Authors have lost the plot in Kindle battle

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Comment by I. J. Parker on April 2, 2009 at 8:50am
The trouble is that electronic rights (not audio rights) almost always go with the print rights. Any negotiating and resale is done by your publisher. And they don't even inform you of the deal. Penguin sold two of my books to Kindle and I only found out because they appeared on the Amazon page. I don't object to Kindle, but I'm nervous about future abuses by Amazon.
Comment by Jon Loomis on April 2, 2009 at 5:17am
My reading of the Kindle Kontract--and this was several months ago, so there may be newer iterations now--was that it claimed all electronic rights to the book. that seemed incredibly broad to me, and unnecessarily grasping--if you sold to Kindle, could you also sell to Sony? Could you put an electronic version of your book on iTunes, say, if that technology became available (as it surely will)? The problem with Kindle as a multi-use device is, I think, as John M states it--the contract law still hasn't caught up sufficiently to protect writers against potential abuses. I'll wait to put my eggs in an electronic basket, for now--Kindle's absurdly high price is a real problem, and leaves the door open for both lower cost competitors and flat-out failure. I certainly won't sign any contract that boxes me in or assigns rights I don't want to assign.
Comment by I. J. Parker on April 2, 2009 at 4:53am
A good point. My books are contractually Penguin's and the audio versions belong to Random House. Theoretically the contract owners must fight those battles. However, if Random House or Penguuin decide that my books aren't worth fighting for, I'll not only get no royalties, but also no future contracts.
Comment by John McFetridge on April 2, 2009 at 4:08am
The issue isn't copyright law at all, it's contract law. Right now the various rights to a book are sold seperately - different translations and different adaptations and so on. Each one is covered by a different contract. That's easy enough to work out for future books, but as usual, the technology just rushed on ahead without taking any of that into consideration. It'll get worked out and a bunch of lawyers will get even richer (taking their cut, ultimately, from writers, the least-paid in this whole operation).

It's only a consumer right as much as any purchase is a consumer right under the agreed upon contract.

When this kind of technology really works then books will probably be sold as a single 'unit' that includes all the possible ways the books can be 'read.'

Someday translation technology may become so good that you'll be able to read any book in any language - that'll also be an issue of contract law and not copyright law and it'll also get worked out - though jusridictions will complicate the issue.

Maybe this is too sci fi a future, but I think somedday it will be possible for something like the Kindle to read any book you chose with any voice you chose (or a variety of voices) and who knows, if animation technology keeps going you may be able to view any book you like as a movie with whatever cast you chose.

By making these things issues of copyright law the goal seems to be removing any possible ownership position of the creator, whereas if they were treated as what they are - contract issues - the creators would still reatain some, small, tiny piece of what they create (I really do think this is the beginning of an attack on private property of all kinds).

I have no idea how any this became a consumer rights or a copyright issue instead of a contract issue.
Comment by John Dishon on April 2, 2009 at 2:04am
Yeah, his bias is clear, though I don't agree with the "damn the authors" part. After all, he is an author.
Comment by I. J. Parker on April 2, 2009 at 12:27am
Don't have time to read it all. Doctorow is clearly on the side of "on with technology, damn the authors."

What we are getting with the Kindle/audio case (I think he's quite right that the invention and sale of the gadget is not in itself a copyright infringement), is that electronic rights will have to be contractually rewritten and electronic copies will need to be offered in "read only" and "read or listen" types -- naturally at different prices.

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