Archive for January, 2012

Neil Gaiman on Copyright, Piracy and the Web

Click here to listen to Neil Gaiman discussing copyright, piracy and the web in regards to his own work.

Here is a transcript of the interview found here.

“When the web started, I used to get really grumpy with people because they put my poems up. They put my stories up. They put my stuff up on the web. I had this belief, which was completely erroneous, that if people put your stuff up on the web and you didn’t tell them to take it down, you would lose your copyright, which actually, is simply not true.

And I also got very grumpy because I felt like they were pirating my stuff, that it was bad. And then I started to notice that two things seemed much more significant. One of which was… places where I was being pirated, particularly Russia where people were translating my stuff into Russian and spreading around into the world, I was selling more and more books. People were discovering me through being pirated. Then they were going out and buying the real books, and when a new book would come out in Russia, it would sell more and more copies. I thought this was fascinating, and I tried a few experiments. Some of them are quite hard, you know, persuading my publisher for example to take one of my books and put it out for free. We took “American Gods,” a book that was still selling and selling very well, and for a month they put it up completely free on their website. You could read it and you could download it. What happened was sales of my books, through independent bookstores, because that’s all we were measuring it through, went up the following month three hundred percent

I started to realize that actually, you’re not losing books. You’re not losing sales by having stuff out there. When I give a big talk now on these kinds of subjects and people say, “Well, what about the sales that I’m losing through having stuff copied, through having stuff floating out there?” I started asking audiences to just raise their hands for one question. Which is, I’d say, “Okay, do you have a favorite author?” They’d say, “Yes.” and I’d say, “Good. What I want is for everybody who discovered their favorite author by being lent a book, put up your hands.” And then, “Anybody who discovered your favorite author by walking into a bookstore and buying a book raise your hands.” And it’s probably about five, ten percent of the people who actually discovered an author who’s their favorite author, who is the person who they buy everything of. They buy the hardbacks and they treasure the fact that they got this author. Very few of them bought the book. They were lent it. They were given it. They did not pay for it, and that’s how they found their favorite author. And I thought, “You know, that’s really all this is. It’s people lending books. And you can’t look on that as a loss of sale. It’s not a lost sale, nobody who would have bought your book is not buying it because they can find it for free.”

What you’re actually doing is advertising. You’re reaching more people, you’re raising awareness. Understanding that gave me a whole new idea of the shape of copyright and of what the web was doing. Because the biggest thing the web is doing is allowing people to hear things. Allowing people to read things. Allowing people to see things that they would never have otherwise seen. And I think, basically, that’s an incredibly good thing.”

I think they’re very sound words and, whilst not excusing illegal downloads and the like, there are other ways to combat music, tv, film and literature piracy and ACTA (just like SOPA and PIPA) is not the way to deal with it.

Perhaps making things available immediately, for a subscription fee, maybe, or a smaller fee than you would pay for a hard copy is a sensible answer – particularly in the current economy.

I could go on for a while about this but I don’t want to (mostly because I’m tired but also because I know feathers will get ruffled). But honestly, in this day and age, as any kind of artist, the realistic expectation of becoming a multi-millionaire off the back of one painting, one song or one book isn’t particularly high and I think some people forget this. It takes a lot of effort to create and this should be recognised. Yet at the same time, to demand such high exacting prices from those giving you their custom, their money, isn’t 100% fair. Even at university, financial aid will only get you so far in buying what you need for your course.

Anyway, /end here because I shouldn’t ramble. I only spout nonsense.

So the internet rose up to defeat SOPA/PIPA

…And now it needs to do so – yet again – against ACTA.

Stop SOPA

You might notice the ‘Stop Censorship’ banner in the top left corner of my blog. I advise you take note.

Copyright infringement is a huge problem, yes. There’s no denying that. But there’s also no denying that SOPA’s plans impact on American users rights.

SOPA will do to America what China has done to its own internet users. As America actively speaks out against such campaigns, it makes no sense for it to engage in one itself.

The world today is part of a digital revolution and we are constantly advancing. There are alternative ways of dealing with copyright infringements. SOPA is not the right way. Websites such as youtube could be shut down completely if this bill passes. Ironically this would likely only harm artists as they wouldn’t be able to convey their work to a wider audience.

Please check out the Stop American Censorship website and do whatever you can to help, whether you are an American resident or not.

 

The Wanderer Returns

Well, I guess the Guadalajara review has officially blown the dust off my blog that settled from whenever I last posted which was… oh my. Way back in November.  I had a lot of work to do through December and then there was the whole Mouse Invasion followed by Christmas and New Year (most of which I spent curled up in bed trying desperately not to move because I was so ill) and then the Eye Infection also known as I Punched Myself In The Face When I Was Sick. All of that was followed by me trying frantically to catch up on all my assignments due in for this month because I was simply too ill to do them at home.

So, yes, not that I’m trying to make excuses for my absence but… I have done anyway!

I’ve been re-drafting my creative piece based on a cultural artifact… Said object has now been changed about three or four times and I still haven’t settled on what I’m using but honestly? They’re all items of a similar theme; books and paintings and graphic art based on Japanese Shinto history and the like. Frankly, there’s a lot of information about on it and I’ve done a lot of web-browsing in the past looking things up about Shintoism and tattoos so it’s all kind of merged into one for me. Everything of that tangent is inspiring.

Speaking of the Japanese, I’ve also been reading more Murakami. I got two copies of both 1Q84’s part one & two and part three. Obviously one’s been sent back but I have to say I’m really enjoying them. I love the way Murakami alternates the chapters between two different characters perspectives. I’ve just started book three and he’s switched it up even more, swappnig between three characters now. I think my only qualm with the work so far is that Fuka Eri’s story could have been revealed at a faster pace. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve fallen asleep at 4am thinking ‘The next chapter, the next chapter has to be when he’ll tell us about the Little People.’. And he hasn’t.

I feel absolutely rotten again (the dreaded flu returns. Maybe I should have got the vaccine) so I’m going to crash out next to my hot water bottle, swathed in as many blankets as I can find in my room and hope that I feel better in the morning…

 

#7 Quim Monzó – Guadalajara

(click to view on Amazon)

The blurb on the back of Monzó’s rather slim volume actually gives away a lot more than one would normally expect to find on the back of a book.

‘All the heroes of this story collection… are faced with a world… where time and space move in circles… Their stories are mazes from which they can’t escape.’

The latter half of the above quote rings true the most: in Helvetian Freedoms, William Tell is unable to evade the laurels of his father’s history; in A Hunger and Thirst for Justice, Robin Hood travels full circle in his mission to steal from the rich and give to the needy so that their roles are reversed and he hasn’t quite achieved his ideal intentions; Centripetal Force‘s protagonist becomes lost in his own home, unable to escape and drawing more and more people into the maddening claustrophobia of the maze outside of his door.

One of the most interesting things Monzó does is to take a tale familiar to us – for example, Outside the Gates of Troy deals with the Trojan Horse – but instead of simply retelling it, he takes it, moulds it with his own words but finishes with one of an infinite number of endings. History itself could have taken many different paths and we rarely pause to consider the ‘what if’s’ of historical events or concern ourselves with the emotions of the revolutionary characters that shaped our past.  Perhaps Monzó’s retellings aren’t historically accurate but they do contain a sense of personality and humanity, allowing the reader to laugh at the father and son in The Lives of the Prophets, to empathise with the man in the elevator from Life Is So Short – after all, who doesn’t regret not committing to something or seizing a missed opportunity?

This sense of humanity and the way it mirrors ourselves as people is one of the many tricks Monzó employs to gently nudge us into continuing to read through the pages of Guadalajara. The majority of the short stories themselves are simply yet eloquently written, fluid and unjarring and surprisingly easy to skim-read. It is in the last few pages, however, that Monzó truly hints at the tools of his craft. In Books, we are told

Things should always begin and never continue… when the potential is still almost infinite.’

Whilst Monzó is applying this to the protagonist, The Reader, and how he interacts with books, it can also be applied to writing itself. The short story as a form is often focused on developing character rather than plot and endings are often left open-ended. An open-ending isn’t necessarily the sign of a lazy or incompetent writer; sometimes the reader is given the freedom to imagine their own ending. Of course, this can be frustrating but Monzó’s open-ended fiction seems to lack most of the irritability a reader occasionally feels when the carpet is dragged out from beneath their feet and they’re left with nothing.

Guadalajara is an enjoyable read. There were only one or two pieces that I found it hard to engage with but for an overall score, 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, I would probably give this a 7 or an 8. There is a lightness to this book (both literally and metaphorically speaking) that makes for an easy surface read. Read several times it develops more depth as you progress and is definitely a book worth checking out.