Thursday, November 10, 2022

Corporate Bullies and Copyright

Cory Doctorow's article for the November 2022 LOCUS discusses the ever-increasing reach of monopolies that prey on the work of writers and other content creators, in terms of a parable about bullies stealing lunch money. If the victims get more lunch money, they don't get more food; the bullies get more money. No matter how much artistic creators produce and theoretically earn, the greed of the rights-grabbers will never be sated:

Structural Adjustment

Doctorow reminds us that only five (maybe, soon, four) major publishing conglomerates exist and that the realms of physical bookselling, online retailing and e-book sales, book distribution, and music production are each dominated by one mega-corporation. "Publishing and other 'creative industries' generate more money than ever — and yet, despite all this copyright and all the money that sloshes around as a result of it, the share of the income from creative work that goes to creators has only declined." In book publishing, unless an author chooses to self-publish (or go with small independent presses, which he doesn't mention in this article), "Contracts demand more — ebook rights, graphic novel rights, TV and film rights, worldwide English rights — and pay less." And of course the major online retailers exercise their dominance over self-publishers' access to markets.

He summarizes in terms of his parable, "We’re the hungry school kids. The cartels that control access to our audiences are the bullies. The lunch-money is copyright."

Asserting, "Cartels and monopolies have enacted chokepoints between creators and audiences," Doctorow recommends a book, CHOKEPOINT CAPITALISM: HOW BIG TECH AND BIG CONTENT CAPTURED CREATIVE LABOR MARKETS AND HOW WE'LL WIN THEM BACK, and gives an example of one of the strategies recommended in it.

While I understand his points and recognize the dangers he often cites in his articles, as a reader (and online consumer in general) I would have trouble getting along without Amazon. It's a great boon to be able to find almost any book, no matter how obscure and long out of print. I value being able to acquire the complete backlist of almost any author I'm interested in. I enjoy having purchases delivered to our doorstep, since the older I get, the less I want to go out searching for items —- especially given the not-unlikely frustration of not finding what I want in stock locally. And I trust Amazon to fill orders reliably and handle credit information securely, rather than my taking the risk of buying from websites unknown to me. As an author, if I decide to self-publish a work, I like being able to upload it for free on the most popular e-book seller's site, plus other retailers through Draft2Digital. At the same time, I realize Doctorow isn't wrong that by embracing convenience and economy, we put ourselves at the mercy of the provider's whims. For one thing, buying a product in electronic form (e-book, music file, movie, etc.) means the seller can make it evaporate from the consumer's hard drive or tablet anytime. So what's the ideal solution? I don't know.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

No comments:

Post a Comment