Monday, January 16, 2012

To SOPA or not to SOPA?

When I sub for high school kids they are often amazed when I tell them that the internet was originally designed only for the use of the military, so there was no need for security measures. Then the higher education institutions were added, leading to the recent 25th anniversary of :).
To the teenagers (all of whom are under 25 of course), the world has always included smiley faces and other icons to signify feelings. LOL. But the idea of every person who could afford to own a cell phone being able to access the world-wide-web was never envisioned in those early days. All things on the internet were free because only a select few were allowed access.

Flash forward to today and even my own sons have argued with me that anything on the internet should be free, once you pay for internet access. I have trouble thinking that the engineering-nerds who invented the web were doing it for 24-hour access to live porn, but then, who knows? Just like I have trouble believing that the eventual goal of those who invented cellphone technology was to be able to call their friends back home to discuss what kind of beer to buy based on what is on sale, while they are strolling down the beer aisle...or perhaps they were all looking forward to the day when they could send a picture of their privates to someone else who would be, of course, immediately inspired to rush over and see it in person? (Ri-ight.)

But now we have all of these technologies at our fingertips and what do we do with them? All of the knowledge of humanity is available with a click of a mouse, yet socializing sites and internet porn are the most popular sites. Sad, really. But what does all of this have to do with SOPA?

It is my belief that part of the reason that some are so adamant about their right to immediately own for free anything on the internet, is that they are still sexually-repressed people who are afraid to admit their own curiosity. So they want to watch/read about sexual scenes they can/will never experience, but they are too ashamed/embarrassed to have their names and credit card info on any site next to the titles of what they want to download...too traceable. So they troll around looking for sites that allow them to illegally download materials dealing with things they don't even like to admit to themselves that they are interested in. Why else are M/M romances one of the most frequently illegally-downloaded genres?

So I'm not sure what I think about SOPA, which is the latest government proposal to inhibit the illegal sharing of any kind of files, be they video, audio, or literary. Some say that this is a first step to government "control" of the internet, and they fear the imminent collapse of all they hold dear, like free access to hard-core porn, or their right to download movies that are still in major theaters, or to own new music without paying the artists, or to own an e-copy of a book that the author has specifically said is not to be offered electronically, but that some wise-acre laboriously scanned every page of, in order to be able to fill the empty hours of their lives with something useful to do. In fact there is even a group of people that just got government recognition of their status as a religion in Sweden, and their beliefs are that providing illegal downloading of ALL content on-line is how they worship, so they can't be discriminated by their own, or any other government, for following their beliefs. Kind of a pre-emptive step on their part.

Others, mostly those who create the content that is illegally downloaded, say that this might not be a perfect solution, but it is a beginning...that we have to start somewhere, before all authors decide they can't afford to write anymore, because they aren't making anything from all of the illegally-downloaded books they aren't getting royalties from. Some, like John Konrath, say that free file-sharing is what has made them millionaires, since folks who wouldn't have bought their books initially, read for free whatever they can find, then decide to "do the right thing" and toss the author a bone or two by buying some of the books. My kids tell me that watching shows or movies for free on-line has many times led to them buying the DVDs, for the interviews and other extra contents, as well as to support what they get so much enjoyment from.

What do you think? I'm not sure what side of the argument I support. I've never illegally downloaded anything, but none of my books have been pirated either...at least that I've been aware of. I don't make much in royalties, but there are many books competing with mine, and I don't write the current "hot" genres of M/M, menage, or vampire/shifters. I don't think I've been hurt, so I don't really have any skin in the game. And I'm not sure what I fear more: government interference, or unlimited pirate access. I'm offended that others devalue my time/efforts so much that they don't think my books are worth paying for, but I don't expect everyone to like my stuff...just don't read it then. But to want to read it, and then to steal it to do so, is not really fair to the production team including the author, that put the book together.

I put one of my books up as a free read on Smashwords a year ago, and it has had almost 5,000 downloads. Do I wish I had sold almost 5,000 copies? Sure! I'd be happy with 500...or even 50! But would people have taken a chance, even for a buck, on an author they had never heard of? Who knows? I encourage you to go download a free copy and let me know if reading it inspires you to want to buy my other books in the Reyes Romances series. Or will you do like I suspect many do, download it just because it's free, then never read it?

It is indeed an interesting time to be a writer!



Tina Donahue said...

As far as I'm concerned, anything I write isn't for free and it makes me damn mad when pirates think that they have a right to distribute my work for free - or worse - get paid to distribute it w/o giving me a dime. Recently I heard that one lunatic was actually taking ebooks and slapping her own covers (and name) on them, then selling them as her own.

She should be in jail. Anyone who does that should be doing hard time.

If internet freedom means being able to steal anyone's work as your own or to make money off of it when you had no part in the work, then that's seriously wrong.

With freedom comes responsibility. Even the First Amendment doesn't give some crazy the right to scream "Fire' in a crowded theater to see what happens - for their own entertainment, of course.

I hope the government cracks down hard on these jerks. I hope they take their bank accounts, homes (if they own one), vehicles, etc. Then they'll know what it's like to have their stuff confiscated. Bet they won't be so smug then.

Again, with freedom comes responsbility. It's time these jerks acquire some of their own.

Tim Smith said...

I totally agree. It irritates me when I hear of people sharing my books or offering them for resale, since I won't get anything from the second-hand transaction. I feel for the musicians and filmmakers who get ripped off via illegal downloads or bootlegging. There is a solution and it's what Tina said - being responsible.

Fiona McGier said...

News flash: I guess the SOPA bill has been taken off the floor, so they won't be voting on it without doing some serious tinkering.

I do agree that we deserve, as does anyone else who creates anything, to be paid for our efforts. Unfortunately, as I learned when I spent 2 years doing piece-meal work for a sewing and alterations place when I was in college, the people who don't know how to do something have absolutely NO IDEA how long it takes to do stuff, so they never want to pay you commensurate with your efforts. I fear it's going to be a long, hard battle, with the "entitled" on the one side, and those who create on the other side.

Side note: I have felt truly "ripped off" when I spent almost $4 to buy an eBook, only to find it is a novella of less than 50 pages. Now that's the kind of thing that should be selling for a buck. But so many people expect to get stuff for free, that I have no idea what is a fair price anymore.