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Copying is a fact, not a problem

Cory Doctorow says the problem we really need to solve is how to make money when copying happens.

Piracy and DRM continue to be hot-button issues for authors and publishers, with heated arguments on both sides of the fence. I sat down with author Cory Doctorow at TOC NY 2013 to talk about the issues and how we as an industry will move beyond the conflict.

Doctorow discussed the recent success of the Humble eBook Bundle and said he was shocked that, though he had authors from all Big Six publishers “eager” to participate, their publishers said no — not because they thought it was a bad idea but because they couldn’t imagine publishing without DRM; that point was non-negotiable. He says this showed a sort of disconnect between publishers and authors on the issue of DRM and piracy, but that the disconnect in general is more between those who accept the reality of user behavior and those who believe we can somehow “get more Internet and less copying”:

“Ultimately, I think the fact that people will copy the stuff that they like is not a problem; it’s a fact. Problems are things you can change. Facts are things you have to get used to.

“It’s safer to say that there’s a disconnect between firms and individuals that understand this is a fact and who accommodate themselves to it and try to maximize their revenue in a world in which copying is a given and the ones who still think it’s productive to devote enormous amounts of resources to trying to get food coloring out of the swimming pool, to try and stop things from being copied once they’re digital.

“Those people are just kind of doomed because they’re trying to hold back the sea — they have built a business model that requires that copying get harder as computers get faster and easier and more people know how to use them. That’s not going to happen; this is as hard as copying gets. … The disconnection is between people who are betting on the wildly improbable, which is somehow we’ll get more Internet and less copying, and people who may not have a theory of how to make money, but at least everything they’re trying assumes that copying only gets easier. They may not be right, but at least they’re trying to solve the problem we actually need to solve, which is how do you make money when copying happens.” (At the 3:13 mark.)

You can view Doctorow’s entire interview in the following video:

All keynotes and video interviews from TOC NY 2013 can be found on the TOC 2013 YouTube playlist.

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