Posted January 14th, 2003 @ 09:48pm by Erik J. Barzeski
Aaron Swartz lists among his tips for book authors this one:
Donate to the public domain. Once you've recouped the cost of creating the book (and potentially the cost of writing your next one) please donate it to the public domain (i.e. give up your copyright). The copyright system was created only to increase the size of the public domain; please don't cheat the public by taking more of it than you need.
Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, and I realize Aaron's accomplished a whole helluva lot in his lifetime, but this is coming from someone who, so far as I can tell, hasn't published a book yet. I'm not a fan of blanket statements, especially when it comes from someone who's yet to do what he's talking about.
In fact, I have issue with the whole "copyright is bad, Creative Commons is good" thinking that pervades some people's thought trains lately. This site - NSLog(); - is listed under a Creative Commons license, but only because it's not something I wish to ever really publish in a book. It's too temporal to be a book. This link won't matter in a year.
But imagine I write a book. Who can accurately say when I've recovered the cost of writing that book (or my next one)? If I even loosely base a book on events in my life that cover twenty years, when exactly can I consider my expenses to have been "covered"? Furthermore, why would I, as an author, willingly release my book to the public domain, effectively nullifying any money I might make from it, "because it's the right thing to do." I have a family to provide for, and if my book can do that, well dammit, it's gonna stay that way!
Of course, that's one argument. Tom Clancy is probably glad he didn't release some of his first books into the public domain - look at all the money he made selling the ideas to movie companies.
But Aaron's point of view probably doesn't involve money. Guess what? It should. Tom Clancy can do more with a bunch of money to help "the common good" than he can by releasing the rights to his book (which other people would undoubtedly use to make themselves wealthier). Tom can spend his extra money funding his local school district. Or donating it to a writing contest. Or funding a protest against war in Iraq, if he wants. I fail to understand how releasing the copyright for "The Hunt for Red October" would have benefitted anyone more than a pithy $50,000 charitable donation from the extra $10M he might have made (I'm making these numbers up) from retaining the copyright.
Sometimes, things go too far. The CC license is fine for this site. But c'mon, for all authors? Either I've missed the point, or Aaron's failed to convince me that he's right. I'm guessing it's the prior.