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.
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
] 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
- 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.
Ebook (un)availability, a case study