At 06:49 AM 8/16/2001 , Wendell Wagner wrote:
>In a message dated 8/15/01 12:01:42 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
>> Besides the fact that you cannot trust such sources, even if they were
>> legal, to get the text correctly, those who approve of courtesy (at least)
>> to living authors will not do their reading in such a flagrantly
>> copyright-violating manner.
>Give us a break here. You, Mary, I, and most of the people on this mailing
>list first read the story in a book years ago that we did pay for (or perhaps
>which the library did pay for). You want her to pay at least $20 to find a
>used copy of one of the books that contains the story or to buy one of those
>in print that contains the story? (The only books in print that I found in
>my search that have the story were college English anthologies, and those
>tend to be rather expensive.) It's a one-page story.
Wendell, Wendell, keep your shirt on. First and least important, it's not
a one-page story. Appearance on web pages is misleading. In print, in
ordinary type size on an ordinary page size, it's 5-7 pages. But that's
not important because copyright law is very clear: the length of the work
doesn't matter. A one-stanza poem is as deserving of copyright protection
as an 800-page epic.
Secondly, I am not asking anyone to pay $20. As Stephen points out, and as
could have been inferred from my earlier post, used copies of books with
the story are plentiful and cheap. And then there is the word you use
Thirdly, I first read the story in a copy of _Wind's Twelve_ that I bought
myself. But that's unimportant too: I could indeed, as many have done,
read it in a library. Wendell, here's a fact I thought you'd be aware of:
library-owned copies of legitimately-published books are legal.
Unauthorized web copies of copyrighted material are not. Borrowing and
reading library books abets legal activity. Reading illegal web pages does
>I wasn't even looking for an online copy, but when I put the title of the
>story into Google, those two URL's were near the top of the search engine.
>The story is so short that just in glancing through the website to figure out
>what it contained, I had to read the whole story.
Possession of stolen goods is a felony. That's not to say that reading an
illegal web page is itself illegal, though referring people to them might
be. It's just to say that this line of reasoning ("Honest, officer, this
tv set just fell off the back of a truck!") is specious.
>Look, I'm not very happy
>either about the fact that the Internet makes it easy to illegally reproduce
>material that's still in copyright, but what am I supposed to do about it?
How about averting your eyes when you see something to which evidently you,
as well as I, object; and avoiding aiding and abetting a crime by passing
on the URLs in a public forum?
>One of those two URL's that has the story is in Russia. Do you want me to
>call in a air strike against the computer that contains the story? Lecturing
>people against reading webpages when they have easy access to them is pretty
Read what I said: "those who approve of courtesy (at least) to living
authors will not do their reading in such a flagrantly copyright-violating
manner." Nothing about air strikes. Nothing even about legal action.
Just a request for readers to pay courtesy to a living author. (I didn't
even go so far as to extend that to dead authors, though I could have.)
Perhaps that is useless, as you say. If the readers of this list have no
consciences, it may well be. But I hope they are better human beings than
that, and even if not, it still needs to be done. Moral protests are often
useless in the short run. But look at any moral campaign in human history,
and you'll see that it began with protests of practical uselessness.
And if one sentence is a "lecture", what on earth have _you_ written?
(Yes, I know, in that case I'm writing one too: but I'm not the one who
objected to lectures.)
>Perhaps the whole Internet should be re-organized so that material
>in copyright isn't available for free (and perhaps, even better, it should
>have short stories like this one available for download for a small price),
>but I can't make that happen.
I agree, and I'm not asking you to make it happen. Just asking to avoid
aiding and abetting a crime.
>Besides, there are lots of stories and novels available on the Internet that
>are out of copyright, and there's no easy way to tell from most of these
>sites which contain material in copyright and which contain stuff out of
It is easy to tell: use reputable sites. If you can't tell those by
looking at them, I don't have time now to give a lesson in the elementary
evaluation of web-site reliability.
>In any case, please go ahead and inform Le Guin's people that
>"The Ones That Walk Away from Omelas" is available on those two websites.
>Perhaps they have enough clout to get them to take down the stories.
By my arguments I should do that. But it shouldn't be necessary: all
agents and publishers of any sense regularly troll the web for copyright
>You use an inaccurate analogy when you quote Tolkien from the preface to the
>Ballantine edition. The Ace editions were not in violation of copyright
>laws. They may have shown that the copyright laws were so badly written at
>the time that they allowed works to lose their copyright status for absurd
>reasons, but Ace wasn't violating any laws in their editions.
I didn't really draw an analogy: I borrowed Tolkien's words because they
were appropriate, but did not specify that the cases were identical other
than the words being appropriate, leaving the analogy-drawing to the
As Wayne points out, Ace was judged in the end to have violated copyright
law; and they admitted moral culpability when they first agreed, back in
1965 or '66, to cease printing their edition and to pay royalties to
Tolkien. But, as Wayne also observed, the matter was rather more
questionable at the time. Which is why Tolkien argued in terms of courtesy
and not in terms of law.
And for that reason, the words I used are if anything _more_ appropriate in
Le Guin's case than in Tolkien's. They both have clear moral cases, but
Tolkien had a questionable legal case: Le Guin has an ironclad legal case.
And lastly, as I said before: totally apart from legal arguments, there is
no guarantee that an illegal web copy has a reliable or accurate text. In
fact there's a quite good likelihood that it doesn't. Even if you haven't
a moral bone in your body, your scholarly bones should tell you not to rely
on dubious texts from Russia.