
another's just /because/ it is intellectual rather than physical.
I have not one whit more respect for a good writer than for a
good carpenter, yet the former has a monopoly frocibly maintained
for him by the government and the latter does not.

> We will agree to eliminating the protection of intellectual property
> the same day we agree to eliminating the protection of physical
> property -- including the laws against murder.

If you can't see the difference, you're not even trying. If you
take my life, I lose it. If you take my money, I lose it. If you
take my ideas, I still have them. That is a difference in objective
reality, and any law that treats objectively different things as if
they were the same is a bad law.

> Why, then, do nations with meaningful copyright laws have MORE
> creativity and artistry than nations without -- and the artists
> better rewarded?

For one, I see no evidence of that correlation; two, even if there
is a 100% correlation, that does not tell you which is cause and
which the effect. I suspect nations with lots of good artists
have a larger political lobby to fight for favors. All special
interest groups lobby for handouts; that's the nature of politics.
I don't want to subsidize Gallo wines or Archer Daniels Midland,
nor do I want to subsidize Dave Barry. The fact that some people
see the latter as normal is of no consequence to me.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC