This is an extended metaphor.
If you are an author or aspire to be an author, you might appreciate it more if you first read the important and instructive comments about Senate Bill S3804 on the Washington Watch site.
If you will, please picture me standing outside Office Minimal. The shop window is broken.
(The shop window is DRM.)
“Free zip drives!” I yell. “Come and get your free zip drive. Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah! Freely available zip drives for everybody. Step right up and get your free zip drives. It’s easy to collect all you want. For free!”
As eager zip drive lovers rush through the gaping hole in the window –which I swear I didn’t make, I just found it, and am sharing my findings– I murmur another message.
“Plastic bags! Buy your easy-to-use plastic bag here. For the easy, on-the-spot price of $2.00 you can have the convenience of being able to carry away far more free zip drives than you could manage in your own two hands!”
A police car cruises by.
“Not to worry, Officer,” I reassure the patrolman. “I didn’t break the window. The freely available zip drives aren’t in my hands. I’m just exerting my First Amendment Right of free speech to tell people where to find free zip drives…
“Roll up! Roll up!” I interject to the world. “Get your freely available zip drives. All you can carry. They’re in the public domain!” Then turning back to the officer, I tell him, “Zip drives want to be free. $14.99 is too expensive. $14.99 is a ridiculous price, charged by greedy, money-grub….”
The officer has lost interest in me. The patrol car is already edging past Better Buy, several paces down the street, where one of my associates is distributing wire shopping carts on a profitable basis to Better Buy lovers who are collecting free CDs. All he asks in exchange for the loan of a wire shopping cart is that they look for five seconds at what he has on display when he opens his raincoat.
“Free zip drives! Get your $2.00 plastic bag here!!” I do a little business. Pointing other people at freely available zip drives (hosted elsewhere) is amazingly profitable, and the Law can’t touch me, thanks to “Safe Habor” and my little disclaimers.
I hear some of what my associate is telling the officer.
“… only $14.99,” he wheedles. “The fat cat CD producers aren’t going to miss $14.99. For goodness sake, it’s only the price of a fancy coffee.”
The law enforcement officer moves on.
A woman in a pink hat flags him down. She appears to be indignant. She points at me. “But, it’s stealing!” I hear her say.
“Madam, are you the actual owner of the zip drives?” The yahoo in the patrol car asks her. “You can’t go around making unsubstantiated accusations unless you are the person being allegedly ripped off. In which case, I’ll need your full real name, your phone number, your email address, proof that you are who you say you are, proof that you actually own those freely available zip discs, a formal statement that you have a good faith belief that you are being ripped off, and….”
I know the spiel, and the unspoken fine print. “And anything you say will be stored and your private contact information may be published on certain websites.”
More raised voices. I lose interest in the pink hatted protester. Someone who must be the Better Buy manager appears to remonstrate with my friend.
“Yes, I can. I can and I will,” my friend blusters as CD-carrying members of the public gather around to back him up. “You’ll never stop me. CD-liberation needs to exist.”
“You greedy piggy! How dare you complain!” the shoppers exclaim. “We’ll never shop in your store again!”
Dear Readers, if someone tells you that a tune, game, image, e-book is “free” or “freely available”, do your due diligence. See if the artist has a web site. If he or she does, they are probably alive, the work has probably been created in the last 70 years, and may be under copyright protection.
If it’s for sale on Amazon, that is a very good indication that maybe that copyright owner of the work didn’t intended for it to be free.
Owing to current “Safe Harbor” laws, the person telling you where to go to download “free” e-books may not be breaking the letter of the law, but if you download those “free” books, you are breaking the law, just as surely as if you climbed through the broken window of a main street store and helped yourself.
Dear Authors, pirates go to considerable lengths to conceal the extent of their activities, but your newly published e-book is probably being given away free within days of going on sale.
Many people will tell you that it is better to be famous and unpaid than unknown and poorly paid. That depends whether or not your publisher cancels your next contract. Either way, you own your copyright, and it should be your own free choice whether or not your novel should be given away or sold by strangers for their profit and not yours.
S-3804 may not be perfect, but that is why the government is asking you, right now, to send in your comments and suggestions.
Write to the government unit that is currently requesting and accepting advice from COPYRIGHT OWNERS about what to do about piracy.
copyright-noi-2010 (at) ntia (dot) doc (dot) gov
You can also vote if you like this bill, and you can contact your Congressman.