I’ve had several experiences with Copyright infringement since my work was first published. The most serious was when a high school in Germany reprinted portions of A Glimpse of the Future without permission. It was a strange situation; on the one hand it was a copyright infringement and pissed me off, but on the other it was a compliment as they were using it as an example for their students. Since then I’ve become more and more convinced that the traditional Copyright system has become outdated as technology has left it behind. We need a newer system which takes into account the technology and interchangeability of the 21st century, a system which protects content creators but doesn’t punish users for taking an interest in someone’s work.
I’m not sure if this is the answer, but in the interim I’ve decided to support Creative Commons Licensing. Under a Creative Commons license, the incident with the German high school would not have occured; I would have allowed them to use a portion of it for non-commercial purposes. Likewise, it allows musicians to let people use their music on MySpace or other sites, photographers to have their photos recognised by more people, gaining publicity without having their rights infringed. Can you imagine if the record companies adopted this, or even Hollywood? It would have a huge impact on piracy, I think in a good way.
So from the release of my next story, Shards of Babylon, my future work will be protected under an Australian Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial- NoDerivs license. It’s a mouthful, but basically it means that I will allow people to copy, distribute and transmit my work as long as they attribute back to me as the author; that they do not change it in any way; and that they make no money off of it. If they want to use it in any other way, they must contact me first; I might still be amiable to helping them out. Right now I’m using it with my photos on Flickr.
I’m going to be posting more on Creative Commons and Copyright over the next few months as it’s something I believe in, so I hope you’ll come back and keep an open mind. I’d be very interested to know what you think, actually. I know it’s not something everyone will agree with, but as a writer this isn’t a small issue for me, it’s part of my every day life. I want to be protected, sure, but I also want to be able to communicate with my readers. Allowing someone to take a part of my story they liked and post it on their website… how does that really hurt me? It means I get new readers, a new audience, more publicity. That’s what Web 2.0 is all about! I still think we need a new system, and in the end Creative Commons might not be enough, but for now it’s a better option than what we have and that’s why I’m supporting it.