Science Fiction Writers of America abuses the DMCA

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280 Responses to “Science Fiction Writers of America abuses the DMCA”

  1. Scalzi says:

    Theodore Tso:

    I know (because I ran across it — I think in the discussion resulting form your write-in candidate campaign) that I am not the first person to propose that the private nature of the forum might be responsible for the, ah, immature debating style.

    I doubt it’s responsible; it’s possible it makes it easier to continue. That said, one can point to lots of perfectly public message boards that are equally filled with a likewise immature debating style.

    Mind you, I have no opposition whatsoever to SFWA opening up the majority of its board to public view (if not public comment). It’s just not going to happen.

  2. MiltonThales says:

    This is an e-mail received about 30 minutes ago.

    From: Jared Friedman
    To: (e-mail redacted)
    Subject: Re: New scribd feedback
    Date: Sep 5, 2007 4:35 PM

    Dear Mr. Thales,
    I am writing in response to the group which you created on Scribd
    to highlight potential copyright violations. First, I would like to
    applaud your concern for copyright holders. Contrary to what you may
    believe, all of us at Scribd are strong supporters of copyright and do
    not wish to see infringing material on Scribd.

    I thought that your group was a very clever way of reporting
    documents as potential violations. We never expected our groups
    feature to be used in that way! After some internal discussion,
    however, we’ve come to the conclusion that while reporting infringing
    material through groups is clever, it is not the best way to do this
    reporting.

    The problem with using groups to report copyright violations is that
    it allows any user to remove a huge number of documents from Scribd
    with only a few mouse clicks, for any reason. Scribd does not have
    the time or ability to determine whether documents are infringing, so
    if we used a copyright group to determine this, we would need to
    simply remove every document added to the group. This gives users an
    enormous amount of power. For example, it would not take long at all
    for some joker to add every document on Scribd to the copyright
    violation group. What would we do then?

    It is for this reason that Scribd has a user flagging system. The
    way the user flagging system works is simple. When a document has
    been flagged as a violation 3 times, it is removed. The author is
    contacted and asked to file a counter-notification if they do own the
    rights to the document. I like to think that this system strikes the
    right balance, by giving users the power to help us police the site
    without allowing any one user to abuse our process.

    As a gesture of goodwill, we have removed all the documents added to
    the copyright violation group. I have since been contacted by users
    who asserted that some of the documents which were in the group were
    their intellectual property and were not infringing. In the future,
    we will not be allowing groups whose sole purpose is to highlight
    potential copyright violations on Scribd, as the potential for abuse
    of such a system is simply too great.

    If in the future you would like to help remove potentially
    infringing material from Scribd using our user-flagging system, such
    assistance would be greatly appreciated. My thanks for your time and
    interest in Scribd.

    Sincerely,
    Jared Friedman
    President, Scribd

    On 9/4/07, no-reply@scribd.com wrote:
    > New feedback from (name withheld!)
    >
    >
    > Scribd username: MiltonThales
    > Profile: http://www.scribd.com/people/view/87048
    >
    >
    > Message:
    > I created a group entitled “Copyright Violations”. I encourage you
    to review the documents and eliminate any that you do not have permission to publish.
    >

    The beauty of software — people use it in ways the programmers do no anticipate.

    I have created a private group on Scribd and invited my previous contacts to join.
    I will add documents that I find objectionable to the group, and then flag them as
    “Other TOS violations” using Scribd’s system. Then, if the other users in group agree,
    the group will allow us to see if the documents disappear. Pretty tedious, though.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yet, I still don’t understand. Why is it right for this site to have posted so many works in violation of copyright to end up demanding that this sort of “pull down” message was necessary at all?

    NB: Doctorow has the right to post his own copyrighted material (or CC-licensed material), but does the site have the right to post Azimov’s, Silverburg’s, Heinlein’s, Pournelle’s work without permission?

  4. Bob W. says:

    I think you know that I’ve felt this way for a long time, Teresa, but once again you have proven that you are made of teh awesome!

  5. Anonymous says:

    It’s sad, but I think that the DCMA, RIAA, MPAA and other copyright abusers, and banging-over-the-customers-heads thing is going to finally come to an end.

    Copyright holders are so gun-ho about protecting they’re copyrights, they don’t give a flying page about everyone’s fair use, or like yours. Its’ ‘This is my football, so if you want to use it, you’ll make me quarterback/captain’

    Funny how that doesn’t last long in the playground.

    It’s also got an interesting irony to this. The more bullpucky you spread around the more the smell attracts vermin…or in our case, it attracts fans. I’m now reading YOUR works, and that’s the first time I ever read or even heard of Scrib.

    Happens everytime. When will people learn.

    When the idiot CEOs are out of office, and the generation of today get into power probably.

    - Kevin C. Redden
    40+ year SF reader.

  6. Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers says:

    Lance Weber #49

    Maybe I’m missing it, but I don’t see any acknowledgement that he did know in advance. He’s not distancing himself from it (yet), though he admits it was a mistake in at least one case. I suspect he’s leaving himself room for plausible deniability if he needs to retract all the notices and say they were a bad idea.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Is there no difference between the following cases?

    1. Author A pays ISP B for web-space to post Author A’s own works. Complainer C asks B to take down A’s site.

    2. Pirate P pays ISP B for web-space to post, without authority, the copyrighted works of all and sundry. Author A asks B to take down the pirated copies of A’s works.

    3. Pirate-friendly site proprietor F pays ISP B for web-space, in which F runs a service on which anyone may post anything without paying anyone, and from which F derives revenue by selling advertising. Pirates P1, P2, … post myriad unauthorized copies of many authors’ works. Author A asks F to take down the pirated copies of A’s works that P97 posted.

    Maybe I just don’t understand, but it seems to me that the DMCA take-down procedure is intended to protect B, not F. B took F’s money to provide web-space, so B has an obligation to provide it, unless there is some other overriding obligation. There’s no corresponding obligation on the part of F to continue providing web-space to P97.

    It’s sort of the difference between (a) the rental-car company that rents a car to someone with a valid driver’s license and credit card, who then uses the car in a bank robbery, and (b) the individual who leaves his car unlocked, with the engine running, in the vacant lot where the Crips hang out, and then the Crips take it and use it in a drive-by shooting.

  8. Wil Wheaton says:

    So SFWA has ripped a page from the book of the RIAA and MPAA, and tried to follow in their footsteps.

    Brilliant. And by “brilliant,” I mean idiots.

    This never would have happened if John Scalzi were president.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Jordan Lapp:

    I’m a new author that published a story in Raygun Revival. The magazine is small press and pays $10 a story (which I donated back to the mag). The primary reason I wrote the story was to get my name out there, which makes it kind of depressing to read this. Fewer people will be reading my work.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Re: #96 posted by GRASSHOPPER
    I find your analogy false. Stealing a car is more akin to the theft of the sole manuscript of a book. Copyright infringement is more like borrowing the car and bringing it back with an empty gas tank. Not right, but not in the same league.

  11. mkhobson says:

    From SFWA President Michael Capobianco’s draft statement:

    “Despite what may have been said or implied, SFWA did not send DMCA takedown notices for the works that were removed from scribd.com. There are certain procedures involved in filing a DMCA notice, and the communication between SFWA and scribd.com did not fulfill any of them. The owner of scribd.com took those works down on his own responsibility as owner of the website and his claim that he did so because of a DMCA notice from SFWA was in error.”

    Yep. Basically saying, “Aw, gee! If those boneheads at Scribd misread the line in VP Burt’s email where he said that this wasn’t idle musing, but a DCMA takedown notice, that’s their problem.”

    Furious!!!

  12. Johne Cook says:

    #230 – In the spirit of the US Open, I believe that is game, set, and match!

  13. Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little says:

    Anonymous 211, I know this is going to sound like a naive question, but are you sure these works are hosted there without permission from the authors? Playing “gotcha” is fun, but it’s best when the “gotcha” is informed. Other than Spider Robinson’s Torcon toastmaster speech, I’m not sure which works you’re referring to. Surely you’re not talking about the password-protected database of manuscripts authors have submitted for peer critique?

  14. Laurie Mann says:

    Teresa Nielsen Hayden:


    3. The rest of the internet observes that Andrew Burt hasn’t apologized and fallen on his sword, and Michael Capobianco hasn’t ordered him to resign. They have concluded that SFWA approves the DMCA and the takedown order.

    I think some of us observe that individual SFWA officers seem to have more unfettered latitude in their actions in the name of SFWA than we expected.

  15. MiltonThales says:

    Bob W.: ‘It’s impossible to allow “reading” without allowing “downloading.’

    And a person can borrow a book from a library, take it to Fedex Kinko’s, and make themselves a copy !

    The Scribd site lets any uploaded document to be downloaded with a single click. They also use some kind of viewer. If the single click is turned off, and if any text selection is cancelled if the view changes, then at least a reader would have to copy the document view by view, like going to Fedex Kinko’s.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Once again, a salient, compelling response to the childish “mine, mine, mine” that characterizes copyright abuse. There are many members of the creative community that feel exactly as you do, but lack either the specific grounds or the courage to be so vocal. Please don’t stop speaking out.

    Fortunately, ethical irresponsibility has a way of coming around to bite you in the ass. It’s only a matter of time until abusers get countersued into oblivion.

  17. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Theodore Tso, those are good and thoughtful comments.

    John Scalzi, I don’t usually counsel people to ignore fuggheads, but that one’s just a vexation to the spirit, and his conversation’s about as meaningful as a low-fi AM radio in an echo chamber.

    Somebody want to tell Braxton S. Cook that censorship is what governments do? What I’m doing here is called moderation. These are Boing Boing’s comment threads, not the private SFWA forum on SFF Net. If he wants to post here, he can damned well mind his manners.

  18. Bob W. says:

    Theodore Tso (196):

    In fact, it’s no easier to forge e-mail than to send fraudulent paper mail on unauthorized letterhead, so this isn’t really a new problem. Furthermore, I can assure you that material is taken down and end users are restricted from Internet access every day based on e-mail for which no electronic signatures have been verified and no contact has been made with purported senders. These things are done with the knowledge and advice of legal counsel.

    It may be the case that Americans will sue at the drop of a bit, it seems unimaginable to my legally uneducated mind that a web site owner could be sued for ceasing providing resources to distribute somebody’s written material unless they had contracted to distribute it and breached that contract by no longer doing so. If that were truly an issue, this site would be vulnerable to suit for every comment it didn’t publish, wouldn’t it?

  19. Scalzi says:

    Anonymous@211:

    There is a difference between having copyrighted works on one’s site, and having them up without permission. I have my disagreements with Andrew Burt, but I would be careful about implying he’s violating other people’s copyrights on the Critters site without proof.

  20. MiltonThales says:

    It seems Scribd is very sensitive to suggestions of copyright infringement. The group I created as a user on Scribd, “Copyright Violations” is GONE. No notice, no explanation. JUST GONE.

    Maybe they were afraid they’d have to notice that some material was infringing, and then they’d have to do something about that.

    In any event, their protestations to the contrary, they have no integrity, and no respect for author’s rights.

  21. Laurie Mann says:

    #36 John, that’s so rational!

    The report of Michael Capobianco’s response, that the “takedown” was the FAULT of scribd.com (in response to a threatening message from Andrew Burt) is bizarre. Has he been watching too much Fox TV lately? If you get a threatening letter from an organization, you just might overreact to it!

  22. Scalzi says:

    Carol Hennepin @ 188:

    My comment was a follow-on to a principal of Scribd stating in this thread that they “bend over backward” to accommodate authors even without a formal DMCA note; my own personal experience with them did not bear that out.

    Now, as I said, since I didn’t send them a formal DMCA note, I didn’t get my feathers all ruffled (i.e., I recognize perfectly well that from a legal point of view they could ignore me). At the same time I thought it worth noting that in my experience, Scribd didn’t live up to its own stated position.

    I will note that apparently after I posted my commentary on my site, my works were taken down off Scribd, when the account of the fellow who uploaded my work (and apparently the work of a few hundred others) had his account suspended. I don’t know if one was the cause of the other, but I am naturally delighted to see Scribd take some action in this regard.

  23. Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little says:

    Jeez, Scalzi, at this rate I’ll owe you a 12-pack!

  24. Johne Cook says:

    #103 – Exactly right. I dealt with Jason, in charge of Community Development, and he responded to me and then bumped my concern straight to Jared, the Scribd President. The Scribd guys were very cooperative, very responsive, and a real pleasure to work with.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Post #178: If he wants to post here, he can damned well mind his manners.

    In other words, agree with the moderator.

  26. Drew Thaler says:

    @92: I know, which is why the qualifiers of “if this is allowed to continue”. The SFWA executives ultimately have to answer to the rank-and-file members. Any and all writers who are members really need to make it clear that they won’t stand for this.

    You can give your consent to this kind of stuff in two ways: actively, with your vote; or passively, by not acting at all.

    I’m quite honestly horrified at the thought that this might continue… but I have hope that sanity will ultimately prevail. Still, like any good pessimist who’s lived through the Bush administration, I’m forming back-up plans in my head. (There have been an awful lot of good authors coming out of the UK lately…)

  27. Anonymous says:

    Drvs Slghtr (#154): “LL bt “nnyms” n #152 s ndrw Brt :-D”

    My nm s Brxtn Ck, f y mst knw. ‘m nt shmd t stnd p fr th thrs trly hrmd hr nd vn th SFW. m nt wrtr bt hv bn hg fn f scnc fctn nd fntsy fr mst f my lf. hv bn hrrfd by wht hs ccrrd hr. t frst, t ws lk wtchng yr grndprnts rg. dmr ppl n bth sds f ths ss. s thght bt t thgh, cm t ndrstnd tht lt f ths drdng Dr. Brt nd SFW wr th ns wh std t gn frm th ntrty gnrtd by ths “scndl.” Scrbd s fgnng njry t tk th fcs ff f thr ctvts vr th pst fw mnths n ctvly fclttng cpyrght vltns by mkng t vry dffclt fr lgtmt cpyrght hldrs t gt wrks rmvd frm th st. Cry Dctrw nd thrs r fgnng njry t gn ntrty t prmt thr wrks. Ths wntng t dwnld ny cpyrghtd wrk fr fr r fgnng njry bcs f SFW sccds thy wn’t b bl t gt nythng thy wnt fr fr.

    Lst n ll f ths r ths thrs whs wrks wr llglly pstd t Scrbd, prtctd by th nrs rqrmnts Scrbd mpsd n rdr t gt thm tkn dwn, nd wh lst MNTHS f ptntl ncm s rslt. gr tht Cry Dctrw hs th rght t frly shr hs wrks nywhr h lks. Th ppst ds nt sm t b th cs fr ths wh dn’t wnt t frly shr wht thy wn.

    Scrbd shld rqr pstrs t prv thy wn th cpyrght t mtrl thy r pstng, nt rqr wnrs t srch th ntr st fr ny nstnc f cpyrght vltn nd thn prcd wth rthr lngthy nd cstly prcss t nsr tht ll f th DMC rqrmnts r mt n rdr t gt thm tkn dwn. “Prv y wn t bfr w pst t,” shld b Scrbd plcy. thrws, cpyrght wnrs wll nd stff tht scrs th nt lkng fr llgl cps nd nthr stff f lwyrs drftng p DMC ntcs n rdr t gt thm tkn dwn. Tht Scrbd s dfndng thr mthds sng th FF lrdy tlls m thy hv n plns t chng th wy thy d bsnss. T prtct th rghts f thrs wh dn’t wnt t shr thr mtrl n ths st, t shld b tkn dwn.

    ll f ths s jst my pnn. Tk t t fc vl. Sm wll strngly dsgr nd thrs my b prsdd t chng thr pnn. ‘m jst tryng t pnt t tht nt ll fns wnt t stl th wrks f thrs nd tht , fr n, spprt n thr’s rght t chllng Scrbd whn t pts th ntrsts f ts mmbrs vr th lgl rghts f th wnrs f th mtrl pstd n thr st.

    Dd SFW rr? Sr, dn’t thnk vn Dr. Brt wld cntnd h dd nt mk mstk n nt flly vttng th lst. Hw mny f y hv nt md mstk? Hs mstk n n wy xcss th grgs hrm Scrbd nd ts mmbrs dd t lgtmt thrs wh jst wnt t cntrl wht thy wn. f crs, MNTHS f hrm s th rslt f thsnds f cpyrght vltns n n wy cmpr t th fw dys f dwntm sffrd by Cry Dctrw, wh ftr ll, s th trly njrd n hr, rght?

  28. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Bill Clardy:

    As to what Dr. Pournelle does or does not know to be true, I have learned to avoid as much as possible making any presumptions about other folks knowledge of what is and isn’t true.

    You may make or avoid assumptions as you prefer (though I would have judged you to be fairly fond of them), but that doesn’t mean the question is formally unanswerable.

    If you (that’s the impersonal for-example you) are (1.) reading threaded messages on a forum, and (2.) in them, you’re repeatedly given information by your professional peers and colleagues, and corrected on your errors of fact, and (3.) you’ve been participating in the discussion for the entire life of the thread, and (4.) you’ve specifically responded to many of those messages, including the ones in which you’re given information and/or corrected on your errors of fact, and (5.) you have no reason to disbelieve your professional colleagues, and (6.) you likewise have no reason to doubt that they know what they’re talking about, and (7.) the things they’re saying are logical and consistent, and reasonably in agreement from person to person, and (8.) while otherwise arguing freely, you’ve offered little or no contradictory information or statements of fact in response to theirs, then you can fairly be said to know the facts they’re telling you. And if you subsequently disregard that information because it impedes the argument you’re making, then you may fairly be described as showing no regard for the truth.

    Braxton, thank you for the thoughtfulness of your argument. I will, I’m afraid, offer one outright contradiction: Cory didn’t sound shrill. He sounded angry.

    Onward.

    Given the amount of unwarranted and acrimonious crap various SFWAns have thrown at Cory, and the slurs some of them have cast on his honesty and motivations, it’s odd to think of SFWA feeling miffy and slighted because Cory didn’t express enough personal concern about their welfare.

    And indeed, why should he? Nothing he did or said diminished their ability to defend their copyrights. His objection was to SFWA sending bogus takedown notices on works that didn’t infringe copyright law, and/or whose authors hadn’t empowered SFWA to act as their representative. That had no effect whatsoever on legitimate takedown notices.

    I don’t for a moment deny that some person or persons in SFWA might be feeling touchy about it just the same. I’m not sure a subject exists of which I’d confidently say that no one in SFWA feels touchy about it. You’ll probably have noticed that yourself.

    Todd, there can’t be publication without responsibility. What saves sites like Scribd isn’t the difficulty of keeping track of their volume; it’s the law’s reluctance to go after small-scale offenses, and the sites’ lack of resistance when challenged.

    I believe that various SFWAns have proposed to crossbreed automated search capabilities with a database of copyrighted works by SFWAns who want unlicensed e-texts taken down. That strikes me as a better way to get the job done.

    It still shouldn’t fall to the author, SFWA, or the author’s agent to monitor for abuses. IMO, text sites ought to build a shared database of titles of texts that have been pirated, their normal length and/or file size, who owns them, who represents the owners, and one or two distinctive character strings per work. It’d be like the shared lists of known spam addresses.

    I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for text sites to do it.

  29. Braxton says:

    Re: Bob W. #245

    Thanks for the kind words, Bob. I usually try to look at issues from all of the sides, not just the one in the article. I will even go so far as to dig out the sources referenced in an article just so I can see if the reporter has slanted the facts from them in any way. I am still unsure why this particular issue turned me into a raging madman. Perhaps it was old age. I am 53 today. Perhaps it was the attacks on Jerry, a writer at the very top of my heroes list. Perhaps it was the vehemence of those arguing for Cory and the others wronged by this ill-conceived list. I can only say I got angry and it is very hard to argue cogently when one is angry. That was the first rule they taught me when I joined the debate team in High School back in 1969.

    You said, “I mean, he could have just been mad and shooting his mouth off, like other people in the argument. His intent does not have to have been to inflame the issue.

    Oh, most definitely! A lot of things were said, as my son’s acting coach would say, “With deep emotion!” I don’t have a problem forgiving him that – today. Friday, I was angry and seeing things very much in black and white. I assumed since I would not have used fraud if I had been so wronged, that he would not either. I seem to have forgotten the true meaning of the word assume. I was definitely one this past weekend.

    You also said, “One other point is that Cory Doctorow did in fact state how he felt this action was harmful to him, that it undid his work to encourage taking the Creative Commons license seriously as an alternative to copyright, work he felt he’d put significant effort into and a goal he believes in strongly and sincerely.

    I cannot dispute the truth of that. I’m not sure being ideologically harmed is the same as being materially harmed, however. I’m not saying a good lawyer could not make a case for it, I’m just not sure if there were material damages here. I would think he would have to prove that the loss of having the item posted on Scribd cost him money. I will agree he was wronged by the loss. Even if it could be proved that he lost money, I think fraud also requires intent to defraud, something not evident here. Again, I’m not a lawyer, so take it as my reasoning for why I assumed what I did, not as legal advice.

  30. Anonymous says:

    If the DMCA letter overreaches and removes innocent authors as well, all they have done is taken out the competition.

    Interesting little perk, eh?

  31. Theodore Tso says:

    #155: I have no access to the internal closed lists of the SFWA, but I did several hours researching most of the posts available on the internet, including the SFWA LJ posts, individuals’ blog entries, including those from folks like Jerry Pournelle, the posting from Michael Capobianco right after he took office mentioning about how due to a whole rash of resignations, there was virtually no continuity in the board, etc., and I had come to substantially the conclusion as yours — with one exception. With respect to your #1, Dr. Andrew Burt is a professor in Computer Science at the University of Denver (see his web page), so it’s rather hard to credit that he didn’t have the expertise in computer science to understand that he had made in effect a rookie mistake. I don’t know how to explain this discrepancy in what happened with his claimed credentials and position at the University of Denver, but it is…. surprising.

    For myself, perhaps it would be good to introduce myself, since I am not a science fiction author; I write code, not stories. I was the first North American Linux Kernel Developer, and this past year, I was awarded the 2006 Award for the Advancement of Free Software from the Free Software Foundation. I also have served or am serving on the boards of Usenix, Free Standards Group, and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, so I have some experience with being on the leadership team of large and small non-profits.

    It is very interesting to compare the inital reaction of “professional computer programmers” to the idea of Free and Open Source Software, at least at first, with the reaction of at least some of the members of SFWA, including Jerry Pournelle, and the past and current VP of that organization. It was indeed very similar; we had people claiming that we were destroying the ability for programmers to get work, since we were (horrors!) creating really great software making making legally available for anyone to download it off of the network and use it free of charge. (Even worse, Open Source Software allows people to make derivitive works and take the code in different directions — the moral equivalent of joyfully allowing and encouraging fanfic!)

    And yet. Open Source Software has been a major success, with companies such as IBM signing on and investing over 2 billion dollars on Linux and Open Source Software. The business models are different from traditional propietary closed source software; you can’t just blindly rely on copyright law to force people to pay to be able to use software, but there have indeed been business models that apply.

    This isn’t the place to go into what all of those business models of Open Source Software, and I’m sure they will be different in the writing world. But, I want to tell you to “Fear not!”; there will be other models, and even if there are plenty of free eBooks around, I will still pay for dead tree copies — in fact, I can and have done more, and I’ll get to that in a moment.

    For my entire professional career, in Computer Science, I have worked on Free and/or Open Source Software. And I am paid well for this, as well; I now earn a very comfortable six figure salary in the US, and yet all of the software I have ever written is available for download on the Internet, and people can do anything they want with it (excepting that in the case of the GPL’ed work, any and all derivitive works must also be freely available for anyone to use).

    Because of I have well blessed in that I am paid handsomely to do what I love, and the fruits of my labors are given away for all to share, I believe that I can and should be a patron of the arts. And so I have written thousand dollar checks so that folk singer (
    Heather Alexander
    ) could put some of her out-of-print CD’s back into print, and to help fund a SFWA member to self-publish a book that was turned down by a publisher as not being likely to make enough money to be worth their while. (I was the “mystery e-mailer”, later revealed, who made the offer described here. )

    So I believe in putting my money where my mouth is, and I am a strong believer in giving back and in trying to help the ‘net be a way that we can have the same kind of Patron of the Arts that supported Mozart, and Bach, and Beethoven (and by the way, back then it was considered perfectly OK and an homage for someone like Bach to copy by hand the music of someone he admired, and reorchestrate someone else’s music for a different set of instruments without paying any payments to the original composer), except in a much more democratic way; instead of one super-rich patron from the nobility, why not have a large number of fans send money directly to the artists they love? And I wasn’t the only one who sent $1000 of challenge grant money for The Big Meow project; as I recall, two others also contributed $1000 and $600 for challenge grants, and all of the challenge grant money was matched by smaller donation from fans of the series, who wanted to read the third book of a trilogy which had been rejected by a traditional dead-tree publisher! (So I am not an anomaly; I was very glad to see that others stepped up to write challenge grant checks, and many, many others stepped up with donations to match those challenge grants.)

    The sad thing to me, is that I had this naive belief that most science fiction writers, if they weren’t quite as optimistic as Gene Roddenbury’s “In the 24th century we have progressed beyond the need of money and material greed,” would at least be open to the idea that there might be other ways for creative people (and I include myself as a computer programmer in that category) to make a living. To find that some of the people that I admired and read when I was in high school to be seemingly ossified in the only way that writers can make a living was disappointing, to say the least.

    Finally, one final thing that I would add is that perhaps not all science fiction authors understand exactly how much of a big red button the DMCA is for many of their fans, either of my generation (and I’m about to turn 40) and especially those that are younger. For those people, the DMCA has been misused so badly by the RIAA, who have been using scorched earth tactics that involved making the life of
    single mothers who have since been found innocent by the courts
    a living hell. For this reason, use of the DMCA is equivalent to setting off a tactical nuke. Rightly or wrongly, using such a blunt instrument has to be done extremely carefully, and like a demon, even mentioning its name can summon up repercussions quite terrible and unexpected.

    The fact there are science fiction authors who don’t understand this is both surprising and said, and this fundamental misunderstanding in the feelings and preferences of a substantial part of their audience might be another reason why younger people aren’t reading traditional science fiction. Ya think?

  32. Bob W. says:

    Anonymous (or nnms)@178: Don’t worry, first you’d have to wrt something wrth stlng before nybdy wld bthr cpyng t.

    I mean, the point of the complaints raised by SFWA’s agents was that work that had been found worth paying to read had been made available for free. It’s not exactly relevant if you take your floppy bat and your off-round ball and go home: honestly, nobody minds if you perfect your writerly craft on your own or with the help of people who know in real life, the old-fashioned way.

    Oh, and I think the phrase you want to put in SFWA’s mouth is, “Nt n th fc! Nt n th fc!” It’s probably about equally wrong, but more entertaining — as with all fiction, the stuff you make up about this should be entertaining.

  33. January says:

    Charming. What a very forward thinking man indeed.

    Incidentally, the link to the follow up email points to the first notice. I think it should be going here: http://craphound.com/sfwa-scribd-takedown2.txt

  34. Scalzi says:

    MKHobson:

    It’s not fair to air a draft version of a statement posted in a private area to the public. There may be a revision before the official release. Give Capobianco some breathing room to get it right.

  35. Anonymous says:

    I don’t agree with the action, but I’d like to defend Andrew Burt…if this is the same guy who runs Critters. By building and maintaining that free critiquing website, I think he’s earned enough Whuffie to cover a few screw-ups.

    Keyan

  36. Scraps says:

    Capobianco has managed to top Burt for contemptibility. That is the kind of disingenuousness that you know the author is completely aware of, and is only hoping to fool people coming late to the issue. Shame on him.

  37. shedside says:

    Since this is not the case, SFWA has exposed itself to tremendous legal liability.

    Including from you. Just say if you need to hold a whipround.

  38. Calvin Lawson says:

    This is quintessential Doctorow, I love it! Synchronicity, as I don’t see any direct correlation between being a copyfighter and a scifi writer.

    I’m interested to see where this will go.

    PS: I love comments! Don’t know about the new font, though.

  39. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Sorry, Anonymous #179, but you must have the brains of a snowpea if you think he got disemvowelled for his ideational content.

  40. jphilby says:

    No doubt the dumb-ass pinheads that wrote the DMCA get a big chuckle out of all the consternation they’ve created with their retarded screed.

    How many more years of tempests in a bathroom (and other decloseting media) will it take to get some intelligence back in D.C.?

  41. Anonymous says:

    Many hundreds of copyrighted texts have been put online at these sites, and the number is growing quickly.

    Indeed, practically all are copyrighted, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be copied (ala Creative Commons). Maybe this guy doesn’t really get it.

    In my opinion he is a criminal. I think he should be held personally responsible. The list of laws he appears to have broken is actually very long and this could ruin either him or the organization or both. Unfair trade practices, interfering with interstate commerce, perjury and racketeering is even a possibility here.

    It looks like he has caused damage to people and I don’t think this damage can be remedied with an I’m sorry letter.

  42. Todd Knarr says:

    Bob W.: remember that one of the reasons Scribd and other sites don’t actively scan for problematic content is because over the years copyright holders have used exactly that active scanning to justify holding the sites fully liable for anything they miss. And they will miss, it’s simply impossible to catch everything unless you refuse to post anything at all until it’s been vetted. Talk to Teresa Nielsen Hayden here about the size of job she’s got doing just that, then scale it up by a couple of orders of magnitude and you’ve got an idea what’s involved. I saw this develop over the last 20 years and always sighed at the copyright owners’ refusal to allow any leeway in policing content, because there’s no way to get perfection and when the cost of failing to be perfect is penalties that’ll drive you out of business no sane business will take the risk. They all retreated to the safe-harbor provisions, and I don’t blame them.

  43. Johne Cook says:

    Michael Capobianco has published a statement about where SFWA is today with regard to authors creative rights.
    http://sfwa.org/news/2007/creativerights.htm

    The thing that jumps out to me is this:

    We’re at a tipping point. Who will own and profit from the content that drives the brave new digital world to come? Will it be corporations like Google, which is already showing its hand, making agreements with publishers and libraries that deny authors the right to choose? Will it be scribd.com and its ilk?

    I don’t believe the Google initiative is bad. I think obscurity is worse than visibility, and I don’t see what Google is doing as piracy.

    I’m not sure how to take the sneer aimed at Scribd. No need to get snippy because your veep went and made a high profile mess that messed up your Labor Day weekend.

    John Scalzi is still backing Capobianco, for now:
    http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/2007/09/michael_capobianco_on_creative.html

    In case you’re wondering, I think it’s a quite reasonable statement, and I think Mr. Capobianco’s done a good job navigating through this blow-up, and the various political messes it’s scared up inside and outside of SFWA.

  44. Anonymous says:

    Sue them. Do it!

  45. Scraps says:

    Taking Scalzi’s admonition that this is merely a draft statement under advisement, it is still ludicrous for SFWA to even consider blaming Scribd for knuckling under to SFWA’s clearly deliberate use of the DMCA to intimidate.

  46. Anonymous says:

    If folks can withhold their horrified objections long enough, this really isn’t a case of the end of civilization, as we know it.

    This discussion that led to the take downs is obviously a discussion that had been continuing, and we don’t have access to the initial emails.

    The person is an officer of SFWA but did not follow Scribd’s own FAQ explaining what Scribd had to be notified of in order for this takedown to occur. From Scribd:

    “If you are a copyright owner or an agent thereof, and you believe that any content hosted on our web site (www.scribd.com) infringes your copyrights, then you may submit a notification pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) by providing Scribd’s Designated Copyright Agent with the following information in writing (please consult your legal counsel or see 17 U.S.C. Section 512(c)(3) to confirm these requirements):

    1. A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

    2. Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works on the Scribd web site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works at that site.

    3. Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit Scribd to locate the material. Providing URLs in the body of an email is the best way to help us locate content quickly.

    4. Information reasonably sufficient to permit Scribd to contact the complaining party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address at which the complaining party may be contacted.

    5. A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.

    6. A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.”

    Forget law, any reasoning, intelligent person would look at the email, compare it these guidelines, and would respond with a brief email saying something along the lines of “…A DMCA notice must follow specific protocols and include specific wordings, including sworn testimony under penalty of perjury that you are the agent for or direct owner of the copyrighted material”

    If I were SFWA, I would strongly suggest that it consider replacing the VP. What an incredibly foolish thing to have done — but I sure would have liked to see the emails leading up to this discussion.

    Frankly, this seems more a publicity stunt then a ‘threat’ against liberty, as we know it.

    Shelley

  47. stevew says:

    As of Fri Aug 31 13:49:05 MDT 2007 Cory’s “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” is still there http://www.scribd.com/doc/257318/Down-and-Out-in-the-Magic-Kingdom-by-Cory-Doctorow

    Or was it put back up?

  48. Anonymous says:

    Charlie Stross: “(Rule #1 of working in any creative field in the 21st century should be: Your Fans Are Not The Enemy.)”

    Nothing to add, I just wanted to quote it because it’s worth seeing again.

    Steven Brust

  49. Anonymous says:

    Registration didn’t work for me (email never arrived). I’m Chris Brand.

    I think comment #154 almost hit on the key here :

    Who owns the material in question – Scribd or the author?

    The answer, of course, is that it could be anybody except Scribd, pretty much.

    It could be that an author is posting their own material, a reviewer is posting their own material that contains unauthorized (but legal) fair use of somebody else’s work, a public domain work is being posted, somebody is posting another author’s work with permission (perhaps because of a CC license), or that somebody is posting somebody else’s work without permission. How is the site in question supposed to know ? The only thing they know is that the material isn’t theirs.

    So then let’s suppose they get told that something has been posted on the site without permission. This could be a legitimate complaint by the rightsholder, it could be a legitimate complaint by the rightsholder’s agent, it could be a mistake, it could be an attempt to get rid of an unfavorable review or other unfavorable commentary, it could be an attempt to get rid of a competitor’s work, or just a malicious attempt to extract revenge on somebody for some reason. Again, how is the site supposed to know ?

    That’s (arguably) why the DMCA was created. It allows the site to take a notification with certain properties at its word, take down the cited material and know that they can’t be sued for doing so. If they take something down without a valid DMCA notice, they can be sued. If they don’t take something down after receiving a valid DMCA notice, they can be sued. If they don’t follow the “put it back up” procedures, they can be sued. Not a very nice position to be in :-)

    The sad thing about the DMCA is that it assumes that DMCA notices will usually be legitimate and correct. Perhaps they are. Either way, it adopts a “guilty until proven innocent” attitude where the takedown happens as soon as somebody *claims* copyright infringement, regardless of whether they can actually prove it. Thus is does get abused to get rid of speech that people don’t like. While it does contain penalties for abuse, they haven’t been used much to date.

  50. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Bob W. (180), could you please be a little clearer? I can’t tell which side you’re sneering at.

  51. Angielski says:

    I agree every publication is connected with taking responsibility for it. The status of the rights to publish copies of those works can’t be considered to be in doubt.

  52. MiltonThales says:

    @#275: KEITHMO

    The difference between a common carrier and Scribd is that packages are shipped without a transparent wrapper. The common carrier cannot know what is in the box unless it ticks or vibrates or emits some odor. The whole purpose of Scribd is to share the package contents. This imposes different responsibilities.

  53. Anonymous says:

    You should all get together and file a lawsuit. Maybe after they face legal consequences for their actions here, Andrew Burt won’t be winning any more SFWA elections.

  54. Anonymous says:

    I once received a DMCA takedown notice in which the SPA (or some similar group) claimed to have conclusively found that a file hosted on our FTP server was the recently-released iD software game, Doom 3. In fact, it was a file called “doom3.zip”, timestamped (accurately) to several years earlier, and totalling a tiny fraction of a megabyte, containing the third in a series of text adventures distributed freely with the express consent of the copyright holder.

    Oddly, no one there seemed to see anything wrong with their claim that they were sending over a hundred thousand such notices per day, all of which were carefully individually reviewed by humans, and that their office staff wasn’t large enough to investigate in sufficient detail to notice that a tiny game several years older than the multi-CD Doom 3 was probably not actually a copy of, as they asserted, the retail package.

    The claims were not only stupid, but mutually exclusive.

    I am sad to hear that your industry is plagued by the same. My spouse has a book that’s been sitting somewhere in the Baen “we’ll get back to you” pile for years. I assure you that, if we ever do get published, SFWA will not be representing our interests, unless they’ve reformed noticably.

  55. Anonymous says:

    Wow…This whole sordid affair is just foolish. Stop whining and just be happy someone gave enough of a shit about your IP to infringe it. I read a lot of SF and I have absolutely no clue who you people are. Truth be told, I’m not impressed. Your lack of vision guarantees no one will remember you in a hundred years.
    People don’t “share” your work to “steal” from you or ruin your life. People share because they like you stuff and want to expose other people to your work. Sharing or posting your work on-line is an extremely high form of flattery. You’re not losing money when people are exposed to your work. Harry Potter is mostly the most downloaded book on the internet and look at how much money they made.
    The future is NOW (I swear to god SF writers SHOULD know this). Adapt or DIE. Stop trying to enforce an ancient set of rules which were designed to be applicable for the Age of the Printing Press.
    I’m a fan. I spend A LOT of money (literacy is a very expensive burden) keeping my privet library well stocked. PHYSICAL copies are the only real way to read a story. I don’t think that internet posting of your IP is a threat.
    As a young person I can tell you that invoking the DMCA is akin saying you rape babies. It’s inconsequential if you’re within your rights to do so is. Associating ones name with the DMCA is not good business.
    Now, I know your all going to say, “You don’t write for a living. You don’t understand. You’re one of those “everything should be free information hippies”, etc. etc.” I really don’t care what you think. I am a consumer of SF. I have the money. I’m the reason you CAN write for a living.
    My opinion is relevant and very important. I know it’s very easy to ignore but remember that if you piss off enough people like me no amount of DMCA saber rattling will save you or make you any money.

    -Nathan

  56. Anonymous says:

    I tried to register to post this, but it seems to have had problems. Sigh. Anyway:

    If the messages were not actually DMCA take-down notices, but merely “informative” messages from Burt/SFWA, why is Scribd insisting on the 10 day period?

  57. Anonymous says:

    Jules #57

    Excellent point. Seems like an amendment to the DMCA is needed to the effect that any communication purporting to be a DMCA take-down notice — valid or otherwise — opens the sender to the perjury penalty reserved for abusive use of the DMCA.

    I’m no DMCA advocate though. I’d prefer to see the whole thing thrown away and any copyright modernization attempts done in much smaller, more conservative steps over a longer period of time.

  58. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Bob (191), thanks. I’ll feel a little more awesome when things are more under control. In the meantime, I nominate for sheer awesomeness our tech guys, who’ve been working longer hours than I have to make the comments, redesign, and gadget blog work.

  59. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Josh V., #236:

    As you seem to make much of my posting anonymously, I will lay claim to being #225, grammatical errors and all.

    Thank you. And you’re right; I do put a lot of emphasis on owning one’s own words.

    Anonymous #225, you may find Jerry Pournelle’s account “clear and compelling” — tastes vary — but I wouldn’t have called it accurate.

    Then perhaps you could have refuted some of the points Pournelle has made.

    I don’t need that much practice typing. Jerry’s behaving abominably (again), and substituting noise and abuse for a reasoned discussion of the issues (again), and dodging the particulars with which he hasn’t bothered to acquaint himself (again), and pulling cheap flagwaving rhetorical moves that aren’t actually relevant to the argument (again). Do you think this is the first time I’ve seen him do this, or the tenth?

    I have the same skiffy regard for the elders of my tribe that Patrick does. Most of us have that. It makes it hard for us to acknowledge their weaknesses and failings as they get older. I’m not going to discuss how Jerry arrived at his present condition, though lord knows it’s not a mystery to anyone in the field; but I honestly believe he doesn’t understand Cory’s position or the arguments Cory makes. I don’t mean he doesn’t sympathize with them; I mean he literally doesn’t understand them, and uses blustering and hot air to cover that up.

    Is that an ad hominem argument? It is. When an ad hominem argument is relevant to the issues at hand, it’s valid to use it.

    One more thing: I am genuinely, personally grieved by Jerry’s condition. And there’s not a damned thing I can do about it.

    If Damon Knight were still around, I know what he’d do first: (1.) tell you it’s “SFWA” not “the SFWA”; and (2.) make snarky remarks about plurals, possessives, and apostrophes.

    Ah, grammer flames, how refreshing. Is this slashdot? I would have expected more from a Boing Boing moderator. Oops, I expect so challenging the moderator will result in this post ending up in the bit bucket. Surprise me.

    Uh-huh. I don’t expect everyone to have perfect grammar and spelling, though I dislike carelessness. (By the way, I went through your last comment and took out all those extra line returns.) I was mildly amused to see you commit two of Damon Knight’s pet errors in the same sentence. That’s all.

    Here’s one question: Has Scribd made copyrighted non-Creative-Commons-licensed works available on its site without permission of the authors? Answer: It has. That’s wrong. And no one has ever argued that that’s not wrong.

    Huh, a point curiously absent from Cory’s original inflammatory post. Perhaps Cory could publicly acknowledge this point?

    I’d have called Cory’s essay angry rather than inflammatory. There’s nothing curious about the absence of that point; everyone knows that massive copyright violations are wrong. Cory’s not obliged to solemnly rehearse that point every time he talks about copyright.

    Where do you — or Jerry Pournelle, or anyone else — get off suggesting that Cory holds any position he hasn’t specifically disavowed within the last ten minutes? He objected to his work being included in a bogus DMCA takedown. That’s a far cry from saying it’s okay to violate other authors’ rights.

    Here’s a different question: Was Andrew Burt/SFWA wrong to send erroneous and misleading pseudo-DMCA takedown notices to Scribd? Answer: Yes. It was very wrong of Andrew Burt/SFWA to do that. People are justified in being angry about it.

    Sure, I won’t disagree. SFWA has apologized and has publicly offered to right their wrongs. What more would you have them do.

    I’d have had them take their responsibilities seriously, and not screw up in the first place.

    They submitted thousands of DMCA requests on a shoestring.

    Their working budget doesn’t matter. What matters is whether or not they were right. They weren’t.

    They had volunteers review the content, and they made some mistakes. Apparently such mistakes are utterly unacceptable.

    You betcha they’re unacceptable. If you only have time to check ten of your requests, you only submit ten. The amount of thought and effort Andrew Burt is willing to devote to a project — and by his own account, he did minimal checking on a set of search results that was guaranteed to contain false positives — is not the measure of the work required to do it properly.

    Let’s stop talking about this in terms of a few small clerical errors. I know that’s Andrew Burt’s preferred take on it, but he’s wrong. What we’re talking about is the misuse of the law to interfere with writers’ control of their work. If you want to say that’s trivial, no one will drop an anvil on your head; but I’ll think poorly of your judgement.

    Here’s a third question: Does Andrew Burt/SFWA’s screwup mean it’s all right for Scribd to make copyrighted unlicensed works available on their site without permission of the authors? Answer: No, it doesn’t. That material is still there illegally, and Scribd should take it down. Soon.

    Again, I’d love to see Cory acknowledge this point.

    Again: he’s not obliged to do so, and you have no right to father the opinion on him if he doesn’t.

    And a fourth question: Has anyone ever suggested that because Andrew Burt/SFWA screwed up, Scribd is allowed to go on illegally offering copyrighted unlicensed works without the permission of the authors? Answer: It shouldn’t mean any such thing. Report as I’ve heard it says that Jerry Pournelle and Andrew Burt have both have both asserted that publicly admitting that Andrew Burt/SFWA screwed up would effectively amount to giving Scribd permission to keep offering unlicensed copyrighted works without the authors’ permission.

    I have no idea what you are reading, but I have never heard any such thing suggested.

    I must suppose you’re only seeing the public discussions.

    Onward to a fifth question: Does the fact that Scribd was illegally offering copyrighted unlicensed works without the authors’ permission mean that it was okay for Andrew Burt/SFWA to send erroneous and misleading pseudo-DMCA takedown notices to Scribd? Answer: No. It was not okay. The fact that Scribd was in the wrong for making unlicensed copyrighted works available on their site does not excuse Andrew Burt’s/SFWA’s wrongful actions. It also doesn’t relieve SFWA of liability for the act, which was undertaken in SFWA’s name.

    I have not, nor has Pournelle suggested that Scribd’s massive copyright infringement absolves SFWA of wrong-doing.

    Indeed you have, any time you’ve responded to assertions that SFWA acted wrongly by saying “But Scribd are the bad guys!”

    But in the court of public opinion, really, who is the bad guy here? The defender of independent Sci-Fi writers, that botched a few DMCA requests, or the company that continues to illegally profit from copyrighted works.

    Like that. Exactly like that.

    Here we have the same confusion of issues again. The reason the EFF came to Scribd’s defense was not because they had illegally made all those works available on their site. The EFF came to their defense because Andrew Burt/SFWA had sent them erroneous and misleading pseudo-DMCA takedown notices.

    What was the error rate in the SFWA DMCA take down notices? What percentage of the links were erroneous and misleading? As of a few hours ago I could still find the full text of many Isaac Asimov works on Scribd.

    That doesn’t answer my argument. The EFF isn’t defending Scribd because of SFWA’s error rate; they’re doing it because SFWA misused the law to deprive writers of control of their work.

    Is this really a company the EFF wants to be defending?

    Yes.

    That’s a child’s way of thinking, to assume one’s actions only have the effects one intends. When you’re a legally competent adult, it’s not enough to mean well. You have to study the situation and make plans that you can reasonably expect will succeed in getting the results you want without doing damage along the way. If I’m messing around with bottle rockets, I may not intend to burn down your house, but I’m still responsible for doing it.

    Child’s way of thinking? Perjury requires intent. This is a legal fact, not a childlike way of thinking.

    That was an example of the inadequacy of mere apology. Just to clarify matters, so was the one about bottle rockets starting fires: Andrew Burt didn’t do that either. We know what he and SFWA did. An offhand apology isn’t enough.

    This offer of help dumbfounds me. Do you think any forum managers with a lick of sense are going to let Professor Burt come within ten feet of their message base?

    I understood that SFWA would work with any authors whose content has been improperly removed and ask Scribd to restore it. This would not require any interaction with the “message base” – whatever that is.

    That was a joke about Andrew Burt’s competence with computers and data.

    And thank goodness for that. It’s not impossible for the public to forgive someone a badly flawed understanding of copyright law; but no one is ever going to forget that an officer of SFWA, acting on behalf of the e-Piracy group, ran a simple search on “Asimov” and “Silverberg”, did a completely inadequate check of the results, and then used it as the basis for erroneous and misleading pseudo-DMCA takedown notices which he sent to Scribd. Little kids know better than that. SFWA’s credibility was at stake. Andrew Burt’s e-Piracy group had to go.

    Again, I ask you, what was the error rate?

    It was too high to tolerate.

    I know Andrew Burt is claiming that the instances Cory mentioned were the only ones he’s ever made, but his own description of his procedures makes that claim hard to credit, and his own description of his checking and proofreading makes it clear that he can’t possibly know how many errors he’s made.

    Not that that’s the relevant question.

    Please substantiate your claim of “completely inadequate”.

    You’ve already read the particulars. You’re not actually arguing about that. You’re trying to argue (without, y’know, actually arguing) that the way Burt handled it wasn’t completely inadequate. It was. That’s why people are upset.

    It certainly was not adequate enough, because, as of this afternoon, I could still find the full text of many Amisov works on Scribd.

    It was inadequate because it was full of errors, which caused SFWA to abuse the law and deprive writers of control of their work.

    I can’t believe you expected me to fall for that one.

    Scribd was, and continues to be a blatant infringer of copyright. This is your poster child?

    Cheap shot, or just intransigently stupid? You’ve already responded to passages where I said that was wrong, so you can’t claim you don’t know about them. Really, if this is the best you can do, I don’t know why you persist in trying.

    And while we’re on the subject: you have a lot of nerve implying that I condone gross and persistent copyright violations. If you checked with the Tor/SMP legal department — not that I imagine they’d talk to you, but still — you’d find out that I’ve frequently reported such operations to them. If I won’t let Jerry Pournelle get away with assertions like that, I’m certainly not going to let you do it.

  60. Charlie Stross says:

    I’d like to state publicly that, although I am an SFWA member, SFWA does not have authority to issue DMCA takedown notices on my behalf.

    (Rule #1 of working in any creative field in the 21st century should be: Your Fans Are Not The Enemy.)

  61. Jules says:

    Rob Knob @43:

    [The DMCA takedown notice] was a system tremendously easy to abuse.

    Experience shows that it is abused.

    Interestingly, this is presumably why criminal penalties (i.e. that of perjury) were incorporated for the worst foreseen abuses of it. Yet, by not actually issuing a valid notice, but merely convincing the recipient that they have, SFWA seems to have sidestepped this potential penalty.

  62. shiva7663 says:

    Hullo to visitors from Slashdot!

  63. Anonymous says:

    For a very clear and compelling counterpoint to Cory’s telling of the tale, please see Jerry Pournelle’s essay on the matter:

    http://chaosmanorreviews.com/open_archives/jep_column-326-a.php

    I wonder what those of you who are vilifying the SFWA would have author’s do? Should they just allow their works to be pirated? Scribd was not in the right – the site published the full text of hundreds of copyrighted works, posted without the authors’ permissions. That the EFF would come to their defense I find amazing.

    As for Cory’s claims of legal liability on the part of the SFWA – it is clear that they did not intentionally include works from those authors they did not represent. They made a mistake, and have apologized. I am sure they will act in good faith with the authors to restore any content that was mistakenly removed.

    Now, thanks to the furor, the e-Piracy group at SFWA has been disbanded, and their authors are now on their own to track down their content and file DMCA take downs. But heck, many of you seem to hate the DMCA and copyright anyway, and think that authors should just somehow be able to magically make money sharing their creations for free.

  64. Anonymous says:

    Re: #230 At the risk of being once again disemvoweled, can I please ask for specifics as to why anyone thinks Dr. Pournelle’s post about what happened is inaccurate?

    I (and I think a number of others) became somewhat upset over this past weekend. I did and said things that I now regret. I have apologized to Ms Hayden privately in an email. I do so now publicly. I would also like to apologize to all of you that I either deliberately or inadvertently offended. That was never my intent. I was just trying to get someone’s attention that what you were doing was going to affect not just current writers but all future writers as well and the way you appeared to be heading was scaring the hell out of me. I went about that like a child turning over the glass table to get his parents attention and for that I am deeply ashamed and sorry.

    My only defense for my rude behavior was the absolute dismay I felt and am still feeling that the legends of Science Fiction and Fantasy can get into this kind of horrid argument in the first place. I understand that being a published author does not necessary make anyone a diplomat, but the sheer vehemence of some of the posts here and elsewhere has quite literally shocked and amazed me. I guess I am still reeling from seeing my heroes “without their clothes.”

    I jumped in where I should not and without full information on the issues in question. This is something I have never done. I see now the difficult position in which Scribd finds itself. Taking down posts on just a simple email could result in all sorts of mischief. Safe Harbor may be their only refuge in the complex idiocy that is DMCA.

    I still do not understand how a struggling writer, with little legal sense and virtually no money, can ever hope to get Scribd to take down their material. I still do not understand why Scribd cannot filter uploads to ensure the material being posted is not protected material. Colleges and High Schools use a program called TurnItIn to identify papers that have been copied by comparing the ones turned in with a database of existing works. Why can’t Scribd use something similar to flag possible upload violations and then just go look at them?

    The issues here are exceedingly complex. Maybe DMCA is about the best we can expect when dealing with these issues. I certainly hope not. I truly hope the SFWA comes out of this a better organization. I do not know how it was before, but to lose it would be a crime, in my opinion.

    Thanks for reading one of the little guys.

    Braxton S. Cook

  65. Anonymous says:

    Thdr Ts (#158)

    Wth ll d rspct t yr crdntls, y hv th ss wrng. lt f ppl r fcsd n th fw ppl wh wr hrmd by th tk dwn f thr mtrl whn thy hd grd t cld b dwnldd frly. N n sms t cr bt th thsnds f wrks pstd n th st by wnrs f th mtrl wh dd nt wnt thm pstd thr. Y hv rght t gv wy ny sftwr y crt. Cry Dctrw hs th rght t gv wy nythng h wrts. dbt Dr. Brt r Jrry Prnll wld dsgr wth ths. Tht s nt th ss, r t lst t shld nt b.

    Wht shld b t ss s wh cntrls yr wrk? D y hv rght t t vn thgh t s ffrd frly r ds smn ls? f wrt prgrm nd chs t sll t, d hv th rght t sk smn t stp cpyng t nd gvng t wy fr fr? Shld hv t gt lwyr nd g thrgh n nrs prcss t mk ths hppn r shld th thr prty smply tk dwn th cps whn sk thm t d s? cn ssm frm wht y wrt n yr pst, y flly spprt yr rght t gv wy th frts f yr lbr. Shld tht spprt thn frc m t d th sm?

    SFW md mstk n nt flly vttng thr lst. cn frgv ths bcs hv wrkd wth ll vlntr rgnztns. Smtms y jst dn’t hv th ptn t rvw vrythng. Tht lds t mstks. cnnt frgv Scrbd fr sttng p plcs tht mk t vry dffclt fr lgtmt thrs t hv thr wrks tkn dwn nd fr nt sttng nt plc systm tht wld mnmz ftr pstngs f cpyrghtd mtrl.

    Th qstn s nt whthr fr bks r pd-fr bks s th bttr bsnss mdl. Th qstn hr s wh shld cntrl th frts f my lbr. nd thrs grnt Cry Dctrw nd ny thr th rght t d wth thr wrk wht thy wll. Why cn’t Scrbd nd ths frthng t hng Dr. Brt nd th SFW rtrn tht fvr?

  66. Jarrett Campbell says:

    #38 said “I can’t believe Cory’s defending these thieves.”

    I didn’t see this at all and if that’s your opinion of Doctorow then you probably don’t really know much about him or his work.

    I hear Cory saying that he personally depends on free file sharing sites to further promote the business model he has adopted, gaining publicity for his work through Creative Commons licensing and legal file sharing of works which he owns the right to allow be distributed for free. He has always said obscurity is a bigger obstacle to his selling books or making money from his writing than file sharing is.

    Cory is not promoting thievery. He is condemning SFWA for acting on behalf of him when they had no right to do so. And he is condemning abuse of the DMCA and pointing out flaws in its structure.

    That’s a far cry from defending thieves.

  67. Dewi Morgan says:

    Yup – where do we sign up to donate to your legal costs?

  68. moonbug says:

    Dear J J,

    SFWA is not made up of true artists, it’s made up of commercial writers. Please don’t get us confused.

    You make many good points. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I can assure you that this matter is being discussed within the organization, and policies will change on the basis of this incident.

    Best,

    Michael

    —– Original Message —– From: “j j”
    To: Sent: Friday, August 31, 2007 7:40 PM
    Subject: your organization’s abuse of copyright infringement laws is disgusting

    I think your organization’s abuse of copyright infringement laws is disgusting.

    As an artist and an author I am proud to let my works roam the internet. The true artist cares more about getting their message out than making everyone pay to enjoy that message.

    The most disgusting part of it all is that the people who benefit most from this sort of legislation are not authors themselves, but the people who buy or inherit the right to make money off of their works. If you were fighting to protect Philip K. Dick so he could make a living while he was alive, for example, I would have a hell of a lot more sympathy for your cause. As it is I think it is disgusting that people living off of the proceeds of the life work of others would seek to restrict the free movement of those artist’s works.

    Most people buy the books they want to read. Stop wasting your time trying to censor the internet. Why not embrace its possibilities instead of clinging to a retrograde ideology of ownership? Information is meant to be shared. You’ll be trying to shut down libraries next. What is the difference between someone reading a book at a library and downloading it? Nothing. Nothing at all.

    Your industry should learn from the music industry and make quality digital books available for sale. Make them in a format that can cross platforms, and get people using e-readers. I live in one of the world’s largest remaining forests, and I’d rather see books go digital so we can stop chopping down rainforests to make pulp. If you make a quality product that is easier to buy than to download, people will respond.

    Some people will always get the book for free, whether from the library or reading it in the aisle of a bookstore, or from the internet. Stop being so grasping. Make it worthwhile for people to buy the book, and some of them will. As for the rest, should poor people stop reading science fiction?

    Jennifer Jones

  69. Jason Erik Lundberg says:

    Once again, I am reminded of why I’ve never joined SFWA or even had the inclination to do so.

    This never would have happened if John Scalzi were president.

    True dat, Uncle Willy.

  70. Johne Cook says:

    #220 – Miltonthales – Have you contacted Scribd? They have been very forthright with me.

    Johne Cook
    Overlord, Ray Gun Revival magazine

  71. David Langford says:

    #219: Thanks for that information. When I read your first posting about the “Copyright Violations” group at Scribd.com, I registered in order to flag a certain document there, and couldn’t find it.

    There is however a group called CopyVio. Not yours, I presume, since until I joined there was only one member and only a couple of dozen documents noted. Perhaps this one will vanish too.

  72. Anonymous says:

    You know, as a SFWA member with a lifetime membership, I usually ignore the day to day details and look at the organization for its emergency services, for dealing with shady publishers with nasty contracts, for the Bulletin a few times a year, and for handling the Nebulas. I don’t read enough new stuff to usually nominate or vote on Nebulas, but I think anything pointing people to good stories is to be supported, even if it’s imperfect.

    But what I don’t get is that even though SFWA has an electronic newsletter that I get emailed semi-regularly, why do I always have to hear about stuff like this from blogs second-hand? Why doesn’t SFWA at least tell me what they’re doing in a regular, timely way, even if the general membership isn’t well enough informed or energetic enough to get involved?

    I mean, the forums come way late, and the online website is too much of a pain to follow, but the SFWA electronic updates are easy and timely.

    And like Cory, I have a creative commons free ebook available to promote my published novels with Tor. Is there someone at SFWA inclined to email me to take down my own book? I’d like to know that sooner rather than later, at least before it’s time to vote on officers.

    Cheers,
    Mike Brotherton

  73. Anonymous says:

    As I just commented over at Making Light, that first e-mail is emphatically not a DMCA takedown notice. The DMCA Sec 512 (c) (3) requires such a notice to include:

    “(v) A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.

    (vi) A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.”

    Neither of these statements is present.

    IANAL, so this isn’t legal advice, and lawyers should be consulted, but it looks to me as though no valid notice has been served, so scribd don’t have any obligation to remove the works.

  74. msspurlock says:

    Can anyone spot the unacknowledged trademark violation in this SFWA guy’s “apology” letter?

  75. Michael D Thomas says:

    Oh, to be a lurking fly on the wall in the SFWA forum right now…

    I bet that it’s an open brawl, especially considering how many writers are currently jet-lagged in Japan.

  76. Wil Wheaton says:

    @83: SFWA != all SF writers, and it’s pretty clear that this latest idiocy from Burt doesn’t represent the wishes or intentions of several SFWA members.

  77. Bob W. says:

    Teresa (182): Oops, I meant 177, which starts with, “Wll, pprntly Scrbd nd th FF wn.” I meant to check the numbers, but in preview mode the thread items lose their ordination.

    Btw, 170 (“Internet authors is a great site About different kind of authors.”) seems to be comment spam which leads to “publicize your writing on teh Intarwebs.” Shortly after I clicked on the link my cheesy home firewall/NAT crashed.

  78. mkhobson says:

    John, you’re absolutely right re: post #51, as I realized after I posted it. I would like to publicly apologize to Mr. Capobianco for posting from the draft statement he posted on a private board. He posted it in good faith, to keep the membership apprised of the evolving situation, and for that I applaud him.

    If there’s a mechanism for deleting comments made in the heat of battle (as there is on LJ) I’d love to know about it. I’m new to the BoingBoing world.

  79. Anonymous says:

    The DMCA doesn’t need amendment; it’s already perjury. I know, I’ve sent notices before (for actual infringement of my copyrighted material). What we need is *enforcement*, and to get that somebody’s who has been affected is going to have to get a lawyer and go at it.

    This only has to be done one time, people catch on quickly when it starts costing them money to send out false copyright notices.

  80. chris says:

    I’ve written a response to Jerry Pournelle’s blog writings on this issue and would also like to post it here. My hope is that other SFWA members read it and consider the proposal.

    Hey,

    I can definitely appreciate your anger over illegal use of your works and the anger of others. It’s especially egregious that this is a site making money off this, though that’s not the core issue. What is probably even more frustrating is that BoingBoing and other sites are getting lots of traffic over this as well.

    What does seem to be the case, though, is that there’s been a lot of venting and not much effort so far practical solutions. That’s hinted at by the SFWA president, so I may be wrong.

    The problem at both SFWA’s and content sites end is the scale of the effort needed to ensure copyrights are honored. The SFWA attempted to deal with that by use of just software – with some spectacular failures. From the comments on BoingBoing, other authors – only some of which are SFWA members – objected to the SFWA demanding that their work be removed without their consent.

    It would probably make the most sense for the SFWA to offer a service that members must subscribe to. That service would automatically forward links to the members that are suspect.

    They could then provide confirmation on violations found through a web UI. This distributes the effort of human aware validation and also provides an audit trail for legal purposes. It would also allow explicit DMCA takedown notices to be sent immediately.

    I realize that it takes time/money to provide the web UI functionality. However, I and probably other professional software developers would be willing to donate their services for an open source project such as this. A lot of us DO pay for the science fiction we read and want quality work to continue.

    I realize this places some of the burden of effort on the copyright holders, but it’s the only part that you can control. If this makes sense to you, let me know.

    sincerely,
    Chris

  81. Ryan Alexander says:

    This kind of backwards thinking is all the more disappointing coming from an organization that is supposed to support those who write about the future.

  82. Anonymous says:

    I am a former member of SFWA, and I have to say this is in line with their earlier attitudes.

    I can recall when USENET was the big evil place where all our money was going.

    There is a very strong reactionary element in SFWA that cannot see anything but threats in these new technologies. It IS ironic, considering their day jobs.

    I let my membership lapse about the time Harlan Ellison was planning to sue “the Internet.”

    Doesn’t look like I’ve missed much.

  83. Anonymous says:

    Sclz #165: Tht sd, n cn pnt t lts f prfctly pblc mssg brds tht r qlly flld wth lkws mmtr dbtng styl.

    Lk ths n prhps?

    f crs, ths wn’t gt pstd. Dssntng psts nvr d t ths “dlt” dscssn whr Dr. Brt ws crcfd bfr nythng ws flly knwn nd whr ths trly hrmd hv n vc t ll.

    Brxtn Ck

  84. Xopher says:

    And to think I wanted to join this bonehead organization. I will refer to Capobianco henceforth as “Ernie,” since that goes with ‘Burt’ so well.

    IANAL – very ANAL – but it seems to me that SFWA was not acting on behalf of Cory in demanding that his work be taken down. They were acting on behalf of the Asimov estate, and falsely accusing Cory’s work of infringing on copyright because it mentioned Asimov. So Cory’s grounds for a suit are much shakier, it seems to (NAL) me.

  85. Megan says:

    Wow. I wasn’t expecting such a spectacular lapse in SFWA’s judgment. Guess I’m not a cynical/realistic as I think.

  86. Anonymous says:

    Haven’t they violated their loyalty oath by otherwise infringing on the intellectual property rights of others in attempting to ‘protect’ their own?

  87. Xopher says:

    MKHobson 59: You ask the Moderator to kill them. And I think you just did.

  88. Theodore Tso says:

    One additional comment/suggestion to the SFWA leadership (assuming they read the Internet, which given the rantings of the previous VP, may be a bad assumption, although I do understand he speaks for no one but himself :-P).

    Please consider whether or not having conversations on a private forum is a good thing for your organization in the long term. Even if you don’t allow us SF fans and non-professional writers (plebes!) to post, the transparency might be a good thing for all concerned. First of all, only the people who care enough to spend the time to find out more about your organization will find and read the mail archives, and secondly, it may help control some of the more flames if people realize that anything they post can be read by anyone, including their current (and potentially future) fans.

    Sure, on some of the various boards that I have served on we have had private mailing lists that were not publically archived when we had to discussions about personnel or legal issues, but we also had lists that were publically available, and we tried as much as possible to use the public lists whenever possible, in the name of making our organizations as transparent as we could, by allowing everyone could see nearly all of what we discussed.

    I suspect that if people saw the posts in SFWA’s private forum, it would make it much easier for people to appreciate that the SFWA is not the Borg, and that there are a wide range of opinions and disagreements within the organization. The problem is that right now the only things which are public and easily accessible are the actions of the Vice President of the organizations, and a lame, inadequate apology from the President that doesn’t seem to acknowledge any understanding of how damaging Dr. Burt’s invocation of the DMCA (whether flawed or not) was.

    Some of the in-jokes that I found while researching this whole debacle seems to indicate that the private SFWA forum can be quite unpleasant — so maybe it’s worth considering whether or not it has outlived its usefulness or not. But hey, that’s none of my business, so if you want to keep it, please feel free to value my advice at whatever value would it is worth, including what you paid for it. :-)

  89. Todd Knarr says:

    Teresa (#271): Let me call attention to a contradiction here. First you say this:

    “Easy: you published it. XMission stands in relation to you as a printer does to a conventional publisher.”

    But then you go on to say:

    “The site agreed to act as publisher when it didn’t have the resources necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of a publisher.”

    If a site like XMission isn’t the publisher but merely a pritner, why should they be deemed to have taken on the responsibilities of a publisher and not merely the responsibilities of a printer? Scribd did and does nothing that XMission doesn’t do. Either both are the publisher, or neither is.

    And you’re right about knowledge. The problem is one of volume. A book or magazine publisher excercises editorial control over material. The first thing they do is read the material to decide whether they want to publish it. A printer, by contrast, excercises no editorial control. Their job isn’t to decide whether something should be published, they take what someone else has decided should be published and make the physical copies needed for publication to happen. If a printer had to read everything submitted to them for printing and go through the same editorial process as a publisher did, they’d never have time to actually print the books. And why should they? That’s why we have publishers and editors. But those publishers still need a printer to print the books. The same on the Web. To publish material on the web, I either need to run my own printing operation (the physical servers and network connections needed to get the material served up) or I need a printing house (a hosting company that’ll handle the servers and network connections for me). Why should there not be the same split between publisher and printer on the Web that there is in every other media?

  90. Bob W. says:

    Todd Knarr:

    The DMCA seems to provide that if the web site owner is aware of infringing material, that material must be removed from access whether or not a formal DMCA notice was received from a copyright owner.

    My intended point was that if I were to submit a feedback form on scribd.com’s site informing the operators of the site that a single file with the contents all seven volumes of the Harry Potter series was available for download from their site, there might be no safe harbor for them if they did not act to remove it. A defense like, “Never heard of it, didn’t know its copyright status,” or, “Nobody in these parts has read it, so we thought this was a fair-use satire,” might not hold up.

  91. Charlie Stross says:

    Michael @28 — some of us SFWA members strongly disagree with the position of people like Andrew Burt, are campaigning to change the organization from within, and intend to stay in the fight until we win.

    Any voluntary organization is no more and no less than the sum of its active members. Encouraging people to withdraw from SFWA is counter-productive — do you *want* to hand the organization to the copyright totalitarians?

  92. Anonymous says:

    You have a moral obligation to sue. Also the people who have demonstrated thier anger with this situation have a moral obligation to ante up with some cash to assist you. This affects them too.

    Remember, this can set a prescident that could help resolve this problem once and for all.

    People need to stop bitching and kick out the M.F. jams a bit.

  93. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    The spam, it dies. Props to you for spotting it.

  94. Scraps says:

    If MKHobson’s comment is deleted, go ahead and delete my responses to it as well, if you want.

  95. Anonymous says:

    Cory, have you had an actual phone call or face-to-face with Burt yet on this topic? It seems to me that the SFWA is way out in left field here, and that a phone call from you might elicit some more clues as to what’s going on over there.

    Given all the bad press that the RIAA, etc have gotten, I find it hard to believe that the heads of the SFWA thought it would be OK to just send out a list of stuff they id’d via keyword search.

    I have to believe that there is more here (in the way of mistakes) than we know about yet.

    Perhaps if you called Burt, Cory, you could get to the bottom of it.

    Michael Kohne

  96. David Albertson says:

    I discovered Scalzi, Doctorow, and Stross through postings of their works on the internet. Guess what? I have purchased every single published work by these authors. Why don’t these people get this? They are supposed to be day dreaming about this shit.

  97. Anonymous says:

    I’m glad you got your problem resolved, but if I ever get around to rewriting my novel, I sure as heck won’t be joining this organization.

  98. Anonymous says:

    Wow. And I’d just recently encouraged a friend of mine who sold her first two novels to join SFWA. Thank goodness she never got around to it. Now I can warn her to stay the hell away.
    Thanks.

  99. Bill Clardy says:

    Theresa,

    I’m not saying anything about people or prose’s affections. Nor am I saying that anybody’s comments should escape criticism. What I meant to make clear is that I tend to discard critics who make much noise about an opponent’s error while claiming a similar error by an allie is an understandable oversight. Going back up through the comments, I’m actually finding it hard to find a clear example of a single individual doing so (summarily discounting anonymous postings) — Bob W. is the only person I currently see defending Mr. Doctorow’s omissions as a reasonable product of anger, and I don’t see him slamming Dr. Pournelle for his rhetorical excess (e.g., the recurring invocation of widows and orphans). So I will have to plead “Mea culpa” for having gotten confused about who really said what as I originally read my way down.

    That said, I must quibble about your implication of guilt by association: I only see one person who has agreed with anything I said, and his comments generally struck me a reasonable and lucid.

    As to what Dr. Pournelle does or does not know to be true, I have learned to avoid as much as possible making any presumptions about other folks knowledge of what is and isn’t true. Nor do I see any reason to presume something isn’t true just because other people tell me it isn’t — I have lots of personal experiences which have taught me quite the opposite.

    As to your claim that Mr. Doctorow’s account is accurate, let’s consider this statement:
    “…there’s a burgeoning body of precedent for large judgements against careless, malicious or fraudulent DMCA notices — for example, Diebold was ordered to pay $150,000 125,000 for abusing the DMCA takedown process.”

    While somebody has taken pains to correct the original overstatement of the damages paid, there is an equally significant error in that Diebold was never ordered to pay anything. As even the EFF’s press releases make clear, the $125,000 payment was the result of a settlement between Diebold and OPG.

    I would also point out that there is a certain deceptiveness in including “careless” alongside “malicious or fraudulent” — courts have always tended to grant larger judgements when malevolence or fraud were motives, while carelessness tends to be punished only when it rises to the level of provable negligence.

    I confess to being at a bit of a loss as to how re-reading the comments from start to finish will “answer” either of my other comments. Perhaps you could explain what faults you found with them?

  100. Jason Bentley says:

    #150: I’m sorry, but there are items in your comment that simply aren’t true. Scribd, to date, has bent over backward to make it easy for copyright holders to request removal of infringed content. We do not, nor have we ever, required a full-text DMCA removal for every single item. We have always accepted one DMCA notification with an unlimited number of linked infringement claims as a valid request. We have always given the benefit of the doubt to the copyright claimant, which is precisely what led us to accept and implement the SFWA’s scorched-earth takedown request in the first place.

    Both yours and Jerry Pournelle’s accounts of your experiences with Scribd are not based in reality. In fact, Pournelle displayed his great facility for Science Fiction on his blog by describing Scribd’s copyright process as onerous and unresponsive a full day before he bothered to file his DMCA notice. His request was immediately fulfilled.

    Scribd’s copyright process is otherwise universally described as courteous and expedient from the site’s supporters and detractors alike. Those who would discredit Scribd are best armed with facts, but the facts in this case are clearly on Scribd’s side.

    Jason Bentley
    Director of Community Development @ Scribd
    jason at scribd dot com

  101. Karen Swanberg says:

    #42 tycho garren

    I can see the benefit of–and even sometimes think it’s a good thing–to put the onus of enforcement on the originator of the content, but probably only when the originators are big companies. When it’s people like me, or even you, Cory, it seems like less of a good idea.

    Why is it less of a good idea? I know plenty of authors (including myself) who use Google Alerts to inform them when their work is discussed or reviewed on-line. It wouldn’t be too much harder to alert an author when their piece is posted. Take a distinctive line from the piece and alert on it.

    Then when Google sends an alert, they can examine the page and decide for themselves if a DMCA is warranted (if they believe in the DMCA, which I do NOT).

    For trademarks, it’s always been the onus of the owner of the trademark to pursue infringers. I believe this should be the same way.

  102. Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz says:

    scroll scroll scroll scroll scroll.

    How about splitting this article into a read more?

  103. Anonymous says:

    Although as a writer, I’m fairly generous about putting many of my own stories on line for free or allowing my stories to be run by certain websites, there are stories of mine that I do not want widely disseminated at this point and there are sites I will most likely never want my stories associated with. One of these stories appeared at Scribd. I wrote to the people there and asked that they please take it down. They were more than happy to do so and there was no big probelm about it. I did also recently go through the SFWA to help me have a story of mine taken down off a private website, which I can see now may have been a mistake. The story was eventually taken down, but I really think that it had more to do with my own letter writing to blogger and following up. The folks at SFWA did write back to me and were about trying to rectify the situation, but I did not mention that they could represent all my work and its relation to copyright. I have an agent for that. I’ll not be re-upping for SFWA this time around, but it doesn’t have to do that much with this. I offer this post in hopes it might add to the discussion.

    Jeffrey Ford

  104. Patrick Nielsen Hayden says:

    I understand all the reasons for having “private” SFWA forums, but having been a member on and off (currently on) for well over a decade, I’ve gradually come to the conclusion that the downside of it far outweighs the positives. SFWA has become a cult, dedicated first and foremost to the preservation of the cult. It has increasingly little to do with creativity, commerce, or the actual business of science fiction.

  105. MCZ says:

    TNH @ #243 (on error rate):

    It was too high to tolerate.

    I know Andrew Burt is claiming that the instances Cory mentioned were the only ones he’s ever made, but his own description of his procedures makes that claim hard to credit, and his own description of his checking and proofreading makes it clear that he can’t possibly know how many errors he’s made.

    Nick Mamatas counted more than 80 errors and commented on same in the sfwa community on LiveJournal. Most of the documents listed should not have been on Scribd in the first place, but SFWA did not have the standing to issue a DMCA takedown demand for them.

  106. Simon Greenwood says:

    Don’t go to so much trouble as to get white powders, the way to get someone wrongfully imprisoned in the US in the 21st century will be to plant COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL on their person – careful what Bluetoothed messages you accept as they might contain a contraband copy of ‘I, Robot’ making you ripe for the stitching. It sounds like Scribd has panicked somewhat here in the same way as YouTube did over the Viacom blanket takedown. Surely a Creative Commons licence attached to a work, as all of Cory’s do, must be honoured, otherwise the requirements of the industry associations that the DMCA was created for render every form of free or open licensing worthless. That or it’s time to find Kinakuta and set up shop there.

  107. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Thank you, Johne Cooke, but I’m not supposed to be fighting to win. The only way to lead is by example. I’ve trimmed back my rhetoric — quite a bit, in places.

    Mind, I’m just putting the cricket bat away, not getting rid of it.

  108. GRASSHOPPER says:

    So we’re to leave enforcement to the owners of the intellectual property? Hmmm…if we extend that concept, I guess I can steal your car as long as you never told me I couldn’t. That’s not just a slippery slope, it’s and out-and-out sheer cliff. I always thought theft was theft. I suppose it’s a sad sign of the times that it’s now acceptable to say “Well some of them told us we could” and that seems to justify stealing from others. Let’s go back to that car analogy again. Your neighbor said it was ok if I borrowed his car, so yours…..

  109. Todd Knarr says:

    Teresa: I agree about publication and responsibility. The question is, who publishes? Take my own website (http://www.silverglass.org/). All the material there is mine. Who published it? Did I publish it? Or did XMission, the site that hosts it and that I uploaded it to, publish it?

    To me that’s the heart of the problem. If you want to publish on the Web but don’t want to own and run your own server, you have to upload your material to someone else’s server to have it hosted. And someone has to run that server and provide the service to their users. And that brings up the question of who’s responsible for the material. Traditionally the answer to that question has been that the originator of the material is responsible. When someone ships something through UPS, the person sending it is responsible and not UPS. When someone makes a telephone call, the person making the call is responsible and not the telephone company. When someone submits a plagiarized article to a magazine or newspaper as their own, it’s the submitter we hold responsible and not generally the magazine/paper (unless the plagiarism is particularly obvious). 512(3) codifies this same concept for network sites.

    Which brings me back around to XMission. When I upload a file to XMission to make part of my web site, is XMission publishing that file? I believe they aren’t, that I am. And if they aren’t, then why should XMission bear the responsibility for checking it? And what is the difference, exactly, between XMission and Scribd?

  110. Kuja says:

    If SFWA’s Brazilian counterpart – called CLFC – follows suit, they should remove this crap.

  111. keithmo says:

    @#277: MiltonThales

    “The difference between a common carrier and Scribd is that packages are shipped without a transparent wrapper.”

    You’re saying Google has the same responsibilities with YouTube? I know they argue differently. Scribd, by not building the resource-intensive means of examining AND validating every “package” out of thousands put in their care, are probably assuming the same mantle of common carrier that your phone company or ISP has. The phone company could monitor your calls. The NSA does (if you’re calling overseas).

    Does Scribd even call itself a publisher like Baen Books?

  112. Scalzi says:

    Theodore Tso:

    I suspect that if people saw the posts in SFWA’s private forum, it would make it much easier for people to appreciate that the SFWA is not the Borg, and that there are a wide range of opinions and disagreements within the organization.

    I suspect that if people saw the posts in SFWA’s private forum, they would come to the conclusion that no science fiction writer sits down to comment there without first pouring a frosty 96-ounce Big Gulp cup full of equal measures of Jim Beam and Red Bull.

    You wouldn’t come away thinking we were the Borg, to be sure. But what you would come away thinking we were, wouldn’t be any better.

    Best left unseen.

  113. Dorvis Slaughter says:

    This entire article and it’s comments – including Comment #51′s incendiary ‘blame Scribd’ statement – has been archived on Scribd. Read ‘em here

  114. Anonymous says:

    Related, did SFWA knock out the #bookz channel on IRC?

    /Small publisher who at times checks to see if anything we do is up there…

  115. tobenshain says:

    Cory,

    I hope that you do take legal action against the SFWA, at least to the extent of forcing them to retract their “DMCA Notices”.

    I’m a dedicated SF reader, I have a voracious appetite for books and a limited budget.

    I have NEVER downloaded an illegal copy of a book in order to avoid paying for it. I’m not even sure how to go about doing so and as a fairly regular user of BitTorrent I’m pretty sure the market for pirated e-books is pretty small.

    I *do* use the Baen Free Library because there are times when its more convenient for me to read on a screen than on paper.

    However that hasn’t stopped me from buying books published by Baen authors. Far from it! Authors that I would never have bothered to read (Dave Freer and Eric Flint for example) are now folks who I will actually seek out…in the bookstore.

    As a *reader* I *like* having a physical book in my hands. When e-paper develops to the point that I can have a single hardback or paperback form factor that gives me all the advantages of current paper publishing then I might switch over entirely to e-books. Even then, I have no objection to paying a reasonable price for what I read.

    After all I do it with e-books NOW. Because Baen often publishes its books earlier in e-book format than they’re available in the bookstore and because they’re usually cheaper as well I will buy e-books from them.

    Why do I keep talking about Baen? Because they’re the single publisher that I’ve seen that has done a really good job on this.

    And I know that I’m preaching to choir here on this subject.

    This whole thing about e-piracy of books is particularly stupid in the SF community given the tendency of fen to be particularly passionate and…well…loudmouthed.

    I’ll be writing to the SFWA and letting them know how outraged I am.

    They may not be directly beholden to me since I’m not a member…but I do provide their livelyhood.

  116. Laurie Mann says:

    Ryan, you said it better than I could.

    SFWA’s behavior is disappointing, but not surprising.

  117. Anonymous says:

    As someone who’s gotten his material removed from ScribD, let me describe the process:

    You have to send a separate listing for each item. With 304 articles listed, that’s a lot of time I would just as soon spend writing.

    You have to provide documentation proving ownership for each item. Multiply the workload above by a factor of 3. While they won’t verify that the post has a copyright before they can post, they damned sure want to verify that you have a copyright before they’ll take it down.

    I have no objection to ScribD existing.

    However, I want to be asked before someone posts my material on it. I want a timely remedy on pulling items down. And the only mechanism I currently have of getting what I want is, sadly, that piece of draconian, awe inspiringly horrid precedent called DMCA.

    Is it too much to expect this as a basic courtesy?

  118. Bob W. says:

    MILTONTHALES (218) The library analogy would be more along the lines of the library giving you a photocopy of the book and not requiring its return.

    Even if they only give it to you a page at a time, a complete copy is required for a complete reading, and the copying is implicit in the way the client reads it.

  119. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    First, a general question: why is Cory Doctorow uniquely required to “acknowledge” — really, to validate — everyone else’s arguments, as well as his own? I’ve been observing this belief in action throughout the Scribd/SFWA dust-up. No one else argues that way. It’s never suggested that anyone else should argue that way. People who make gestures in that direction get praised for their evenhandedness. And yet, Cory is held to be actively wrong for failing to do it first time, every time.

    Can someone please explain why this should be so, and why it’s appropriate that it should be so? I promise you, I’ll listen.

    Bill Clardy (261):

    I find it interesting that some folks are pillorying Jerry Pournelle for his rhetorical excesses while also defending Cory Doctorow’s omissions as the product of justifiable anger. All I can say is, “Pot, meet Kettle.” One might be more heated, but the color’s still the same.

    Malarkey. Unless what you’re trying to say is that only zero-affect prose can escape criticism, and that all other sorts are exactly equivalent: an uncommon position. I also note that you’re being agreed with by people who themselves have not been writing zero-affect prose. This seems inconsistent.

    And as long as you’re comparing Cory Doctorow and Jerry Pournelle, there’s also the question of accuracy. Jerry’s screeds aren’t, top to bottom, and he knows that what he’s saying is untrue. In fact, he’s saying things that many of his fellow SFWAns have repeatedly told him are simply not so. He doesn’t care. Do you?

    The rest of your comments are best answered by reading the comment thread from start to finish.

    Braxton (263), you’re right: the central objection is that SFWA used the DMCA to violate Cory’s right to control his own work. I will agree that Scribd has been culpably careless about the work that gets posted to their site. However, there was nothing about the situation that forced SFWA to make the mistakes it did. If someone locks me up without food for a few days, it’ll be their fault that I’m famished; but if I escape and drive my car through the front wall of a restaurant, the owner will be justifiably miffed at me, not my captor.

    Anonymous 263, there was no intent to belittle. We’re all geeks and nerds here, or at any rate most of us are. Your post made me feel like I was sorting out a story problem, so I made a joke about it.

    I think I get the point you’re trying to make, but I don’t think you’re right. If all the lawyers in this thread think the law applies to Scribd rather than their upstream provider, odds are that’s the organization it applies to.

    The analogy with the rented and stolen cars is confusing. The rental firm isn’t responsible for bank robberies undertaken by their customers. They haven’t rented them the car to use it in bank robberies; they’ve rented it to be driven. I believe they have insurance coverage in case their customers T-bone another car and grievously injure its passengers.

    The person who leaves their car running and the keys in the ignition is perhaps foolish, and they may have strained relations with their insurer thereafter, but they’re not liable for anything thieves do with their car.

  120. Anonymous says:

    #164:

    “My vote would be to have SFWA go after Scribd in court much as RIAA did to Napster. I think we all know what happened there and what the likely outcome would be here.”

    um… “what happened there” was a massive proliferation in distributed point to point networks, caused by the massively increased public profile of file sharing caused by the lawsuit. I don’t think that’s the “likely outcome” you were talking about.

  121. MiltonThales says:

    After reading the posts here, I went to Scribd.com, and found many works that included their original copyright notice without any other text that indicated permission had been granted to post the document. Since this seemed wrong to me, I created a Scribd.com group entitled “Copyright Violations”. Its description is: “Works that are copyrighted and have no infomation indicating permission from the copyright holder — or his heirs or assigns — to post the work in Scribd.” This is a public group, and any user may join.

    Most of the documents I added have disappeared, since Scribd.com has cancelled the account of a user titled “mondobeyondo”. Four other users have joined the group, and it currently includes 148 documents.

    If you believe in individual rights, you must necessarily believe in individual responsibilities. If individuals do not repsect the rights of others, and act responsibly toward them, those rights will not exist, no matter what laws may say. If the Scribd.com site behaves irresponsibly, and I believe they do, they the only recourse for responsible users is to add infringing documents to the “Copyright Violations” group.

    Scribd.com claims to be like an online library. If they wish to be like a library, they should let users view copyrighted works but NOT download them. This would be less objectionable and could be implemented automatically: any document including the word “copyright” with a 4 digit number could be excluded from download. A similar term could be assigned to flag downloadable documents.

  122. Bob W. says:

    If scribd.com is monitoring its groups in this way, they seem to have set sail from the DMCA safe harbor and making for waters infested with the sharks of legal action. Or the icebergs of copyrights. Or maybe frozen sharks. Something bad, anyway.

  123. Anonymous says:

    Between this and the “technopeasant” incident, SFWA has pretty much guaranteed that I’m never going to join. I’d considered it, before they started looking like public laughingstocks. I’ll probably never be a big name, but I am still a writer. I wonder how many other people have made that same decision to stay away because of this?

    I have the feeling that if the SFWA keeps up this sort of Luddite behavior (the irony there is rather shocking, but Luddite is what this is,) it will be dead before too much longer, as new blood goes elsewhere.

  124. Anonymous says:

    Braxton C. here. Since Cory is apparently a member here, I really don’t want to be.

    I’ve seen this coming for months. The folks at scribd, posters and workers alike, that post or facilitate the illegal posting of copyrighted works are thieves, not fans. If the owners can’t stop this, the whole site should be taken down, not lauded as some sort of victim of an unprovoked attack.

    If you’re a fan, you choose very carefully who you loan your books. If you’re a fan, you’ll read the words of your favorite author any way you can get them – text file or hard copy. I have hard copies AND electronic copies of as many works as I can afford. I read the hard copies when I can, but on the road I read the electronic versions because they are more convenient. The key issue here is afford, not download. I buy what I read. If the author can’t be proud enough of his work to ask me to make payment for the joy of reading it, I don’t want to.

    I’ve seen a lot of posts here about how SFWA did a horrible thing. What I haven’t seen is someone taking the folks at scribd to task for bringing it to this point. Does anyone here think that Dr. Burt just decided to “go off” on scribd just because it’s Tuesday?

    Cory and others were injured? Oh really? Go to scribd right now and tell me who is at the top of their Today’s Favorite Documents list. H ws hrmd ll th wy t th bnk. f crs, tht S wht ths s ll bt. d cngrtlt Cry fr n thng, thgh. dd nt thnk t pssbl t ctlly s crcdl trs vr th ntrnt.

  125. Anonymous says:

    Mike Brotherton said:

    …But what I don’t get is that even though SFWA has an electronic newsletter…

    Really? The hypcrtcl, snctmns bunch of *ahem*s have an electronic newsletter? When they don’t even recognise e-book writers from royalty-paying e-publishers? When they don’t even hv th cmmn crtsy t reply to a letter asking for the criteria of the demarcation between plant-based dyes and flickering electrons?

    Progressive? Futuristic? If they really want to live up to their reputation, they should stick to carrier pigeons and leave everything after that to others. And all this particular episode does is reinforce that statement.

    KS Augustin

  126. Johne Cook says:

    #163 – The first rule of SFWA is that you never talk about SFWA. ;)

  127. Carol Hennepin says:

    Oh my what a wild and crazy weekend it’s been, and I missed it by taking a lame vacation to Vancouver. :) I’ve been blissfully Internet free all weekend, and so the SFWA/scribd.com brouhaha is fresh news to me. As such I apologize if I belabor points that have already been heavily flogged, but I have some first hand experience that straddles the professional and the personal.

    I’m an avid fanatic of fSF, but I’m only a casual writer and certainly not a member of the SFWA. I’m a voracious consumer of fSF books – Amazon loves me. I work in Internet marketing for a think tank that publishes a good deal of analysis and content in PDF format. Much of our content is freely copyable, some of it is not. Some of our restricted content was posted to scribd.com, and I followed scribd.com’s policy to have the content removed.

    I’ve read this thread, the even more exhaustive thread at Making Light, the Pournelle posts, the Scalzi posts, and others. While I’m a bit shocked at the level of vitriol on the side of the science fiction writers, it’s not surprising given their largely conservative history. And frankly, I’m appalled at the behavior of (some members of) the SFWA, especially when such ham-fisted folly was executed by men who flaunt their technical credentials on the web.That said, I’m glad that cooler heads seem to be prevailing.

    Am I right in sensing a backlash against scribd.com? While it’s somewhat understandable, it seems to be based on willful ignorance by angry people. While my experience with scribd.com has been short and to the point, they are far more professional and willing to work with copyright holders than other sites. Many sites make it difficult to request takedowns, have obscured their copyright policies, and have thumbed their nose at copyright holders while scribd.com does none of these things. I filed two separate notices with scribd.com, the second of which contained forty links to restricted publications in one notice. All were disabled in about six hours. As far as I can tell, there is a clear and present “copyright” link on the bottom of every single page on scribd.com that goes directly to their policy. I found it immediately when first notified of infringements.

    Both Scalzi and Pournelle have said scribd.com’s process is slow and cumbersome, but then go on to disclaim they didn’t actually send DMCA notices. It just seems like these vaunted writers could be expected to read or scan a web page and do things by the book before they lump a very accountable American website in with all the offshore nightmares that *truly* make my life hell. In my experience, scribd.com was very helpful, even given the strong language of our takedown requests.

    And while our requests were strongly worded, they were *valid* requests sent to the copyright agent. If *I* had contacted scribd.com with a “kinda-sorta” takedown or especially the kind of brutish arrogance that marked the Burt email, I wouldn’t have a job today. But then, I know how to do my job.

    On a side note, Teresa, can we do away with this Anonymous nonsense? From what I can tell it’s coming to no good.

  128. Laurie Mann says:

    Yeah, the notion of sausage comes instantly to mind…you don’t want to see that being made, either.

  129. Anonymous says:

    Alas, the article numbers are going out of sync.

    -MCZ

  130. Anonymous says:

    So what about DMCA counter notifications? I work for a file sharing company and we get legitimate removal requests all the time, but contact the post to let them know they can file a counter notification and keep the content up, then doesn’t it go into the accusers court to prove it is infringing material?

    Doesn’t anyone use the DMCA rights to protect their rights to post? If I misunderstood how DMCA works, please let me know, because it seems to be just a ISP copout to avoid direct responsibility for infringing material, and posters should stand up for their rights more using the tools the law gives them.

    I am certainly in the defective by design boat, but any insight would be great.

  131. Anonymous says:

    I hope you sue the everloving * out of them…
    This is a great opportunity to take the copyfight to the man…
    Just sorry that the man this time is the SFWA and not the RIAA or the MPAA.

  132. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    John Scalzi has published an excellent summary of the whole SFWA/Scribd dustup. Among other things, he makes it clear that Scribd has, in fact, been hosting massive amounts of copyrighted material, and hasn’t always been prompt or responsive when asked to take it down.

  133. Anonymous says:

    Frankly speaking, scribd is a pirate site, and I hope one of the SF authors with some resources takes them offline for good.
    I want the authors I read to be able to make a living with their writing, and I want their widows and orphans to get some income from it too. Flthy prt sts lk scrbd r n bttr thn crjckrs.
    nd th fct tht yr wrthlss wrk ws blckd frm fr dstrbtn fr fw hrs cts n c whtsvr.

  134. Bob W. says:

    Braxton (246): I agree with you, proving damages would be very difficult for Cory Doctorow, but I think the same might be true for Pournelle and others.

    I don’t by any means want to claim that I know the effect that unauthorized publication would have an author’s sales and resultant residuals. I do want to note that several contributors to various threads on this and related topics have mentioned discovering authors through free downloads, authors they might otherwise have passed by. In terms of income it is perhaps an effect like having your books in a library’s current circulating collection.

    The harm that I think Doctorow on one side and Pournelle on the other could probably agree was done to each of them at some point in this affair was the harm of having control of the results of their creative efforts appropriated.

    Pournelle is absolutely within his rights to decide for himself how his work is distributed, so is Doctorow, and both have a right to feel they have been harmed, regardless of their ability to assign and verify a monetary value to the harm, I think.

  135. ckd says:

    Teresa: SWFA is a line of cleaning products that will remove dirt from your kitchen floor, but may also rip up the linoleum in places after mistaking it for more dirt.

    Popular products in the line include the SWFA Dusta (guaranteed to blow the dust off even the crustiest old author) and the SWFA NetJet (known far and wide for its ability to engender online discussions; warning, contents are highly inflammable).

  136. Brad Collins says:

    Sadly, part of the problem is that many people like Andrew Burt believe that it’s fundamentally wrong to give *anything* away for free. So if a take down notice includes works that they ought not to be taking down, it’s not bad at all because they are “doing it for your own good”.

  137. Anonymous says:

    Jason Bentley once again misses the point in #151. The DMCA should be the LAST resort needed by an author to get his or her work taken down. The idea should be an author complains their property has been posted in violation of their copyright, Scribd takes it down immediately, the person who originally posted it then can complain assuming it was fair use or with permission, Scribd contacts the author and provides them with the comments of the original poster. If it is fair use or with permission the post is restored, if not the post stays down. How hard is that to understand? Who owns the material in question – Scribd or the author? Scribd seems to think they do and have put up barriers to keep authors from exercising their rights. This led to SFWA being pushed into a corner by an unresponsive Scribd and complaining authors. Their response was a bit over the top, but if Scribd were not violating the law in the first place by facilitating theft of copyright none of this would have been necessary. They and the persons making the posts are the criminals here, not SFWA. My vote would be to have SFWA go after Scribd in court much as RIAA did to Napster. I think we all know what happened there and what the likely outcome would be here.

  138. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Letting users read copyrighted works onsite is not like running a library. Libraries buy every book they loan out.

    The appropriate answer to a site hosting the text of a currently copyrighted work, if the author wants it taken down, is to take it down. The site doesn’t have the right to offer that work to their readers.

  139. Todd Knarr says:

    Bob W.: Right. Which is why these services so scrupulously avoid looking at material and so often don’t even respond to requests that don’t follow the rules set down for DMCA notifications. Per USC 17 512(c)(3)(b), notifications that don’t follow the rules are declared to not cause the provider to have actual knowledge of infringement. I think what Jerry Pournelle and others run into are the rules laid down in 512(c)(3)(b)(ii) governing what the provider has to do if they receive a notification that doesn’t follow the rules but does provide enough detail to indicate a problem. The provider in that case must not act, but must query the person sending in the notification and tell them what’s deficient in the notification. The sender then is obliged to correct the problems. If the provider doesn’t do this, but takes the material down, they lose all protection under 512(c).

    Yes, it’s a messed-up bureaucratic nightmare of a situation. But that’s what happens when one party isn’t willing to accomodate others. Look up “work to rule”, and why union people use it as a threat. I can easily see a situation where the provider is going “We got your notice, but we need these specific things in this format to make it fit what 512(c) requires, can you please re-send the notice with those corrections.” and the author going “I told you what you need to take down, why are you balking?”.

  140. evilrooster says:

    Michael @94:

    I think Cory is in Japan, which makes a face to face meeting unlikely. I also gather he is at Worldcon, which probably cuts down on phone time.

    (How do I know this? I, um, read it on his blog.)

    I do agree that we’re still in the talking past each other phase of things. But I am concerned that when the key parties begin talking to each other, it will be in private (their right, of course) and we will never hear the way the issues around this play out.

    And as a reader and a fan, I’m interested in a public discussion of the issues this raises.

  141. Johne Cook says:

    SFWA president Michael Capobianco posted posted an announcement on the SFWA Livejournal blog. They suspended and disbanded the current ePiracy committee, and are starting over. SFWA is also forming a new committee to take a fresh look at SFWA’s position on electronic rights issues going forward, and John Scalzi has made himself available for that new committee.

    I was critical of Mr. Capobianco for doing ‘too little, too late.’ This is a strong, positive step, and I apologize.

    Also, in a strange bedfellows kind of way, both Will Shetterly and Andrew Burt applaud the news. I think we have just witnessed a rare outbreak of sanity! Time to break out the Neo / Keanu ‘whoa’!

  142. Carol Hennepin says:

    I know, I’ve read John Scalzi’s (mostly excellent) summary, but he says “I didn’t format my request as a formal DMCA notice nor did I follow up on it once I got Scribd pleasantly non-responsive e-mail responding to my own, so I’m not going to pretend to be too outraged.”

    Now, if I understand Fred von Lohmann’s analysis correctly, scribd.com either can or should ignore things that aren’t formal DMCA notices because they could come from anybody.

  143. MCZ says:

    Oh, damn. The same typo. Twice.

    It’s SFWA, not SWFA.

  144. Anonymous says:

    “SFWA != all SF writers”

    Indeed, SFWA != SF writers, it’s been “Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers” for quite a while now.

    I blame this all on the unicorn crowd. See what happens when you let the riff-raff in.

    (OK I’m joking, even if I do prefer my SF with rivets.)

  145. Anonymous says:

    Re: #118

    As someone who buys a ton of science fiction and fantasy books, and who belongs to a *legal* music download service, and as someone who has been an activist, I have to say that I already have vowed not to buy any more books from authors who I know are actively supporting use of the draconian DMCA. I’ve bought eight copies of Silverburg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle in my life, because I kept giving it away. But if, as the internet seems to be saying, he and Pournelle and others are acting like the Metallica to the SFWA’s RIAA posture, then I will never be buying another from them.

    The only way we can talk to people who are worried about the loss of *potential* sales, is by making sure their actual sales suck rocks.

  146. Theodore Tso says:

    Scalzi @ #194:

    It’s hard to say for sure why Scribd might not have reacted as fast as you and Pournelle might have liked when you sent your “informal” request. I haven’t see the text of your requests, so I’m not in any position to judge.

    I will note, though, that large commercial message board operators who are also worried about getting suied or getting bad PR if they react to an informal request that was sent fraudulently actually want to receive a valid DMCA request so that they have no legal choice but to remove the content, rightly or wrongly. If you look at the process defined by the DMCA, it is pretty clear to me that lobbyists from “big corporate media” weighed in while the law was being drafted. One of the first rules about not getting sued is that avoid taking discretionary action. If you do something that you didn’t have to do, and it turns out to have been a mistake, dollars to donuts, sooner or later, some *sshole will decide to get a lawyer make your life miserable. They don’t even need to have the law on their side, just enough money to keep the lawsuit going for longer than you do. (And that can be a long time; take a look at how long the SCO lawsuit has been going, as documented by Groklaw, to see that unfortunately, the US Legal system, while perhaps not quite living up to the cynical view, “You can get the best justice money can buy,” someone with a lot of money or knowledge of the law — such as the DC Judge who sued an immigrant dry cleaner for millions and millions of dollars, it is quite possible to cause much pain and misery through the court system.)

    And even though it was probably a bid media company that lobbied for the whole DMCA formal “notification” and “counter-notification” scheme; it allows a big media company like AOL to wash their hands of any kind of responsibility, by hiding behind the law. And for a small ISP, who might not be able to afford lawyers or be able to afford the manpower to investigate every single claim that, “Even though someone put a CC license on that work, I’m the author and I’m telling you I never did it!”, they might be well advised to insist on the formality. Sure, maybe someone who knows the context of Cory Doctorow and e-books might probably know that his e-books probably are legit, and that something which says, “Copyright Tor Books” probably isn’t — but given that there are companies like Baen who do put some stuff up for free download, it’s not quite that obvious to someone who isn’t familiar with the Science Fiction/Fantasy community — and remember, Scribd doesn’t specialize in this Science Fiction/Fatansy so it’s not necessarily fair to assume that they know all of these details.

    So while it may be good for Scribd to say that they don’t require formal DMCA requests before they take action, my guess is that they have some kind of internal guideline, hopefully for their sake informed with legal advice, for how close to a formal DMCA request, and how certain they are that an e-mail claiming from “John Scalzi” really did come from the author named “John Scalzi”, before they will act. (And by the way, as someone who has served as one of the postmasters for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believe me when I say that it is trivially easy to forge e-mail messages such that only an expert will be able to tell that it is forged, and if the forgery is sent by an expert, it will be almost impossible to track down who the original sender of such a forgery.)

  147. David Langford says:

    If scribd.com is monitoring its groups in this way … they should notice that I’ve helpfully flagged their full text of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in the CopyVio group there.

  148. Anonymous says:

    I think the SFWA is channeling Monty Python..

    SFWA: “you have been found guilty by the elders of our town by uttering the name of our {lord|client}, and so as a {blasphemer|pirate}, you are to be {stoned to death|banned from the interwebs}!”

    dude in shackles: “look, [...] all i said [...] was, ‘that piece of halibut was good enough for {jehova|asimov}’.”

    and, as in the movie, no good can come out of it for anyone except the sellers of beards and stones.

  149. Johne Cook says:

    #151: As one of the small press operators caught in the overzealous SFWA algorithm at Scribd, I can vouch for Jason’s statements.

    Jason and Jared at Scribd have personally bent over backward to try to fulfill the spirit of the law while remaining forthcoming and helpful to those of us caught in the middle of the situation.

    I highly recommend the service and vouch for the leadership.

  150. Braxton says:

    Popular products in the line include the SWFA Dusta (guaranteed to blow the dust off even the crustiest old author) and the SWFA NetJet (known far and wide for its ability to engender online discussions; warning, contents are highly inflammable).

    To quote a rather crude comic, Larry the Cable Guy, “Now that thar’s funny!”

    Do they have anything to remove disagreeable warts off a crusty old Marine that’s known to go ballistic on occasion?

  151. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    I’ve got a minute. I can fix that.

  152. evilrooster says:

    Correction: based on a number of comments in a number of areas, I gather that much of the discussion is going on in private, on the members only message boards of the SFWA.

  153. Braxton says:

    Re: Teresa #265

    You said, “First, a general question: why is Cory Doctorow uniquely required to “acknowledge” — really, to validate — everyone else’s arguments, as well as his own?

    I can’t speak for everyone else, all I can speak for is myself. He is not required to do anything. He did what he did and his words speak for him. They give the impression that his only concern is what happened to him. This could have been remedied by a short statement acknowledging that some were helped by the take downs while others were harmed. It sets the context from which he is speaking. “I know some of you were hurt by what Scribd and its members were doing, but consider now how the take downs were done and what the effects were.” There is nothing requiring him to do so. It would have just been the polite thing to do and would have made him sound less shrill in his condemnation of SFWA’s actions. If I acknowledge all sides of an argument then give you reasons for supporting my reasoning, have I not shown you that I’m not just harping on one event, but am voicing a legitimate concern?

    The truth is, he and others were wronged by having their material taken down. How serious that was is a matter of personal choice in weighing the various arguments involved. I personally think that it was not that serious. I don’t have the right to speak for anyone else.

  154. Robotech_Master says:

    To Anonymous #88:

    Firstly, as is mentioned elsewhere, the “it wasn’t really a takedown notice” is from an early draft response that was since retracted, and never meant to be posted publicly (but you can’t unring a bell). In the email, it certainly claimed to be a takedown notice, even though as others have pointed out it didn’t meet all the technical requirements of one.

    The whole point of the DMCA takedown provision is to say, more or less, “If you act promptly to take down infringing content immediately when you get a notification, they can’t sue you for it. That way, you don’t have to worry about vetting every single thing anyone puts on your site, because if you had to do that you’d never get anything done.”

    That being the case, it’s understandable that they’d act right away to comply, and also understandable that they might not be quite up on the protocols enough to understand the notice fell short in a couple of key respects. In short, they panicked and pulled right away to make sure they couldn’t get sued.

  155. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Okay, that was funny. I searched on “SWFA” and found a bunch of people had made that same typo, so I fixed them all, except for that last one in MCZ’s post.

  156. Braxton says:

    Re: Johne Cook #233 Thanks for the reply.

    “For me, it was the underlying attitude.”

    This was an eye-opener for me, Johne. I actually took offense at what I perceived Cory’s attitude to be, not the other way round. Since I do not personally know the gentleman, I could only go by the words I read in his initial post above. He addressed a couple of good points in this post, but the underlying theme seemed to be his justifiable anger at having a work he wants freely distributed taken down from a fan’s spot on Scribd while ignoring or considering irrelevant the sheer quantity of the material that was on Scribd illegally.

    Perhaps it was my knowledge that Jerry had been complaining about the unauthorized free distribution of his works, and those of his friends and associates, for months that allowed me to forgive his rant against Cory’s apparent disregard for all of the content that needed to come down because it was on Scribd illegally. If my major source of income came partly from the residuals I got from my former works, I would probably rant as well and focus on trying to get those taken down. Heck, my major source of income does not come from my writing, though I do write technical reports for the studies my company does for submittal to government agencies, and I was incensed by what I assumed was the disregard by Cory for the sheer volume of infringing content on Scribd.

    For example, Cory wrote, “Included in the takedown were: a junior high teacher’s bibliography of work…” If he had instead written, “The takedown included a large number of illegally posted items, but also included a junior high teacher’…,” I would have been more sympathetic to his legitimate complaint. The former says, “Disregard the man behind the curtain and look at only me!” The latter says both issues are important here, but I want to focus on how I was wronged. As it was, it seemed, at least to me and from what I read this past weekend to others as well, that point was to be ignored in favor of the few items that were taken down without proper justification. I do not think now that was the intent, but that was the perception I and others got at the time. That the larger infraction does not excuse the takedown of material that was there legally is certainly not lost on me, nor on those I have spoken with, but it was the apparent disregard for the sheer volume of illegal copies that made me angry and apparently Jerry felt the same way, though I hesitate to speak for why he posted what he did the way he did. It is very hard to justify a mistake made in anger – I very much know this to be fact – and I will not even concede that what Jerry posted or the way he posted it was a mistake, though that there was anger there is apparent.

    Cory and a number of others have also mentioned fraud, which to me was an unnecessary escalation of what actually occurred. While I am by no means a legal expert, my understanding of what constitutes fraud involves 3 things – an intentionally false statement, the victim’s reliance on the statement, and that damages actually occurred. That SFWA made some mistakes in the list does not mean that was their intent no matter how poorly it was thought out or ultimately delivered. Scribd did rely on the statement as fact and took down all of the items in the list. Scribd might be able to provide details of how their company was materially harmed by the loss of goodwill of the user community, but it would be very difficult for Cory to prove that he was harmed by this statement. Was he wronged? Yes. Did he lose money, property, or sustain physical damage? This would be, I should think, just as difficult to prove as proving those who had content on Scribd illegally were actually harmed by it being there. So, it seems this being fraud all hinges on intent, something very difficult to prove. As I said before, however, I am not a legal expert nor do I think is Cory, but if I understand this little bit about what constitutes fraud, I have to assume that he does as well. Since I assumed he did, his choice of calling this fraud must have stemmed from a desire to inflame the issue. I cannot prove this any more than I can prove that Jerry was writing in anger. I can only go by what I read, my understanding of the issues and the English language, and my limited understanding of the specific sequences of events.

    I have since seen mention of perjury since apparently there were authors on the list that had not granted SFWA the right to represent them. I think this also requires intent; a point that has been mentioned here and elsewhere. I do not think Dr. Burt or SFWA intentionally did this and even if they did, it would be hard to prove. Were people wronged by being included on the list? Certainly. Did Dr. Burt intentionally put those names on the list and then swear under oath that he had the right to represent them, I don’t think so.

    I have to agree with you on the last paragraph. Friday and over the weekend, people (me included) became much more incensed than the facts and issues warranted. I don’t think anyone has yet proven that illegally distributing works on the Internet causes any harm and I have even seen where it may actually help sales. That is immaterial considering that it is against the law to do so. That there are intense feelings about this issue became very apparent to me over the weekend. I still am having a hard time wrapping my brain around the concept that those of you in the business of writing are not Thoth reborn and above the concerns of us mortal men. I am very happy that some of that intensity has abated and that the issues are finally being addressed. I have a 2-3 book a week reading habit and I don’t want to see that go unfulfilled because a mistake was made here.

    Thanks again for your response. It has truly helped me see why this thing went down the way it did. I was mistaken in what I believed Cory Doctorow was trying to achieve, but I think others were also mistaken in what Dr. Burt was trying to achieve. He made a blunder and the SFWA and perhaps the writer community as a whole will pay for that. Hopefully it will make things better.

  157. evilrooster says:

    Braxton Cook @233:

    Aside from everything else, can I just say that that was a first class apology. I look forward to reading more of your comments, knowing you have the courage to realise when you were wrong and the grace to admit it in public.

    I hope this doesn’t sound condescending, because it is sincere. Well done.

  158. Johne Cook says:

    #121 – How is Scribd making money off this? They’re a free service, ala Flickr.

  159. Anonymous says:

    Scribd is doing a very very bad job of monitoring for copyright violations. As I noted on my blog (http://www.di2.nu/200709/03.htm ) I believe I have found a single poster there who has uploaded a few hundred pirated books. And he’s not the only one.

    If scribd want to defend themselves against the DMCA or what ever then it would behoove them to make it easy to report blatantly pirated material. As in a button on each item where you can say “take a look its a pirated copy”.

    It would also help if in the FAQ or somewhere scribd defined the way they would prefer to be notified of pirated material. At present it looks like you just have to file a DMCA takedown notice and jump through about 5000 hoops in the process. This is not a way to win friends amongst people who want to sell their creative thoughts.

  160. Bob W. says:

    If scribd.com doesn’t get it together and start peremptorily and summarily removing uploads like the “Complete Harry Potter Series in One File” in advance of DMCA or other notices, SFWA might not have them to kick around for much longer. The status of the rights to publish copies of those works can’t be considered to be in doubt, nor are the works so obscure that a reasonable site owner could reasonably disclaim knowing the material posted was just fanfic.

    Not for nothing, the uploader notes that there might be problems with the transcription, “but hey, it’s free!” I would suppose that from J.K. Rowling’s point of view this might be a sterling example of adding insult to injury. Scholastic probably won’t find that very amusing, either.

    P.S. MILTONTHALES (199): It’s impossible to allow “reading” without allowing “downloading.”

  161. Robotech_Master says:

    How ironic that Andrew Burt should do this.

    Andrew Burt was responsible for the first real unfettered access I had to USENET, back in the days when my telnet access was through a CP/CMS machine, and so telnet into Nyx was all cluttered with ANSI codes and improper scrolling yet still readable. aburt’s Nyx site was where I went to read the anime newsgroup rec.arts.anime that a friend had told me about, and where I was inducted into online writing circles where we wrote our tales and shared our stories freely on the Internet. Though defunct now, alt.pub.dragons-inn and alt.pub.havens-rest were really jumping back in the day.

    And Burt was also a more direct champion of writing circles, too, in his work with Critters. According to the article, he believed that espousing some of the principles of the Open Source movement in writing would lead to more and better writers.

    And now look what he’s doing. What a shame that it should come to this.

  162. codeman38 says:

    This whole fiasco is reminding me of another case of copyright cluelessness from back in 2003, when the Business Software Alliance sent a cease-and-desist notice to the University of Muenster in Germany for what they believed was an illicit copy of Microsoft Office… but which turned out to be OpenOffice. Oops.

  163. Dorvis Slaughter says:

    For what it’s worth, from what I can tell, Scribd doesn’t look like it’s making much off money anything all. I didn’t have to pay anything to sign up, and there isn’t even adsense anywhere. I was able to download a bunch of pdfs and there was no links to paypal or google checkout. It’s been widely reported that they’re well funded but the notion of Scribd cashing in on violated authors sounds disingenuous, especially given my still-fresh memories of Harlan Ellison and his evil, weathly Pirate Usenet, laughing maniacally over a “destroyed” Science Fiction publishing industry. Look what’s come of that… I’m guessing y’all can still afford your broadband.

    That said, Scribd would probably get the foaming creepies off their backs if they had an easy way to opt in to links to paid editions of books at amazon or something. but how would that effect the creative commons noncommercial stuff already on the site? I would only see it working if they let people turn ads off for noncommercial creative commons licensed stuff.

    As for Dr. Burt, his tactics are lame, but lets face it – every industry has these white knight types, that try to stand as guardian protector to somethingorother. There’s Heston, Ulrich, Geller, Bush…just to name a few. Uber love-me types in a sea of unter love-me types. But, like the President, how do these jokers keep getting elected?!

    Is it me, or has Dr. Burt’s been oddly silent since the s*** hit the fan?

  164. Anonymous says:

    Correction: Diebold paid $125,000 – not $150,000 – in fees and damages according to the EFF page cited.

    Either way, this isn’t a trivial amount, and I’m very surprised that SFWA would open themselves to the possibility of damages. You would have expected them to take great care since they know that they do not act on behalf many (most?) US SF authors.

    Jeff

  165. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Todd:

    I agree about publication and responsibility. The question is, who publishes? Take my own website (http://www.silverglass.org/). All the material there is mine. Who published it? Did I publish it? Or did XMission, the site that hosts it and that I uploaded it to, publish it?

    Easy: you published it. XMission stands in relation to you as a printer does to a conventional publisher.

    Printing isn’t publishing. To publish is, at its core, to make public.

    To me that’s the heart of the problem. If you want to publish on the Web but don’t want to own and run your own server, you have to upload your material to someone else’s server to have it hosted. And someone has to run that server and provide the service to their users. And that brings up the question of who’s responsible for the material.

    Traditionally, the answer is that everyone who was in a position to know it was happening, but didn’t try to stop it, is reponsible to a greater or lesser degree. Of course, that formulation dates from the days when you couldn’t publish something you’d neither seen nor heard of.

    A publisher is reponsible for his text, whether or not he’s read it.

    BTW, it’s easier to understand these issues if you think about the disputed text being something that’ll get law enforcement genuinely excited — say, a crucial industrial formula, or a bunch of security codes. If something like that gets let loose, the site’s unmanageable message volume is no defense. The site agreed to act as publisher when it didn’t have the resources necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of a publisher.

    Whoever posted the material will also be liable.

    If text sites couldn’t be held responsible for their content, what law enforcement would do is crack open the sites and demand the names and addresses of their users. I can’t imagine that’s a preferable option.

  166. Laurie Mann says:

    Y’know, isn’t it interesting that the “SFWA Saves Writers Work from Scribd” has not shown up as a story on SFWA’s news feed. Might show a certain…ahem…dissention in the hierarchy as to whether or not this was a good idea?

  167. Anonymous says:

    scribd.com has thousands of copyrighted works posted without the permission — in the face of the objections, in fact — of the copyright holders. There are words for that, you know. “Piracy” leaps to mind. So does “felony.”

    So the SFWA makes a list of thousands of pirated titles, inadvertently includes an insignificant few that scribd.com does have permission to post, asks you to take them all down, and your whiny consensus is that the villain here is the SFWA?!

    Authors have the right to insist on payment for their intellectual property, no matter how reactionary, old-fashioned, or evilly-capitalistic you think that makes them them.

    Grow up.

  168. Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers says:

    Xopher @ 60

    That renaming would be most unfair to the two muppets involved. Especially Burt, who really does get more grief than he can deal with. Ask him.

    As far as Scribd’s reaction to the notice goes, I don’t think you can reasonably blame them for reacting to it as they did; ISPs and portal sites have been the targets of lots of persecution of this sort, and some of the little ones have been had to expend energy far in excess of what they could afford to deal with the issues. IANAL, but I do believe Scribd could make a case that issuing of an invalid notice was an intent to extort with premeditated avoidance of the penalties of perjury in the DCMA.

  169. Anonymous says:

    Wil Wheaton wrote: “So SFWA has ripped a page from the book of the RIAA and MPAA, and tried to follow in their footsteps.”

    Hmm, did they pay a licence fee on that page? COPYRIGHT THEFT, COPYRIGHT THEFT!!!!! ;-)

  170. Bob W. says:

    Bob W. (201): “…reasonably disclaim knowledge of the infringement because of having taken the material posted as just fanfic.”

  171. Johne Cook says:

    I first started posting about this on Tuesday. In the interim, Boing Boing added the ability to leave Comments. I can’t tell you how pleased I am at the timing!

  172. Anonymous says:

    This is all Harlan Ellison; he’s had it in for the Internet ever since he discovered that some of his books are in ebook newsgroups. He’s a real fascist, and several SFWA members have told me that he’s taken up this issue with total mental abandon, as if on a crusade.

  173. Anonymous says:

    All Your CopyRights are Belong to Us.

  174. MCZ says:

    Thank you, Teresa.

  175. Christopher says:

    I have to agree with some of the other posts: sounds like a class-action counter-suit against SFWA would be an excellent move. I’m sure there are some lawyer-friends-of-Boing-Boing reading this that would be happy to take the case… a la Eastern Standard Tribe. =1

  176. raptros-v76 says:

    Ugh. Every time I hear about this sort of garbage happen, I get pushed more to the idea that anti-DMCA-abuse extremism is needed. I believe that I am not the only one. Someday, someone is going to snap, and is not going to be a pretty sight. To everyone who has ever done something like Andrew Burt, good job. You are going to make someone commit a violent crime, just by abusing a legal system.

  177. Dorvis Slaughter says:

    LOL I bet “Anonymous” in #152 is Andrew Burt :-D

  178. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Message #17, please re-post that with your name on it.

    A general announcement: the “post anonymously” option was made available because the editors wanted to leave a mail slot open for whistleblowers and the like. One of the missing bits of the redesign is that there’s supposed to be a notice when you post that says that comments posted anonymously will automatically be held for moderation.

    Which they are. And once that notice gets posted, getting out of the “anonymous” moderation queue is going to be a lot harder.

    I’m not going to automatically clear anonymous posts in this thread, either. Just so you know.

  179. Anonymous says:

    Interesting that Scribd may not be quite so entitled (much less required) to insist on by-the-letter-of-the-DMCA notices as they claim:

    http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/2007/09/about-that-latest-sfwa-thing.html#comment-1022

  180. Michael Brutsch says:

    I’m a dues-paying SFWA member

    Then you’re just contributing to the problem. In fact, you’re funding their efforts. Do you not see a problem there?

  181. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    My version of events:

    1. Andrew Burt screwed up completely. His computer expertise isn’t expert. He knows jack about copyright. And he’s either too dumb to grasp, or too self-centered to admit, how much his actions have damaged SFWA’s credibility.

    Last I heard, he was still insisting that he’d only made a few errors; that double-checking the list of titles to be taken down before he sends it out is to much trouble for anyone to have to do; that his search protocol did not, in fact, suck so bad it could cause a continental low-pressure zone all by itself; and that the people criticizing him were doing so on “ideological” grounds. In short, he isn’t taking responsibility.

    2. Michael Capobianco, current President of SFWA, may not write deathlessly brilliant press releases, but he’s a good guy. More to the point, he’s not the sort to push anyone out the airlock, even if they’re Andrew Burt.

    3. The rest of the internet observes that Andrew Burt hasn’t apologized and fallen on his sword, and Michael Capobianco hasn’t ordered him to resign. They have concluded that SFWA approves the DMCA and the takedown order.

    4. SFWA, as usual, has little or no firm policy, and is tied up in flamewars in the members-only SFWA area on SFF Net.

    5. Some number of SFWA members are appalled at how bad SFWA has made itself look. Others think they’ve maybe heard of Slashdot and Ars Technica, but aren’t sure what they are.

    6. Rule of thumb: given a range of possible explanations for some action on SFWA’s part, pick the one that assumes the organization is in a state of chaos and is having a flamewar about it.

  182. MiltonThales says:

    #226 Johne Cook:

    I used their option for Feedback to inform them of the document group I created, “Copyright Violations” and why I created it, as explained above.

    I received no reply to my feedback, either to my Scribd user profile or my e-mail address. Most of the documents that were in that group do seem to have disappeared, though of course it’s difficult to tell since the entire document group vanished ! The group CopyVio was still there last I looked, but I don’t think I’m going to offer any Feedback about it. ;) It was created by another user who had been a member of Copyright Violations.

  183. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    #17: Aha, thought so. Hello, Jules. Good to see you here.

    Just register and re-post, okay? SFWA thrashes are bad enough when you can tell who everyone is.

  184. Anonymous says:

    Dear Moderator:

    Thank you *so* much for belittling, in your comment

    http://www.boingboing.net/2007/08/30/science-fiction-writ-1.html#comment-7414

    my attempt at

    http://www.boingboing.net/2007/08/30/science-fiction-writ-1.html#comment-7174

    to shed some light, rather than heat, on this matter.

    You really know how to make a geekish nerd feel welcome in your domain!

    May your efforts enjoy all the success they deserve!

  185. Anonymous says:

    As a small-scale creative person (game developer instead of author, though), I actually like the DMCA. The alternative is to have to engage in a court case every time someone violates my copyright. As someone who makes a few thousand dollars off my work per year, this is beyond my ability. Yet, just because I can’t afford to have a lawyer or agent send out C&D letters or file lawsuits doesn’t mean my rights are any less valid.

    If you read the DMCA, you’ll find that there are provisions for actual copyright holders to notify the host that the material is, indeed, not infringing. If you do that, then the next step is to go to court. Of course, in the case of the works mistakenly taken down, it’s unlikely that a lawsuit will follow.

    I know it’s fashionable to complain about the DMCA, but it’s actually quite helpful to us independent creative types. It also protects content hosts from having to be responsible for copyright infringement by putting the notification requirement in the hands of the copyright owners. And, it takes more than just a brief note, you have to follow specific steps to have a valid takedown notice. And, a similar process allows you to contest the takedown if you own the copyright. And, the host can’t become hesitant to comply with takedown requests; following them is the only way for them to maintain their “safe harbor” standing, so your argument is spurious.

    So, send your own notice if your work was taken down wrongly. Don’t just bitch on your blog about how unfair life is, trying to sway opinion against a law that has its uses for those of us legitimately fighting copyright violations. If the site won’t put your work back up or if the SFWA sends another incorrect takedown, then it’s time for you to go to court. Given the way the law is written, it would be a simple case for you (but probably still expensive, unfortunately. Luckily the large organizations can probably be sued for legal fees, too.)

    My two cents,

    - Psychochild

  186. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Carol, I loathe this “Anonymous” nonsense. Posting anonymously was supposed to be a very minor option, available for the benefit of the occasional whistleblower. It was supposed to be hedged round with warnings and controls and difficulties. Instead, it’s one of the parts of the software that wasn’t finished in time for the relaunch, and the door for anonymous posting was left standing wide open.

    It will get fixed. I have faith that it will get fixed. In the meantime, I’ve been working long days, because the one control on anonymous posting that was implemented in time for the launch is that all anonymous posts land in the moderator queue, and have to be released by hand. By me. With occasional help from Ken Snider and Mark Frauenfelder. Friday of last week I was moderating messages for thirteen hours straight.

    I will admit that there are comment threads on Boing Boing where my patience has run thin. The discussion of the guy who was arrested for not showing his receipt at Circuit City, for instance — the fourth or fifth anonymous iterations of someone coming in and posting opinions that have already been repeatedly posted and rebutted, because they haven’t read the thread before commenting on it, started losing their vowels.

    Just so you know, people who have registered get more latitude. Also, this week, gratitude.

  187. Scalzi says:

    Yeah, actually, I think Capobianco has done pretty well. The man is having to deal with multiple constituencies inside and outside of SFWA, some of whom have greatly differing aims, and is doing what I think is his level best to make sure they all know he’s hearing them and their concerns. There’s not a statement he’s going to be able to make that will make everyone happy, but he’s splitting the baby as well as he can, and about as well as most could in these particular circumstances. He’s rolled with it.

  188. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Michael Brutsch (28): No. It’s not a problem. Neither is it a problem for any of the other dues-paying SFWA members in this discussion, few of whom will defend SFWA’s/Andrew Burt’s actions.

    Your objection is the equivalent of saying that it’s a contradiction for someone who votes and pays taxes to criticize the government.

  189. Braxton says:

    Re: Bill Clardy #261

    Pot, meet Kettle.” This ripped a chuckle out of myself and a number of writers I know. Well done!

    SFWA can no more violate Mr. Doctorow’s right to free speech than I can.

    I don’t think EFF was claiming that SFWA by itself violated the free speech rights of others. I think they were claiming the SFWA used the DMCA, a law and therefore the government, to violate the free speech of others. If I go to a police station, for example, and fill out a false complaint against Teresa, who is giving a speech about me that is not very flattering, that causes her to be arrested; then her free speech rights have been violated because it was the government that arrested her, not me. Now, I believe I would then be charged for perjuring myself in the original statement while the police could be charged for violating her free speech in relying on that false statement without checking the facts.

    The interesting thing here, at least to me, is the notion the DMCA effectively turns Scribd and anyone else receiving a DMCA take down request into the police, something I had not thought of. SFWA improperly made a DMCA take down request (filled out an unintentionally false complaint) and gave it to Scribd. Scribd, acting in a similar fashion as the police, then went and took down the offending material. Does Scribd have the resources and training to be copyright police? Scribd, as a company, cannot violate free speech, but the DMCA itself very well may. It may also be an improper assignment of governmental authority to a private citizen. Congress cannot delegate their ability to create laws to Microsoft, for example. Even if one considers a DMCA take down notice a court order, something I would have to comply with, it is not the complaint that violates free speech, but the order itself. Can Congress grant the Power of the Court to private citizens? It certainly looks like they did with the DMCA. God’s this issue gets more convoluted every time I think about it.

    … a copyright is the restrictive right to control the copying of one’s work, not a right to publication (which is probably a good thing in the case of many would-be authors).”

    The last part of this ripped another chuckle. Well done again.

    I’m not sure Cory Doctorow’s claim was that his publication rights were violated. I think he was claiming he had lost control of his right to the copying of his material that he had granted to those complying with Creative Commons. It is this loss of control that is the very heart of all of this brouhaha. Jerry Pournelle and a number of others lost control of their material when it was illegally posted at Scribd. They had a right to have it taken down. Cory Doctorow had the right to allow a fan to post his material at Scribd. He had a right to do so and this right was taken away when the material was removed by Scribd. Both parties were injured in this fiasco.

    I and a lot of others tend to look at the original offenses as the cause of all of this. If Scribd had policed itself better, Mr. Doctorow would not have had his material taken down. That take down was wrong, but it stemmed from the breaking of the law that preceded it. If I’m fencing stolen goods out of my apartment, do you have a complaint against the police when they confiscate your TV that I had agreed to hold for you over the weekend?

    Both of your arguments were well thought out and presented. I’m on the side defending SFWA, Dr. Burt, Dr. Pournelle, and others. Attempting to refute your arguments is therefore probably not the smart thing to do, but I want to understand all of the issues here and you made me really look at two very important issues – free speech and copyright control. I want a sane and rational discussion of what ensued this past weekend, what the ramifications of it are, and what can possibly be done to stop it from recurring. Your arguments are both sane and rational. Mine have not always been so. Thanks for making me think.

  190. Brother Phil says:

    Two suggestions for everyone:

    1. Email support@scribd.com complaining that you can’t access the book. Refer to this article to rebut the notice, and ask for access to be restored.

    2. (Perhaps some feedback from Cory before taking action on this one). Everyone set up an account on scribd.com and upload a copy of Down & Out, and maybe a few more CC novels.

    Phil.

  191. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    I think Elizabeth Moon made off with that bottle.

  192. Anonymous says:

    If scribd.com had permission to host your work, why didn’t refuse to pull your work. What is THEIR responsibility to assert their rights?

  193. Anonymous says:

    Wll, pprntly Scrbd nd th FF wn. Th SFW hs jst cwrd bck nt crnr wth thr rms rsd mthng, “Pls dn’t hrt s!” Thy r dsbndng th crrnt Prcy brd nd frmng nw cmmtt t stdy th ss. Trnsltn: f y’r thnkng bt bng wrtr frgt bt nyn lkng t fr yr ntrsts. f y cn’t ffrd fll-tm stff wrkng th nt t fnd yr stln mtrl nd lwyr t fl th DMC rqsts t tk thm dwn, y’r n yr wn.

    pprntly Cry Dctrw’s rght t frly dstrbt wht h wrts trmps th rghts f nyn ls tht wld nt. Hs njry n th lss f xpsr fr fw dys ws pprntly fr mr mprtnt tht th mnths f lst sls pprtnts fr nyn ls nt gvng thr stff wy. ppld hs stts chng nt bng mr mprtnt thn mst f th thr wrtrs n th plnt. hp h chks n t.

    trly wsh th mmbrs f th SFW wll, thgh thnk th rgnztn wll b gn n fw yrs. Thy srv n sfl prps nw.

    , fr n, wll cs my ffrts t bcm pblshd thr. wll stll wrt, jst wn’t shr wht wrt pblcly lst sm “fn” stl t nd pst t t Scrbd. ll sch fns cn sck wnd. thnk thr ffrts hv jst lst lrg nmbr f wld-b wrtrs. t ws hrd ngh bfr. Nw tht t s flly ccptbl t stl th wrks f thrs nd hv t prtctd by th nrs prcsss t Scrbd, t s n lngr wrth th ffrt t gt pblshd. fw thsnd dllrs yr s nt wrth th hrtch f wtchng smn s yr wrk wtht yr prmssn t mk mny nd thn thmbs thr ns t y f y cmpln. f yr ntnt ws t ncrg nw wrtrs, Scrbd – y fld.

  194. Kevin Andrew Murphy says:

    This isn’t the first time SFWA has overstepped itself. But it takes a particular sort of incompetence to think that doing a search for the name “Asimov” is only going to turn up works by one particular author.

    Of course it could also be that Burt just didn’t want to do the spadework himself, expecting the other guy to do it, and not bothering to think that a frightened business owner is going to pull everything and try to sort things out afterwards. And the promptness of the restoration of Cory’s work is pretty obviously a case of the squeaky wheel, rather than any competence on anyone else’s part.

    Sigh….

  195. Bob W. says:

    Todd Knarr: Actually, based on the stories from friends in the publishing business of the degree of difficulty involved in tracking down the current owners of copyrights, having a strict set or rules for formal notices makes a kind of sense to me.

    And yeah, I can see that getting a non-conformant notification from Pournelle saying that some chunk of fiction you have posted that nobody’s heard of is actually copyright would completely reasonably trigger a response of, “Tell me that in the proper form and I’ll look into it.”

    What I question is the notion that such a letter-of-the-law approach would succeed as a defense against a suit brought against you for continuing to host all 7 HP books even after you’d been notified through the channels by which you ordinarily do business. Do you know that this has been tested in an actual legal proceeding in which the copyright at issue was for an extremely well known work?

  196. Johne Cook says:

    #225 – Now, thanks to the furor, the e-Piracy group at SFWA has been disbanded, and their authors are now on their own to track down their content and file DMCA take downs. But heck, many of you seem to hate the DMCA and copyright anyway, and think that authors should just somehow be able to magically make money sharing their creations for free.

    Yeah. Uh, did you get that memo?

    Michael Capobianco’s post clearly states three actions, not just the one that fits your venting spleen:

    1) Suspend / disband current ePiracy Committe.
    2) Form temporary exploratory committee to take the pulse of SFWA members on copyright, authors rights, and the posture to take for legal action going forward
    3) Take the lessons learned and form a new, permanent committee to act on the above.

    It’s about taking one outdated mechanism and thoughtfully updating it to reflect current realities–and, one hopes, future-proof things a bit in the process. That’s not at all like saying they’re taking one aging mechanism and replacing it with a placard on how to squeeze blood from a turnip.

    The measure has garnered wide support across the spectrum, and is the first really positive thing to happen all weekend. Let’s cut SFWA–and the legitimate users of Scribd–some slack and see what develops before jumping to any further conclusions.

    I think that’s something even the ‘Jews, Catholics, and Masons within the VC community‘ can support.

  197. Cory Doctorow says:

    Regarding DMCA put-back notices — yes, they’re available, and Scribd’s users are starting to deploy them. But there’s a 10-day cooling-off period for reinstatement, and there’s the fact that Scribd’s users aren’t lawyers or experts. They’re getting generic notices saying (more or less), “SFWA has called you a criminal. If you aren’t a criminal, fill in this scary legal boilerplate. Warning: if you do this, you might be sued.” As SFWA has not provided any context (e.g., “You’re being served with this takedown because you used this phrase: ______________”), the Scribd users are having to guess at what they did that might be illegal. They aren’t copyright experts, and some have written to me asking if they *do* need permission to quote a single sentence, use the name of their favorite author, etc.

    The DMCA process is a lousy way to learn about copyright in a hurry.

  198. Todd Knarr says:

    Braxton, #264: one of the issues with a site policing itself is volume. Think about how many uploads Scribd gets every day, and how long it’d take for a human to vet them.

    If you want a handle on it, think about UPS. The volume of packages they handle every day is huge. Imagine the problems if UPS had to open and inspect the contents of every single package they shipped. And if the contents were in boxes, those boxes would have to be opened too. And everything repackaged after the inspection. With the volume of packages UPS gets, they simply couldn’t keep up. Next-day and second-day delivery would be history, and even normal ground service would take considerably longer than it does now. And if UPS is going to be held liable for what’s shipped through it if it doesn’t check things, then it has to check every package. We consider this a bad thing, so the law doesn’t hold UPS liable unless the problem was so obvious that anyone taking even a quick look at the package would say “Something’s wrong with that one.”.

    Now, you might say UPS should just make their best effort. Problem is, if they do and miss one the claim against them is going to say “They checked all those other packages, they could’ve checked the one they missed but they didn’t. Negligence! Hold them liable!”. And indeed, if you look back 15-20 years, sites like Compuserve initially tried their best to police things. And indeed, when people made claims against them for things that were posted by their users, the claims pointed to all the other checking those sites did and said “They checked those other things, they could’ve checked this one and didn’t. Negligence! Hold them liable!”. And that is what led eventually to USC Title 17 section 512 being written the way it was.

    And that is why sites like Scribd don’t police things until someone complains. If they do and they miss anything, copyright owners will hold them directly liable. And they will miss things, the volume’s simply too great. Look how well the SFWA did vetting everything on their list, and they had a much smaller list to work with. Since the best Scribd can do isn’t sufficient, all they can do is fall back behind the shield the law gives them: look at nothing but legal takedown notices, so they can claim no actual knowledge and thus no liability.

  199. Anonymous says:

    Fiction becomes fact. Isn’t this the sort of scenario that so many dystopian science fiction writers have been warning about since the genre started?

    The good guys become the bad guys. Snowball, where are you when we need you?

  200. Cory Doctorow says:

    I think the most important thing to note about the debate about whether or not this was a takedown notice is that:

    SFWA members claim that Scriptd were a pack of recalcitrant heel-dragging pirates who were so uncooperative in responding to claims of infringement that they had to be targeted. However, if they are so all-fired legalistic and uncooperative, then why did they give SFWA the benefit of the doubt and treat the “informative note” as a DMCA notice (rather than adding the sender to a killfile and ignoring further correspondence from that address, which is probably what I would have done.).

  201. Anonymous says:

    #108:

    Do you honestly believe that ANYONE that loves reading a novel would do so from a freely available Text File?

    Although I’m not one of the authors this question was directed at, I can answer it with a sincere “Yes” – because I’ve done exactly that on multiple occasions, thanks to Project Gutenberg, the Baen Free Library and other sources.

    What is so strange about it?

  202. ckd says:

    Anonymous (#152): “My vote would be to have SFWA go after Scribd in court much as RIAA did to Napster. I think we all know what happened there and what the likely outcome would be here.”

    Yes, we do. Napster shut down its centralized file sharing system, and the legend of the Hydra was recapitulated as several decentralized file sharing systems sprang up to replace it. Instead of having a single well-known site that might have been willing to become a subscription service (paying royalties based on the number of copies made and giving record labels a vast amount of marketing data as well), the RIAA forced file sharing systems to evolve into forms that had no vulnerable central point. That was ever so productive, wasn’t it?

  203. Bob W. says:

    Braxton (244)

    It’s great to see constructive discussion and movement toward a meeting of the minds!

    If I may point out one place where you write as if you had no choice, but in fact are not conscious of an alternative:

    > Since I assumed [Cory Doctorow] did [describe an act I didn't think was fraudulent as being so], his choice of calling this fraud must have stemmed from a desire to inflame the issue.

    Granting for the sake of argument that Cory Doctorow would upon calm reflection agree with you that the e-mail from Andrew Burt did not constitute fraud as such, you are unfortunately ruling out the possibility that he was sufficiently angry to use a word which conveyed his emotional reaction rather than choosing a term with better quasilegal accuracy. I mean, he could have just been mad and shooting his mouth off, like other people in the argument. His intent does not have to have been to inflame the issue.

    One other point is that Cory Doctorow did in fact state how he felt this action was harmful to him, that it undid his work to encourage taking the Creative Commons license seriously as an alternative to copyright, work he felt he’d put significant effort into and a goal he believes in strongly and sincerely.

  204. Bob W. says:

    Braxton Cook (233): This is just my semi-informed opinion, having seen more than one or two RIAA, MPAA, and individual studio evidence preservation and take-down notices, but my short answer to your question is that SFWA could provide practical support for rights-holders who want to send DMCA take-down notices.

    It’s not really hard to send DMCA take-down notices, once you have a template and some basic software in place. Putting together the required materials and a process could be a very valuable contribution for SFWA to make. Actually identifying who is legally entitled to file such a notice might (or might not) be more complicated: who has the right to complain about a fan translation posted on a web page, for example? One wants to get this right, since the DMCA take-down notice is meant to include a sworn statement of legal competence to make a complaint.

    Assuming that the author actually is in a position to have a complaint filed (i.e. currently controls the rights in question), then actual production of DMCA notices can be automated to a great extent. The elements of the notice are mostly a listing of facts: who are you, what did you find, where did you find it, are you asserting that you have the right to control its publication. Such a list can be prepared for e-mail and digitally signed, then sent through normal e-mail channels.

    For all the obloquy of which Dr A. Burt has been a recipient, he’s probably in a good position to marshal the required resources. The digital signature part is more or less part of standard e-mail software packages. Setting up the signing service and a reliable method for verifying the signatures is a free software project — this is the kind of work for which graduate students were invented.

    I noticed in some of Jerry Pournelle’s on-line material that he had identified a number of items whose publication on a web site probably wasn’t authorized. He probably knows the authors of those items, or their survivors, in many cases. Other SFWA members probably know the remainder. In some cases, a SFWA DMCA committee could probably act on behalf of members.

    In the more moneyed world of film, tv, and music publishing industries there are a number of businesses that earn money through tracking purported DMCA violations and filing the required notices to take down allegedly infringing material and prepare for lawsuits against the purported violators. SFWA could fulfill the former role on behalf of sf&f authors.

  205. Anonymous says:

    Why don’t you try just burning out their resources by posting “Asimov, Asimov, Asimov, Asimov, Asimov, Asimov, Asimov” all over the interwebs :)

    That ought to keep them busy for a while.

  206. Nicole Simon says:

    Unfortunately, this list was flawed and the results were not checked. At least three works tagged as copyright infringements were nothing of the sort.

    Really. You are really telling me that once this hit boing boing and other sites you only managed to localte 3 (THREE) works tagged wrongly?

    It makes me want to compile a list of things they did wrongly – and I bet it should take me about 5 min find the three.

    What I further find insulting – and mind you I am neither an author nor a user of Scrybd but a BUYER of science fiction – is that I read nothing after “we screwed up” saying “We will work asap on this list we send out and do our work this time” but suggests for somebody who has done everything right to contact *them* and do the work for them.

    The list was not even published for somebody to scan through if they where damaged by this association acting on their behalve.

    Just as a suggestion for Mr. Capobianco: Take a note at the amount of subscribers of boing boing. Take a mental note that probably over 90% of those readers have bought one or more american science fiction work over the years, more likely many.

    And that these kind of buyers tend to shift their buyings away from authors presented by organizations like this due to actions like this.

    Are there pirated work on the net and is it growing? Yes absolutly. But if you think that this will go away in such that you just try to ‘get rid of it’ you waste your time on old school mechanisms. This is 2007, not last millenium. Deal with it and grow up. For every time you do something stupid like this, you put another nail in your coffin.

    You could be able to really lead the discussion and make something happening for the future (and lets not get into the disussion about internatinal implications, mind you I am a German posting on an american site). But basically, you do have a choice how your future and that of your association is going to look like. So far it does not look like you are getting this.

    Copied as mail. This is a fyi mail, I do not expect any kind of mail answer back. The answer I do expect from you (rather the doing) is for YOU to do your homework and to make sure to work with Scribd to restore every single document you falsely claimed to be infringing.

    Nicole Simon

  207. Jason Bentley says:

    Scribd’s official response:

    September 1, 2007

    Dr. Andrew Burt
    Vice-President
    Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.

    Dear Dr. Burt:

    I am an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). I write today as legal counsel representing Scribd.com. If SFWA is represented by counsel in connection with the matter discussed below, please let me know so that I may direct future correspondence accordingly.

    On August 17, 2007, you sent an email to Scribd.com on behalf of SFWA alleging that numerous items hosted on Scribd.com allegedly infringed the copyrights of authors who you claimed to represent. On August 27, 2007, you confirmed in another email that your earlier communication was intended as a formal notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

    We have now heard from no fewer than four authors whose works were improperly targeted by your notice. They confirm that they have never authorized SFWA to act as their DMCA enforcement agent. As a result, it appears that your notice constituted a misrepresentation both of your authority to act on their behalf and that the targeted materials were infringing.

    Scribd.com takes its copyright responsibilities seriously and complies in every particular with the requirements of the DMCA. Upon receipt of a compliant DMCA takedown notice, Scribd.com acts to promptly remove any materials uploaded by its users. But Scribd.com does not take lightly your apparently careless invocation of the DMCA to remove content without any valid justification.

    I understand and appreciate that SFWA has taken steps to apologize to Scribd.com users whose materials were improperly removed as a result of your notice. This letter is intended to prevent any repetition of these unfortunate events. While we will continue to consider valid DMCA takedown notices sent on behalf of rightsholders who you are authorized to represent, this letter puts you on notice than any further takedown notices that contain misrepresentations may expose you and SFWA to liability (including attorneys fees) pursuant to 17 U.S.C. 512(f). This would include not only notices that misrepresent about your authority to act on behalf of rightsholders, but also any notices that target activities (such as the inclusion of small excerpts of copyrighted material within larger original works) that are plainly noninfringing fair uses. See Online Policy Group v. Diebold, Inc., 337 F.Supp.2d 1195, 1204 (N.D. Cal. 2004) (imposing liability for sending DMCA takedown notices targeting obvious fair uses).[1]

    Moreover, none of your recent communications have been in compliance with the requirements of the DMCA. As you should know, the DMCA requires that a takedown notice be in writing and include each of the following pieces of information:

    (i) A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

    (ii) Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works at that site.

    (iii) Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to locate the material.

    (iv) Information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact the complaining party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address at which the complaining party may be contacted.

    (v) A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.

    (vi) A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

    See 17 U.S.C. 512(c)(3)(A).

    Your recent communications conspicuously fail to meet several of these requirements, including the lack of a statement under penalty of perjury that you are acting with the authority of the copyright owner and any identification of the work you allege is being infringed. In addition, the law requires that all of these elements must appear in a single communication, rather than spread across numerous email messages. See Perfect 10, Inc. v. CCBill LLC, 488 F.3d 1102, 1113 (9th Cir. 2007).

    You may wish to review the most recent ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on the DMCA, which presciently predicted the harm Scribd.com users appear to have suffered as a result of your noncompliant notices:

    In order to substantially comply with 512(c)(3)s requirements, a notification must do more than identify infringing files. The DMCA requires a complainant to declare, under penalty of perjury, that he is authorized to represent the copyright holder, and that he has a good-faith belief that the use is infringing. This requirement is not superfluous. Accusations of alleged infringement have drastic consequences: A user could have content removed, or may have his access terminated entirely. If the content infringes, justice has been done. But if it does not, speech protected under the First Amendment could be removed. We therefore do not require a service provider to start potentially invasive proceedings if the complainant is unwilling to state under penalty of perjury that he is an authorized representative of the copyright owner, and that he has a good-faith belief that the material is unlicensed.

    See Perfect 10, Inc. v. CCBill LLC, 488 F.3d at 1112 (emphasis added).

    The law clearly entitles Scribd.com to ignore noncompliant DMCA notices entirely. See 17 U.S.C. 512(c)(3)(b)(ii). Consequently, by failing to meet the requirements of the statute, you run the risk that your notices will be rejected in their entirety (including any legitimate allegations of infringement that they may include), an outcome that would be unfortunate for the rightsholders SFWA represents.

    We trust that, in light of this incident, any future DMCA notices sent by SFWA shall substantially comply with all the requirements set forth in the statute.

    Sincerely,

    Fred von Lohmann
    Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
    fred@eff.org
    (415) 436-9333 x123

  208. Anonymous says:

    Side note (generated by following various links within the main article):

    I read the article at http://sfwa.org/epiracy/shades-of-gray.html — This is just laughable. Anyone who frequents the eBook scene knows who the good uploaders are. Bad uploaders get ignored. Life goes on as before.

    But … readers BUY books when they can. These ‘pirated’ eBooks are sometimes a convenient format shift or stopgap (akin to the library) til one can buy one’s own copy, but they’re not the Real Thing.

    But if you prevent us from reading them, that’s the same as if you blacked out half the pages in library books — it does nothing toward selling us copies, and just makes you look like a dick.

  209. Matt Staggs says:

    If I were an author represented by this group I’d be embarrased as all hell.

    Perhaps many of them will be and withdraw their membership.

  210. Anonymous says:

    #71
    If you think the primary method of transmitting ebooks involves web posting, you’re going to be disappointed. Anyone dumb enough to post copyrighted work where a Google Alert would pick up on it deserves to get burned for it.

    #74
    How does a non-lawyer tell if a CC notice is legit? I can post a copy of “I, Robot” with a CC license attached, and that emphatically does not make “I, Robot” a CC-licensed work.

    On SFWA:
    So SFWA went from Howard V. “pixel-stained technopeasant” Hendrix to Andrew “RIAA!” Burt as VPs? Nice to see an organization whose membership is uniquely concerned with the future led by such people.

  211. Joshv says:

    As you seem to make much of my posting anonymously, I will lay claim to being #225, grammatical errors and all.

    Anonymous #225, you may find Jerry Pournelle’s account “clear and compelling” — tastes vary — but I wouldn’t have called it accurate.

    Then perhaps you could have refuted some of the points Pournelle has made.

    If Damon Knight were still around, I know what he’d do first: (1.) tell you it’s “SFWA” not “the SFWA”; and (2.) make snarky remarks about plurals, possessives, and apostrophes.

    Ah, grammer flames, how refreshing. Is this slashdot? I would have expected more from a Boing Boing moderator. Oops, I expect so challenging the moderator will result in this post ending up in the bit bucket. Surprise me.

    Here’s one question: Has Scribd made copyrighted non-Creative-Commons-licensed works available on its site without permission of the authors? Answer: It has. That’s wrong. And no one has ever argued that that’s not wrong.

    Huh, a point curiously absent from Cory’s original inflammatory post. Perhaps Cory could publicly acknowledge this point?

    Here’s a different question: Was Andrew Burt/SFWA wrong to send erroneous and misleading pseudo-DMCA takedown notices to Scribd? Answer: Yes. It was very wrong of Andrew Burt/SFWA to do that. People are justified in being angry about it.

    Sure, I won’t disagree. SFWA has apologized and has publicly offered to right their wrongs. What more would you have them do. They submitted thousands of DMCA requests on a shoestring. They had volunteers review the content, and they made some mistakes. Apparently such mistakes are utterly unacceptable.

    Here’s a third question: Does Andrew Burt/SFWA’s screwup mean it’s all right for Scribd to make copyrighted unlicensed works available on their site without permission of the authors? Answer: No, it doesn’t. That material is still there illegally, and Scribd should take it down. Soon.

    Again, I’d love to see Cory acknowledge this point.

    And a fourth question: Has anyone ever suggested that because Andrew Burt/SFWA screwed up, Scribd is allowed to go on illegally offering copyrighted unlicensed works without the permission of the authors? Answer: It shouldn’t mean any such thing. Report as I’ve heard it says that Jerry Pournelle and Andrew Burt have both have both asserted that publicly admitting that Andrew Burt/SFWA screwed up would effectively amount to giving Scribd permission to keep offering unlicensed copyrighted works without the authors’ permission.

    I have no idea what you are reading, but I have never heard any such thing suggested.

    Onward to a fifth question: Does the fact that Scribd was illegally offering copyrighted unlicensed works without the authors’ permission mean that it was okay for Andrew Burt/SFWA to send erroneous and misleading pseudo-DMCA takedown notices to Scribd? Answer: No. It was not okay. The fact that Scribd was in the wrong for making unlicensed copyrighted works available on their site does not excuse Andrew Burt’s/SFWA’s wrongful actions. It also doesn’t relieve SFWA of liability for the act, which was undertaken in SFWA’s name.

    I have not, nor has Pournelle suggested that Scribd’s massive copyright infringement absolves SFWA of wrong-doing. But in the court of public opinion, really, who is the bad guy here? The defender of independent Sci-Fi writers, that botched a few DMCA requests, or the company that continues to illegally profit from copyrighted works.

    Here we have the same confusion of issues again. The reason the EFF came to Scribd’s defense was not because they had illegally made all those works available on their site. The EFF came to their defense because Andrew Burt/SFWA had sent them erroneous and misleading pseudo-DMCA takedown notices.

    What was the error rate in the SFWA DMCA take down notices? What percentage of the links were erroneous and misleading? As of a few hours ago I could still find the full text of many Isaac Asimov works on Scribd. Is this really a company the EFF wants to be defending?

    That’s a child’s way of thinking, to assume one’s actions only have the effects one intends. When you’re a legally competent adult, it’s not enough to mean well. You have to study the situation and make plans that you can reasonably expect will succeed in getting the results you want without doing damage along the way. If I’m messing around with bottle rockets, I may not intend to burn down your house, but I’m still responsible for doing it.

    Child’s way of thinking? Perjury requires intent. This is a legal fact, not a childlike way of thinking.

    This offer of help dumbfounds me. Do you think any forum managers with a lick of sense are going to let Professor Burt come within ten feet of their message base?

    I understood that SFWA would work with any authors whose content has been improperly removed and ask Scribd to restore it. This would not require any interaction with the “message base” – whatever that is.

    And thank goodness for that. It’s not impossible for the public to forgive someone a badly flawed understanding of copyright law; but no one is ever going to forget that an officer of SFWA, acting on behalf of the e-Piracy group, ran a simple search on “Asimov” and “Silverberg”, did a completely inadequate check of the results, and then used it as the basis for erroneous and misleading pseudo-DMCA takedown notices which he sent to Scribd. Little kids know better than that. SFWA’s credibility was at stake. Andrew Burt’s e-Piracy group had to go.

    Again, I ask you, what was the error rate? Please substantiate your claim of “completely inadequate”. It certainly was not adequate enough, because, as of this afternoon, I could still find the full text of many Amisov works on Scribd.

    Scribd was, and continues to be a blatant infringer of copyright. This is your poster child?

  212. sirdook says:

    I’ve noticed that this post contains the terms “Asimov” and “Silverberg,” so you should be prepared for a DMCA taketown notice, Cory.

  213. Anonymous says:

    To #40, Mr. Mike W.B. (and others who see nothing wrong in the SFWA’s actions);

    The DMCA, good or bad exists, and to the extent that Scribd users have posted your copyrighted text, in a portion Greater than that allowed by the fair use doctrine (see 17 U.S.C. ss 107 — which states (and I quote): “Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.” (the statute includes a 4 factor test for exceeding fair use)) you and your publisher (or other duly appointed representative) should send a notice. Remember that fair use still exists and it pre-dates the DMCA. So if there is real infringement, please exercise your rights — on a case-by-case, TARGETED basis. Not with the equivalent of ‘legal buckshot.’

    An additional problem here is that SFWA does not represent all authors on whose behalf it sent the notices. THAT is an abuse of process. Furthermore, not only does this make it harder for legitimate representatives to respond to TRUE copyright violations, scatter-shot use in the manner exhibited by SFWA can have a ‘chilling-effect’ on legitimate use — and that is a major legal issue here, and one everyone should be concerned about. Anything that chills the free and open discussion of ideas, especially ideas first raised in written works of others, is a terrible thing.

    Protecting our individual ability to argue, discuss, and use the works of others — with proper attribution — is must in any free society. If someone occasionally exceeds fair use, contact them directly and address it. If that same person is consistent scofflaw, then take the response — still targeted — to higher level. But do not seek to establish a broad hostile environment. While some of the users of Scribd may indeed care nothing for the rights of others, blanket statements are never true or accurate.

    And the final irony, as stated by others as well, is that the SFWA, an organization representing a group that *thinks* and dreams of what the future could be, and what greater heights humanity could strive for and achieve, is acting in the most reactionary and hidebound — even dinosaur-like — mode.

    -Apurva Desai (posting from Nippon2007)

  214. Bob W. says:

    Braxton Cook (233) And if I can just follow up briefly again, one immediate problem with filtering all possibly copyright-infringing material on upload is the sheer volume of material, none of it indexed against a reliable directory of copyright statuses.

    Consider, for example, the amazon.com catalogue, which includes items for which all rights are reserved, items for which some rights have been released, and some items for which copyright has lapsed completely (e.g. Dover books). There’s no indication in the catalog as to which is which, and given that some rights might lapse on author’s death plus some waiting period, the list would have to change over time in ways that are hard to track.

    In the case of college papers the number of items to search through is relatively limited — compare papers with other papers submitted at this time, other papers submitted in recent years, papers which have been found through plagiarism distribution channels. And the result of finding a suspicious paper is to bring it to the attention of the academic authorities who have to investigate maybe a few hundred students per semester.

    A site like scribd.com would have to investigate a huge number of document uploads and there’s really no standard to automatically compare the uploads with. The alternative for such a site is to use the mechanisms of the existing law, which allow everything to be posted without legal exposure to the web site owner and require putative owners to find and protest the infringing publication. That seems kind of reasonable, in a way: if it’s hard to find the document there’s a good chance that it’s not being downloaded much and the damage to the rights holder might well be fairly small.

  215. Anonymous says:

    Is there a place where we can get a list of SFWA members/authors? If SFWA want to use RIAA tactics, they can have the same response I give the RIAA: never buying products by their member artists.

  216. Patrick Nielsen Hayden says:

    Michael Brutsch in #28 quotes Cory as saying “I’m a dues-paying SFWA member,” and goes on to hector him:

    “Then you’re just contributing to the problem. In fact, you’re funding their efforts. Do you not see a problem there?”

    Jesus, guy, what Cory was saying was “Look, I’m a member of this organization, and as a member I object to this being done in my name.” Are you really proposing to yell at him because he hasn’t resigned in high dudgeon _fast enough for you_? Take a pill.

  217. Anonymous says:

    Everyone who’s commenting on this might want to go and check out scribd.com for yourselves. Try typing in “Asimov” in the search terms. When I did this, one of the first things that came up was “Caves of Steel”. What you get looks like the complete text of the novel. Furthermore it’s listed as being available under a Creative Commons license and you can copy copy and remix it and redistribute it as long as it’s not used for commercial purposes.

    Sorry friends but that just ain’t true. This not only violates the author’s copyright, furthermore it’s a lie and were anyone to believe it they could wind up liable for copyright infringement, unknowingly. At least if you go to “The Pirate’s Bay” and get a movie from Bittorrent you *know* you’re doing someting illegal and opening yourself up for some trouble.

    If you look at the users who’ve posted and lied about these works you’ll see that they’ve posted hundreds of other works as well.

    Scribd needs to clean up its act. There’s plenty of legitimate conent out that that can be shared. Users who upload works they don’t own and aren’t allowed to share and *lie* about it as well need to be banned and all of their files dumped.

    Cory may have been burned by getting caught in the net but it’s scribd.com that’s setting up the situation. If it were one or two infringing works among thousands of legitimate works he might have a point.

  218. Anonymous says:

    a large SF publisher, Baen Books, has been GIVING away book online, FREE. See the “Free Library” at baen.com for a list.

    They don’t care if you pass them around, because evrey writer who has had a book go in the free section has seen sales RISE.

  219. Scalzi says:

    Wil Wheaton:

    This never would have happened if John Scalzi were president.

    Had I been President of SFWA:

    1. Someone (hopefully not me) would have gone through Scribd, comparing the authors on the site with the authors in SFWA’s membership rolls.

    2. Those authors would have received notification via e-mail (or snail mail if e-mail were not available) that their work was available on Scribd, along with instructions on how to send a DMCA notice if they or their representatives wished to do so.

    3. The general SFWA membership would have been made aware of Scribd, via e-mail and the FORUM publication, and given information on how to draft a DMCA notice if they found their work there.

    4. From time to time, and hopefully with the cooperation of Scribd, step 1 would be repeated, with repeats of steps 2-3 handled privately within SFWA.

    However, I am not President of SFWA.

  220. Anonymous says:

    At first glance your writing seems well founded — a miscarriage of DMCA. But as has been noticed elsewhere, these really aren’t worded as a DMCA, and scribd really shouldn’t have taken these items down.

    I would say this was the act of someone in SFWA working on their own and filled with a false sense of power. As such, their emails should have been treated that way and scribd should not have removed the material.

    By doing so, though, it does generate a lot of anti-DMCA noise. I wouldn’t condemn SFWA, as much as I would slap the silly person who sent the emails, and scribd for not treating them as such. The scribd site has to hold itself partially accountable. The users of scribd may not have access to lawyers to understand how DMCA work, but I would assume scribd does.

    Shelley

    PS I would register for comments, but you don’t have a privacy notice related to the sign-up page.

  221. Tomas says:

    SFWA has issued a statement on this issue:

    http://www.sfwa.org/news/2007/sfwascribd.htm

    Tomas

  222. Yatterings says:

    This is a truly insane position and I hope it bites Burt hard. However how many other people talking about books, films etc are going to get hit in the meanwhile? Fingers crossed the reality check steps in soon.

    At #28, this appears to be the actions centering around one person – why walk away from the SFWA just because of one jerk? Raising objections and doing something about it is a far better use of time, imho.

  223. Jason Bentley says:

    Bob W: Scribd is not monitoring violations this way. Scribd is going by the book: we still require formal DMCA notices by sworn representatives before we remove content.

    While we appreciate the efforts of our community to police themselves, such efforts, whether out of genuine concern or ‘vigilante samaritanism,’ leave the door wide open to widespread abuse. We’ve already received a number of complaints from users about their documents being added inappropriately to these groups, assuming it was our doing. Such complaints are evaluated and corrective action is taken pursuant to our abuse policy.

    We have responded directly to Milton Thales regarding this matter.

  224. Anonymous says:

    R: Trs Nlsn Hydn #155

    S mch fr mprtlty nd fr ply. Nw flly ndrstnd th prpndrnc f nt-SFW psts hr. Nvr mnd tht Scrbd llwd thr mmbrs t pst cmplt vrsns f cpyrghtd wrks n thr st fr MNTHS. Nvr mnd tht Scrbd vrtlly frcd lgtmt wnrs t jmp strght t DMC tk dwn rqst rthr thn wrkng wth thm th frst tm cmplnt ws ldgd. Nvr mnd tht SFW s n ll-vlntr rgnztn tht ds nt hv th mny t hr lw frm t ss thsnds f DMC tk dwn ntcs whl Scrbd hs stff tht cld sly vt lrg plds t kp vltns t mnmm. Th vctms f th crms prptrtd by Scrbd r th vllns hr vn thgh thy lst mnths f pssbl nw sls whl fw thrs mstknly tkn dwn by Scrbd lst jst fw dys f pssbl sls. SFW prjrd thmslvs! (Scrbd brk th lw fr MNTHS!)

    thght ths ws gng t b fr dscssn f th sss, bt pprntly t s jst bsh SFW nd lgtmt cpyrght hldrs. Sd. Srry wstd vryn’s tm by tryng t pn n hnst dscssn f th sss.

  225. George William Herbert says:

    The reason for the DMCA requiring formal notifications is that you have to hold people responsible for takedown requests. Without a formalized and verifyable process, no end of vandalism could result from miscreants sending out fake unverifyable takedowns for works or material which are legitimately posted or hosted.

    This is a protection for authors and copyright owners, not a hindrance. If you want your legitimately hosted and posted online material to STAY online, you want anyone claiming there’s a problem to have to have jumped through a bunch of hoops and be identifyable.

    Jerry Pournelle would no doubt be livid if someone emailed his ISP with a takedown of his columns because of a one-email fake claimed copyright violation. But things like that have happened in areas where there aren’t protections. Anyone long familiar with the Internet will know the risks here.

    The DMCA is a balancing act. If the balance is set wrong, time will show that. People need to use it in good faith before claiming it’s broken, though.

  226. Bill Clardy says:

    I realize I’m coming late to the party, but as a sci-fi fan I’ve been busy all week earning money to keep the mortgage paid and only just got a chance to read some of the brouhaha about this.

    I find it interesting that some folks are pillorying Jerry Pournelle for his rhetorical excesses while also defending Cory Doctorow’s omissions as the product of justifiable anger. All I can say is, “Pot, meet Kettle.” One might be more heated, but the color’s still the same.

    Moving back up the comment chain, I think that the EFF is indulging in religious marksmanship (pray the spray stays on the target). The last time I checked, the First Amendment has nothing to do with civil actions between private parties. SFWA can no more violate Mr. Doctorow’s right to free speech than I can. The First Amendment applies solely to the actions of the legislative and executive branches of the government of the United States, not to private citizens who are entitled to out-shout their fellow citizens.

    I find the notion that SFWA infringed on anybody’s copyright by persuading scribd to take down their material to be equally ludicrous — a copyright is the restrictive right to control the copying of one’s work, not a right to publication (which is probably a good thing in the case of many would-be authors). There is nothing in the Creative Commons License which changes that distinction.

  227. Tomas says:

    Content of SFWA statement on scribd action:

    ********************************************************
    SFWA Statement regarding removal of works from scribd
    ********************************************************

    I want to respond to the flurry of activity that has resulted from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) mistakenly identifying several works as infringing copyright. First, some background. There have been discussions within SFWA for several months regarding websites that allow users to upload documents of all sorts for other users to download and share. Many hundreds of copyrighted texts have been put online at these sites, and the number is growing quickly. Some SFWA members complained about the pirating of their works to SFWA’s e-Piracy Committee and authorized the committee to do something about it. SFWA contacted scribd.com, one of these sites, about removing these authors’ works and generated a list of infringing works to be removed.

    Unfortunately, this list was flawed and the results were not checked. At least three works tagged as copyright infringements were nothing of the sort. I have personally apologized to the writers and editors of those works. If you are a creator who has had material removed and has not yet been contacted, please email me at president@sfwa.org.

    SFWA’s intention was to remove from scribd.com only works copyrighted by SFWA members who had authorized SFWA to act on their behalf. This kind of error will not happen again.

    Michael Capobianco
    President, SFWA

    Posted August 31, 2007

  228. Tomas says:

    @#124

    Thanks, Jason, for posting Fred von Lohmann’s well written scolding of Andrew Burt. :o)

    Dr. Burt (and SFWA) is now very clearly on notice that any further poorly researched, non-compliant, or purely unlawful “notices” will NOT be accepted.

    They are also on notice that swearing to untruthful statements will get action – just not the action they might want…

    Tomas

  229. Anonymous says:

    Maybe I’ve been reading too much Groklaw. (And I’m certainly not a lawyer).. But my understanding is that the punitive damages to Diebold et al, are about abusing DMCA notices to take down infomration that isn’t really related to copyright… A noble idea all of it’s own.

    This case I would expect to be much more severe… couldn’t this be classified as outright “slander of title?”

  230. Cory Doctorow says:

    Note that this statement does not promise that:

    1. SFWA will check the list on its own to eliminate works that it erroneously identified, rather, it puts that burden on the authors/posters of the works that have been suppressed at SFWA’s behest

    2. SFWA is only interested in works that are “non-infringing,” not works that it didn’t have the right to enforce copyright on, for example, the Bruce Sterling text (Sterling has confirmed that SFWA is not his agent for copyright enforcement)

    In a nutshell — “We’re sorry, if you do the legwork, we’ll ask Scribd to put your stuff back, but we won’t do anything ourselves. Also, we will continue to act as though we have the right to enforce any copyright we see being violated, regardless of whether we represent that copyright holder.”

  231. Anonymous says:

    I read this mismash of comments after reading a summary of the Article at slashdot.

    Some background, I’m a married 35 year old individual that has been reading 2 Sci-Fi novels a week since I was 10. I have bought every Sci-Fi novel I’ve read, a total of about 2600 books. In short I’m the guy you want as a fan.

    To the authors that decry Scriptd as stealing their work. Do you honestly believe that ANYONE that loves reading a novel would do so from a freely available Text File? Seriously? Ebooks have barely taken off – and the core readership – people like me – haven’t adopted it.

    So whats more dangerous to you – annoying your potential fans by removing their REVIEW OF YOUR WORK, or having a partial/incomplete text file of your work available to people that don’t want it?

    If you are a SciFi author and posting the “Scriptd are theives” nonsense, please do use your real name, I’ll be certain to add you to my “avoid at all costs” list.

    I dislike dranconian censorship for the sake of dranconian censorship and I (and the thousands like me) aren’t afraid to vote with our dollars.

    Signed Sincerely,

    An avid fan

  232. mike w. b. says:

    In my opinion, they’re not absuing it at all. I’m an author myself and I have to admit that I’ve sent a DMCA (well, my publisher has) to Scribd as well. These guys just don’t give a damn about authors. They’re facilitating theft and they’re hiding behind some law that was not even meant to protect them. Horrible. I can’t believe Cory’s defending these thieves.

  233. Todd Knarr says:

    Well, we’ll find out in the Viacom v. YouTube case, since Google’s citing the safe-harbor provision as an explicit defense. What makes it even more interesting is that Google’s also raised the issue that Viacom themselves can’t or won’t implement the kind of pro-active search that they’re demanding of Google. After the Chris Knight fiasco, this is apt to make the YouTube case interesting indeed. Preliminary indications in that case are that the judge is taking the attitude of “It’s in the law, Viacom. If you don’t like the law, you need to talk to Congress about changing it.”.

    But whether it turns out to be a good defense or not, it’s the only thing that might possibly present a defense so it’s what the providers go with at present.

  234. Anonymous says:

    I’m A.Lizard, anyone who cares who doesn’t already have it can google for my e-mail address. I’m posting anon because I don’t feel like registering at the moment.

    IMHO, I think you should sue the bastards. You are personally affected by the takedown, you have notified the SFWA that they don’t represent you, and from what you posted, it’s a reasonable assumption that the takedown list was bot-generated, which puts the SFWA in territory formerly reserved for the *AA organizations. I believe that anyone who generates lawsuit threats with a lawbot deserves to be hammered.

    I think an out of court settlement where you get legal costs, a consent decree, and a public apology will serve the purpose of making sure they never, never, NEVER do this again.

  235. Hittis says:

    A little comment on #96:

    The problem with these kind of “keyword search” DMCA-takedowns is almost, to use your analogy somewhat, like coming home and having your car seized because it was reported stolen by a person claiming that “the wine-red Volvo V70 is owned by a person who has authorized me to act on his behalf”. To add insult to injury, the police refuses to return your car for two weeks after you proved that you own the car.

    Using the DMCA like this hurts those that do wish to do things in new ways. Being accused of violating someones ownership, being accused of stealing even, is hard to accept when the work in question is your own property. The text of the DMCA, as I understand it, forces the hoster/provider to remove everything that they receive DMCA-takedowns on as soon as possible otherwise they might be sued themselves.

    This isn’t about someone saying “if I get permission from one then I got it from everyone” but about how this actually hurts those who has had works wrongly removed.

    I like to read and when I stumbled onto webscriptions (http://www.webscriptions.net/) I was fascinated, here is a company that encourages authors to release some works for free (http://www.baen.com/library/) to attract more readers. Mr. Baen, Webber, Flint and all others – I thank you for letting me know about all those wonderful stories I’m reading. I hate to think what might happen if some organization takes it upon themselves to remove, what they claim to be, illegal publications even without the right to do so.

    Sorry for the rant. Moderators, feel free to delete this if it is wrong or inflammatory.

  236. Anonymous says:

    This is such ass backwards, punishing the reader thinking that makes me sad. So much for a forward thinking genre. So much for pesenting a ratioinal future. Ridiculous. I, too, am in the “Scalzi wouldn’t have done this” camp.

    Well, guess I’ll never join SFWA if I get the ooportunity. Not while crap like this takes place.

  237. Johne Cook says:

    Re: #233 At the risk of being once again disemvoweled, can I please ask for specifics as to why anyone thinks Dr. Pournelle’s post about what happened is inaccurate?

    I won’t give you a tit-for-tat rebuttal, but I will share my personal opinion.

    For me, it was the underlying attitude. Both authors saw events that needed to be rectified from their perspective, situations that affected their ability to make a living. Fair enough. But it is the way that they framed their arguments that differed.

    Cory’s argument:

    Included in the takedown were: a junior high teacher’s bibliography of works that will excite children about reading sf, the back-catalog of a magazine called Ray Gun Revival, books by other authors who have never authorized SFWA to act on their behalf, such as Bruce Sterling, and my own Creative Commons-licensed novel, “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.”

    The list of works to be removed was sent by “epiracy@sfwa.org” on August 17, described as works by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg that had been uploaded without permission and were infringing on copyright. In a followup email on August 23, SFWA Vice President Andrew Burt noted that the August 17 list wasn’t “idle musing, but a DMCA notice.”

    That struck me as factual and accurate inasmuch as I am aware. Contrast that with Jerry’s post from later the same day:

    Corey Doctorow lets go from a great height at people who make a living writing.

    http://www.boingboing.net/2007/08/30/science-fiction-writ-1.html

    It doesn’t surprise me much. Doctorow doesn’t much care for intellectual property; that may or may not be affected by the value of his intellectual properties. Mine are worth enough that I can eke out a baseline living from residuals of works I wrote some year ago. Perhaps Doctorow is a lot more successful than I am in getting people to subscribe to his new works; or perhaps he doesn’t need so much to live on as I do at my age.

    Either way, he doesn’t have a lot of sympathy for writers, but then one does not expect him to.

    It goes on, but you see the contrast? Cory laid out the problem and addressed it with links, logic, and reason. Pournelle came firing for Cory, in person, from the first statement, not even having the courtesy to fact-check the correct spelling of Cory’s name.

    Cory’s post was a case against an ill-advised and possibly fraudulent power play run amok. Jerry’s post was a personal diatribe against a person, and the people agreeing with that person.

    If you don’t share the same view and are willing to debate the issues, fine, let the cream rise to the surface. However, what I read from Jerry on Friday was, shall we say, ‘curdled’.

    That’s from the Friday post. The more recent one seems more tempered, and I give credit for that. I even see the possible beginnings of some consensus. I’m trying to focus on that and not some of the more histronic elements that I trust I don’t need to revisit here.

  238. Flying Squid says:

    Silverberg is not exactly an unique name. I wonder how many people named Silverberg got affected by this?

    For example, Silverberg.net has nothing to do with Robert Silverberg.

    Furthermore, the chief wine critic for the New York Times is Eric Asimov. Want to discuss Eric Asimov’s wine review on Scribd? Too bad.

  239. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Mike W. B., they’re not all thieves. Re-read Cory’s post. A lot of the stuff Andrew Burt demanded that Scribd take down had been put there by its own authors. Cory’s novel has been freely available online since the day that it was published. Cory has also explicitly forbidden SFWA and Andrew Burt to claim that they represent him. The unlawful taking in this case was done by SFWA.

  240. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Josh V., you haven’t understood half the things I’ve said. Furthermore, I’m under no obligation to waste my time refuting Jerry Pournelle, any more than Cory’s obliged to argue your side of your argument for you.

    Maybe I’ll feel more enthusiasm in the morning. Not now.

  241. Scraps says:

    Then you’re just contributing to the problem. In fact, you’re funding their efforts. Do you not see a problem there?

    Perhaps it’s not the only thing that SFWA does, and other things might be worth paying for. Do you see your error in logic here?

    In my opinion, they’re not absuing it at all.

    Inasmuch as Cory has detailed very specifically the ways in which SFWA has abused the DMCA process, can you explain why you think SFWA has not? How SFWA pretending to represent people they don’t represent, and forcing the takedown of texts they have no right (or reason) to take down, is not abusing the DMCA process? Deplore Scribd all you like; we’re talking about a specific issue here, in which SFWA is clearly and grossly in the wrong.

  242. Anonymous says:

    I used to look forward to being a “card-carrying science-fiction writer”. After seeing this, not so much. I think I’ll stay a pixel-stained technopeasant, publish when and where and how I want, podcast everything I write and focus my attentions and efforts on my fans and readers.

    What gets me is these are the sorts of people who bemoan “the decline of science-fiction” and then turn around and sue their readers. Were these the people who used to write for the old mimeographed fanzines? Were these the people who quoted other people’s stories in the fan letters pages of Analog and Asimov’s? Were these the people who wrote about the brave new worlds that we are now living in?

    Be the people that other people look up to — create and share the future, not the past.

    Carol E. Meacham
    Atrocious Adventure Publishing

  243. tycho garren says:

    I can see the benefit of–and even sometimes think it’s a good thing–to put the onus of enforcement on the originator of the content, but probably only when the originators are big companies. When it’s people like me, or even you, Cory, it seems like less of a good idea.

    I can respect the way that having the originators of the content be responsible for sending take down notices means that spaces/areas of the internet, means that website owners can do what they do best: making websites, rather than policing copyright.

    At the same time, the implementation sucks, of course, and there’s no real good counter for assholish (I use the term generally) content owners/originators, who are fixed on riding a horse.

    Speaking of which, it strikes me that SFWA isn’t really a union, and thus shouldn’t *really* be taking this kind of action on behalf of it’s members, but I could totally be wrong about that.

  244. Tomasz Gorski says:

    I can respect the way that having the originators of the content be responsible for sending take down notices means that spaces/areas of the internet, means that website owners can do what they do best: making websites, rather than policing copyright.

  245. Anonymous says:

    Someone just got lazy or frustrated or confused and sent a blanket notice. It certainly wasn’t smart, and yes they’ve lost credibility for the next time. It’s annoying but to use the DMCA takedown precedures properly, you need to pick and choose what exactly you’re posting a notice on. THE EXACT VERIFIED ITEMS. It’s like claiming that you’re siezing the assets of an entire bank when you really need just the debtors’ or criminals’ funds blocked. One check fraud versus an entire bank’s client list… or using just the last 2 digits of a SSN to identify someone’s account. You’de have to be insane to try to explain that one in court.

  246. Anonymous says:

    Tw wrds: Scnc. Fctn.

  247. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps we should do a careful investigation of SFWA members to find out how many ripped off older stories and published them.

    Oh, that’s right, they’re likely protected by fair use.

    Perhaps the SFWA should spend some time learning something about that notion, inherent from the beginning in copyright.

    Perhaps they should also be massively fined to make sure that in the future they know what they’re talking about before they throw out legal threats. It’s pathetic, disgusting, bullying behavior, and I hope the the president and his bullying ilk are tossed out.

  248. Anonymous says:

    Reminder — Baen doesn’t do this crap.

  249. Anonymous says:

    And your actions to counter or fix this are?
    -LBR

  250. Rob Knop says:

    But there’s a 10-day cooling-off period for reinstatement,

    …but not for takedown notices, eh? Even before the law was passed, it should have been clear that no-evidence takedown notices coupled with a FUD-barrier and cooling-off period for reinstatement was a system tremendously easy to abuse.

    Experience shows that it is abused.

    There must be some sort of SFWA general mailing list. I realize that there are a lot of DMCA-loving SF authors — including some that I otherwise respect greatly — but there have to be a lot out there who will be angry when they realize what’s going on here, and how bad it makes them look. On their behalf, the SFWA is issuing takedown notices for all kinds of non-infringing things, including a novel that is explicitly CC-licensed. If enough figure out what’s going on here, there should be some sort of outrage within the organization.

    If not, then it’s probably time for Doctorow, Stross, Wheaton, and others to break off and form another SF Writers’ supporting organization….

  251. Patrick Nielsen Hayden says:

    Johne Cook, #238: “Cory’s post was a case against an ill-advised and possibly fraudulent power play run amok. Jerry’s post was a personal diatribe against a person, and the people agreeing with that person.”

    Exactly right. And a good demonstration of why, even when I don’t necessarily agree with the ideological positions in play, I respect Cory and, sorrowfully (because I’m hugely inclined to respect my subcultural elders) I don’t respect Jerry.

    I grew up on the work of Robert A. Heinlein, and what I learned from it is: respect the truth, because it’s bigger than you are. For this reason, I think Cory Doctorow is basically right, and Jerry Pournelle is basically full of crap. Sorry about that. Actually, not all that sorry, any more than Heinlein would have been.

  252. Anonymous says:

    SFWA is most likely going to be sued, because they’ve pretty much sent out notices saying, “We’re assholes… please sue us because you can and you should and you’ll automatically win! Big prizes! Big money! And we’ll have to pay all your attorney fees, court costs, and you get to keep whatever punitive damages are awarded! Whoopee! It’s your lucky day!”

  253. Anonymous says:

    Just a note, here is how us dumb users can submit a rebuttal notice, from this very site:

    http://www.chillingeffects.org/dmca/counter512.pdf

  254. kromekoran says:

    as the Veep of the SFWA, Andrew Burt doesn’t seem like a very forward-thinking man, something I find a little ironic.

    interesting read, Cory. enlightening even.

    can’t stop the signal.

  255. jere7my says:

    Indeed, he previously created a system called “Shades of Grey” that is supposed to ruin the ebook downloading experience by poisoning the Internet with corrupted copies of ebooks. He convinced SFWA to appropriate funds from its operating capital to patent this idea, on the basis that publishers would pay SFWA to use it to make science fiction ebooks less attractive to readers (I don’t understand the logic of this either).

    The logic seems pretty clear — by devaluing illegitimate copies of ebooks in relation to authorized copies, I expect he hoped to make authorized copies more attractive to users. The same thing has been used to destabilize rival currencies — by releasing a lot of counterfeit coins stamped with your competitors’ mint mark, your own coins increase in relative value.

    Content providers who release free content often do the same thing — you get a degraded version for free (a small image, a lossy audio file) and a snazzy version if you pay. Burt was presumably trying to come up with a way to degrade the free versions that had been released without the consent of the authors. I don’t know if it worked — I wouldn’t expect it to, since it could be defeated by user reliability ratings of downloadables — but the logic seems easy to follow, and suggesting he did it to “make science fiction ebooks less attractive to readers” seems to be an oversimplification.

  256. Gwendolyn S. Patton says:

    I wrote a story today, inspired by this whole thing. It is sprinkled judiciously with “Asimovs” and “Silverbergs”, and even some “Saberhagens” for good measure. But I like to think it stands alone, without the issue underneath it.

    I posted it to Scribd for your enjoyment. Don’t miss the afterword at the bottom.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/267210/Whats-In-A-Name

  257. Anonymous says:

    The link to the second takedown notice points to the first.

  258. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Jason Bentley (143): So much for Andrew Burt’s theory that notices sent in error are inconsequential. He has well and truly screwed the pooch this time, brought SFWA into disgrace, and forced poor Michael Capobianco, SFWA’s current president, to spend Labor Day Weekend trying to clean up his mess. From what I hear, Burt still hasn’t admitted that what he did was incompetent and wrong.

  259. keithmo says:

    I have to agree with Todd Knarr (#268) and disagree with our noble moderator in regards to Scribd’s responsibilities for policing its site. First I’ll post the obligatory disclaimer–IANAL. Scribd is not acting as a publisher they are acting as a common carrier. To me it looks like Scribd is trying to take advantage of common carrier law as it applies to telecom organizations. If Scribd is properly following the law, then people are unjustifiably getting upset with them when they should be focusing their anger on the illegal uploaders. I’m experiencing deja vu reading about this since it’s similar to issues now confronting Google, but before them AOL, and before them AT&T.

  260. shiva7663 says:

    If that had been a legitimate DMCA takedown notice instead of a pre-notice shakedown, it should certainly have originated from the office of the SFWA Counsel; I have to wonder if the SFWA Counsel was even consulted before the missive was launched.

  261. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Anonymous #224: the two trains will pass each other at 3:20, 255 miles from Central City.

    Anonymous #225, you may find Jerry Pournelle’s account “clear and compelling” — tastes vary — but I wouldn’t have called it accurate.

    I wonder what those of you who are vilifying the SFWA would have author’s do?

    If Damon Knight were still around, I know what he’d do first: (1.) tell you it’s “SFWA” not “the SFWA”; and (2.) make snarky remarks about plurals, possessives, and apostrophes.

    Should they just allow their works to be pirated?

    No one with a stake in this game — and certainly not Cory Doctorow — has ever advocated just letting their works be pirated. I don’t know who you are, O Anonymous #225, but I’ve heard reports that a number of SFWAns have consistently made that false accusation, in spite of numerous protests and corrections from their professional colleagues.

    Scribd was not in the right -

    Exercise your slanlike brain on this hard-to-understand point: there’s more than one question in play.

    Here’s one question: Has Scribd made copyrighted non-Creative-Commons-licensed works available on its site without permission of the authors? Answer: It has. That’s wrong. And no one has ever argued that that’s not wrong.

    Here’s a different question: Was Andrew Burt/SFWA wrong to send erroneous and misleading pseudo-DMCA takedown notices to Scribd? Answer: Yes. It was very wrong of Andrew Burt/SFWA to do that. People are justified in being angry about it.

    Here’s a third question: Does Andrew Burt/SFWA’s screwup mean it’s all right for Scribd to make copyrighted unlicensed works available on their site without permission of the authors? Answer: No, it doesn’t. That material is still there illegally, and Scribd should take it down. Soon.

    And a fourth question: Has anyone ever suggested that because Andrew Burt/SFWA screwed up, Scribd is allowed to go on illegally offering copyrighted unlicensed works without the permission of the authors? Answer: It shouldn’t mean any such thing. Report as I’ve heard it says that Jerry Pournelle and Andrew Burt have both have both asserted that publicly admitting that Andrew Burt/SFWA screwed up would effectively amount to giving Scribd permission to keep offering unlicensed copyrighted works without the authors’ permission. If so, that was dumb of them. Offering unlicensed copyrighted works without the authors’ permission remains an illegal act.

    Onward to a fifth question: Does the fact that Scribd was illegally offering copyrighted unlicensed works without the authors’ permission mean that it was okay for Andrew Burt/SFWA to send erroneous and misleading pseudo-DMCA takedown notices to Scribd? Answer: No. It was not okay. The fact that Scribd was in the wrong for making unlicensed copyrighted works available on their site does not excuse Andrew Burt’s/SFWA’s wrongful actions. It also doesn’t relieve SFWA of liability for the act, which was undertaken in SFWA’s name.

    Sixth question: Why, then, do various SFWAns (Jerry Pournelle and Andrew Burt reportedly among them) keep offering “But Scribd was in the wrong!” as a defense for Andrew Burt/SFWA sending erroneous and misleading pseudo-DMCA takedown notices to Scribd? Answer: Good question. Perhaps they don’t fully understand the issues. Perhaps it’s for some other reason.

    the site published the full text of hundreds of copyrighted works, posted without the authors’ permissions. That the EFF would come to their defense I find amazing.

    Here we have the same confusion of issues again. The reason the EFF came to Scribd’s defense was not because they had illegally made all those works available on their site. The EFF came to their defense because Andrew Burt/SFWA had sent them erroneous and misleading pseudo-DMCA takedown notices.

    As for Cory’s claims of legal liability on the part of the SFWA – it is clear that they did not intentionally include works from those authors they did not represent.

    That’s a child’s way of thinking, to assume one’s actions only have the effects one intends. When you’re a legally competent adult, it’s not enough to mean well. You have to study the situation and make plans that you can reasonably expect will succeed in getting the results you want without doing damage along the way. If I’m messing around with bottle rockets, I may not intend to burn down your house, but I’m still responsible for doing it.

    They made a mistake, and have apologized.

    Try these on for size: “It was a mistake to go messing around with bottle rockets, and I apologize for burning down your house.”

    “I see now that it was wrong of me to commit perjury at your trial, and I just want to say how sorry I am for doing it.”

    “I admit, I shouldn’t have plagiarized that entire novel you sent to me for comment, and I apologize. I’m sure you can change a few names and sell it somewhere — best of luck!”

    Notice how those apologies don’t relocate responsibility for the actions to someone else?

    You’ve read the EFF’s letter. Have you noticed that they don’t think it gets Andrew Burt/SFWA off the hook either?

    I am sure they will act in good faith with the authors to restore any content that was mistakenly removed.

    This offer of help dumbfounds me. Do you think any forum managers with a lick of sense are going to let Professor Burt come within ten feet of their message base?

    Now, thanks to the furor, the e-Piracy group at SFWA has been disbanded,

    And thank goodness for that. It’s not impossible for the public to forgive someone a badly flawed understanding of copyright law; but no one is ever going to forget that an officer of SFWA, acting on behalf of the e-Piracy group, ran a simple search on “Asimov” and “Silverberg”, did a completely inadequate check of the results, and then used it as the basis for erroneous and misleading pseudo-DMCA takedown notices which he sent to Scribd. Little kids know better than that. SFWA’s credibility was at stake. Andrew Burt’s e-Piracy group had to go.

    and their authors are now on their own to track down their content and file DMCA take downs.

    At least they aren’t having DMCA takedowns wrongfully sent on their behalf.

    But heck, many of you seem to hate the DMCA and copyright anyway,

    Those are two separate issues. Some people believe both those things. Most don’t.

    and think that authors should just somehow be able to magically make money sharing their creations for free.

    Let me repeat one last time, O Anonymous #225, that no one has ever made that argument. (Edited 8:26 p.m. EDT)

  262. jere7my says:

    (Unrelatedly, the gray boingboing logo at the top of the page has a tiny yellow line above the final “g”. Dunno if that was mentioned in the mega-thread about the redesign.)

  263. Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers says:

    Cory, do you know if anyone in SFWA other than Andrew Burt knew about this action before the notices were sent? It may be that Burt doesn’t legally represent SFWA either. That’s certainly the position I’d take if I were the current president of SFWA. It may be ethically questionable to throw your organization’s officers to the wolves in lieu of defending the organization itself, but in this case I think it would be warranted by Burt’s over-the-top actions.

  264. Kevin Andrew Murphy says:

    I suspect that Michael Capobianco told him to keep quiet while he dealt with cleaning up the mess.

    The main trouble is that the laws are badly written and everyone is in the habit of claiming to own everything so they’ll be covered when the law gets around to deciding what they do own.

  265. Theodore Tso says:

    I suspect that if people saw the posts in SFWA’s private forum, they would come to the conclusion that no science fiction writer sits down to comment there without first pouring a frosty 96-ounce Big Gulp cup full of equal measures of Jim Beam and Red Bull.

    I know (because I ran across it — I think in the discussion resulting form your write-in candidate campaign) that I am not the first person to propose that the private nature of the forum might be responsible for the, ah, immature debating style.

    Suppose you didn’t make any of the old posts public, but announced that all new posts as of some date would be made available publically. Maybe some authors would chose their words more carefully; maybe some authors would chose not to participate — but would that really be that great of a loss. More importantly, is the current private forum really that great of a member benefit? You may find that the benefits of having an publically viewable forum far outweighs the costs. Just a thought.

  266. Anonymous says:

    This is what you get when not enough vote for Scalzi :D

    marty

  267. mkhobson says:

    As a SFWA member, I’m outraged by this. I’m quite frustrated that Scribd apparently complied with SFWA’s demands without insisting upon appropriate legal aegis — it seems they just took Burt’s word that he had the right to demand these removals.

    This would seem to subvert the ability to hold SFWA accountable for this egregious abuse; they will just argue that “it wasn’t a legal request, and it wasn’t our fault that Scribd took it that way.”

    Or maybe I’m missing something. In any event, I remain furious.

  268. Severius says:

    I think it’s hilarious that an organization of science fiction writers, writers who historically have written in condemnation draconian laws copyright and otherwise, has taken it upon themselves to abuse a tyrannical system against their own readers. The irony is quite profound. And I am quite disappointed, I feel a bit betrayed by the writers who’s work I so dearly love. The SFWA’s actions reflect upon all of it’s members whether they approved these actions or not, and that is dangerous for all sf writers.

  269. Anonymous says:

    And Andrew Burt, at his website http://www.critters.org, has up multiple copyrighted works from other authors, including http://www.critters.org/spider.txt

    Very niiiiice!

  270. Lance Weber says:

    If the RIAA/MPAA is like the Mafia, then that makes Burt and Capobianco… I’ve got it! The bumbling burglar-idiots from Home Alone.

  271. Anonymous says:

    CKD (#156): “… the RIAA forced file sharing systems to evolve into forms that had no vulnerable central point.”

    The RIAA will get these shut down as well if they don’t provide a means of ensuring that the files made available have been provided legally. Look in the news for what Limewire and Azureus have been forced to do as a result of RIAA pressure. Facilitating theft is still theft as the Napster case proved. Scripd facilitates theft and should either change or be forced to shut down.

  272. Lance Weber says:

    Bruce #45: Michael Capobianco (Pres. SFWA) clearly knew about it based on his comment reply to the blog post here: http://phywriter.com/archives/2007/08/28/sfwa-issues-misguided-rgr-takedowns-at-scribd/

  273. Drew Thaler says:

    I’m really disgusted by this. SFWA, please take note:

    The readers you depend on for your livelihood are the very same people who are at the forefront of the digital revolution. Pissing them off is NEVER a good idea.

    Until hearing this news I would’ve said it was impossible for anything to turn me off to science fiction, which I’ve loved since I was a young child. But the horrifying thought that the SFWA might start adopting the RIAA’s abusive tactics has made me realize that it’s not impossible after all. I’m not there yet … but I can imagine a future in which these sort of actions continue.

    It’s funny, you know? I’m just not particularly interested in reading any book by an author who hates me. Oh sure, you say you don’t, but if the SFWA is allowed to continue down this path your actions will speak much louder than your words.

  274. Anonymous says:

    Gosh I so want to get access to the behind closed doors SFWA board and see the monkey poo fly!

    I have heard of more SFWA crap in the past few months than I ever heard before. And the worst part of it is that I learn of these things from different sources. It isn’t the same place. It is always a new one.

    I am not even sure if I remember how I found this article. Isn’t the internet grand.

    Well I imagine that if I have seen so much kaka going on in the SFWA for awhile that many others are also. Great PR people!

  275. Anonymous says:

    #212 was not me! I swear! (or at least I have been known too) Braxton Cook

  276. jibegod says:

    Awesome post, rich with well-directed righteous anger.

  277. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    I can forgive him his ignorance of copyright law a lot more readily than I can forgive the incompetence of his search methods; and both are easier to forgive than his unrepentant failure to check his work.

  278. Bob W. says:

    Carol Hennepin (188):

    It may be that scribd.com can decide not to act on the basis of a written but not-framed-according-to-DMCA notice about an infringing item published through their website, they’re unlikely to avoid trouble if push comes to legal shove. Even if some third party writes in and says, “Hey, you have a copy of `The Last Colony’ posted, that just came out in hardcover and it says `all rights reserved’ in the book,” the site owners would do well to look into it. Since nobody ever gets around to doing all the work they need to do, there may be some wiggle room for the web site owners with regard to the weight they give the notice and how long it takes them to get around to it.

    When one or more persons is notorious for posting materials they don’t have the right to distribute and the number of postings reported as being misappropriations is quite large, the site owners are on much thinner ice. The prospect of widespread publicity of the misappropriated content on scribd.com seems to have focused its management’s collective mind wonderfully, and as Scalzi notes this has led to their cleaning up much of the mess without formal DMCA notification.

    Btw, a typical RIAA or MPAA takedown or evidence preservation notice includes both a recognized business address and a PGP-keyed signature in an attempt to avoid the “notice could come from anybody” problem. I don’t know how often these are verified by recipients, but it would certainly be easier to do this for a few commercial DMCA stool pigeons than for each and every author who might wish to have fiction taken down from the many social websites which might make materials available in a way which infringes the IP rights of their right-owners.

  279. Anonymous says:

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