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Harlan Ellison fights for Creator's Rights

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Noted science Fiction Author, Harlan Ellison, is spearheading an uphill battle against people illegally posting protected works online. Although he got into the fight to protect his own literary works, this has escalated into an all-out battle for creator's rights everywhere.

Visit harlanellison.com/kick for more information on how you can help fight the good fight.

It seems that AOL has joined the *wrong* side of this battle, protecting the childish morons who think that "Screw the author" is a valiant battlecry. Harlan and his Attorney's pockets are not deep enough on their own to continue the battle forever, so after fighting this alone for 10 months, he is now asking for your help.

Check out the website, and donate if you can. I am pledging my support as well.

--Darrel L. Exline, Director, The ConFurence Group.

Comments

Your rating: None

After viewing the press release at the above referenced webpage, I'm not sure I agree with everything Ellison alleges or implies. For one thing, it's not likely authors and artists are losing that much money due to piracy (most people who obtain creative works that way probably wouldn't have paid for them anyway). For more on this, I'd recommend reading Eric Flint's Introducing the Baen Free Library, particulary the parts about why he created and runs it.

I don't know all the specifics of Ellison's charges against AOL, but from the description in the press release, it sounds like all that happened was that AOL's service included providing access to Usenet, and a subscriber used their AOL account to post pirated copyrighted works to an alt.binaries Usenet newsgroup. Usenet is not part of AOL per se; they don't own or control it, they only provide access to it. It would be like parents blaming the phone company when their kids call dial-a-porn. There may be more to AOL's role in this case than this, and in that case I withhold judgement, but if this is really all AOL has done, then I'm sorry, Mr. Ellison, but you really haven't got a case against them.

Having said all that, I generally support the right of authors and artists to decide how their works are distributed, whether their works should be available for free, and I oppose the actions of the "information wants to be free" crowd that disregards their rights and distributes their work without permission. Here in the furry community the Sibe case is still fresh in everyone's minds. Thus, albeit with some reservations, I support Ellison's efforts.

Your rating: None

In regards to AOL providing access to Usenet and thus being cited by Ellison as being responsable for the actions taken by a user: This is not the first time that an ISP has been challenged for providing service and charged with fault for somebody doing something they should not have done. Courts have struck down such cases before and I do not see much of a change coming on the horizon in this regard.

While I will be the first to agree that if you take away the pirate mechanism that is popular you eliminate eighty percent of the problem, I also recognize: one, twenty percent still remains and two, something new will come up to take its place. Where there is a will, somebody will find a way. So long as there is still a mentality that it is okay to steal, people will do so.

Harlan needs to target the real problem: the mistaken belief that piracy is a victimless crime. Break people of that belief and you have broken the spine of the problem.

Your rating: None

I agree with both Mwalimu and SC on this one. The only way you're ever going to stop the crooks in this case is by a sense of right and wrong. Nothing else is going to work, especially not with the internet. Trying to police the WWW is playing at being the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike; stop it in one spot and it breaks out in half a dozen other places. Teaching people the difference between right and wrong is the only way to prevent this.

Quite a few artists have already realized this and fought back in the most effective way (currently) possible -- they don't post their new work anymore. Just ask Terrie Smith.

Ardashir

Your rating: None

>Quite a few artists have already realized this and fought back in the most effective way (currently) possible -- they don't post their new work anymore. Just ask Terrie Smith.<

Not entirely true. Terrie posts thumbnails of her prints to her website everytime the list is updated. Otherwise, Terrie has -never- posted work to the net to begin with, with the occassional exception of a piece or two which were for promotional purposes.

Otherwise, I have to disagree. Reinforcing a basic sense of ethics is a right step, but the laws need stronger enforcement as well. It may be impossible to stop each and every leak, but not impossible to turn the heat up and make it unpalatable for offenders.

Your rating: None

Otherwise, I have to disagree. Reinforcing a basic sense of ethics is a right step, but the laws need stronger enforcement as well.

To be honest, I have never understood the mentality of many people when they make statements such as yours. The person is question is already doing something that is illegal, so your answer for how to stop this behavior is to... make it more illegal? Precisely how does this help the matter?

Despite what many have been taught in high school civics classes, it is not the threat of punishment for breaking a law that makes society obey it. For that to be a realistic and viable methodology of coercing people to follow what amounts to arbitrary rules, you would have to ensure that nobody was able to break any law and go unpunished. This simply is not possible as you would need a police force that outnumbers the civilian populace seventy-to-one. In the real world, the sense of right and wrong that you so flippantly dismiss is what keeps people honest and "doing the right thing." Ask a person why they do not break laws and while they may tell you "because I do not want to risk getting caught" I would be surprised. Most people, when pressed, would simply break down and say "because it isn't right." What they are really saying is "because I would not feel right doing it, knowing that I should not do it."

The knowledge of right and wrong is a powerful thing.

-Swiftfoot, posting anonymously because he forgot his password

Your rating: None

Better enforcement isn't making something "more illegal," it's simply an attempt to recognize that it's illegal, and to prosecute people for illegal actions when possible. Chuck didn't "flippantly dismiss" the sense of right and wrong, and you're honestly being rather abrasive in your didactic misreading.

Recognizing that piracy exists and that it's impractical to stop it completely does not mean we shouldn't try to stop it when we see it. I'm not going to go out of my way searching the net for things that violate my copyrights. If I find out about a copyright violation, though, I'm going to put in some effort to stopping it.

- Chipotle

Your rating: None

>To be honest, I have never understood the mentality of many people when they make statements such as yours. The person is question is already doing something that is illegal, so your answer for how to stop this behavior is to... make it more illegal?Despite what many have been taught in high school civics classes, it is not the threat of punishment for breaking a law that makes society obey it. For that to be a realistic and viable methodology of coercing people to follow what amounts to arbitrary rules, you would have to ensure that nobody was able to break any law and go unpunished.This simply is not possible as you would need a police force that outnumbers the civilian populace seventy-to-one.In the real world, the sense of right and wrong that you so flippantly dismiss is what keeps people honest and "doing the right thing." Ask a person why they do not break laws and while they may tell you "because I do not want to risk getting caught"I would be surprised. Most people, when pressed, would simply break down and say "because it isn't right." What they are really saying is "because I would not feel right doing it, knowing that I should not do it."

The knowledge of right and wrong is a powerful thing.<

No argument. But, as I say, -they're- not the ones we need to be concerned about, but those who abuse copyrights deliberately and flaunt that abuse.

Your rating: None

Better enforcement isn't making something "more illegal," it's simply an attempt to recognize that it's illegal, and to prosecute people for illegal actions when possible.

Other than using the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to help your case, how would you prosecute piracy in cyberspace? If you've already done so, I'm curious about what tactics you used and how successful were you?

So far I have seen very little done by the courts towards individuals, they seem rather more interested in the swapping services such as Napster/AudioGalaxy/et all. Why is that? Clearly Napster had one of the largest groups of copyright violatiors ever. I explain this focus upon prosecuting services rather than the individual users this way: The RIAA and other corporations who have lost revenue due to piracy and who are jumping on the bandwagon know it will cost far too much to go after the individual users, and that it won't yield much in the way of results for the money they would spend were they to try and do so. While they may be using enforcement to shut down the system that makes it easier to violate copyright law, the people who benefitted from the service the most have gone completely unpunished. This completely breaks the enforcement model you are stating will help stop piracy. Will Harlan's efforts in his crusade correct this oversight?

you're honestly being rather abrasive in your didactic misreading.

I am sorry you feel that way, but I make no apologies for being vehement about this topic and my position on it.

that it's impractical to stop it completely does not mean we shouldn't try to stop it when we see it.

Now you are misreading what I have been saying.

I never once said that copyright holders should not try to stop piracy when they see it happening. I have said:

1) This zealousness to "go out and make the pirates pay" has thus far seemed a little misguided, see above remark about Napster.

2) Those who hold copyrights and wish to enforce them should be aware of other methods than "the law" to help reduce the occurance of piracy happening in the first place, because that is what will have the most effect. Do you remember in the mid to late eighties the public ad campaign that ran on TV and radio by the Software Publisher's Association, that said "Don't copy that floppy?" That was a prime example of what I have been talking this entire time. It helped raise the awareness of the general public so that they knew even casual copying of software was wrong. It was marketed in such a manner that it hit the many different demographics that might be tempted to pirate and even had a catchy slogan so it would stick in their memory.

3) Be ready for disappointment and for people to slip through the cracks. Our judicial system still isn't ready to handle "cyberlaw" and it will take some time for it to really be steady on its feet in terms of rulings. Some cases are fairly clear-cut and are readily handled. Others are a great deal more vague and not so readily picked up by the law or so quickly processed.

4) Be realistic in understanding that this is not something that is easily enforced in any way whatsoever with the current standing of technology today. I never once said that it was a pointless exercise, nor have I said that creative rights holders should just sit back and accept it (as a programmer and more, I become greatly agitated when I see my work being lifted by other people). What I have said is that one needs to recognize that this is the proverbial needle in the haystack, and expecting the law to go out there and bust every pirate you find simply will not happen, no matter what, and nobody else is going to do it for you.

For clarity, since various individuals seem to have misunderstood me: I believe Harlan is fighting for a good cause. I support efforts to stop piracy. I simply do not believe that every action being taken is entirely reasonable, nor that all this work is being channeled in the right directions -- fighting on just one front is not the solution, period. I also do not believe that people are walking into this battle with reasonable expectations.

If I find out about a copyright violation, though, I'm going to put in some effort to stopping it.

I sincerely wish you the best of luck.

Your rating: None

Harlan Ellison is fighting for creator's rights?!? Yeah, right -- if he's involved it's got to be a publicity ploy. The man hasn't done anything for what, the last 20 years save to screech in every forum fool enough to let him talk, and now 'suddenly' he gets interested in saving his poor fellow writers?

If he had any real concern for his fellow authors he wouldn't have pulled half the crap he's done. He's cheated more authors, real authors, than any pirate could ever dream of doing (anyone remember the third Dangerous Visions that he's been promising ever since 1980 or so?).

Let us be honest here -- if you post on the internet you're asking to be robbed. I don't like it, I don't approve, and I don't steal, but there is absolutely NO WAY you will stop some kid in Podunk Nowhere from boosting your work. Something I learned the hard way when I tried to intrduce some kids I know to furry art via Yerf at a public library. I later discovered they had spent the rest of the entire afternoon swiping art... Suffice to say I no longer 'turn on' anyone to furry art.

Your rating: None

>Harlan Ellison is fighting for creator's rights?!? Yeah, right -- if he's involved it's got to be a publicity ploy. The man hasn't done anything for what, the last 20 years save to screech in every forum fool enough to let him talk, and now 'suddenly' he gets interested in saving his poor fellow writers?If he had any real concern for his fellow authors he wouldn't have pulled half the crap he's done. He's cheated more authors, real authors, than any pirate could ever dream of doing (anyone remember the third Dangerous Visions that he's been promising ever since 1980 or so?).Let us be honest here -- if you post on the internet you're asking to be robbed. I don't like it, I don't approve, and I don't steal, but there is absolutely NO WAY you will stop some kid in Podunk Nowhere from boosting your work. Something I learned the hard way when I tried to intrduce some kids I know to furry art via Yerf at a public library. I later discovered they had spent the rest of the entire afternoon swiping art... Suffice to say I no longer 'turn on' anyone to furry art.<

Let's -be- honest. Regardless of whether or not people are going to do it, there's no reason to -allow- it to continue, to just roll over and give in, to accept the inevitability of it. If we accept that we are, at core, a civilized people, then we need to press for that civilized behavior and attitude that comes with it. Ideally, as someone pointed out elsewhere, that should begin at home, with a firm teaching of ethics and in making ourselves understand that there is no such thing as a 'victimless' crime. But we should also be reinforcing that with laws and with enforcement that has some teeth to it. It's a hell of a lot better -- and more admirable -- than just rolling over and giving up because it's too hard.

That's the real strength of Ellison in this quioxtic battle; he won't give up.

Your rating: None

In reply to the anonymous replier on 11/28/01 @11:02:06 EST:

First of all, attacking Harlan for "not doing anything for 20 years" is ridiculous. Harlan has been very active in SciFi fandom if not in the forefront, at least very heavily behind the scenes.

Remember a little 5-year arc called "Babylon 5"? Look at the credits the next time you catch it on TV. JMS credits Harlan heavily for his help.

As for posting to the internet: Who said Harlan posted anything to the internet? The problem is that his work was uploaded to the net without his permission.

As for AOL's involvement: AOL refused to identify the person infringing on Mr. Harlan's rights in a timely manner, which they could have easily done, and therefore became an acomplice in the activity.

The issue is not being able to keep someone from stealing your work... we all know the technology is easy enough to use... The issue is that when a pirate is caught, he should be forced to pay the consequences.

ConFurence will again be at the Burbank Hilton, April 25-27, 2003.  Visit http://confurence.net for more details on this and other events being hosted by The ConFurence Group.

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About the author

darrelx (Darrel L. Exline)read storiescontact (login required)

a courtroom technology specialist from Lemon Grove, San Diego, CA, interested in polar bears, and furry fandom of course.

Owner / Director, The ConFurence Group, promoting anthropomorphic fandom-realted events since 1999. Chairman: ConFurence 2003; Dealer''s Room Lead: Conjecture (October in San Diego), Fan Tables at LosCon 29 (Burbank, Nov. 2002)

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