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Michael Gerber

Publisher at The American Bystander
is Blogmom of Hey Dullblog. His novels and parodies have sold 1.25 million copies in 25 languages. He lives in Santa Monica, CA, and runs The American Bystander all-star print humor magazine.
Michael Gerber
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Latest posts by Michael Gerber (see all)

Angry Paul

“You sold me oregano!”

Folks, just a quick check-in here — earlier a commenter put up a link to a downloadable .epub of Philip Norman’s new biography of Paul McCartney. This file is almost certainly an infringement on several entities’ copyright, and I removed it as soon as I was made aware of its existence.

As someone who has lost thousands (millions?) of dollars in royalties because of exactly this kind of piracy, I take a very dim view of this type of behavior. You want a book, go buy the book. Or get it from the library. Piracy hurts authors much more than it hurts corporations. In the UK, France and Germany, where there was little use of filesharing networks among tweens in 2003-5, I did very well; in the US, where filesharing culture was much stronger, I did poorly. Every takedown notice I wrote — and I had to write them myself — was for a scan of the US version of the book, not the (much more popular) UK edition. In my case, pirates reduced the paid commercial success of my books, which discouraged my US publishers from investing in publicity, reduced my subsequent advances, and moved me from a bestselling author to a midlist one. Which proved to be the difference between my continuing to make money as an author, and not.

Re: Dullblog, couple things —

Posting stuff like this is a great way to get me to take down this site. I cannot afford any kind of legal hassle, and will always try to stay on the side of respecting artists’ copyrights. Though the doctrine of “fair use” is a flexible one, and continues to evolve in the era of the internet, posting a cracked .epub is, in my opinion, not okay.

If you choose to consume media in this way, I can’t stop you, but I can tell you that it is the single fastest way to stop the flow of professional-grade Beatle-related media. And fan-generated content — even high quality sites like Dullblog — are not a replacement for professional-grade Beatle-related media. We exist because of it.

Please don’t knowingly post stuff that infringes on peoples’ copyright. Thank you.

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4 Comments

  1. Avatar evilpants wrote:

    Mike, I know how horrible copyright law has become for people accused of violating it – I run a few small-ish websites and I’ve had DMCA* takedown notices despite a) my server being in Germany & me being in London and b) THE ARTICLES BEING COMMISSIONED BY ME AND THE COPYRIGHT BEING OWNED BY ME (as agreed). Sorry for the block caps. The DMCA takedown notices were fired at me, Google, Bing etc. because the author had changed his politics and was embarrassed about what he used to argue, so he went round the entire internet demanding all his previous works were taken down. Sadly, I lost the ‘appeal’ against most search engines – all the emails between us showing copyright agreement didn’t move them. But I have proudly republished the work, and will do so regularly until the end of time.

    I have complex feelings about the whole piracy issue (I suspect you and I would agree on the issue), and I’m sure you really want this thread to turn into a heated discussion of the subject.

    So let me try to dial it back by saying, I’ve got total sympathy for your position – I wonder if your legal back would be covered slightly more by making this post a menu item and adding it as a sub-menu of “Who Am We?”, so when someone hovers over that, they see the menu drop down (perhaps change the title to something more obvious, like ‘Piracy Policy’).

    I don’t know US law enough to know if this could cover you a bit more, but it would show good faith, it would show that you have a public policy that is easy to find – if anyone ever came to you to say “you allow this stuff to happen”, evidence that you’ve deleted such posts (screenshots etc.) plus a clearly visible piracy policy might help.

    I know you’re not saying it’s only the legal hassle that would make you take the site down – it’s about your relationship to your readers, your experience, the law, morality, politics and so on, as well as the potentially huge legal consequences. I’m just looking it from a technical point of view.

    (*For those who don’t know – and why should anyone know, this is really actually quite obscure – DMCA, Digital Millenium Copyright Act, is an awful awful law in the US, pretty much written by the entertainment industry, which allows anyone who claims to own copyright to fire off a notice demanding that you remove their alleged content, and you have almost no grounds to refuse – they do so even if you are claiming ‘fair use’, and you have to fight hard against it just to keep your 10-second clip online. So, people who have posted reviews of products have had them taken down by YouTube because the product owner didn’t like the review and claimed that the use of music/images infringes their copyright; wedding videos have been removed for containing background music – every time you see the black screen on YouTube instead of the video you wanted, it’s the result of a DMCA takedown notice. Sadly, Apple and EMI (or whatever it’s called now) use DMCA fiercely and regularly, but won’t issue the stuff we want to see. And, as I said above, someone simply saying “I wrote it, it’s mine” was able to get an entire archive removed from Google, despite not owning the copyright. It’s a terrible law, and similar laws are being implemented pretty much globally by countries in thrall to corporate lobbyists.)

    • @evilpants, that’s a good idea. I’ll put a link to this post in the “Who Am We?”, for what it’s worth — but I think we’ve done a pretty good job so far at establishing the intent of the site.

  2. Avatar Rob Geurtsen wrote:

    I fully agree with you, Michael. Not paying for downloads os a ƒ@#@$ shame, and whatever any opinions on any law, ‘dear evil pants’, doesn’t make that any different.

  3. Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

    There are many good legal reasons to avoid hosting or posting pirated material, as Mike and evilpants have pointed out. If this blog is to continue we just can’t do that kind of thing.

    To me the ethical issues Mike indicates are just as serious–in some respects, more serious. Creators of work deserve to be paid for it, period. Moral assessment of the creator’s motives doesn’t enter into the equation, IMO. Stealing is wrong, even if you only steal from what you consider “bad” people. Every time we steal from someone it gets easier to do it the next time, and we’re making ourselves into people who steal.

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