Thursday, December 6, 2007

Does a writer deserve to be paid?

There's an interesting post at the blog TechCrunch, about how easy it is to use portable media devices for "stealing books." The writer notes the technology known as BitTorrents conveniently enables this act. What's even more interesting is the discussion following the post. One fellow, Chris, who describes himself as a writer, offers some interesting views about compensating writers. He posits that publishers rip us off on contracts, but a reader who illegally acquires a book by the use of technology is doing no harm. Chris believes we should value all readers (desperately seeking readers?) whether they pay for our product or not.

I posted a question on the discussion, asking Chris whether he's paid for what he writes or whether he's been doing the deed for free. I'll let you know if there's a response.

While ivory towers are useful, most of us who try to earn a living by the pen do not have the luxury of an ivory tower. Some of us write full-time, others teach and write on the side, and still others work a non-related day job to be able to write during leisure time.

I obviously love my work--otherwise I wouldn't do it. But I also expect to be paid for content I supply to a publication or Web site. I like royalties from my books. Do you think those who own publications, presses, or Web sites are doing it for free? Should the U.S. follow the suit of countries where government controls the written word, reimbursing journalists and others who write?

I have a hard time wrapping my brain around working for nothing. When grocers fill my bag with free food items and gas stations pump fuel at no charge, when utilities supply me with free water and when cats stop chasing songbirds, I suppose we can all work for free. Until then, you work you should be paid.

Ed. note: In the article at Tech Crunch, since BitTorrents is mentioned, readers should be aware the technology does not cloak users' identities. Numeric Internet addresses are viewable, according to Bram Cohen, BitTorrents developer. Cohen was interviewed by The New York Times. He told the paper he didn't envision people using his technology for copyright infringement. Read our Covering Florida story of an Orlando man facing 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for participating in a the Elite Torrents network, involving file sharing of music, games, movies and software.


Joan Price said...

Kay, I read the TechCrunch article and commented on it as an author who lives on being paid for my words. I knew I couldn't change the minds of those determined to rip me off (or not seeing it as an issue), but I thought I could at least drive a wedge into the brains of people who hadn't considered that there are real authors providing these books, and not for free.

One person actually told me that to a writer, "a reader is everything," and all I might be missing from pirated books is "a meal." Sheeesh.

Joan Price

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Kay Day said...

Joan, I read the whole thread there with interest. I saw the comment about the pirated books/meal theory and had a good chuckle. The writer who posted that had a well-paid position with a government entity, though--he was well paid I'm sure for the scripts since the BBC exacts a license fee from the public. We all have to work for a living (unless we've got the old silver spoon thing going), so I don't think it's any different if you're making your bucks from an employer or getting them yourself. That's why I told him maybe he worked his job for free? Same thing, right?

Always honored to have you drop by and comment on my site.

Readers: Do visit Joan's sites--you'll be entertained and informed.
best, Kay