Writing and piracy – Stoddard pops Pogue’s balloon

Did you read David Pogue’s post about why he doesn’t release electronic versions of his books?

“Unfortunately, I’ve had terrible experiences releasing my books in electronic form. Twice in my career, ‘blind’ people e-mailed me, requesting a PDF of one of my books. Both times, I sent one over–and both times, it was all over the piracy sites within 48 hours, free for anyone to download.

I’ve got a mortgage and three kids to put through college, and it broke my heart! Unfortunately, the bad apples have once again spoiled it for everyone else.”

Now watch as Jason Stoddard pops it with the pin of pragmatism:

“When Mr. Pogue hand-wrings about revenue lost to piracy, he uses his mortgage and his kids’ college bills to justify his income stream. He doesn’t talk about the value of his work, or the time he put into it, but instead resorts to a petty and rather petulant sense of entitlement. “I worked hard to get here! I deserve this moolah!”

Well, who says? Who says anyone has any right to any kind of revenue multiplication scheme?

It’s not a story any creative worker who’s already making a good living wants to hear, but that doesn’t make it any less true. This isn’t some neo-hippie “information wants to be free” agenda either. It’s an observation, nothing more; the genie is out, and you can’t re-cork a bottle when the bottle itself has vanished.

Two choices present themselves: sit back and bitch as your business model dies around your ears, or search for a way forward. Piracy is progressive taxation; knowing as many hungry writers and musicians as I do, I feel that perhaps Mr Pogue should be proud that he’s well enough known (and his work well enough valued) that people want to pirate it.

8 thoughts on “Writing and piracy – Stoddard pops Pogue’s balloon”

  1. A typical illogical rebutting of Mr. Pogue’s argument. Mr. Stoddard talks
    about the value of work and the time put into it, then promptly dismisses
    that same value. Doesn’t this value give Mr. Pogue the right to release
    his work any way he wants to? I think that really Mr. Stoddard is just
    cheap. He wants free stuff that HE didn’t have to spend HIS hard-earned
    money on. “Revenue Multiplication”? Is that some Socialist term for profit
    ? I guess someone gives Mr. Stoddard his food and gas for free! No balloon
    was popped here. Just my ears at the lameness of Mr. Stoddard’s argument.

  2. Dumb, dumb, dumb. “Well, who says? Who says anyone has any right to any kind of revenue multiplication scheme?“ I do. I created the work. It’s mine, not yours. And if I want to profit from it, I have the moral right to do so.

    Now, what Mr. Stoddard *should* have said, if he weren’t so enamored of intellectual property theft, is that e-texts are actually good for an artist’s bottom line. They increase sales. Mr. Pogue should be happy that his work is out there, because wider knowledge of his work will lead to more people buying that work. (See: sales figures for all of us who release books online). It is counter-intuitive, but it is true.

  3. And which business model are sweatshop employees entitled to, ladies and gentlemen above?

    Rights extended to a minority, such as copyrights, are called “privilege.”

    You don’t have rights. You have privilege. And, most of you, day jobs. So long as we’ve got Disney as Disney–> infinity, I’m disinclined to be the least bit sympathetic. There is no compromise coming from the pro-copyright side, so I’m not inclined to compromise from a rigorous “copyright is theft” position.

    Books existed, shockingly, before copyright.

  4. Neal – Having just re-read Stoddard’s piece to see if I’d missed something, I can assure you that at no point does he mention wanting to get things for free. As a writer and content creator himself, why would he want to shoot himself in the foot?

    Jess – Stoddard *is* saying what you think he should say, and at no point suggests that you shouldn’t have the moral right to profit from your work. What he’s saying is that you need a new way of doing it … and as unpalatable an idea as that may be, it’s getting harder to refute by the day.

  5. Jess:
    No, you do not have the moral right to profit from your work. You have a *legal* right to *try* and do that, but that is a different thing. The legal system we have today is set up to give authors a good shot at getting some money from written works (or that’s the idea…) but it isn’t based on inherent rights, it is based on what is useful for society. And current laws do not imply universal rights.

    For the record; I, of course, don’t have a moral right to profit from my work either. None of us do. (I’d love to work with whatever I like and believe would be useful, but the reality is that I have to look for work that pays. So goodbye open source programming for a living, hello tech support!)

    I don’t have a solution either, and I wish I did. But it seems pretty clear that legislation isn’t going to stop people from exchanging bits and words with each other, now that it’s so easy. Making a moral argument from “it’s what we have now, so it is good” won’t convince a lot of people who would otherwise go to the nearest torrent site for something to read. So find a way to make a living in the world we live in today, or don’t.

  6. Wow, people *really* don’t know me, do they?

    Just to clear the record: I have built a multi-million dollar business from zero with zero investment, I am a professional science fiction author and a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. I expect nothing for free, and I understand things from the point of view of the author.

    However, we have to be serious about the royalty model–it is based entirely on a 19th-century structure of strictly controlled production and distribution. When we lose control of both, we need new models.

    And whining about your mortgage is really silly, no matter what you do.

  7. Wow. Never thought I’d see “Socialist” used to describe something Jason wrote. Dude, if you really are a closet Socialist, can I get some more vacation time?

  8. OK, Mr. Stoddard, then could you please explain what you meant by the
    sentence, “Who says anyone has any right to any kind of revenue
    multiplication scheme?” That seems like a contradictory statement coming
    from a multi-millionaire. I am seeking understanding here, not ammunition.

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