Copyright and DMCA

Apparently, the past few months have been copyright season, at least in my little corner of reality.  SFWA* had a bit of a copyright mess a little while back, and I ended up serving on the committee to explore what the organization wanted in terms of copyright activism.  (Our report is available online.)Then this week, I got to fax my first DMCA** takedown notice to a blog that had reposted an article of mine.  I had hoped to talk to the blogger directly and handle things informally.  But the blogger had no posted contact info.  So I had to go through the host site, and they require a formal DMCA notification.There’s an awful lot of confusion out there when it comes to copyright.  (And quite often, I count myself among the confused.)  How much is “fair use”?  Is it okay to copy more of a work if I include credit to the author?  And don’t even get me started on the murky legal mess that is fanfiction.For me, it comes down to two things.  The first is the legal side.  Basically, copyright law says you can’t just go grabbing someone’s work and republishing it, credited or not.  As someone who makes a significant portion of my income from my writing, I see this as a good thing.  It means people pay me for my work, and I actually had a little extra money to replace my wife’s minivan earlier this year.  Reprint sales are only a portion of a writer’s income, but they can be a significant portion.I’m not opposed to giving work away.  I’ve done it before.  But it was my choice.  To pick one example, a French writing site asked to reprint some of my non-fiction a year or so back.  I was happy to say yes.  And hey, having just signed a deal to reprint my goblin books in French, it’s possible those free reprints will even help my sales over there.Which brings up a good counterargument.  Isn’t “piracy” good for an author, if the writing is credited?It might be.  A lot of my work doesn’t exist in electronic format yet, and I think that hurts me as a writer.  Wouldn’t an online copy of the goblin stories potentially bring me more readers?  Even if those copies were unauthorized?They might.  But that leads to the second piece of the argument: respect.  Seeing my work plastered over that weblog without anyone having asked permission to do so … well, it feels rude.Current copyright law isn’t perfect.  I question the length of copyright, and I don’t believe copyright law should be dictated by the ghost of Walt Disney.  The fact that the law varies in other countries lends itself to all kinds of confusion.  (I.e., a work that’s public domain in one nation, but not in another?)  As someone who’s working on a series based on public domain fairy tales, I’m all for limiting the power of copyright.I don’t like doing the DMCA takedown notice, and I’m waiting for this blogger to write a nasty note comparing me to the RIAA or the Nazis.   But for me, what it comes down to is that I want to make a living from my writing, and I dislike rudeness.***


*Science Fiction Writers of America
**Digital Millenium Copyright Act
***But as with so many things, I reseve the right to change my mind if anyone puts forth a good argument one way or the other :)

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There are 4 comments. Get the RSS feed for comments on this entry.

  1. 1. Jim C. Hines

    Hm … not sure why the formatting got so fudged up on this. But it explains the lack of comments. I wouldn’t want to read a big ol’ text block either.

    Sorry about that, folks.

  2. 2. Tobias Buckell

    We love you anyway, Jim! :-)

  3. 3. NewGuyDave

    Great information Jim. As an aspiring writer I have been curious about a few things including copyrights, agents, and publishers. You have covered two of them really well recently. Thanks,

  4. 4. Jim C. Hines

    Thanks, Dave! So I’m assuming I need to do a publisher post soon? Any particular questions I should try to answer? :)

Author Information

Jim C. Hines

Jim C. Hines' latest book is THE SNOW QUEEN'S SHADOW, the fourth of his fantasy adventures that retell the old fairy tales with a Charlie's Angels twist. He's also the author of the humorous GOBLIN QUEST trilogy. Jim's short fiction has appeared in more than 40 magazines and anthologies, including Realms of Fantasy, Turn the Other Chick, and Sword & Sorceress XXI. Jim lives in Michigan with his wife and two children. He's currently hard at work on LIBRIOMANCER, the first book in a new fantasy series. Visit site.

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