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On Cory Doctorow

On Cory Doctorow

There have been a lot of questions and misperceptions about what's up between me and Cory Doctorow. He has the larger podium so you've likely heard his view; I've linked to various posts of his if not. I encourage you to read all sides before judging. Here's my perspective.

Let me also preface this by saying I think my views on copyright are fairly moderate. You can read them here.

  • In 2005 I had a civil debate in email with him. In this discussion he stated his feelings that copyright was of no value to him. He wrote, for example, "I've never gotten a cent from copyright."

  • I found that an illogical statement for a writer, since copyright protection is what ensures that authors have control over their work, i.e. copyright is what prevents publishers from publishing material without getting permission from authors (and paying them for that permission). I explained this and pressed him to see if he truly thought copyright had no value. His petulant reply was, "All right -- you win. There is a tiny, tiny value to creators from copyright." I seems hypocritical to me to take advantage of copyright law to get paid, then say it has no significant ("tiny, tiny") value.

  • He has also refused to grant me permission to show these emails to you, the public, to judge what he said. Copyright law is what prevents me from making them public; I need his permission to display what he wrote. He will not give it. Yet he denounces companies such as Diebold for misusing copyright law to silence critics. He calls them "slimeballs." So, he uses copyright law to prevent me from publishing material he apparently feels portrays him in a bad light while condemning that very practice. That seems hypocritical.

  • I wasn't impressed with his forward thinking (or deliberate reaction to appear that way in order to advance his anti-copyright agenda): In our discussion he contended that SFWA shouldn't be proactive about digital rights because to do so is akin to saying (as he wrote to me in email in 2005), "'Well, someday the plane's gonna crash: might as well eat our seatmates now!'"). That "argument" about the lack of value of proactive measure that some event may not occur undercuts any proactive measure anyone might ever consider.

  • Doctorow violated the copyright of noted author Ursula K. Le Guin and refused many requests from her to cease, only relenting after much public pressure. (About which he refused to allow his boingboing readers to post comments, further advancing his love of critical free speech.)

  • He says how he's all about free speech, how it's vital that web sites such as scribd allow unmoderated anonymous posts in order to protect freedom of speech, yet he (a) disallows posts on his own site critical of his actions; (b) does not allow unmoderated anonymous posts on his own site (only anonymous postings that they deem appropriate can get posted); and (c) approves of deleting critical posts from his site and allows a site policy in which their paid admin deletes [or "unpublishes" ] such posts. ("Unpublishing"; Orwell would love that.)

  • I experienced this latter myself: I posted a comment questioning their site's copyright policy on user comments. It's the only posting I ever made there. It was deleted. (The person who deleted it first posting an attack on me, then deleted it, though I saved a copy.) Then my login was disabled. The details, including the full text of my polite posting, are here.

    Others have likewise complained about the heavy-handed moderation on boingboing. Their moderator notes that "jeers aimed at Boing Boing's editors will get short shrift" in an entry describing their moderation policy.

    This does not jibe with their statements about the need for web sites and companies to allow criticism and free speech, and denunciations of companies that follow the same policies they do themselves.

  • They still have an unclear copyright policy: Are user comments posted to boingboing covered under the Creative Commons license as they imply (but do not warn users about when posting), or not? I also emailed this to their admin, and despite that she told me to hang on while she would get an answer... My question has gone unanswered.

  • I wanted to quote a user comment from their site, but Doctorow has said he's killfiled me, which is the reason I posted the question. They prevented my quoting that material by not answering the question whether I did in fact have permission to quote user comments. (User comments are written by the user, not boingboing staff, so by law they are copyrighted by each user who posts. However, the statement at the bottom of every boingboing page says, "This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution." Yet authors who post comments are not made to agree to a CC license covering their posting. Doctorow et al. are aware of this ambiguity and implication that user posts are CC licensed (when they are not). They have chosen to do nothing about it, which seems hypocritical. (Or deliberately deceptive, aka "fraudulent".)

  • In the Scribd Matter, when my accident briefly caused a copy of his book to be blocked for a few days (despite being widely available elsewhere), rather than ask SFWA "Hey, what happened, can we fix this?" Doctorow chose to post a flame about how "abusive" SFWA was. (It was an accident, which I immediately explained, apologized for, and acted to reverse.) He posted this at midnight Eastern time leading into a holiday weekend, when nobody in SFWA would likely be around to answer questions, but at a good time to ignite the blogosphere reading on his "largest blog in the world."

    He incites anger by calling it "fraudulent" when fraud requires intent to deceive; and I had no intent to deceive. I simply made an accident. Yet to this day the words "fraudulent" and "abuses" remain.

I've concluded that Cory Doctorow has an idealogical anti-copyright agenda to push, and is willing to do most anything to advance it. Misleading and false statements, mudslinging, dirty tricks, you name it.

He has the larger podium with which to do it, so I'll do what little I can, such as posting this rebuttal. Thanks for reading.

On Copyright
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