Droit de ebook…

Back in those good old high fantasy feudal days when lords and princes had a ball, and the peasants had apple peelings every alternate Tuesday, if they had a good kindly lord, life was good and full… If you were one of the lordlings. If there was any fighting to be done, you were best armed and armored, and you’d send some serfs in blunt the enemy’s swords. You had the pick of everything and enjoyed a bit of droit de seigneur with your serfs daughters and wives.

If you happened to be a serf, you did all the work and produced all the food, and there were scant choices about survival, and that included putting up with your lord nicking everything you worked for and raping your daughter or wife if he felt like it. Or you could run away and try and live in the woods – and be hunted like a beast and occasionally manage to put an arrow in the hunter. Or you could flee to the cities, and, while it was tough there, you could make your way up, sometimes.

About the only time the lording really got into the act of looking after the peasantry (not that it did the peasantry that much good) was when some other ‘gentleman’ started raping the lordling’s peasants daughters or nicking all their grain. Then the local Lord Muck-on-toast was all for WAR – those were HIS peasant’s daughters and if any raping and looting was going to be done, it would be done by him (and of course the peasants got to do the first ration of dying. Lucky peasants).

It’s a situation which has its parallels in modern publishing. Particularly the part about getting really angry when someone else is getting the peasant’s daughters first… The serfs AKA writers don’t get much out of the Lords publishers… unless of course someone else is nicking the goodies. When it comes to other folk stealing the fruit of their authors work they get really angry. Of course the authors are expected (without the armour of a nice tax-deductable legal department or the sword of money) to go and do the first bit of dying, but the lords will go to war for this.

To hear them go on, you’d think there wasn’t an honest soul out there. Put all internet users to the sword, let God choose the innocent seems to be the attitude, which is not really an accurate reflection. I saw a shock-horror headline the other day, saying than a 1/4 of the internet users wanted free music. This was a great evil bound to bring down Western civilization. The curious part was that the 75% who logically were happy to pay… were invisible. Not deserving of consideration.

I can’t get terribly upset with people who steal for no financial gain. Oh, they irritate me, but really I am NOT going to penalize the vast majority (even if it is only 75%) to try and rein these ones in. When they start selling their theft, I get a bit more angry. When, however I get really really angry is when they target the at least 75% of honest people who are willing to pay for their entertainment, and pass themselves off as honest merchants – and sell stolen goods to them. The latest set of these shark-bait are a crowd called ebookr – who claim to be like netflix – you pay a joining fee and download as much as you like. Which seems fair to the honest buyer… Only all the stuff he is downloading is stolen property. The site does its best to look legit. It even assuers you that it will respond to DCMA requests. And it will, if you are prepared as an author to play a weekly game of Whack-a-mole listing every format they have for illegal download. They had a bunch of mine. They have some of Sarah’s – including the e-arc of Darkship thieves.

Of course, if you think the peasants… authors are angry… well the publishers are incandescent about it. And squalling for harsher measures against such sites. Which at first seems sensible, until it occurs to this particular peasant that, really, the existing law, if applied, should surely be more than adequate. One has to wonder why the expensive legal departments of the various big 6 publishers can’t take a few hours off devising new fiendish contract clauses to screw a few more groats out of the p…authors, and see them nailed with conspiracy to commit a felony, fraud, misrepresentation, benefiting from the proceeds of crime… just off the back of my head.

There is however one very awkward situation for the lordlings. They’re submitting this to King’s justice, not their own. And the King does not differentiate between raping your own peasants and someone else raping them. They’re both just rape. And the law is based on precedent. The precedent of entertaining charges like these against ebookr’s CEO etc… well they could be MIGHTY awkward when it comes out that the lordlings have been doing much the same — selling copyrighted material without the owner’s consent– which they KNOW they do NOT have the rights to, or where those rights were never contracted, and where the public are being deliberately deceived that these are legal copies. And yes, that has been happening. The publishing Big 6 are reporting great profits out of digitizing their backlists. Do you REALLY think all their authors are happy with the royalty they’re paying? Do you really believe they’ve got all those consents — when getting a simple return of rights can take an author six months if they’re lucky? Trust me tracking down ONE author can take you 6 months, and that’s before you venture onto deceased estates and the like. And few of them are in a hurry to agree to not very generous blanket offers. So asking me to believe this has all happened properly is… a stretch of the credulity. I suspect they’re riding roughshod, hoping not to be called, and if they are, knowing they have legal departments and resources the author does not. This is further complicated by them often still having the power of life-or-death over an author’s career.

No wonder they’d rather have SOPA or PIPA. No need for all this tedious due process stuff. Lord’s justice!

I’d like to ebookr’s dear executives face due process and explain how they thought the newest bestsellers were legitimately on their site – as they weren’t paying royalties. I’d like to see the same applied to anyone who trades on the honesty of the public to defraud the rights-holders.

But most authors have at best a stick, and the lords and the thieves have armor and swords. So for now, the best I can ask is that readers don’t support ebookr. And, if you’re in doubt about a favorite author’s long ago book suddenly coming out in e-format — without an endorsement from them, maybe you could write to them, tell them how much you loved their work and ask if this was a legitimate copy, as you want them, not some thief, to get paid.
If they’re listed as the publisher, obviously that is fine.

In the meanwhile here is this peasant’s latest attempt to leave the estate. Private Investigator Bolg – PI Bolg has two ‘problems’ – He’s a Pict, and doesn’t seem to age (but he’s also heavily tattooed to the extent he looks blue.), and he’s a ‘dwarf’ (he has the condition called achondroplasia. It makes Bolg vertically challenging. He’s also a man with much of attitude shaped by his stature and history: He is to political correctness what Godzilla is to ballet. The stories are written first person so you can get his jaded perspective… He’s actually, despite his years, a sucker and nice guy, though he tries to avoid admitting either to himself. And although he lives in the mundane world, and would rather work in it, his color and stature make sure he gets all the paranormal cases. I’m planning a whole series of his ‘cases files’. This is first of those on kindle (sorry, only on Smashwords in 3 months time. It’s an experiment) It’s Novella length. Anyway, Dave’s satire meets Urban fantasy… PI Bolg – The Vampire Bride. If you decide to buy it… please click on the picture. I get a few extra cents that way.

6 comments

  1. Gosh, Dave,

    Don’t hold back. Tell us what you really think! (now to go turn on ads on the MGC page so I can actually buy the story)

    1. yes, I am grumpy. If it was over to me the CEOs of ebookr and publishing houses selling work to which they have no rights (and it is not Baen, nor Pyr ) would be ornamenting the cell next door to Mr Dotcom, but for longer. Copyright is their business, and the know all too well how little authors earn. It’s deliberately, cold-bloodedly exploitative, knowing they are very very unlikely to face punishment, and knowing they’re doing terrible damage and the extent of that damage. On the social scale you must be down there the nice people who rob blind buskers or steal old people’s pension money. And if they’re in blissful ignorance and unaware that their underlings in legal have failed them (which would mean they’re not doing their job and should be fired by the board)… fixing it is easy – see that employee sacked and charged. Pay the full amount received as a cover price, and damages and make an apology.

      No idea how to turn ads on.

      1. Oh, no argument here. You’ve got every right to be furious. This sort of nonsense is why I entertain fond thoughts of forensic IRS audits and racketeering charges. (Systematic… check… maintaining their hold through blackmail and bribery… check…. )

        It’s my browser settings. I’ve got an add-on that blocks almost all ads so I don’t get hit with popups and popouts and popunders all over the internet – but sometimes it decides something is an ad that really isn’t.

        I told it not to block anything here, then went and bought your story 🙂

  2. Dave, fortunately I figured out a while back that your by-line should by itself be considered an adequate wine-out-the-nose warning … 🙂

    I thought O’Mike already cautioned you about making this much sense all at once in the InterWebz, though. Thanks, you did a brilliant job (as usual) of wrapping words around an idea I had been having trouble explaining to people.

    1. I am shocked, shocked I tell you, that you should think my name carries a spew warning. Next you’ll be telling me there is gambling in Rick’s Casino! ;-).

      Some years ago I made the comment that on ‘piracy’: fox smells his own hole first. We tend to think that other humans are like us, and think like us. A thief assumes all other people would steal if they were as clever/had the opportunity. Thus when I heard authors and publishers making the assumption that given the opportunity everyone would steal, I wondered if they were basing this on their own morality. And given that some publishers are now active in the ‘piracy’ field I guess I was right.

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