Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ideas To Stop Piracy

If someone stole your car you would want justice, right?  Well, stealing online is no different. It may seem harmless but the truth is it is harmful.  It’s against the law to publish someone’s copyrighted material unless you get permission to do so.  It is wrong to download a book, video, music album or other creative material that was not purchased via a licensed representative of the copyright holder.  Yet, click by click, often knowingly but sometimes unknowingly, we obtain materials that we didn’t pay for or we purchased them illegally.  Why do we do it?  Some believe any and all of these misinformed or untrue theories:

·         Because, we can.  Who’s stopping us?
·         We didn’t know the transaction was illegal or that source purchased from was an overseas criminal outfit.
·         Everyone else is doing it, so why wouldn’t I?
·         These companies make billions so they can afford my free download.
·         These artists and writers make millions, so they shouldn’t care.
·         The Internet is free and everyone shares everything, like it was meant to be.
·         Screw the corporate world.  They overcharge whenever they can so this levels the playing field.
·         I pay my monthly Internet access fee, smart phone data fee, cable TV fee, and many other fees to get entertainment and information.  When something is free or cheap I don’t question it.

I am sure there are other reasons why people accept the theft of intellectual property, but it’s got to stop.  When did virtual shoplifting get decriminalized to be on par with jaywalking?

We are an information society and our economy can’t afford to lose billions to theft.  Further, it just is not moral to condone and support such theft.  How would you like it if someone stole from your paycheck or hijacked your work product and said it was theirs?

Anyone reading this doesn’t need a lecture on law or a sermon on ethics.  We need to come together and enact a sensible and fair law – and a budget to enforce it – that limits (we’ll never eliminate it) the scourge of intellectual piracy.

Apple, Amazon, Wikipedia, Facebook and Google led a grassroots revolt against proposed legislation that would have attacked the stealing of movies, books, music, videos, etc.  They claimed it was far reaching and too costly to enforce.  They may have been right but, like the Republicans on health care who dismiss any attempt to solve a major problem, we cannot just turn down and criticize legislation to fix a problem without suggesting a viable alternative. To do nothing is not an option. How about suggesting an adequate substitute?

If we can’t find a consensus on how to stop tens of billions of dollars of creative product annually, we’ll need to resort to other measures.  One possibility is that a national campaign should take place to encourage people not to steal as well as a campaign that highlights Web sites or other sources that violate the law and blacklist them.

But I’m afraid we’ll need a technological solution for a technological problem.  Computer programmers will need to attach some kind of code or virus that gets enacted when material is downloaded or shared illegally.  Further, a GPS-like tracking device may need to be installed so as to follow who has downloaded or is selling pirated material.  The final step: sue or arrest the person downloading pirated stuff.  Forget about chasing the pirates – just stop the consumer from stealing and you’ll see a dramatic change.  Maybe an online registry will need to be formed that forces anyone who downloads or buys anything online to register the transaction with a government agency. Now, all of this would be expensive to implement and potentially violate our privacy rights, and it is not the way I would want to go but I wouldn’t fault others who try to turn the tables on the pirates.

Maybe a solution is to create an online passport or ID card that anyone doing business online will need to have, whether a retailer or a consumer. Maybe those who sell materials such as books or music will have to show a license or proof of the right to sell the product in question, one that is issued by the product’s agent.

Or, a final solution is we for us to get off the digital marketplace.  Don’t have e-books or movies on demand or downloadable music.  Go back to everything coming in boxes, plastic, and paper and forget the Internet exists. Not realistic, I agree, but the issue is so important that something drastic needs to be done before we see $30 CDs, $50 books and major entertainment companies out of business.

Interview With Literary Agent Kirsten Neuhaus
Book Marketing Buzz Blog interviewed the Founder of Kirsten Neuhaus Literary this past week. Here are her insights:
  1. Kirsten, as a literary agent, what do you look for in the types of authors and books that you choose to represent? A talented editor and dear friend of mine once told me she loves getting my submissions because she knows they will always be at least a little controversial.  For me the most important quality a book has to have is that it makes an impact, and I think impact is achieved through a combination of good writing, a fresh and original take on a subject matter be it fiction or non-fiction, and something that adds a wow factor, which is harder to describe.  But certainly I look for projects that make me sit up and stop skimming to take a deeper look, that get me thinking and ultimately make me see the world a bit differently.
  2. What advice do you have for a struggling writer? What an exciting time to be a writer!  I think as the lines between mediums continue to blur, writers should expand their skills beyond the traditional full length book/blog/article format and find new and interesting ways to reach an audience.  The greatest challenge I think the book industry, or really any industry, faces right now is not finding quality content but finding ways to get people to notice it.  I love that these days we're able to play around so much with timing and length and type of content.  There are so many great online forums showcasing new work. But ultimately you've got to find a way to be heard above the din.
  3. Where do you see the book publishing industry heading? I really think that depends.  There's always a lot of talk comparing the book industry to the music industry. Certainly there are plenty of similarities such as the decline of brick and mortar and the rise of the dominant online retailer and the explosion of new devices and the pricing challenges.  But to my mind there are some fairly significant differences such as, for one thing the switch to downloading in music happened much quicker but also, and more importantly, it happened before the shift to online/digital was arguably affecting other creative mediums in a meaningful way.

The music industry had to kind of muddle through on their own whereas now we can look back and consider what were their successes and failures. And with the explosion of social media, and concepts like transmedia, book publishing should not just be prepared to make the switch but also to leverage the change to increase visibility and sales. To my mind there's this interesting convergence happening in the digital sphere with film, advertising and literature/journalism.  But no one's really master of the space yet.  And I think the future (and in some cases the present) is about these different entities finding the most powerful way to work together.

I also think books are going to have to become more interactive with their audiences.  I love what's happening now with enhanced e-books and e-book apps.  But the struggle seems to be in finding the money to fund new development, which is why I think a lot of the innovations are coming from people who were originally working outside the book industry.
  1. What do you love most about being a part of it? Starting my own company in 2009 really altered the way I viewed the book publishing industry.  I may get in trouble for saying this but I think in the past the industry has been too inward focused.  While of course there's always been an impetus to sell a lot of copies, there definitely wasn't as much pressure to make every book deal count. I think there will always be a bit of a, see what sticks, kind of mentality to the industry but at the same time I think the increased challenges are leading to some really innovative and targeted approaches to marketing and publicity.  I'm thrilled with how my authors have risen to the challenge and because I have my own company, I have the flexibility and freedom to go with them in these new directions and find other ways to work together.  That's definitely my favorite part of being in publishing right now.

  1. Which genres or areas of publishing do you see as being strong and/or filled with growth potential? Which genres are overcrowded? I think current events and advice driven non-fiction are going to continue to be tough as these are two areas where people are really turning to online for their needs.  Genre fiction seems to be doing pretty well in e-books and self published e-books.  Of course everyone knows children's and particularly young adult has exploded. Although I think partly the reason for its current success is that young adult is filling a gap in the adult fiction market at present.  I've spoken with quite a few women in the last year or two who told me they hardly ever ready anything but young adult anymore. Ultimately I think publishers will figure out a way to publish books that will bring these readers back to the adult market hopefully!
Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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