Cory Doctorow

On episode 8 of our podcast, Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans, to talk privacy, security, monopoly power, the innate conservatism of AI, moral reckonings, technothrillers, and more.

The Copyright Question

“If your goal is to maximize the number of fans who buy your books, and the two strategies you see before you are one, to terrorize them into thinking if they fail to buy them, and still read them, that you will come and take their house away, and the other is to convince them that you’re the sort of person who deserves to get paid, neither will be a perfect strategy, but of the two I think the one that’s more sustainable is the latter.”

In this clip, author Cory Doctorow explains why copyrighting your work is an insufficient way to ensure your profit, and discusses his decision to use Creative Commons licensing. Listen to the audio clip or consult the show notes to answer the following questions. 

Discussion Questions

  1. What was your perception of (or experience with) copyright before you listened to this clip?

  2. Doctorow acknowledges that your work has to be popular and marketable in order to earn a profit. However, he sees the most important predictor of your income as your ability to ensure that corporate intermediaries who bring your work to market will honor your deal. Copyright, according to Doctorow, is a subsidiary. Do you agree? Has your previous perspective shifted?

  3. Why do you think there has been so much importance placed on copyright?

  4. Would you consider releasing work under Creative Commons licensing? Why or why not? 

Writing Exercises

  1. Imagine you are a professor of a creative writing class, and one of your students asks you if they should copyright their work. Take a few minutes to write down the advice you would give them, and then exchange with a partner.

  2. In keeping with the vivid metaphors Doctorow used to describe the complexities of copyright in this clip, create a metaphor of your own to describe Creative Commons licensing.  

Additional Readings

  • On Cory’s website, you can download free Creative Commons-licensed copies of many of his works by clicking individual covers on the main page, or you can purchase them from his shop.

  • Cory’s Locus article about copyright and the “author’s monopoly.”

Cory Doctorow is a science fiction author, activist and journalist. He is the author of many books, most recently Radicalized and Walkaway, science fiction for adults; How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism, nonfiction about monopoly and conspiracy; In Real Life, a graphic novel; and the picture book Poesy The Monster Slayer. His latest book is Attack Surface, a standalone adult sequel to Little Brother; his next nonfiction book is The Shakedown, with Rebecca Giblin, about monopoly and fairness in the creative arts labor market, (Beacon Press, 2022). In 2020, he was inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. Listen to more of Doctorow’s writing on his podcast, check out his blog, or head to his website for more information. And as always, check out his full interview (2:16:53) here

Tags: copyright, creative commons, profit 

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