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Science Fiction Writers Write DMCA Takedowns 197

TheGreatGraySkwid writes "With an ironic lack of forward thinking, the Science Fiction Writers of America (or, more specifically, their Vice President Andrew Burt) have issued scattershot DMCA takedown notices against numerous items on the document-sharing site Scribd, many of which were not infringing on SFWA copyrights in any way. It appears that a simple keyword search for prominent science fiction names (like 'Asimov' and 'Silverburg') was used to determine which documents were to be singled out. Included in the documents was Cory Doctorow's 'Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom,' which was released under the Creative Commons license and is freely available at any number of places. Doctorow is up in arms over at BoingBoing, with several other Science Fiction notables speaking up in the comments."
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Science Fiction Writers Write DMCA Takedowns

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  • by N7DR ( 536428 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @03:28PM (#20427981) Homepage
    As a paid-up lifetime member of SFWA, you can be sure that I will be asking for an explanation of this action (and clarification/confirmation as to whether this is being done in the name of the SFWA or whether Andrew Burt is simply acting as an individual).
  • by N7DR ( 536428 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @03:40PM (#20428077) Homepage
    I'm sure they will take you very seriously and alter their current policies lest you write another angry email.

    Well, Mr AC: firstly it won't be angry; and secondly I have found the people at the helm of the SFWA to be very responsive to their electorate. So I believe that the tone and the content of your response are unnecessarily negative, at least until I receive evidence to the contrary from the SFWA. At this point I am quite prepared to believe that this is all just a misunderstanding or an error by one person.

  • Irony (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @03:41PM (#20428079) Homepage Journal
    How ironic that Andrew Burt should do this.

    Andrew Burt was responsible for the first real unfettered access I had to USENET, back in the days when my telnet access was through a CP/CMS machine, and so telnet into Nyx.net [nyx.net] (back when it was still known as nyx.cs.du.edu) was all cluttered with ANSI codes and improper scrolling yet still readable. aburt's Nyx site was where I went to read the anime newsgroup rec.arts.anime that a friend had told me about, and where I was inducted into online writing circles where we wrote our tales and shared our stories freely on the Internet. Though defunct now, alt.pub.dragons-inn and alt.pub.havens-rest were really jumping back in the day.

    And Burt was also a more direct champion of writing circles [salon.com], in his work with Critters. According to the article, he believed that espousing some of the principles of the Open Source movement in writing would lead to more and better writers.

    And now look what he's doing. What a shame that it should come to this.
  • by Odinson ( 4523 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @04:38PM (#20428593) Homepage Journal
    The link to my book on scribd.

    Thicker Than Blood [scribd.com]

    Come give me a takedown notice for my own book. I'll sue the crap out of you.

  • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @04:53PM (#20428753) Journal

    I don't think its fair to act as if Scribd's is morally obligated to know the precise legal boundaries of what they can get away with and push them (unless they have an explicit contractual obligation to their users to do so).
    If you are in the business of running a website whose mission is to collect documents from users (as Scribd is), then failing to invest in some legal advice on how to handle real and supposed DMCA notices and/or the pitfalls of hosting user-uploaded content is simply irresponsible.
  • by pilgrim23 ( 716938 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @05:02PM (#20428833)
    While I do agree the DMCA is a travesty of law, and think the whole copyright issue would probably work better using 19th century rules (I am dead serious), I can see how the sci fi writers would use this tool after repeated attempts at other eforts to have their still owned works taken down... with limited or NO success. I think Jerry Pournelle (who btw is a damn good writer; you Rock! Dr. Pournelle) who was one of those who requested this actions sums it up clearly, honestly and completely. I am NOT going to /. his site by posting URL. Do the small work requred to: Google "Chaos Manor" then go read the Friday post on the oldest blog on the interweb.
  • Re:Cory (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rebill ( 87977 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @06:05PM (#20429353) Journal
    It is hard to pick on someone who does not know something, but acts intelligently to correct that situation, isn't it?

    Of course, I like it when skeptics look at and think about the facts - and then decide to join the crusade, anyway.

  • by nightgeometry ( 661444 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @08:10PM (#20430229) Journal
    There are a number of authors who I respect, who are members of the SWFA. I love Charles Stross' work. I can understand why they are members of the SWFA. Before today I didn't even know the SWFA existed, let alone that these authors were members.

    As of today however I will not buy books from people who I know are SWFA members, until the idiots in charge are no longer in charge. Guilt by association I guess, which is bad, but... there ya go.

    Either get rid of the nutter (and from what I have read you actually are the person who should be in charge), or leave, or I won't buy your books any more.

    Change, change fast, or lose at least one paying customer.
  • by charlie ( 1328 ) <charlie.antipope@org> on Friday August 31, 2007 @09:28PM (#20430605) Homepage Journal
    I am an SFWA member.

    SFWA is an organization of writers (as in, a herd of semi-feral cats). It's not a distribution cartel like the MPAA or RIAA, and it has not, in point of fact, got very much real-world clout at all.

    SFWA is, however, a representative democracy. And the current elected executive officers appear to have decided to take this (in my opinion, bone-headed and incompetent) action on their own initiative.

    There is currently a flame war raging inside SFWA over these DMCA takedown notices, with some authors supporting them and others calling for the resignation of the board. I'm not going to name names or tell tales out of school, but please don't assume that this is indicative of some borg-like organization of copyright totalitarians taking aim at your liberties: it's more a symptom of incompetence.

    (Meanwhile, some of us are maintaining our SFWA membership specifically to fight this kind of stupidity from within.)
  • by charlie ( 1328 ) <charlie.antipope@org> on Friday August 31, 2007 @09:53PM (#20430715) Homepage Journal
    This may surprise you, but some of us have been trying to get rid of the nutters for some time.

    Suggestions like yours are flogging a horse that's already going as fast as it can; beware, lest you flog it to death.
  • by scalzi ( 878223 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @09:54PM (#20430723) Homepage
    "Either get rid of the nutter (and from what I have read you actually are the person who should be in charge), or leave, or I won't buy your books any more."

    Then you'd better plan on not buying my books for several months. I paid my yearly dues today, and while I would be delighted to have the particular person who did this resign (and indeed many people have suggested this should be what happens), I don't see it happening any time soon, since he's not inclined to do so (it would help if he actually believed he did something wrong) nor do I believe two-thirds of SFWAns will recall him, more's the pity.

    That said, SFWA President and VP slots are up for election on a yearly basis, and it seems unlikely that this particular officer will get an extension past the next election and installation of new officers, which happens on July 1st. So your purchasing hiatus will likely only need to be ten months long. In the meantime, I suggest the library.

  • by alizard ( 107678 ) <alizard.ecis@com> on Saturday September 01, 2007 @06:57AM (#20432523) Homepage
    I don't think I'll be reading anything else by him, paper, legal download, or illegal download unless I get word that it's so outrageously stupid that I can't resist. But only if it's a posting on a publically available website.

    It's ironic that the author of books like "A Step Further Out" in a business which is about giving people a look into possible futures, he hysterically denounces someone who is actively trying to create a future worth living in, apparently, because he himself is incapable of finding an attorney capable of writing a legitimate DMCA takedown letter.

    The Pournelle I grew up respecting would have found the information online himself and Scribd would have pulled his content offsite.

    Too bad Pournelle lost sight of what science fiction is all about. I read it as a fun way to get insight into possible futures, some of which I'd like to live in, some I'd like to avoid. Pournelle, like Harlan Ellison has gone from cutting-edge to part of a dying past, and all the people who used to respect him can do for him now is stay out of their way as they lurche towards the tar pits and hope they don't manage to take the entire genre of science fiction along with them. If SF becomes fundamentally irrelevant to modern readers' experience, nobody's going to buy it no matter how much or how little DRM is attached to it and whether or not it's available on BitTorrent or not.

    I write the kind of computer how-to articles Pournelle built a good part of his professional reputation on as I have for the last 20 years, I get paid by publishers in the usual way and not by the EFF, and I've got NO sympathy for his viewpoints.

    Anyone doing DMCA takedown notices on my behalf for materials copyrighted in my name without my permission had better have a good lawyer. SFWA's assumption that all of their writers want rogue copyright agents using lawbots making bogus claims of representation is abysmally stupid, and all Pournelle's blathering in their defense can't make it otherwise. Not everyone uses the same business model for writing writers from the old days used to.

    If Pournelle can't figure this out and responds to people trying to make new business models consistent with the digital age work, why the hell is he still writing SF? The answer, of course, is that a writer who's recycling the same old ideas from a generation ago and has built up an audience can keep on selling "product as usual" to the same bunch of readers. Well, I won't be reading any more of that, obsolescence can be catching and I don't want to pick up any of his. Hint: He's a Vista user. No, I am not kidding.

    The stuff I write for money these days is how-tos on making Linux work, the areas I write about is where "point and click" and "plug and play" don't work yet. I write about that instead of about Windows because I think Open Source is where the future is, and I started the Linux learning curve 3 years ago back when it was a lot more painful than it is today because I saw where things were going.

    I've done a lot of my SF reading from the Baen Free Library and as a result, Baen has gotten about $100 of my money. "The first taste is always free"... and if one has read 6 books in a series, it's worth buying the 7th book in order to find out NOW what happens in next. While Pournelle could try this himself and make his writing more profitable, if he has nothing left to say worth reading, he probably shouldn't bother.

    The most interesting thing about the discussion on Boing-Boing is that the people who are writing cutting-edge SF are the people slamming the SFWA hardest. And it's clear from Pournelle's article that he doesn't even understand why.

    The cruellest irony is that while Pournelle waxes hysterical about his work being 'stolen', he hasn't figured out that it isn't worth stealing for anyone who wants to read books that might provide insight into the future. That article of his tells me more than I wanted to know about what he has to say. And

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer