books on the radio


Copyfight Fatigue: My Proposal to End a Polarizing Debate
May 31, 2010, 3:43 PM
Filed under: Copyright, Creative Commons, DRM, Enthusiasms, Imagination, Industry Change | Tags:

It's because of home taping that we no longer have music. Let's not make the same mistake with books. (Photo by Martin Conway)

This Week in Copyright

This week is the all copyright, file-sharing, DRM week from hell with a sick kitty thrown in (not literally thrown in, ‘course) for good measure.

On Thursday the Canadian Government is set to introduce a new bill that will seek to address and update our copyright law.

Then on Friday I’ll be interviewing Cory Doctorow via skype from Toronto where he’ll be touring his new book, For the Win.

Then on Saturday I’ll be skyping in to Bookcamp Halifax to present a session called Simplicity and Control: Digital Potential Beyond DRM.

So, it’s a watershed week where we determine whether law, behavior and the digital landscape can coexist without litigation and acrimony.

Smart money says not a fricking chance.

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Photo by William Soo.

First Things First.

We’re going to get a new copyright bill in Canada one way or another and really, why not? Let’s just get it done and move on.

There’s been a lot of windmill jousting on all sides of the debate – thank god that analogy is in the public domain! – and I agree that it’s time for our elected representatives to put up or shut up on this.

It’s not a stretch to suggest that a lot of the pressure for this new bill to be introduced in Canada is coming from foreign politicians and from companies who desire to have their content and oil-based distribution chains protected from digital incursion.

That does not make these companies or the politicians “evil”: it makes them companies and politicians.

It is what it is.

The new bill is certainly not being put forward after a deafening hew and cry from creators in this country, though admittedly most will welcome it if only to know where they stand.

And, of course, everybody needs money: countries need money, political parties need money, creators need money, executives need money, we all need money.

I think that it’s obvious that companies with huge amounts of money invested in licensed creativity, content, product, etc… will naturally try to exert as much pressure as possible in order to protect and monetize their assets to their maximum ability.  Many of the creators in their ‘stable’ expect no less.

All of this is understood just as it’s understood that ability and willingness to change and adapt to new business models is very very low on the priority list.

Politicians want to stay in office and donations help to fund election campaigns.  Investments, locally or federally, from big companies or other countries help to make our politicians look good, to grease the economic gears, maybe create some jobs.

These kinds of influences and relationships have occurred since before the invention of fire.

Content creators/licensees want to protect their abilities to maximize their return on investment.  Politicians want to stay in power and also want to be able to fund their next election campaign.

Those are some of the fundamentals.

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Photo by Kate Black.

P2P Filesharing & Bit Torrent: A Digital Apocalypse or a Huge Opportunity?

The problem is this: creative content is worth something to the creator, the licensee, the fan and everyone else in the ecosystem that facilitates taking the product from creator’s mind to audience.

Digital innovations have created an opportunity for files – potentially carrying creative work whose copyright provisions do not allow for any kind of non-monetized electronic dissemination – to be transmitted quickly and efficiently all over the world.

P2P File Sharing Networks and Bit Torrent technologies are the most efficient distribution system we have invented for getting information – digital files containing anything from scans of a shopping list, to Shakespeare’s sonnets, to a photo of your mom in front of the Louvre, to leaks of patent pending inventions, published unpublished and unpublishable novels, songs, your wedding photographs, etc… – from one computer to other computers quickly and practically instantaneously.

Fortunately or unfortunately these tools for sharing files and data don’t care what those shared files contain.  To them it’s all just information to be transferred.

Hurt Locker or Ishtar are the equivalent of Lady Gaga, a photo of a llama, episode 3 of Rock of Love Season 2, an excel file, a scan of a Mark Danielewski novel, Twilight, whatever. It all has the same basic value.

That value is zero.

* (The zero value is based on the file itself – infinitely replicable and basically indistinct for others – and not the work that went into what the file contains. The value of creation, editorial, design, etc… is invaluable. Unfortunately, these super efficient distribution tools are not designed to monetize in a way that we traditionally link to these kinds of exchanges.)

If you wrap your digital content in a protective layer – DRM – it is easily hacked open and shared regardless.

Even though there no evidence to support the notion that downloading digital content from P2P sites equals a lost sale or in any way negatively impacts revenues for content creators or licensees that does not prevent the appearance of a general assumption that something has been lost, taken, stolen or pirated that should have been rightfully monetized.

As though the 100,000 people (random figure, possibly too low) who have downloaded and watched Iron Man 2 from a practically infinite number of torrent sites around the world would have otherwise paid money to see that movie.

Surely there’s at least a ghost of logic to that statement, right? But can we monetize based on the ghosts of logic?

Probably not.

So… to distill it down to an essence: people are experiencing kinds of content all over the world for free.  This content is being acquired via P2P file sharing sites and is being seeded and further leeched by others around the world via an impossible to track bit of perfectly legal software called Bit Torrent.

Though this content is being experienced and shared by many more people than would otherwise have experienced and shared it previously this is a problem because there’s a perceived loss of revenue attached to this file sharing behavior.

The monopolized traditional distribution chain has been subverted and the digital efficiencies are built on the same logic that brought us the “genius” of the Amazon personalized algorhythm and effectively destroyed north American independent bookstore culture but is now wreaking havoc a little further up the food chain.

Rather than see this technological development as an opportunity to develop new ways of communicating, collaborating, community building and discovering new markets through innovation and imagination our government has decided that we need to legislate protections around ineffectual digital locks.

Digital locks that even the very politicians in our ruling minority federal government admit they broken many times in the average use of their iPods and PVRs.

Digital locks that have never worked, that don’t work even for well-meaning citizens but that will potentially criminalize them regardless.

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Photo by Ben Heine.

My Proposal to End the Copyright Debate:

Like most of my favorite ideas this one is overly simplistic, possibly idealistic and probably impossible.

But here goes:

Copyright holders should lock up their content to the maximum limit if they want to.This is not mandatory, it is a conscious choice.

If copyright holders want to deprive their readers of the ability to widely share the content that they purchased or to transfer the same content between devices or whatever, that is their right.

And if the readership doesn’t like it, well then they can choose from some of the super-abundant alternative content available that doesn’t possess those same law bound restrictions.

Lock it up and throw away the key, maximize that revenue. It’s what copyright is all about, right?

The locks on this content should also not be broken and the content should not be shared on the P2P sites.

Just let it sell from the standard online channels.  Peddle it from websites and Amazon and iBooks, wherever.

If, however, you understand and are excited by the potential of these P2P sites for all of the digital benefits that they possess and you’re inclined to use other technologies like POD, paypal, skype, social media platforms, mixing tools, Adobe/Apple content creation software to augment your own stories, products or non-fiction writing then you should make that known and freely embrace the potential.

The traditional methods – paper books, vinyl records, prints, dvds, etc… – will continue to support, augment and quantify the work.

That’s it.  It’s that simple.

By taking control of the means of dissemination to build your audience, to collaborate and cross-pollinate media, to explore potentials for new markets and to reach those markets with real product you control your ability to do some really original work and to find ways to get paid that your audience agrees with.

So, pass a law if you want to. But it won’t take long before it becomes insignificant and/or irrelevant as the true creators of the present and the future go to the places that give them the maximum freedom to create and collaborate with the maximum audience and influences.

Taking ‘copyrighted’ content away from the networks won’t stop that it will only serve to create a whole other self-sustaining market based on concepts of creation, sharing, remixing that are outside our common notion of copyright.

And that’s ok.

There is nothing wrong with the traditional model and how it has helped create our current notion of what copyright is and how we should protect it.

But that notion of copyright no longer has exclusive rights to reality.



Peter Darbyshire: The Warhol Gang Doesn’t Exist

Peter Darbyshire's New Book is Called the Warhol Gang.

Click here to listen to Peter Darbyshire discuss the Warhol Gang.

There’s a scene in the movie Office Space where one of the characters – played by Ron Livingston – has finally had enough of his soulless boss and the mindlessness of his workday cubicle existence.

Stolen power drill in hand, he rampages through the office, tearing down cubicle walls and gutting a fresh fish at his desk (to a Geto Boys soundtrack).  It’s a scene of liberation for the character, a scene where he finally asserts himself and starts to control his own destiny.

This scene is not replicated in Peter Darbyshire’s new novel, The Warhol Gang.

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From Harper Collins

The Warhol Gang begins and ends with what seems like death.

The book’s protagonist is given the name Trotsky on page 4 by a man named ‘Nickel’, his new boss.  Trotsky has just been hired at Adsenses, “a neuromarketing company that scans his brain to test new products”.

Trotsky spends his days at work cocooned in a special ‘pod’ where he experiences heightened sensory episodes and imaginary scenarios designed by neuromarketers to test prospective products.

In the pod he may see himself in scented rooms, in his own expensive apartment with beautiful women, wearing designer clothes, with a sense of family, fulfillment and certainty.

Nothing could be further from the reality of Trotsky’s existence.

These holograms reflect a deep loneliness in the character and an abundant sense of absence surrounds him.

He searches for some kind of genuine experience and in the course of doing so meets a woman who dreams of stardom but who makes her living faking accidents for insurance money.

And from there the story continues one surreal inversion of desire after another until the characters’ reality becomes an embodiment of a rebel mythology.

Warhol, Trotsky, Che, Holiday, Thatcher – the names evoke a sense of recent pop culture – and ‘real’ culture – history. Each name signifying real historical people but when overlaid on the book’s characters the names create a surreal and eerie effect.

Truth is that I’m going to have to go back and read this book again.

So many ideas and tangents are coming back to me as I write this and I know that there’s a lot more in this book than I got the first time thru.

Peter is addressing the absurdity and hopelessness of life when it’s met by a world that devours flesh and blood dreams with marketed illusions of reality.

What happens when your dreams come not from within but are insinuated upon you via incessant external stimulus?

What happens when your desires are the desires that others desire for you to have?

What difference does anything make? Why not go in for the kill?

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Books on the Radio TV Talks to Hugh McGuire

There’s a whole bunch of transformation happening at Books on the Radio these days.

My exploration of Skype video and Final Cut video editing software is progressing apace as you can see from this clip taken from a conversation that Hugh McGuire – Bookoven, Bite-Sized Edits, Librivox, BookCamp Toronto – and I had recently.

Also, I’m finally being joined by the Books on the Radio Street Team, a loosely organized group of passionate book lovers who will be helping to launch BOTR into its next iteration.

The website will be re-launched in the next few months and will be better able to showcase the many different types of media and storytelling platforms that we intend to use.



Let the Great World Spin: The Colum McCann Interview

Check out my conversation with Colum McCann, plus a reading from LTGWS.

CLICK HERE FOR THE BOTR / COLUM MCCANN INTERVIEW

I had the great pleasure of speaking to Colum McCann this past week.

Unfortunately, we only had a little more than 10 minutes to talk as he was ripping thru a media junket in Toronto on his way to meet with the dudes at the Afterword.

It was still an excellent conversation and I’m grateful to the folks at Harper Collins Canada for making it happen.

I have filled out the half-hour time slot on CJSF 90.1 FM (Simon Fraser University Independent Radio) with some found audio of Colum talking about the book and also reading from the first chapter.

Let me know what you think.



Dragon Problems: Hur Publishing vs Books on the Radio

Tracy Hurren and Kathleen Fraser are Hur Publishing

Listen to Tracy and Kathleen talk about Hur Publishing.

The 2010 Cohort for SFU’s Masters of Publishing Program are a stone-cold bunch who have really stepped out and shown the industry that they’re ready to accept the challenges that are affecting publishing.

I have discussed this previously on Julie Wilson’s BookMadam & Associates site.

Dragon Problems detail.

Their collaborative print on demand work entitled Book of MPub is essential reading for anyone interested in discovering new ideas for book/magazine publishing.  The book totally levels the playing field and brings the publishing conversation back to a deep discussion of essential ideas and offers no time for weak fear-based arguments.

Tracy Hurren and Kathleen Fraser are just two of the bright lights from the SFU MPub program who are now spending their summer getting some experience interning at a couple of Canada’s finest independent publishers.

Tracy is ripping it up in Montreal at Drawn and Quarterly while Kathleen keeps it closer to home with a gig at Arsenal Pulp Press in Vancouver.

But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

What we’re talking about here is Dragon Problems, the first book to be published by Hur Publishing.

Hur Publishing is a joint conspiratorial effort of Tracy and Kathleen that involves publishing new engaging stories as well-designed books – including some of Tracy’s amazing handmade books.

Dragon Problems is an excellent example of what can happen when you have the convergence of good story + great art + sweet design skills + keen editorial eye.

The story was written by Chris Carrier and the art was created by Stacey Buchanan.

Both Chris and Stacey are lucky to have had their work brought to life by Tracy and Kathleen.  It’s a great first effort and I cannot wait for their next book to drop.

Please check out the Hur Publishing website for more info and also to order your copy of the book.

Also, I believe that both Tracy and Kathleen will be presenting at BookCamp Toronto 2010 this coming Saturday as part of their Book of MPub throwdown.

If you’re attending BookCamp Toronto 2010 then I highly recommend that you attend their session – it’s designed to blow minds and to drag the unwilling kicking and screaming into the here and now.

Check out our interview and let me know what you think.

Go to the Hur Publishing and buy the book. That's all. Just do it.



Sonja Ahlers’ The Selves Launches Tonight @ Western Front

Tonight @ Western Front from 7 - 9 PM: Sonja Ahlers The Selves Book Launch

One of my favorite artists, writers and people, Sonja Ahlers, will be launching her new book tonight at Vancouver’s the Western Front and I encourage you to make the time and show some hustle to be there.

Ahlers' The Selves.

Sonja is one of the finest poets that I know and her last book, Fatal Distractions, is constantly on loan from my personal library.

Check out Kevin Chong’s review of the book for the CBC and this snapshot from Bust Magazine.

As you can see from the image that I captured from an advance pdf of her new book, the Selves, she works in a kind of visual collage overlapped by hand written seemingly tangential stream of consciousness style that evokes a multitude of voices simultaneously.

Voices that chatter up like a sudden flock of surprising little birds.

Like scraps of paper ideas caught in the wind, the sort of thoughts that you might put out of your head for being too frivolous when you’re trying to have a serious thought, those magazine moments of the mind, are separated from their original sources and powerfully recontextualized, remixed and reimagined as a kind of new mythology.

And I don’t even know what that means, but to me it’s all about the evocation and the persistent desire to find new ways to express ideas.

This book is a strong, focused, clean deployment of Sonja’s vision.  The images are evocative, deeply feminine, occasionally satanic, rock n roll inspired and present a radically imaginative new way of storytelling.

I can remember visiting Sonja at her house a few years ago before she moved to Dawson Creek for the first time.  We sat out back of her house and talked.  She showed me some things that she had been working on, there were a few Wishbone Ash (yes, Wishbone fucking Ash!) and Fleetwood Mac records on the floor in the living room, remnants of a recent party.

She told me that she was working on something new, a new book maybe.  We kept in touch here and there over the years.

Then her work appeared on the cover of Lisa Foad’s The Night Has a Mouth which was amazing.

And now, years later, she returns to the old neighborhood, east Vancouver to reveal her new book, the Selves.

See you there.

Sybil and Sabbath Riffs Aplenty in Ahlers' the Selves!