I’ve received another comment to which I was composing a too-long response, so it’s turning into a post of its own.
The topic is copyright infringement and the comment came in on this post.
Here’s Michelle’s comment:
Ladies, as much as I understand your frustration I wish to respond in a
way that is not as supportive as other entries on this page. I am sorry
to say that technology is going to grow with or without you. Anyone who
expects a business to be protected against website publishing is
probably around retirement age. If properly blanketed by a solid,
reputable publisher the chances of protection are closer to a
guarantee. Perhaps you should invest more time in researching
publishers rather than letting everyone know something they already do.
We know you have to eat and we know how unfair people can be. Move with
the times or retire gals.
And here’s my reply:
The problem is not "website publishing" but stealing of copyrighted material, whether intentional or not.
As a publisher, I have choices about how to present the information that I make available to other people. I publish this primarily through print media, although I certainly evaluate my options on an ongoing basis and have been considering electronic delivery for some future projects.
At present, print still seems like the best way to provide knitting-related information of any length and complexity.
Making the material available exclusively electronically (which I assume is part of what you mean by "technology is going to grow with or without you") would obviate many difficulties of the current print-publishing system, including freight costs, damages and returns, and the other inefficiencies and expenses of today’s book distribution, which is, frankly, not in step with the times at all. However, it is a reality as much as is the technology of electronic communication.
Electronic books are not yet easy to read for extended text, and
the equipment to display many of the currently available formats is still
financially out of many people’s reach. PDFs can be displayed on standard computers, to which many people do have access. However, computer-only display of books means the text isn’t as portable as a traditional book—no reading on buses or subways, in bed, and so on; even laptops are not yet noticeably convenient in these locations. I think that most readers would consider it an imposition (and not very
satisfactory) to have to print out and make some sort of binding for
their own copies of books that are several hundred pages long, and that’s what they’d have to do to get the flexibility of a bound book from an electronic delivery system. In addition, electronic distribution doesn’t solve the problem of piracy, and may make it worse.
I obviously think that not publishing the books that I do would be a loss for the knitting and spinning community, or I wouldn’t be doing it, but perhaps that’s my personal delusion.
Then again, I’m far from alone. A number of knitting designers (who are not publishers but writers and providers of patterns) are struggling with issues similar to those faced by publishers like me: how best to deliver the information, how best to get paid for the work that gets done to create and present the information. If these problems don’t get solved, then these sources of material will dry up. The people who are writing, designing, and publishing (through our own efforts or through association with others) will find a different kind of work to do.
What you are saying, as I understand it, is that the only people who should be publishing books (or providing pattern designs, and so on) are those who are well-funded enough to have a flotilla of lawyers at their command. That goes against a lot of ideas I care a great deal about—including free speech and free enterprise and being able to choose to work in a basement that I own rather than a cubicle that someone else does.
I know I’m paraphrasing you, but this is what I am hearing in your message: "Life’s not fair. No one should act unless that person has lots of money to defend him or herself. Also, you must be old and you should retire." Each of these declarations, whether true or not, misses the point of the primary issue under discussion.
I don’t think the problems of copyright infringement have anything to do with age. Young or old, creative people need food, shelter, and clothing, just like corporate drones do. It does sound like you want us all to be corporate drones or to leave the workforce entirely. I put the word "retire" in quotes in the title of this post because "retire" isn’t an option for most of the people I know who are doing this work. We need to work for a living, so our only "retirement" would be from doing work that we are unusually qualified to do, and that would not be an age-related decision. I suspect that some of the older people in this field may be active on matters of copyright protection not only for their own sake but also in order to protect future options for the younger folks. And while you address the group as "ladies," not everyone implicated by these issues is female.
Life’s unfair—you’re right. And no one here has asked it to be.
Yet unfairness may run rampant if we don’t name it, and people won’t stop doing things that are unfair—or wrong, or illegal—unless and until we do some acknowledging and some educating. When you say "technology is going to grow with you or without you," you may also mean that we should not bother to do whatever is in our power to increase the amount of fairness in the world. Unfair behavior won’t go away completely no matter what we do, but simply to succumb to unfairness by saying that nothing can be done about it is defeatist. Inaction also has long-term, serious, negative consequences.
Your statement suggests that "solid, reputable publishers" are either immune to piracy or better able to protect themselves from it. I assume, because of the context of this discussion, that by "solid, reputable publishers" you do not mean the independents but you do mean the imprints of the conglomerates. It is not true that they are immune to piracy, and they may be even less able to protect themselves in some ways. Although the bigger publishers may have lawyers on staff (some do), they also have more titles to keep track of. And if the editors at those corporations cannot produce P&Ls (profit-and-loss statements) that come out in the black more often than not, then their publishing wings will be clipped as well. Those editors, the creative spirits of the publishing houses where they work, will be required to do something else. The big publishers’ P&Ls are affected by copyright infringement, as are the P&Ls of the smaller publishers.
Then again, maybe the ability to create new ideas and to share them through publication and to earn a living or a partial living for one’s effort doesn’t matter—maybe it doesn’t matter to you, and maybe it doesn’t even matter to human cultural heritage as a whole.
I think it does, and I’m willing to take a stand for it.
The truly positive news that has come out of the discovery of illegally scanned books’ availability on the internet is that there are people who would like to have access to this information who apparently cannot obtain it easily and legally. I’d love to find a solution to that problem, whether the fix is electronic or physical. I’m all about supporting creativity, whether of those who provide information or those who use it to spur their own unique projects.
I think that every one of us stands on both sides of that gate from time to time. The trick is in making sure we can see over to the other side, regardless of where we’re standing at the moment.