Friday, 7 September 2012

The A+ copyright violator social justice league!!!!!

Years ago, in my travels within the book publishing industry and in my incarnation as a writer of erotic fiction, there existed a hot debate. The debate was over text-to-speech enablement of digital books, and whether the accessibility of this software was a violation of the author's copyright.

Even Wil Wheaton chimed in, in his capacity as a narrator of audiobooks, providing a wonderful demonstation of the distinct difference between an audiobook and a digital book rendered into audio by text-to-speech software.

The scandal itself was instigated by the Authors Guild issuing a warning to all member authors to reserve digital rights to their books when negotiating contracts with publishers. The gist of this is that this association was recommending authors not permit digital publication of their works at all, because the text-to-speech software available was a potential violation of often lucrative audiobook rights.

The consensus among most authors--at least those I hung around with--was that the robotic voice of a computer is no substitute for a professionally narrated audiobook, and that TTS is a reading tool, not a book format. That at its essence, TTS was not even the equivalent of a parent reading a book aloud to a child, or a family member or friend reading aloud to a convalescent or visually impaired person. TTS is an imperfect tool for reading used mostly by the visually impaired out of necessity.

As a caveat, I will say I am a staunch defender of intellectual property rights. As a copyright holder, it annoyed me to no end to see conversations on pirate forums between people who had uploaded or downloaded my books illegally, or who were looking for illegal access to them because, "OMG, I LOVE HER WORK! SHE IS SO AWESOME, AND ALMOST NO ONE WRITES ANYTHING SIMILAR! SO CAN'T SOMEONE HERE PLEASE HELP ME READ HER WORK WITHOUT ME HAVING TO PROVIDE HER THE MONETARY INCENTIVE TO KEEP PRODUCING IT, OR THE FINANCIAL WHEREWITHAL TO ENABLE HER TO CONTINUE WRITING?? BECAUSE I LUV HER SO MUCH, I WANT HER TO NOT PROFIT FROM THE WORK SHE DOES THAT I LUV!!!" Can you say "counterproductive"?

I have never objected to book sharing between actual friends, and neither has my publisher. Their policy has always been something along the lines of, [paraphrasing] "If you love a book so much you want to email it to two of your buddies, well, we're not going to complain about that, because sharing an author's work in that way leads to more exposure for the author and his/her future works and backlist. However, given the ease with which one copy of a digitally published book can turn into a billion copies, we do take issue when a reader uploads a book to a website to 'share' with 8000 of their closest friends. We do not encrypt our ebooks with DRM, because this interferes with ease of use, and only penalizes the people who purchase our books--the people who are doing the responsible thing--and creates a product whose illegal format is superior to the legal one. We do not force our responsible and law-abiding readers to pay for the conduct of those who choose to pirate by inflating our prices, because this only penalizes those who reward the authors who create these works and the publishers who bring them to market, and incentivizes piracy. We ask that you respect our authors' copyrights, so they can keep writing wonderful books and we can keep providing them to you at a very reasonable cost."

This policy is one of the reasons I chose this particular publisher, as was their market pricing scheme. As an author, I want people to read my work. I want them to be able to read it without the annoyance of software designed to limit or place restrictions on their ability to do so. I want them to pay a fair price for this work, and have had a number of criticisms of traditional publishers' handling of pricing and rights management when it came to the brave new world of digital publishing. I want anyone in the world to have access to a legal copy of my books--digital rights need to be worldwide, not regional. And they need to be TTS enabled, so those whose eyes don't work so well, or those who need their hands free while they read, can enjoy them as much as anyone else, without having to wait for them to be rendered into audio or Braille by a charity, or be released in expensive audiobook format.

And in keeping with my stand on my own IP rights, I do not engage in pirating. I don't download anything illegally, and I remind my friends and family that illegally downloading pirated material--whether it's music, software or movies--only disincentivizes the creation of the very works they enjoy. If you like, say, hard sci-fi movies but the demographic most likely to enjoy them refuses to ever pay for them, fewer of those kinds of movies will be made. That's just the way these things work.

Wil Wheaton's demonstation of the differences between a narrated audiobook and a digital book read by TTS was striking, but essentially irrelevant. It wouldn't matter to me whether TTS sounded like a robot with a poor understanding of pronunciation, or if it sounded like Morgan Freeman on his best day. Using TTS is not "making a copy" any more than a parent reading to a child is. Using TTS is not violating audiobook rights any more than using the zoom function on your Kindle is violating Large Print rights. If someone purchases my book and then has their computer, their mother, their friend or his  future android personal valet read it aloud to them because it is impossible or inconvenient for them to read it themselves, or because they just feel like it, I'm happy. To me, TTS is like a pair of glasses. It's a tool that enables people to enjoy work they've lawfully purchased from the creator and therefore have every right to enjoy. If my publisher had disabled TTS on their books, I would have parted ways with my publisher.

In my incarnation as a blogger and vlogger, I've been approached by a number of people asking permission to transcribe my vlogs or translate them or my blog posts into other languages. I suppose I ought to put a notice somewhere public, that states what my reply invariably is--that they are free to transcribe or translate my material, or upload it elsewhere, in whole or in part, as long as they provide a link to the original material. I have given permission for several websites--including the Good Men Project and A Voice for Men--to republish my work as they desire, so long as they don't edit it, and as long as they link readers back to my blog or channel. I have given permission for anyone to mirror my videos.

While I don't charge people to view my advocacy material, I do receive a substantial income from it through voluntary donations--a larger income than my four published books bring in. That income is not vital to ME, but it is vital to my ability to continue to produce this material in a consistent and timely way. I can always get more hours on the schedule at my job, if I need to. I could write that final 4000 words of that book I have on hold and submit it to my editor. I could up the rent my tenant pays. I could do any number of things to increase my income.

What the donations do is allow me to reduce my hours at my day job to the point where I can now spend more hours a day involved in MRM advocacy and gender analysis than I do in any other single pursuit.

The donations are important to me. My IP rights are important to me. But more important to me in this context is that people hear what I have to say. This is my work, and though I have a deep respect for any author's intellectual property rights, I'm decidedly moderate about the issue when it comes to my own. I have given permission for my work to be reproduced in other places online, or in other formats, and that is my right, to do or not as I please. Other authors may feel differently, and I respect their right to feel that way, and do as they please with their own IP rights.

So I want you all to keep that in mind when I weigh in on the latest Atheism+ fiasco. Here is Justin Vacula's account of it, complete with screencaps of conversations, and exposure of the tactics used by the feminist-leaning social justice avengers of Atheism+.

What these social justice avengers are saying is that they have every right to violate other people's rights to their own intellectual property. That they have every right to violate copyright law. They have every right to republish another author's work in its entirety--without that author's permission and against that author's wishes. And anyone who opposes them in their unilateral actions--even if it's in an attempt to keep them on the right side of the law so they don't end up prosecuted or sued--is an able-ist and a shit-heel.

I'm not an able-ist. I spoke out vehemently against the Authors Guild's stance on the TTS issue, because it was not only legally unfounded, but because it was morally repugnant. It is as morally repugnant to prevent people from using TTS as it is to tell a mother she cannot read a bedtime story to her child because she's violating someone's copyright, or to tell a Kindle user that the zoom function a violation of Large Print rights, or to tell a far-sighted person to take off their glasses while reading or else they're in violation of an author's rights, or to say that a friend sitting across a table translating a podcast into American sign language is plagiarism.

But what the Atheism+ Scribe people are proposing doing is publishing other people's intellectual property without their permission, and even against their express protests, outside of fair use provisions.  They are proposing publishing other people's works, without permission, and even against their expressly stated wishes. This attitude could land them in a world of legal hurt, and yet an individual warning them, using very reasonable and non-confrontational language, of this very thing is cast as a bully and an able-ist.

What they're saying is that the law does not apply to them, because they say so. Because their ends are just, in their opinion, their means don't matter. And how dare anyone say that we can't or shouldn't or might be courting a law suit! We can't hear you, lalalalalala!

I actually hope that Atheism+ Scribe ignores Anna's warnings. The sooner these people get their asses sued, the sooner they'll be brought back down to earth where the rest of us have to live. You know, us people who understand that we are not the arbiters of other people's rights, and that our right to have our say ends the moment it materially harms another person.

All I can say is holy shit. The hubris, it is stunning.


  1. So there's not a single lawyer in the entire A+ movement? This is why I'm staying away from the FTB politburo. These people are so messed up that one way or another they're headed to court.

  2. The A+ Scribe stuff seemed to be another example of A+ shooting themselves in the foot, seizing the low ground and proclaiming it to be the high ground.

    Sadly, in the current climate I think they will get away with it.

    Re: Wheaton -- I would love to hear his demonstration although I do understand your point about its irrelevance.

    When I was commuting 800 miles every other week to see my kids when my ex moved them out of town I started listening to audiobooks on the drive. At first I was ashamed of my behavior, audiobooks! And then I discovered some authors like Stephen King and Harlan Ellison who read their own books and they are just wonderful.

    (If you ever have to drive at night and are worried about falling asleep, listen to Stephen King audiobooks.)

    Then I heard books read like Snow Crash which is an audio treat and almost a performance (one man performance) rather than a reading.

    Now I am actually quite impressed with the extra work that goes into creating an audio book, as well as the ability of the voice of the book to master all the different voices and the different sexes.

    My respect for Burt Reynolds went up tremendously listening to him read Michael Connelly's Angels Flight and mastering the voices of the different men and women.


    1. Wheaton's text-to-speech demo is at his exile site, at . It's been a while, but I know the Google ....

  3. Wow, I think I went way off topic. Perhaps I should eat some lunch.

  4. These "Atheism+"... people... are going to cause serious problem.

    A group of people attempting to validate themselves as superior to its opposition. Not in ideas, but in personal ego. I keep seeing the behavior over and over again, The pattern is as yet, set.

    Still... i'm fascinated that a religion is beginning to form in a naturalist framework.

    1. Yes, I've had the same thought -- a goddess religion. I wonder how long it will take for Surly-ramics to start producing those fertility goddess figures -- in various shapes and sizes like "real" women, of course.

  5. Even if the law was on their side, which it isn't, it's still absolutely astounding that these A+ moral crusaders don't get the picture. Is it just me, or do you get the feeling they actually want people to say no, just so they can strut their moral superiority? What these social justice crusaders can't get through their heads, is that infringing on an individual's rights for "the greater good" is not just utterly disgusting, it's basically the rallying cry for every authoritarian dictatorship in history. The problem, of course, is when you find out who is mandating what is for the "Greater Good".

    I'm really surprised they keep bringing up religion, and specifically, creationists. You know, those with "God Given objective moral values" where you're either a moral, god-fearing human, or an immoral monster, and the arbiter of this moral objectivism is, unsurprisingly, their god.

    I'd love to ask Greta and her readers if they would support a law that would allow doctors to detain and murder healthy people to harvest their organs for others. You know, if one person can save five, isn't that for the "greater good"? In fact, each of the sick people is more important than the healthy one right? Otherwise we're ablists?

    1. They live off of rejection. The more people say "no" the more they get off on it. They love getting all the hate mail too because it validates their view that the world hates them and the world hates them because they are good and pure.

      I had no idea about Watson et. al. until she told her harrowing elevator story on the SGU podcast getting within millimetres of declaring she was almost raped. Until then I didn't mind her, she struck me as a bit "aloof" when it came to science things but not overly so. But after that little interlude I got a pretty good whiff of what she was about and the last year hasn't really done anything to change my mind. If anything I noticed that she wasn't alone.

      So the whole A+ thing doesn't surprise me. They would be up to their noses in shit and would STILL proclaim that they are morally superior.

      The irony for me is that a lot of the people who support Watson et. al. truly seem to believe their spiel of Misogyny and sexual harassment in the community, not realizing that for them it's a money maker, through selling trinkets and ad impressions.

  6. Well, I was certainly hoping to read more about your writing, GWW. I was also hoping it'd be more upbeat but beggars can't be choosers.

    I don't have much to say other than I agree with you. I can't imagine what it'd be like to have your work distributed without your consent. Sorry to hear that's happened to you. However, I have nothing but praise for your stance on DRM. I'm an avid video game player -- I started a blog only yesterday about the portrayal of males in video games -- and DRM leading to more piracy rather than less is something many companies haven't been able to grasp. Will Wright summed it up by saying, "That goes in the category of corporate learning. People are paying a lot of money for a game. You don’t want to treat them as criminals because of the piracy issue."

    Although I grasp the basics behind the "Atheism+" movement, it's not something I'm hugely knowledgeable about. I only heard about it for the first time last month. However, I was always under the impression that they were a fringe group and a tiny minority of people even knew the group existed. Is that not the case?

    Anyway, even though I know you said in your very first blog that you weren't going to tell us your pen name, I'm still very keen to know more about your writing, GWW. I write as a hobby, have experimented with writing erotica and would love to both learn more about how you became involved, some of your interests and your opinion on various fetishes. Looking back over your blog, some of the little turns of phrase you use are delightfully titillating. :)

    I apologise if that seems inappropriate because I realise that this is a very serious blog entry. However, I share the feelings of the others who've commented here; the lawyers will step in very quickly should Atheism+ act on their stupidity.

    1. Hey there. What's the URL of your blog?

      I don't pirate either, at least as a general rule. I have, in the past, "pirated" music, or at least that's what it'd be called when no DRM free alternative was available. I'm not proud of it. Most honest people will pay for a product if the price is reasonable and it's a good product. The problem with DRM is exactly what was mentioned, that the FREE alternative is actually a BETTER product. How can you expect people to pay for something, where the exact same product can be had (illegally) for free? It's not about price, it's about quality in this case. Hey, you want some game-breaking DRM, or music you can only play on one device, or a TV show that can only be watched on one TV? Or do you want a free version of the same thing with none of those restrictions. You're exactly right, it's punishing your paying customers. It's ludicrous.

      Now, what I do is I just don't buy DRM products and I don't pirate them either. But these companies who are DRM-fanatics need to pull their heads out of their asses.

    2. Hey, thanks for the reply. I absolutely agree with you about DRM. That was the big reason behind Spore being so heavily-pirated, something like half a million times more than the next most-pirated game. You're right about it being the quality too, rather than the monetary value; when you read the horror stories about DRM online, you can see why some people would pirate them. Not that I'm justifying piracy but it's a case of "better to be safe than sorry" for many of the people who do. I agree with your approach of "no buy, no pirate".

      Thanks for showing an interest in my blog. :) The address is: I only have two posts so far though. The first is an introduction and the second, annoyingly, is more about women than men. Rough start, I suppose.

    3. Having started and forgotten several blogs in the past, and read tons, I can safely say that most starts are a little rough until you build a little audience and get some comments going.

  7. You know, these A+ folks are a broken gene, er, chromosome. A walking abortion, really.

    It is not surprising that they have become suicidal in their policies and stances - what better way to establish their victim cred by being slapped down for being so clueless? The divine femibeastly, much?

  8. Ah Atheism! not intrinsically bad, but a bit like France, seems OK until you meet some of the folk inhabiting the place.

    1. Seems there's two kinds of atheists. Skeptics and anti-theists. Atheism+ is solely the latter.

  9. Another disturbing aspect that didn't come out as clearly in the video was that the Atheism+Scribe folks were perfectly content to outright ignore owners of content if those owners were creationists. They might-could be bothered to do the favor of asking an atheist content owner, likely assuming that the common bond of holy atheism would ensure agreement between the parties, but a creationist? No f-ing way; creationists can be counted on to be obstructionist. Textbook bigotry.

  10. Justice is always the first casualty of social justice.

  11. TheBibo may be right. The problem with baseing ones image upon being oppressed is that one has to lose in order to keep it up. In other words they must keep on breaking laws until the bad old Patriarchy does something at last.

  12. The sad thing is, liberal humanism doesn't HAVE to be like this. It can be honest and honorable and respectful of differing viewpoints even as it promotes its own...

    But you'd never know it from reading the stuff from the Atheist Tea Party over there.

  13. Doesn't the fact that you make more money on voluntary donations than on your IP-protected books clue you in to how useless IP is ?

  14. I just came across your blog. I thank you for giving voice to the struggles of so many men that suffer for the simple reason that they're men. I thank you also for being a woman: you're more likely to be listened to.

  15. I was excited to come and read this since you made good rational videos about feminism, but sorry to say that the respect goes down the toilet when reading you support the right to attack people because they imitate you or copy you. Im guessing you wont even be doing the violence yourself. You want to send in the boys to fight.

  16. Are your books available for Kindle? I would be happy to buy if I knew where to find them!

    1. Sorry, but I'm keeping the two personas separate for the time being. My books are available on kindle, but my pen name is not available to the public through this venue. :(

    2. Please accept my apologies, then. Hopefully, I will stumble upon your work by accident. If you ever get around to publishing some of the non-fiction stuff you blog about under the pseudonym "Girl Writes What", I will look forward to reading that as well!

  17. I'm curious about the extent to which you support copyright and IP law in general. I agree with the intent of copyright law insomuch as that it allows an author to have a chance to make a profit on their creation. Currently the duration of copyright law is "life of the author plus an additional 70 years" That's a hell of a long time to give to an author so they have a chance to make a profit from their creation. This is drastically different from the past when the works of authors became the domain of the public even before the author was dead. I think a sound argument that current copyright laws are unjust and overreaching can be made and I would like to hear what you think about the issue.

  18. I actually wholeheartedly agree that copyright should not last nearly as long as it does. As much as I would love my kids to be able to earn money from my writing after my death--especially if the popularity of my work increases due to my death--it's kind of ridiculous how long it stretches.

    That said, a world with NO IP rights is not one I would care to create books in. It's a lot of work to put in, and if there's no way to reasonably monetize that, it certainly impacts the amount of work an author can produce. The tip jar idea is certainly one to look at, but without IP, anyone could copy-paste my work, post it on their website as their own, and collect the tips on it.

    I know a lot of people are of the opinion that traditional publishers need to go--that self-pub is the wave of the future. And while there are TONS of absurdities within traditional publishing, especially wrt the internet age (I have no idea how they can even operate within the morass of idiocy they espouse) I don't think the answer is to eliminate publishing companies. If nothing else, they sort the competent work from the crap, and provide editing, distribution and marketing. Having critiqued a fair bit of work from aspiring authors, I'm loath to simply abandon the vetting process, and leave readers to pick through the slush.

    It's a difficult transition, for sure, and one that needs a modern examination.

    1. I strongly believe in intellectual property rights, but after a reasonable period such works should go into the public domain. I greatly fear that because of the influence of mulit-media conglomerates like Disney, or Warner, nothing will ever be allowed to lapse into the public domain again. I don't think the average Joe has the right to download a free copy of The Dark Knight Rises because he doesn't want to pay Time Warner, but in 2012 "Steamboat Willie" should be in the public domain.

    2. I wonder about authors being able to make money by releasing chapters on a regular basis and generating money from ad revenue on their website. I'm considering trying this approach. Other methods of monetization could be used parallel with this, such as requiring a subscription to access previously completed works or a tip jar.

  19. "Years ago, in my travels within the book publishing industry and in my incarnation as a writer of erotic fiction, there existed a hot debate."

    I see what you did there.

  20. Karen Karen. I think this is telling you to start writing books on gender issues/feminism. If donations have been successful in the past, then there's obviously a consumer base that would gladly buy your books on feminism. I am one of them.

  21. I don't know anything about the A+ controversy, so I can't comment. I will say that the only copyright enforcement that makes ANY sense to me is "you can't make money off of my work if you haven't contracted with me", not "you can't pass on my work in any form". With the possible exception of superstars like Stephen King (who can take care of himself, as far as I'm concerned), obscurity is ALWAYS a bigger deal than piracy. Authors who put free downloads of their out of print back list on their websites always report increased sales of current books. On a personal note, I know a person (wink-wink) who has thousands of "illegally downloaded" books on his computer (of which he's only read a handful)...but he also has hundreds of books in his Kindle library, many of which he'd have never bought without having a free introduction to that author. Whenever he sees a recommendation for a particular author, he goes first to his downloaded library to see if he has any past books, and if he does, he reads. If he likes that author, he frequently ends up buying a current book through Kindle. (Now somebody tell me how this is any different from traditional libraries?)

    People who scream about copyright violations never seem to realize that the people who did the illegal download were never going to pay for that book, no matter what, so their so-called "lost revenue" is so much fairy tale. It's better to have it out there and increase the author's meme-space than to hold tightly to copyright and never been seen.

  22. we need a new system regarding copyright. i agree that there should be monetary compensation but when i didn't have any money as a student i've used a lot of courses and books to uplift myself in order to make money.
    madonna has 1 billion dollars. i think that's a little bit too much for 3 albums.
    bill gates has 60 over his lifetime. isn't it wierd that in the whole world we have only a couple of alternatives in regards to operating systems? any team of 100 passionate programmers can make something just as good as microsoft if they were allowed to. it's not a free market. it's a granted monopoly by the state which blocks future development.
    my view is that internet cost should be higher and you should be allowed to access a level one database of knowledge and art. and the higher the level the higher the internet cost. the more internet users the more money are gathered.


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