Free Books and Unicorns

Photo by Andrew Kuchling.
Unicorn! photo by Andrew Kuchling.

Today, you will find me over at the Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal Romance Writers’ Blog talking about copyright and the internet for authors and humans beings in general. It’s fun, sexy stuff. What? You don’t think so?

Because I have been remiss in sending out monthly newsletters, which are really just an excuse for me to give away copies of books I love, I am going to give away three ebooks this month to three different subscribers. Join my mailing list (below) for a chance to win one of these wonderful reads.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – It’s still my favorite book of all time and it should be yours too.
Unmasked Heart by Vanessa Riley – A Regency Romance with a surprising heroine.
Rock Hard by Nalini Singh – I do not read contemporaries very often but this one is swoon worthy.

Visiting With the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

I am trying to get back into the swing of reading some of my feeds every some most days. It is a lurch and go process, but we shall see. I have trouble getting in the mood to write when I feel so disconnected from everything and I need to get motivated about writing, like yesterday.

I think I may have failed at my job of influencing Mr. Rochester for the good when this morning he informed me that he did not know who Cory Doctorow or Lawrence Lessig were, though he admitted that Lessig sounded familiar. *sigh* I read part of Doctorow’s speech given recently, “How to Destroy the Book.” His description of Book People made my insides melt in that way they do when you realize that these words are about you in the most visceral way possible.

We are the people of the book. We love our books. We fill our houses with books. We treasure books we inherit from our parents, and we cherish the idea of passing those books on to our children. Indeed, how many of us started reading with a beloved book that belonged to one of our parents? We force worthy books on our friends, and we insist that they read them. We even feel a weird kinship for the people we see on buses or airplanes reading our books, the books that we claim. If anyone tries to take away our books—some oppressive government, some censor gone off the rails—we would defend them with everything that we have. We know our tribespeople when we visit their homes because every wall is lined with books. There are teetering piles of books beside the bed and on the floor; there are masses of swollen paperbacks in the bathroom. Our books are us. They are our outboard memory banks and they contain the moral, intellectual, and imaginative influences that make us the people we are today.

The whole speech is amazing and should be a rallying cry, especially given all the news lately surrounding monoliths and their inability to see the writing on their tombstones, in the way that Scrooge saw his tombstone and then had the opportunity to change.

The truth is the music industry, the publishing houses, companies who make proprietary software (or anything), and traditional phone companies are now looking at their graves and they face the same choice that Ebenezer faced: to continue to be miserly, unloved, and bitter or they can choose to open up, be generous, and realize that they have to give and let go to grow, live, and thrive.

–Jane, God bless us, every one!

The Grail and Copyright

The Da Vinci Code is in the middle is a copyright battle brought on by a historian claiming that Brown stole his theories to create the plot of the novel. This article from Slate has an interesting and cheeky take on the whole fiasco:

Can one writer freely borrow someone else’s wacky historical speculations? Say a historian publishes the idea that Lyndon Johnson is a space alien who killed John F. Kennedy. Are you free to make a movie about it? The right answer, as perhaps Oliver Stone would testify, is that the nature of the claim matters.

Part of me wonders if Brown will ever be out of the news.

–Jane, read it, found it amusing

Lawrence Lessig Talks Copyright

Lawrence Lessig
Center for Internet and Society

I will claim ignorance and admit that I had never really heard of Lawrence Lessig before except on the periphery of conversations. Now that I have actually heard him speak, I wonder what hole I have been living in to have missed him.

This post is a sum of his talk at the University of Houston on February 24, 2006.
Without further ado:

Dr. Lessig has a sticker on his Apple computer that says “free culture” and he has a unique Power Point style that was fun to watch.

“Some things should be free.”

There are two competing cultures in our times, the “Read Only” culture and the “Read Write” culture.

The RO is defined by the right to buy and consume content produced elsewhere. The largest example of this is, of course, iTunes. Amazon has recently released a Pay Per Page and other vendors have Pay Per Read options. This culture allows copyright owners to define how people consume their products. Soon, everything will always be available to buy for a price and copyright supports this perfect control.

But people buy, sell, trade, and consume outside of this model all the time when they buy, sell, trade, and read books in real space. Copyright does not dictate how people consume physical books in “real” space because it is not logical to do so. In conjunction, it is not logical to apply certain copyright restrictions to online information.

In the internet culture, every use becomes a copy because the platform is different; the internet has created the Read Write culture. The law only supports the Read Only culture and DRM (digital rights management). The RW culture begs for creativity to be expressed differently. It shifts the power of expression to anyone with a computer. Remix is nothing new and has always been present in society because people have always been producing, sharing and consuming culture. Literacy in the digital age requires tools that involve more than text. Under the copyright laws today, the RW culture is illegal. The existing system demands permission and it is not coming.

This conflict should be important to academics because we can influence scholarly publishing and the way the upcoming generation views publishing and copyright. We can spread the use of the Creative Commons License.


My question for Dr. Lessig, which I did not get to ask was, “Teaching our current students about copyright and participating in open access movements is all very fine, but how do we effect decisions being made about copyright NOW? The lawmakers NOW are the ones who can make changes NOW. How do we make a difference?”

Copyright in the digital age is something that we, not as librarians, but as consumers of which we should be intensely aware. This subject effects many aspects of our daily lives so why are we not talking about it? The conversation, as Dr. Lessig pointed out, is controlled by the record companies and publishing industry because they are the ones with the money. In our society and government, the only people who get heard every day and in the governemnt are the ones with money.

What more can we do besides spreading the Creative Commons love?

Jane, free to use, but not for profit