A writer named David B. Dale (a pseudonym) has a site. On it he posts stories of 299 words. It boasted 197,577 visitors the last time I was there. I am not posting a link. Here’s why:
Not only has Mr. Dale copyrighted his work, but he has “protected” his page with Copyscape. Which boasts a homepage copied from Google’s.
Just for fun, I put in my blog address. This yielded ten hits – to see more I have to pay. Hilariously, it sternly informed me about a page on the Ars Technica forum: “This page has 35 words matching your text”. Which 35 words I copied from Ars Technica in a quote in this post. Goodness. Wonder what I’d find out if I forked over some cash for the premium version.
I’m not going to reiterate all the reasons why content should be unrestricted in a free culture. If you’re unconvinced, or don’t know what I’m talking about, please see here. It is certainly Mr. Dale’s right to slap all the copyrights or other “protections” on his content that he wants. But it’s a wrong-headed move.
I do hope Mr. Dale hasn’t given any cash to the good folks at Copyscape. Because though the logo claims to “protect” his page, it has protected precisely nothing. I now have copies of Mr. Dale’s short stories in the caches of three internet browsers (just like everyone else who has visited the site.) And just for fun I copied a couple into Word and Notepad, and made screenshots. Took about 11.2 seconds. Required no special knowledge (and, Mr. Dale, I didn’t bother to save them).
Obviously, I’m no pirate. I’m no hacker. I have very basic computer knowledge, and I’m making a point. “Protecting” content does not work. Does not work. You can’t put a lock on digital content. Every proprietary system ever invented has been broken within days, if not hours. E.g., “The Dark Knight.”
As for writers, there’s no keeping your stories and books yours, all yours. Unless you print it out and put it in a locked safe. In which case no one would ever read it. That’s not what a writer wants. It’s not what I want, anyway. I want people to read what I’ve written. The enemy of a writer is not piracy. It’s obscurity.
If you put content on the internet, you give it away. That’s the reality. Rather than fight it, I think it behooves writers and artists of all stripes to embrace this reality.
I’ve emailed David B. Dale to invite him to respond to this post. I’m sure he has his reasons. I’d like to hear them. Here’s hoping we’ll be able to talk this out in a rational, adult manner.
Update on the DRM dilemma: Got a nice note back from Mr. Cornwell’s assistant, saying that he lacks time and also “he doesn’t even know what a DRM is!” I wrote back suggesting that he ought to, but I can see how if you’re on the “successful writer” side of the fence, these issues might not bother you so much, or at all. I’ll post on it if I hear any more.