Science Fiction Writers of America reinstates E-Piracy Committee -- new name, same chairman


44 Responses to “Science Fiction Writers of America reinstates E-Piracy Committee -- new name, same chairman”

  1. anthonys82 says:

    Dissolving a controversial and dysfunctional committee and reforming it under a different name is an old and time-honored method of deflecting criticism. But to put the chair of the dissolved committee in charge of the shiny new one seems like a huge and deliberate fuck you to the dissenting membership.
    they didn’t even try to be politic about it

  2. Scalzi says:

    “That committee was chaired by John Scalzi, whom I respect and like. I declined to work on the committee, however, as I was skeptical that it would make progress, given that Burt was to have a seat on it.”

    To be clear, the committee of which I was the chair did not have Andrew Burt on it; I would not have participated on it if it had, for the reason that having him being the committee would not have been useful.

    I would like to say that the members of SFWA who were on the committee represented the best of SFWA — we had a wide range of opinions about copyright, author’s rights, and SFWA’s role therein, and for all that we focused on our task, left personalities aside, we came together to unanimously present a set of recommendations to SFWA’s board (however, as noted, reconstituting the previous committee was neither an implicit nor explicit recommendation).

    Regardless of what the board chose to do in the wake of our work, I think our committee did an excellent job at its task, and I was proud to have worked with those SFWA members.

  3. Cory Doctorow says:

    Andrew wasn’t on the committee? What’s that about — the last time I put him in my killfile, it was in the middle of him trying to get me to join him on the committee, while simultaneously telling me that he didn’t have anything to *really* apologize about in the Scribd affair, since all that happened was that my work was unavailable for a few days (ignoring, as always, the ill will engendered among my fans who believed that the takedown notice had originated with me and that I had reneged on my CC license). That’s when I added him to the killfile and walked away.

  4. Unka Willbur says:

    These days, I only ever read new fiction if it’s cc (or other open) licensed and the occasional known-quantity, small-press author (see: John Shirley). If I can manage 12 pieces of fiction a year (along with non-fiction and occupational reading), then I’m doing good. So, the cc stuff that is released usually keeps my queue full.

  5. Robbo says:

    What is it about human beings in generel – at least these days – that lead them down such paths of folly? Wasn’t it Albert Einstein who defined insanity as committing the same act repeatedly in anticipation of different outcome? When are we (or at least, the rest of us) going to wise up and stop trying to control everything? News like this just makes me sad and disgruntled – and I much prefer being happy and gruntled.


  6. Al Billings says:

    Some people are advocating a boycott of writers who are members of SFWA in an effort to get fence sitters to either leave the organization or explicitly stay (and therefore endorse Burt and his policies).

    Why even stay a member at this point? Tobias Buckell resigned today, effective immediately.

  7. Nelson.C says:

    Cory, you have to learn to verify everything Burt tells you.

  8. Scalzi says:


    I believe that in the wake of the blow-up, Mr. Burt was trying to assemble a committee, yes; I was on the invite list for that as well. I believe Mr. Burt was acting on his own remit with that. Like you, I would not have participated in that committee.

    Independent of that, Mr. Capobianco, the SFWA president, was looking to assemble an exploratory committee, per board resolution, and I volunteered to be on that committee. Mr. Capobianco asked me to chair the committee, which I agreed to; at the same times I strongly stressed to him that in my opinion no current board member (a group which included Mr. Burt) should be on the committee, as it would not be useful for the board to be perceived as influencing the committee in any way.

    The members of the exploratory board were: Me, Charles Stross, Cat Rambo, Jane Yolen, Greg Bear, Jim C. Hines and Elizabeth Moon, with Megan Lindholm as a non-voting advisor. Mr. Burt, as VP of SFWA, was ex officio as he is on all SFWA committees due to the nature of SFWA’s by-laws, but did not participate in or have access to the discussions we were having. All contact with the board, including Mr. Burt, went through me as chairman.

    I can assure you that had there been any successful attempt by Mr. Burt or any other board member to inject himself into our proceedings, I would have immediately resigned and gone public. Loudly.

    Our committee’s charge was to offer the board recommendations on moving forward on copyright after having consulted with the SFWA membership; we did so, after which the board discussed the recommendations and made their own determinations based on our work. It accepted some, made modifications to others, and apparently misinterpreted at least one (we did not suggest reconstituting the previous ePiracy committee as the new Copyright Committee).

    One tragedy here is that the actual new process which SFWA will use to aid members who ask for its help appears robust and less liable to create the sort of screw-ups which precipitated the whole crisis to begin with; but this is obscured by the fact of whom it is SFWA’s board chose to head up the committee responsible for carrying out the process.

  9. Moon says:

    Poor research, a loyalty oath, lies and mis-statements? Does this guy work for the Bush administration, by any chance?

  10. Santa's Knee says:

    To quote Humungus from The Road Warrior:

    “There has been too much violence, too much pain. None here are without sin. But I have an honorable compromise. Just walk away.”

  11. Remus Shepherd says:

    When I started getting published, I set a goal for myself of joining the SFWA. That goal has been discarded, now. I have no interest in the organization.

    Hmmmn. I need another reasonable goal as an author. Excluding money, fame, and shelves full of Hugos as unlikely leaves me with ‘Getting better press than Andrew Burt’, I suppose. No, wait, that’s too easy. Hmn.

  12. DoorFrame says:

    FYI – Patents are required to always be filed in the name of the individual human inventor or inventors (not an organization or corporation).

  13. Cory Doctorow says:

    Thanks for the clarification, John — it’s good to know.

  14. cinemajay says:

    So what if you posted “at midnight on a holiday weekend,”—how does it help if everyone is out of town and away at their relatives? In most cases that dooms a story, because the media is already talking about Monday morning news!

    /go get ‘em Cory!

  15. Robert says:

    Go get ‘em, Cory! In my own opinion, this Burt guy sounds like one of those folks who love to take power and exercise it. He’ll fight to retain the power, not because he’s the best one for SFWA. Kick him to the curb!

  16. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    I just removed a comment — quite a nasty one, too — that attempted to revive the Le Guin controversy. It’s not going to happen. That matter was settled some time ago, to the satisfaction of both parties.

    I will remove any comments, here or in any other thread, that try to bring up that piece of finished business.

  17. Laurie Mann says:

    So, if there is a new organization to promote SF writers, will it use the proposal of the Scalzi committee for copyright management?

  18. Subspace says:

    I just had this conversation with my partner:

    me: “They should start a new organization. The New Science Fiction Writers.”

    him: “The NSFW?”

  19. monopole says:

    Warren Ellis added his (colorfully worded)take while looking forward to Cory’s take:

  20. Brandon N Schory says:

    I think the best point I can make is to direct my brief comment time to something Larry Lessig said in his presentation at TED in March 2007 (a link to a video of this talk can be found here on BoingBoing). Here he is speaking on the remixing of music and video found online, which is becoming more and more pervasive and acceptable in digital culture, especially among the youngest generations. This certainly also applies to those up and coming authors who wish to play off the ideas or, or directly draw from, great writers past and present.

    “We live in this weird time, this kind of age of prohibitions, where in many areas of our life we live life constantly against the law. Ordinary people live life against the law, and that’s what we are doing to our kids. They live life knowing they live it against the law. That realization is extraordinarily corrosive, extraordinarily corrupting, and in a democracy we ought to be able to do better…do better, at least for them, if not for opening for business.”

  21. Scalzi says:

    Laurie Mann@19:

    Maybe this is a silly point, but I’d personally demur from calling it the “Scalzi Committee.” The work was equally shared and the recommendations were unanimous; praise (or blame) should accrue to all members equally. They made it pretty easy to be the chair.

  22. nicetry says:

    Hey Theresa! You are free to delete whatever comments you want, but (profiled on wired), has just gone live yesterday. It’s brand new, and still pretty empty, but one of the first threads created in the “I was wrongly censored” category? BoingBoing censorship. I expect many more.

  23. Johne Cook says:

    ABurt invokes history and community service as his defense. But history can be a two-edged sword:

    On your blog, you write the following:

    I’ve historically had a reputation as a fair and open-minded person who tries to do good work for the community at large (such as Nyx, Critters, etc.), so I hope that says something.
    Historically, you used the Critters newsletter to take cheap public potshots at Cory Doctorow. When I called you on that, you were neither fair, nor open-minded, nor apologetic. After a lengthy thread seeking, unsuccessfully, to persuade you that it was an abuse of power using Critters as your own private podium for vendetta, I resigned from Critters in protest.

    This is the sort of thing that people point to with regard to your activity with this committee. The chorus of voices today is not that of a mindless lynchmob, it is the collection of individual observations of a smart, literate public who see what is there to see – a man with suspect credibility and questionable character. As long as Michael is hitching the entire SFWA wagon to you, personally, the entire process is tainted.

  24. Church says:

    @33 “For another, in the sphere of sports, many of the most gifted coaches and managers were mediocre if not terrible players.”

    Too true. And your point is well taken.

    However, some of the worst coaches and managers were mediocre if not terrible players.

    Judge them on their merits as coaches and managers. Nothing further.

    BTW, if the players want to hang them, they’re either doing really well, or really poorly. History tends to sort that out.

  25. Johne Cook says:

    Oh, and as midori has been pointed out at Making Light, it looks like Andrew Burt’s first order of business is to attack Scribd.


    Because that turned out so well last time.

    And this just in, between Preview and Post:

    Jason from Scribd raised his hand, and Andrew responds.

  26. Wil Wheaton says:

    This never would have happened if Scalzi was president.

  27. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:



    How does it feel to know that the single most attention-getting thing you can do in life is to deliberately post comments that are guaranteed to get removed from Boing Boing, and then when they’re removed, go running wah wah wah to some anti-censorship site to complain about it?

    I’m sure everyone will be impressed.

  28. mkultra says:

    It is a typical irony that an administrator of an organization like this–many of whose members are so focussed on the future–seems to be so buried in the past.

    I also find it distressing that some of my favorite authors (Scalzi, Stross, Bear and Moon in particular) are/were devoting time (when they could be writing more awesome stuff for me to read) to battling an entrenched, seemingly corrupt, bureaucracy.

    I realize that is a selfish viewpoint.

    Also, “Scalzi, Stross, Bear and Moon” would be a good name for a band.

  29. paulbhartzog says:

    Organizations like SFWA are constrained by an entire ecology of legacy structures to which they must forever remain attached.

    New organizations like Oort-Cloud are a possible alternative for writers who want to exist in the new open/sharing online networks.

  30. Laurie Mann says:

    John, so the “former SFWA copyright committee?”

    It’s bound to have some reference; it’s bound to come up.

  31. mkultra says:

    @40: I completely agree. You’ve clearly stated precisely what I was trying to get across.

    In the current example, I am quite sure that history will be the final judge.

    Having worked for and contracted with a number of non-profits and industry organizations in my early career, this whole thing has a familiar stink.

  32. Scalzi says:

    Laurie Mann@30:

    “SFWA Copyright Exploratory Committee” is probably the best one.


    Well, Bear plays guitar and I play drums, so you’re halfway there.

    Wil Wheaton@27:

    Heh. No, probably not.

  33. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Wil Wheaton (27), I can’t argue with that.

    What I want to know is, what kind of dysfunctional organization has SFWA become, that protecting the tender feelings of a useless no-talent con artist like Andrew Burt matters more than the tremendous amount of damage he’s doing?

    The man has no professional career. He wangled his way into SFWA via some short stories in anthologies published by SFF Net. His one novel is self-published.

    What I’m about to say is so pathetic that saying it almost makes me feel sorry for him. Here goes: Is it any wonder that he wants to hold on to his committee position, in spite of the harm he’s doing to the organization? Being Vice-President of SFWA and Head of the E-Piracy Committee is literally the high point of Andrew Burt’s writing career.

  34. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    I don’t know, Paul — SFWA may be frustrating, but it doesn’t make you read slush.

  35. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Nothing remains but for someone to gravely intone that Only Time Will Tell.

  36. mkultra says:

    @32: While I agree with you in general, I hate to make blanket statements when it comes to a career like Burt’s. It reeks of ad hominem, for one thing.

    For another, in the sphere of sports, many of the most gifted coaches and managers were mediocre if not terrible players.

    Frankly, as I noted above, I would rather have the life of a poor writer taken up by administrative minutia than that of one of the true geniuses of our time.

  37. Santa's Knee says:

    @ 29:

    New fantasy character: “Scalzibear Moonstross”

    Sounds like a warlock.

  38. jim.cowling says:

    “but one of the first threads created in the “I was wrongly censored” category? BoingBoing censorship.”

    It’s not censorship; it’s ownership. Having a comment deleted from a webforum is no more censorship than your letter to the editor not getting printed in the Times.

    The Web is 15 years old; this should not be some startling new discovery. The existence of people who maintain such an ignorant sense of entitlement just blows my mind.

  39. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Jim Cowling, try the last section of this comment. If you’ve got the appetite for a long discussion of that plus related issues (plus a lot of reasonably interesting digressions), read this.

    And just to let everyone else know: this thread is not about censorship.

  40. Santos says:

    Doesn’t this indicate how out of touch those SFWA members are. I think if I were a member I’d be embarrassed for them.

    I think Charlie should start an International Guild of Working Writers. He’s creditable and smart.

  41. Charles says:

    There is no longer any reason to continue to be in an organization you don’t believe in.

    The world is Open Source.

    Start a new organization, with new goals, and invite people to join, much as you have invited people to Boing-Boing. Gee, that hasn’t worked out.

    You can’t force people to be other than who and what they are. Join with like-minded people who are more valuable in creating wonderful things together.

    Life is uncertain…

  42. Pop Astronaut says:

    As a science fiction fan, it disturbs me that SFWA representatives take such a hostile position towards educators and fans. Here’s hoping that the organization stops harassing their biggest advocates and starts helping it’s members cope with “new” technologies in a positive way.

  43. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Pop Astronaut, SFWA’s pretty friendly to educators and fans. Andrew Burt, not so much. The problem is that SFWA puts up with more than they should from Andrew Burt.

  44. danegeld says:

    The purpose of the SFWA is to promote Sci-Fi writing rather than sue emerging authors, right?

    Why don’t they run competitions with categories for “most original sci-fi” for completely new ideas and “best rewrite on an old motif” for people who do want to adapt Azimov and the like?

    Threats of legal action, whether idle musings or not, are against the spirit of a creative organization. Surely the fact that people want to make derivative works based on Azimov is a `Good Thing’, showing what he said was actually relevant?

    eg. The estate of Jorge Borges isn’t suing Paolo Coelho over “The Alchemist” or “The Zahir” though arguably they’re expansions around Borges’ short stories – Coelho includes his own creative efforts and people know to read Borges to get the original deal…

    A logical explanation, Captian…A bit more investigation reveals that Burt Andrews is involved with a website that competes with Scribd, and he is following the old-fashioned way of doing business in America; “Sue thy competitors” rather than “compete on merits”.

    Surely no one person can can both run a sci-fi writing website and direct the SFWA to sue one of his competitors, while pretending to have integrity and impartiality?

    Why are the SFWA allowing their organisation to be subverted to promote one business over another?

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