There’s a fair bit of notice being given today to a lawsuit in which a writer (Elaine Scott) is suing an online publisher (Scribd) for copyright infringement. The trend in the comments I’ve seen is to go after the writer on a number of fronts, but I’m not going to join the chorus.
If there is any single point of focus needed in the current back-and-forth about publishing it’s that an author’s copyright is law. Not old law, not antiquated law, not mushy law, not if-we-can’t-find-the-author-it’s-no-longer-law law, but law. As in it’s the law and no one else — no third party of any kind — is allowed to take away, restrict, modify or in any way lay claim to an author’s copyright without the author’s approval.
If we’re not willing to say that unambiguously, collectively and individually, then we’re not serious about writing as a profession. Because copyright law is the only thing that allows us to produce a product that can be sold. We don’t have mines full of physical ore to sell. We don’t have stands of timber we can cut down. We don’t have items that can be warehoused and protected under guard. We have intellectual property which only has value to us if the law says we have a right to control it. [ Read more ]