Driving home from Boulder this afternoon in the snow, I was listening to someone on the Thom Hartmann show talking all about the evils of SOPA. They said it’s about government censorship of the internet. He admitted that sites post copyrighted material, but dismissed this as a problem. He said that all you have to do is take them to court.
I can tell you this is an oversimplification and a dismissal of a real problem for writers. It isn’t all that simple, and who has the money to take people to court when they can go out the next day and post it all over again?
Many people send take-down letters to people who post their books for free on websites–books the author still has the copyright to and that are still actively being sold. Many sites respond to these letters. Others do not, arguing obscurely legalistic reasoning that they don’t provide the content, just the link to the content. Once a book is taken down, it often pops up again somewhere else.
I have a friend who just quit sending out take-down letters. She said she could do that or write. It was just too time consuming. Most authors don’t make much money on their writing. Many refer to it as coffee money. So, where’s the harm, you say? If writers get enough things in print, it can add up and eventually turn into a full time job.
Shouldn’t people be paid for their work? It can take up to a year to write a novel, sometimes two or more if you have a day job.
Of course, on the other side many people argue that giving free books away sells more books. And there is evidence for this. Corey Doctorow will swear by this business model as do many publishers. This could be true, but shouldn’t it be the writer’s decision, not some random person who decides to copy the book and post it?
I say SOPA isn’t such a bad thing. Let’s protect our writers.