Skip

Harlan Ellison vs. AOL
July 22, 2003 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Harlan Ellison vs. AOL This case has been discussed before, but here's an update from the Wall Street Journal.
posted by sassone (73 comments total)

 
"People like AOL have turned this nation and its kids into a nation of thieves, who have no more notion of what's right than the man on the moon,"

Say what?
posted by Pinwheel at 8:47 AM on July 22, 2003


Mr. Ellison filed his AOL lawsuit in April 2000 after someone told him that several of his stories were on an online discussion forum available on a network called Usenet and offered through America Online and other providers

Good luck trying to sue the NNTP protocol. If he really wants to sue someone, he should sue Highwinds Software. Their software runs most of Usenet.
posted by SweetJesus at 8:53 AM on July 22, 2003


Old men lose touch...sad, but hardly news.
posted by rushmc at 8:53 AM on July 22, 2003


I love Harlan, and I love his fiction, and there should be some way he could remove it from Usenet, but he's wrong on this lawsuit. Usenet is not AOL's fault.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:58 AM on July 22, 2003


These old man stories are all the same. There's always the crank, and the apologists.
posted by rocketman at 8:59 AM on July 22, 2003


Regardless of the merits of the case, the combination of the buttoned-up WSJ and the profane, irascible Ellison makes for some silly presentation...

He works at a manual typewriter decorated with the motto "I am an artist; and should be exempt from s-."

What this man needs is a wider typewriter, no?

Seriously, "god-damn?" You can't say "god-damn" in the WSJ?
posted by soyjoy at 9:02 AM on July 22, 2003


Y'know, Harlan Ellison, while I like his work, has always been a pain in the ass. I used to respect him, until I heard about some of the things he did to people who apparently angered him - a studied, famous psychotic is still psychotic, after all.
posted by FormlessOne at 9:04 AM on July 22, 2003


Harlan Ellison is a nut. A good (maybe great) writer once upon a time, but a nut. I actually met him a couple of times, and for being a fantasy author (he dislikes being called a "sci-fi writer"), he's a real Luddite -- he types on a manual machine and has never owned a personal computer of his own. I don't think he really "gets" the Internet in the way that, say, Neal Stephenson or Vernor Vinge does.

Ellison is a grudge-holder of epic proportions, and has a *very* inflated view of his own work (he's an artist, don't you know). Pretty funny, coming from a guy who wrote one of the most craptastic movies in the history of the world -- The Oscar.

Still, his early stuff is very good. If you can find it, The Glass Teat contains some of the best television criticism around.
posted by mrmanley at 9:04 AM on July 22, 2003


"We are up against city hall."

All you people up there in City Hall,
You're fuckin' it up for the people that's in the streets.


Oh, and I may be wrong, but I thought a relative of his was a MeFite; if so, not getting too personal might be a good idea. ;)
posted by trondant at 9:10 AM on July 22, 2003


Oh, and I may be wrong, but I thought a relative of his was a MeFite; if so, not getting too personal might be a good idea. ;)

I don't see how that could possibly have anything to do with it, regardless of which side you are on.

Old man spends $100 to defend $50 worth of copyright. Also advises kids to "get off of his lawn".

It's his money, he can do what he wants. The only people who should be upset are his heirs.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:36 AM on July 22, 2003


There's no way he can remove it from Usenet. If you post something to Usenet, it's going to be on hundreds of ISP's local Usenet networks, not to mention all the shady NNTP feed companies that operate out of the Cayman Islands, catering to people who want less than legal porn, music and software. You'd have to shut them all down.

Usenet's a pandora's box. Once you post something to it, it's there forever (in the Google cache).
posted by SweetJesus at 9:38 AM on July 22, 2003


Old men lose touch...sad, but hardly news

As others have noted, he ``lost touch'' long before he was an old man. He's been a semi-professional asshole for 30 or 40 years now, in addition to his good qualities.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:40 AM on July 22, 2003


What I find interesting about the article is that it implies that Ellison files lawsuits or sends dead gophers to "one publishing executive who displeased him" without reason. It suggests that he is some raving, out-of-control loon. While Ellison often resorts to extraordinary behavior, pretty much everything Ellison does has a purpose. The dead gopher was sent when the executive violated a book contract and refused to acknowledge his phone calls and communiques.

And while, as SweetJesus noted, his KICK lawsuit is probably directed towards the wrong defendants, he does have a fundamental goal behind the suit: namely, to prevent his work from being disseminated without recompense.

There is method behind the madness.
posted by ed at 9:43 AM on July 22, 2003


Part of what I enjoy about Mr. Ellison is that he is an unapologetic asshole. Once you've read him, you will immediately recognize his prose; to me, that makes him a good writer. Voice is a tough quality to master.

But even though I enjoy his cranky arrogance, it can be irritating. His interview with the Onion AV Club is illuminating.
posted by rocketman at 9:44 AM on July 22, 2003


Ellison always preferred the term "speculative fiction" for his work. He is a socialist (and that makes this story a tad ironic, maybe), which I detest, but I can manage to keep the writer and the writings seperate.

I can't find the full text, but "Ahbhu", a part of his story, The Deathbird, is the single saddest piece of fiction I have ever read. It chokes me up every time, even after hundreds of readings.
posted by trharlan at 10:03 AM on July 22, 2003


oh man, i love ellison's stories, but it sounds like he's ego tripping just a little bit.

i've always agreed with him, but i don't think i'd want to hang out with him.

"You wanna input something, write your own goddamn story, moron!"
posted by mrgrimm at 10:24 AM on July 22, 2003


I got to talk to Harlan several years ago for work and it was a huge kick - I grew up idolizing his fuck-the-phoneys-let's-man-the-barricades attitude (the Glass Teat was my Catcher in the Rye) - and I confess to gibbering a bit.
But he told me he'd never been online and didn't plan to go and I thought that was sort of silly. Suing AOL for a Usenet post is like suing the cable company for carrying a station that aired a movie whose producer screwed you out of royalties. Or, you know, some more succinct analogy. It's dopey is my point.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:25 AM on July 22, 2003


I'm a fan of Ellison and see his point on most legal actions he's taken. I agree with him on this one. "You can't get it off of usenet" is not reason not to sue; or, more properly, does not mean he was not harmed in the action.

I agree with ed about the way people write about his grudges. The gopher thing was fantastic, in my opinion. The publisher broke his contract agreement by including ads for cigarettes (bound into the middle of the book), something Ellison strictly forbade him from doing. He then avoided Ellison and refused to deal with the issue. The gopher solved that problem right quick. But, as is obvious, people remember the thing he does and not why he did it.

I met him once a few years ago and he was great. Was a superb day as I was a huge fan at the time.

As for his disliking being called a "sci-fi" writer--what he actually hates is the term "sci-fi" itself. But yes, tharlan is right, he prefers his work to be called "speculative fiction."

I hope he kicks AOL's ass.
posted by dobbs at 10:30 AM on July 22, 2003


Harlan is Harlan. I've met 'im too. He's a manic, maniac, crazed genius, to me. Sure his latest piracy crusade is out there. Who cares?

Some background on 'sci-fi': Much of his fiction, which is primarily socially-relevant and psychologically-driven, has been pigeon-holed as frivolous 'sci-fi.' Also, according to Harlan, 'sci-fi' is the sound of crickets fucking.

He's one of my heroes, always will be.
posted by Shane at 10:36 AM on July 22, 2003


What others have said.

I respect a great deal of what he's done, but much of it is just too over the top. Being a cranky artist is fine, but *being cranky* is not art. It's sad to see someone who produced so much edgy work a few decades ago fighting an innovative new medium with all they have.

Harlan Ellison use to "get it" more than just about anybody. It seems that's no longer the case.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:44 AM on July 22, 2003


The difference between Harlan Ellison and the rest of us is that none of us fight half the battles that we should. People who don't keep their word, who shmooze you when you're in the room and slander you when you're not, who steal work or credit for it -- who among us hasn't had run-ins with people like this? We learn to live with it, we move on because we haven't the stomach to take them on. Ellison doesn't let go. He's honorable and he doesn't take shit from anybody. We need more like him.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:44 AM on July 22, 2003


i've always agreed with him, but i don't think i'd want to hang out with him.

Robin Williams hangs out with him. He has shown up at Harlan's door with a bag of toys from Tokyo and asked Harlan's wife Susan, "Can Harlan come out and play?"

He's honorable and he doesn't take shit from anybody.

He's a rabid, froth-mouthed howling monkey with wicked claws sunk into the back of anyone who crosses him. Eh, you know -- so it goes.
posted by Shane at 10:49 AM on July 22, 2003


I've met him too—is there anybody left in North America who hasn't? My, that little weasel gets around. Anyway, he's a very sad case: a brilliant writer with loads of promise who basically squandered it by diving into his own ego without scuba gear and never coming up for air. He'll be remembered for "Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes" and "I Have No Mouth" and a few other classic stories and The Glass Teat (great book) and editing Dangerous Visions (and where's The Last Dangerous Visions, huh Harlan? where? where?), and that's about it—except, of course, for being a major-league jerk. Applaud him if you like, but if you ask me, he's the Darryl Strawberry of speculative fiction. Looked like he was headed for the Hall of Fame, wound up coulda-been-a-contender.
posted by languagehat at 10:57 AM on July 22, 2003


George_Spiggott, i don't think that's true here.

Ellison makes all kinds of derogatory comments about the publishing industry, and then sues basically b/c of copyright infringement, and then claims that he doesn't care at all about money.

i appreciate the effort to stick it to AOL, but it seems stupid. sometimes, it's not because we "don't have the stomach to take them on," sometimes the offense is all in our imagination. i just think he's dead wrong here, and not necessarily consistent with some of his stated beliefs (but i'm basing that on limited information).

"The author settled quickly with Mr. Robertson. The 42-year-old, who works at his parents' 10-room motel in Red Bluff, Calif., says he was terrified when he saw the suit and couldn't afford a lawyer. He agreed to pay about $3,600, charging it to a credit-card account that he's still paying off."

way to go, Harlan! keep up the great work! i'm afraid you may have lost one fan, however.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:04 AM on July 22, 2003


Sometimes I'll read an Ellison story, even a mediocre one, just to depress myself. Because he's that good. Every goddam word in the story will somehow add atmosphere and imagery or twang an archetypal chord. There is no fat. I mean, the man writes an article, he says "the," and somehow it progresses the plot substantively. And he does it with the reflexive ease with which I type my name and address.

Amazing. Inspirational. Depressing.
posted by Shane at 11:10 AM on July 22, 2003


languagehat, funny that you called him the Darryl Strawberry...I was thinking of William Jennings Bryan.
posted by alumshubby at 11:27 AM on July 22, 2003


Shane: so it goes.

If you were being clever, it appears you have confused Ellison and Vonnegut.

If you weren't, please disregard.
posted by trharlan at 11:38 AM on July 22, 2003


Ya know ellison, for all his brilliance, is a bit of a screw. AOL is not in charge of usenet. Hell usenet isn't anything anyone is in charge of.

Of course the RIAA wants to be behind him, they want anyone that touched alleged pirated material to be executed as a criminal.

Mr Ellison has a right to be upset his stuff has been stolen, but the onus is on the copyright holder to police their own works. Making the claim that an ISP is at fault because its a inadvertent provider is really ridiculous.

Its kind of amazing that the creative consultant for babylong 5 could have such an infantile grasp of how this technology works.
posted by MrLint at 11:45 AM on July 22, 2003


where's The Last Dangerous Visions, huh Harlan?

I think I saw a copy of it on Usenet.
posted by kindall at 11:48 AM on July 22, 2003


If you were being clever, it appears you have confused Ellison and Vonnegut.
If you weren't, please disregard.


Nice try at spinning an offhand use of a Vonnegut catch-phrase into an outlandish accusation of ignorance, tharlan. But I'm convinced there are guinea pigs who are well-read enough not to confuse the two.

Um, disregarding, and clenching my teeth...
#%$& &$%#@ #$%@ ^&%%$#!!!!
posted by Shane at 11:55 AM on July 22, 2003


There we go. tharlan, your gopher is in the mail...
;-)

posted by Shane at 11:56 AM on July 22, 2003


I can't keep up with which side we're on.

Case A: Harlan Ellison sues to prevent (futilely) the unauthorized copying of his Intellectual Property.

Response: GO HARLAN WOOO! You're old and weird and basically dead wrong, but more power to you and I hope you win!!


Case B: RIAA sues to prevent (futilely) the unauthorized copying of Intellectual Property in its charge.

Response: DIE RIAA BOOO! You're old and weird and basically dead wrong, and I hope you all die and get ass cancer. Boycott!

People are funny.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:22 PM on July 22, 2003


Ya know ellison, for all his brilliance, is a bit of a screw. AOL is not in charge of usenet. Hell usenet isn't anything anyone is in charge of.

I had AOL for years and unless they have changed things, you can not post files to usenet from AOL and the servers rarely have complete files for download. You would think he would have singled out one of the many actual usenet servers that allow posting.

At any rate, I hope AOL wins.
posted by bargle at 12:29 PM on July 22, 2003


You're old and weird and basically dead wrong, and I hope you all die and get ass cancer.

LOL! Hmm. Interesting imagery. Die and then get ass cancer? Would it matter if they got ass cancer after they died? Still, it seems somehow... undignified. For the corpse and all.
This is probably a good point for me to find something better to do...
posted by Shane at 12:33 PM on July 22, 2003


After reading that Onion piece, I'd have to say that he kind of reminds me of Spider Jerusalem.
posted by graventy at 12:45 PM on July 22, 2003


My experience with Harlan Ellison seems to be pretty typical. [self-link:]

http://rassenfrass.blogspot.com/2003_01_01_rassenfrass_archive.html#87484935

That said, though I don't much like his fiction, I love his non-fiction. I like listening to him rant.

And if you've read "Memos from Purgatory", you'll see that under the snarling asshole surface, Harlan's a humanitarian and secretly kind of a softie.
posted by interrobang at 12:48 PM on July 22, 2003


And if you've read "Memos from Purgatory", you'll see that under the snarling asshole surface, Harlan's a humanitarian and secretly kind of a softie.

It's weird how common that seems to be among famous curmudgeons. George Carlin and Hunter Thompson seem to exhibit similar behavior. Vonnegut, too, to some extent, although he's not as curmudgeonly to begin with.
posted by COBRA! at 1:09 PM on July 22, 2003


Yes, Ellison is suing the wrong people (and I, too, have met him--and he pinched my ass!)

However, people who post copyrighted work on Usenet without the permission of the authors (or other copyright holders) are fucking thieves without a whit of conscience, who deserve to have their intestines slowly devoured by frogs, and there's no two ways about it.

And that goes for people in Germany, too, trharlan. If anybody wants to read "The Deathbird," they should buy a copy or take it out of the fucking library, not go looking for it free on the Internet.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:14 PM on July 22, 2003


I guess I agree with most people here. I'm vaguely on the side of writers protecting their works, but I don't really give a tinker's damn what Ellison does, given how out of touch this particular lawsuit sounds. If he has not kept up with technology enough to understand that AOL doesn't control Usenet or anything else besides its own content, he is simply 'round the bend and all of his raving about the deterioration of literacy and attention span in modern society is comedically ironic.

That said, he is an amazing writer. In which book was it that he told the anectdote about sitting behind the window of the bookstore writing one story for every letter of the alphabet in one day with everyone watching him? That's a neat trick, wish I could do it. And 1700 short stories is really something. A born writer, no doubt about it, and certainly a character.

I don't know if I'd call him a crank, though. If the transcription of the Onion AV Club article that Rocketman linked to is even minimally accurate, there is tremendous eloquence in those 10-minute extemporaneous telephone rants. There's a genuine argument right in the middle of that, even if it looks crazy at first glance. I wouldn't call him psycho or senile.

And it sounds like the reason he's persisting in these lawsuits is out of principle. He's losing money, he's not asking for much more than court fees, and he doesn't really sound like he enjoys the experience. As the article finishes,

"Please, make a reasonable offer, and I'm out of your hair," he said. If not, he promised: "I'm like a turtle. I'll never let go. I would hawk my house. I would sell my children into bondage. There is nothing I won't do. Ask anybody I've ever been to court with. They'll tell you. I'm a pain in the a-."

In that sense I have to admire his tenaciousness. People like that are annoying, but they get things done.

Anyway, I was devastated when I learned that this anectdote about Harlan Ellison wasn't true.
posted by Hildago at 1:22 PM on July 22, 2003


languagehat - He'll be remembered for "Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes" and "I Have No Mouth" and a few other classic stories and The Glass Teat (great book) and editing Dangerous Visions (and where's The Last Dangerous Visions, huh Harlan? where? where?), and that's about it—

This is from memory.
City on the Edge of Forever
Jefty is Five
'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman
Deathbird Stories
Babylon 5
Paingod
Angry Candy
A Boy and His Dog

With Help from Google I would add
The Whimper of Whipped Dogs
Strange Wine
Shatterday

Those are just the great ones.

He may be a crazy crank. But he's a fucking genius crazy crank.

Oh, and I met him too.
posted by Bonzai at 1:44 PM on July 22, 2003


Bonzai: I'm not sure whether you're agreeing or disagreeing with me, but yeah, you mention some of the "few other classic stories" (along with some that I don't happen to think are all that great). As for the Star Trek stuff, I loved Babylon 5, but if a writer has to be remembered for TV scripts he's not much of a writer. Just one crank's opinion.

Hildago: I worked in a bookstore where he did the story-in-a-window shtick, and yeah, it's quite a stunt, but the resultant story wasn't much (as you might expect). I may still have some typed pages from the occasion, but on the other hand I may have chucked them during a move. (By the way, the Michael Dunn story in your link is even better than the Harlan one.)
posted by languagehat at 2:09 PM on July 22, 2003


sidhedevil: And that goes for people in Germany, too, trharlan. If anybody wants to read "The Deathbird," they should buy a copy or take it out of the fucking library, not go looking for it free on the Internet.

Well, sidhedevil, I linked to a synopsis. From the link: "This is the story as told by Harlan Ellison. I have abridged and simplified it a bit..."

Whether or not a synopsis is "fair use", I have no idea. Are Cliff's Notes "fair use"? Do they contract with the writers of the stories they summarize? IANAL. Beats me. But I don't think I've done anything wrong.

And, what's the difference between viewing it free on-line and viewing it free at the library? Ellison doesn't see a penny either way.
posted by trharlan at 2:14 PM on July 22, 2003


And, what's the difference between viewing it free on-line and viewing it free at the library? Ellison doesn't see a penny either way.

Wrong. He at least got the royalties on the book the library bought, whereas he got exactly squat from the considerably-beyond-fair-use "summary" you posted. Further, if more people want to read the book than the library has copies, a) the library will buy more books, or b) the prospective readers will buy their own copy. Either way, the author gets royalties.

With your web-post, however, the author gets nothing. Don't try to justify it, pal: it's stealing.
posted by mrmanley at 2:28 PM on July 22, 2003


languagehat: I guess we differ on the definition of "a few"
posted by Bonzai at 2:31 PM on July 22, 2003


Those are just the great ones.

Don't forget Terminator, which had a credit added to acknowledge his short stories "Soldier" and "Demon with a Glass Hand."
posted by kindall at 2:38 PM on July 22, 2003


mrmanley:

He at least got the royalties on the book the library bought
True

whereas he got exactly squat from the considerably-beyond-fair-use "summary" you posted
We don't know whether the summary writer bought the book or not. If he did, there might be no difference whatsoever between people who read the work electronically and people who drive to the library to read it.

Further, if more people want to read the book than the library has copies, a) the library will buy more books, or b) the prospective readers will buy their own copy. Either way, the author gets royalties.
Alternatively, if people who read the summary want to read the whole damn book, they'll go buy it. The alternative would be people having no exposure to his writings whatsoever. Who buys the books then?

It's quite possible that the synopsis will create more buyers than it destroys. It's certainly no more implausible than "the library helps the writer".
posted by trharlan at 2:47 PM on July 22, 2003


It is perfectly legitimate to lend a book that you bought to other people. This is all that libraries do. Only one person can read a given copy of a library book at a time.

Copying someone's work to a web page, however, is unequivocally infringement. Any number of people can read it at once; it's effectively making unlimited on-demand copies, and it's being distributed in a form which the author did not approve and for which the author is getting nothing.

And no, this is no different from MP3 file sharing, before anyone has a chance to claim I'm saying it is.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:14 PM on July 22, 2003


To the list of accomplishments already created I would add that, while not really a global accomplishment, his Cordwainer Bird parody intrigued me enough that I discovered Cordwainer Smith through it.
posted by Hildago at 3:19 PM on July 22, 2003


even better than posting copyrighted material online is stealing the book from the library and then posting it online. roof access is the easiest way - just throw books as far as you can.

"people who post copyrighted work on Usenet without the permission of the authors (or other copyright holders) are fucking thieves without a whit of conscience, who deserve to have their intestines slowly devoured by frogs, and there's no two ways about it"

here's a lonely cheer to all the "fucking thieves without a whit of conscience" out there. after all, you're either with us or against us.

"Infringer! Infringer!" they'll all say ... jeez.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:24 PM on July 22, 2003


I've never met him, but he propositioned a professor of mine a few decades ago at a sci-fi (I mean, speculative fiction) conference. (She turned him down, as she was married and he was nasty.)
posted by UKnowForKids at 4:06 PM on July 22, 2003


TRHarlan, I apologize--I couldn't open the link and I assumed from your comment that you were linking to a reproduced section of the story, not to a synopsis of the story. I have called off my frogs.

Here's the thing about taking a book out of the library--the library bought the book. At list price, more or less. This means actual cash in the pocket of the author. Also, every author I know (self included) believes in libraries, even if it means fewer sales in the short term.

And hooray for you, MrGrimm. Let me know where you work, and I'll be coming in and taking some of the goods and services you provide, leaving without paying, and telling all my friends to do the same. Because, you know, hamburgers/tax accounting/cotton turtlenecks/vinyl siding/or whatever the hell else it is you sell wants to be free.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:17 PM on July 22, 2003


If I ever buy any of his books I am buying them used. Heh.
posted by bargle at 4:27 PM on July 22, 2003


I bought all of his books when I was a teenager, some repeatedly over the years, all of which I gave away when I went mobile. Now I'm collecting soft copies.

Please don't sue me, Harlan.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:05 PM on July 22, 2003


Because, you know, hamburgers/tax accounting/cotton turtlenecks/vinyl siding/or whatever the hell else it is you sell wants to be free

Yep, all of those things do want to be free. Unfortunately, they're subject to the laws of scarcity, so they can't be free. Unlike say ideas which are only limited by the means of conveyance and artificial monopolies created by the state.

Monopolies are bad. It's bad when Microsoft has one, it's bad when writers have one. Most commercially created works aren't available at any price anymore. Let's put a stake through the heart of our sorely outdated copyright laws and let people access these works.

Creators can make their money through patronage, or through work for hire, or they can continue to do spec work and hope that people will tip them. I tip waiters (even when the service sucks) because of societal pressures. I tip good waiters even more because I appreciate good service.

Writers aren't any better or worse than waiters. Often they're probably the same thing at the same time. Let them make their money that way and get this artificially imposed scarcity of the throats of our culture.
posted by willnot at 5:28 PM on July 22, 2003


"But now... what with the Internet, the greatest disseminator of bad data and bad information the universe has ever known... it's become impossible to trust any news from any source at all" From the Onion article. So the crazy old loon has been talking to his relative the Mefite, huh?
posted by Joeforking at 5:29 PM on July 22, 2003


"Most commercially created works aren't available at any price?"

Can I get some of what you're smoking?

And, um, fuck you. I get to decide whether I work for tips. You don't.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:40 PM on July 22, 2003


I guess that Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Justice Stephen Breyer must be smoking the same thing I'm smoking
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), one of the chief sponsors of the copyright proposal introduced today, cited Justice Stephen Breyer's dissent to the Supreme Court's January decision to uphold the Sonny Bono law. Breyer, Lofgren noted, made the point that excessive copyright lifetimes go too far to protect a small percentage of commercially valuable works. The justice wrote that only 2 percent of copyrighted works between 55 and 75 years old retain their commerical value.

"As a result, there are so many works that are no longer published, read or even seen anymore that they have effectively been orphaned," Lofgren said in an interview. "It is time to give these treasures back to the public." (cite)
And in fact, you don't get to decide how you get paid. The market will decide what you're worth and how you are paid. Currently society, me and you and everybody else reading this grants an artificial monopoly on how works can be copied. I'm saying society isn't getting what it paid for with that bargain, and I want to take those rights back.

If you get paid or not, doesn't matter much to me. Most people that sing or write or paint don't get paid. It's just that "but what about the creator, shouldn't they be paid" always comes up in these discussions, so I wanted to offer one (actually several) possible solution(s).
posted by willnot at 6:14 PM on July 22, 2003


"Most commercially created works aren't available at any price?"

Can I get some of what you're smoking?


No, but you can get a clue. You're one of the people who reads "I would sell my children into bondage." and thinks "He's honorable and he doesn't take shit from anybody", I take it? There's nothing honorable about being stubborn, greedy, pig-headed and unforgiving. Cory Doctorow doesn't have hang ups about being in the sci-fi genre, is generous with his work, doesn't threaten his readers/fans and is selling a hell of a lot of books with almost no advertising. Michael Jackson has a better sense of how to deal with fans than Harlan does.

When Michael Jackson is more sane than you, that's a problem.

I think any sci fi writer who's committed to not understanding the present has got a damned slim chance of anticipating the future. He would do well to read his own works if his past record is as positive as some of you say.

And, he's a lousy socialist.
posted by anildash at 6:33 PM on July 22, 2003


sidhedevil: you do get to make that decision, but if you write something it's the law that decides what rights you have with respect to its use and reproduction, and the law that authorizes the cops to enforce your rights when abridged. In theory, at least, we are our government, and if we (through our representatives) decide to change the laws then the laws change. You still get to decide whether you work for tips.

These are legal conveniences, established quite recently to help publishers make money; it's not some kind of moral imperative. The particular publishing model that made sense when copyright was invented is no law of the universe. Technology changes, economics change, and eventually the law will change too. Get ready.
posted by Mars Saxman at 6:36 PM on July 22, 2003


sidhedevil: You and Mr. Ellison need to learn that when being approached by a slow moving steamroller, the wise strategy is not to cement your feet to the ground.

You are *TOTALLY* missing what is being said here by many of the posters. I would respectfully suggest that you loose a bit of the emotion and re-read some of what was said.

The "can't be bought at any price" refers to works that are out of print. As a writer, you are familiar I trust with the idea of something being out of print? That would probably be 90% or more of the works generated in the last 100 years.

The economy will most certainly decide if writers work for tips or not. You can then choose whether to be a writer or not. And as Mars said, get ready. Economic forces have a habit of saying "fuck you" too.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:02 PM on July 22, 2003


No, but you can get a clue. You're one of the people who reads "I would sell my children into bondage." and thinks "He's honorable and he doesn't take shit from anybody",

Kindly show where he said he'd sell his his children into bondage. Why don't you just go the short remaining distance down that rhetorical path and compare him to Hitler?

There's nothing honorable about being stubborn, greedy, pig-headed and unforgiving.

There is nothing dishonorable about it either. And if you'd been ripped off a lot, you might have a slightly different definition of "greedy". How about "expecting to get paid for your work?"

Cory Doctorow doesn't have hang ups about being in the sci-fi genre, is generous with his work,

That's Cory Doctorow's prerogative. Nobody is required to follow his example. Ellison gives generously of his time and effort, but when he decides to, not when you do. To berate someone as greedy for not being generous in the manner that you decide they should be is ridiculous.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:11 PM on July 22, 2003


Kindly show where he said he'd sell his his children into bondage. Why don't you just go the short remaining distance down that rhetorical path and compare him to Hitler?

If you'll look at the article, he says it in the last sentence of the last paragraph.

I think you might need a clue as well.
posted by bshort at 7:52 PM on July 22, 2003


Sorry, not the last sentence, the first line.
posted by bshort at 7:57 PM on July 22, 2003


Kindly show where he said he'd sell his his children into bondage. Why don't you just go the short remaining distance down that rhetorical path and compare him to Hitler?

Ahem, last paragraph of the linked article, and quoted above.
posted by Hildago at 7:58 PM on July 22, 2003


Yipe. Ouch. I did read it, regarded it as hyperbole (which it obviously is) and promptly forgot it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:01 PM on July 22, 2003


He's like a speculative-fiction Hitler, that Ellison guy.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:07 PM on July 22, 2003


Cory Doctorow doesn't have hang ups about being in the sci-fi genre, is generous with his work, doesn't threaten his readers/fans and is selling a hell of a lot of books with almost no advertising.

The difference here is that Cory put up Down and Out and allowed it to be distributed across the Internet of his own choice. Harlan didn't. Cory, as author, set up the rules of distribution. But did the 42 year old bamboozler even bother to ask permission from Harlan? No. He assumed that the story was his. He typed it up and disseminated it without consulting the author.

I don't entirely agree with the implications and approach of the AOL suit, but I find it interesting that individuals actively involved with their own legal safeguards would kvetch against others who are trying to enforce their own.
posted by ed at 9:11 PM on July 22, 2003


Making the claim that an ISP is at fault because its a inadvertent provider is really ridiculous.

i don't think he made that claim. i thin he's claiming that aol "left it there" after they'd been notified by his lawyer. they didn't "take it down" until he sued.

and for whoever was asking what book the "story in the window" thingy is from, if memory serves right it's in Strange Wine. regardless of where he's written about it (and i'm sure it was multiple times), it's a neat trick. and yeah, the stories were a mixed bag, quality-wise. he should do the blogathon.
posted by dobbs at 9:14 PM on July 22, 2003


i thin he's claiming that aol "left it there" after they'd been notified by his lawyer. they didn't "take it down" until he sued.

Yeah, but that's the problem. It wasn't posted in an AOL content area, it was on Usenet. No one owns Usenet, or would want to. All AOL was doing was giving their users access to the network, which is, you know, what they do.
posted by bshort at 9:17 PM on July 22, 2003


I think any sci fi writer who's committed to not understanding the present has got a damned slim chance of anticipating the future.

That's just a really confused and confusing statement about a writer like Ellison who has always written socially relevant "sci-fi" centered around the human psyche. He is not (or is very rarely) a hard SF writer, concerned with technology and with predicting the future the way Doctorow did in Down and Out. Apples and oranges.

Ellison's works, if you've read any of them, most often take a fantastic or futuristic plot and use it as an allegory for human life in any age. For example, Ellison writes a story about someone waking up to find that they are alone on a chunk of the Earth that has somehow drifted away from the planet and THIS IS NOT HARD SCIENCE FICTION: it is a metaphor for life, an internal roadmap of a soul's journey through alienation.

Even in hard SF by other authors you will notice constant strains of Ludditism, especially in SF's theme of warning us about that bright, wonderful future with all of its technological advancements. An "SF writer" and a manual typewriter should not be too big of a paradox to wrap your head around.

Not that I don't enjoy Doctorow. I do. But I'm getting the feeling that he's the hip internet scene-makers writer of choice right now, eh?
posted by Shane at 9:49 PM on July 22, 2003


Hey, everyone: whether you like Harlan Ellison or not, Shane is right about what science-fiction is for. It's not all about bitchin' explosions and funny robots and predicting the future. If this is what you think it is, you probably have never actually come into contact with science-fiction.

Science-fiction is about making statements about the present. Almost all good science fiction is allegorical.

Nitpick Harlan Ellison's manual typewriter all you want; aside from his (bizarre and uninformed) hatred of the internet, he may just depend on the typewriter because he's addicted to the clickity-clacking sound it makes that's unavailable on a keyboard.

Writers have quasi-superstitious habits they same way that the rest of us do. I make paintings lying on the floor: does that mean that I'm pre-caveman, since I don't stick the paper on the wall?

And Anildash: are you insisting on calling him a "sci-fi" writer just to be an asshole since you know he hates it, or did you just not know?
posted by interrobang at 10:26 PM on July 22, 2003


OT

because he's addicted to the clickity-clacking sound it makes that's unavailable on a keyboard.


I beg to differ. Being a traditionalist, as opposed to Luddite, I love this program. You even get a lovely bing! when you hit return.

/OT
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:29 AM on July 23, 2003


I'm calling him a sci-fi writer because, as someone who's not into the pedantic details of the genre, that's what he is. I don't read any of the stuff myself, though I respect the work.

I find it interesting that individuals actively involved with their own legal safeguards would kvetch against others who are trying to enforce their own

The argument I'm making is that it makes sense to be as generous as possible with one's creations when trying to promote a work or an idea. That seems entirely consistent with, say, distributing a quarter million copies of a software application for free. I'm not arguing he should have no control, I'm arguing that he should understand what technologies and circumstances are causing the situation, and how he could see them as an opportunity instead of a threat.
posted by anildash at 7:05 AM on July 24, 2003


« Older Dokaka   |   DM2 to MIDI: Audio 'Toy' now a MIDI controller. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post