Monday, April 08, 2002
An e-mail came in from a friend letting me know that the full text of one of my books was up at a website. I went over and poked around, and discovered that, apart from my book, the young man who owned the website had multiple books by Douglas Adams, Orson Scott Card, Bill Gibson, C. S. Lewis, Larry Niven, Terry Pratchett, Dr Seuss, Neal Stephenson, J.R.R. Tolkien and Roger Zelazny posted, among other authors whose works were still in copyright, living and dead.

So I wrote to him and asked him to take my book down, and suggested that he ought to take the rest of the copyright material down too -- the Tolkien Estate and the C.S. Lewis estate have lawyers, after all, and might not be best pleased with him. ("Posting material that you don't have the rightsholder's permission to post is breaking the law, and worse than that, it's extremely bad manners," I explained.)

Am still puzzling over a line in his reply -- immediately agreeing to take the book down (although I notice he's left everything else in copyright up, which is the only reason I'm posting this).

I respect your work highly and try to respect your rights to your work
just as much. I knew it would be potentially dangerous for me to put
books up that were not yet in the public domain, but I did it anyway.

I don't get it. I mean, if you respect an author's work and his or her rights, then why post books by the author, which you don't own, on your website? And as for being potentially dangerous, I can see that, but it's not a brave or noble sort of danger -- it just has the same potential danger that shoplifting has, ie. that someone will put their hand on your shoulder and say "that doesn't belong to you, does it?"

Ah well.

I hope he takes the rest of the copyright stuff down (rather than, rather pathetically to my mind, putting a notice up, after my e-mail, saying that if you are the copyright owner and you tell him to take it down he will. It's like a shoplifter looking around wide-eyed and saying, "What? You mean this stuff in the store belongs to someone? It's not just here for people to take? Well, gee, I didn't know").

Am I testy about this? Damn right I am.

I found this Wendy Cope poem on someone's website (posted, it says, by permission) which says it better than I can, although she's talking about poets, not prose authors....

Wendy Cope's poem about Law Of Copyright