All News

Industry & Advocacy News

No Left or Right When It Comes to Copyright

copyright alliance - the authors guild

copyright alliance - the authors guild

This election season, vote no against piracy and weak intellectual property laws

Ever ask a friend or colleague if you could “borrow” their password so you could log on to a subscription-only online newspaper or magazine site? Or visited an overseas streaming video site to download a recently released movie or television show? If so, you are among the 32% of Americans who say that they knowingly pirated online content according to a 2017 survey.

Indeed, the number of piracy alerts the Guild received increased by 300% between 2009 and 2013 and by another 76% between 2013 and 2017. E-book piracy cost U.S. publishers $315 million in 2017 alone, diminishing their ability to pay authors reasonable advances and costing published writers thousands of dollars in royalties.

That’s why Authors Guild Executive Director Mary Rasenberger was one of nearly 100,000 prominent Americans in the arts and business to sign an open letter to 2018 U.S. political candidates urging them to support strong copyright protection that rewards creativity and innovation and promotes a healthy creative economy fueled by content created by writers, journalists, screenwriters, playwrights, musicians, artists, software and apps designers and other creative content professionals. Sponsored by the Copyright Alliance, the  open letter served as a reminder to midterm candidates that its crucial for elected officials to support creators and the rights that protect them and their works.

“I signed the letter on behalf of our nearly 10,000 Authors Guild members who rely on us and other like-minded organizations such as the Copyright Alliance to help protect their intellectual property rights and, when necessary, file suits against corporations and individuals who infringe upon their copyrighted works,” Mary told this blogger.

I recall all too well my anger and frustration when review copies of my first memoir suddenly appeared on Amazon, sold as new and priced well below the retail price. Neither I nor my publisher, a small indie press in Seattle, saw a dime from those sales. Indeed, that act was what convinced me to first join the Authors Guild back in 2002, since I knew that I could never fight such a battle against a behemoth like Amazon alone.

And of course we also need to worry about our works being pirated by companies based in places like China, Russia or Argentina, which have little to no copyright law enforcement. We will not win every battle, but at the very least we can ensure our own behaviors conform to copyright rules and help educate our friends and neighbors about why buying that pirated DVD or CD or e-book for $1.99 is not such a bargain after all. Piracy is not about “striking a blow against authority” or “sticking it to the fat cats in Hollywood or giant publishing conglomerates.” It’s about stealing from content creators: poets and essayists, novelists and playwrights, reporters and science writers, arts critics and editorialists who get paid to comment on everything from the impact of climate change, why the color yellow makes us happy, or insights about why millennials tend not to vote during mid-terms.

As the letter states, “there is no ‘left’ or ‘right’ when it comes to respecting copyright. Rather, the creative community stands united in support of a copyright system that will continue to make the U.S. the global leader in the creative arts and the global paradigm for free expression.”

With just a few days left to go until the 2018 election, before punching your chad or pulling that lever, you may want to take a few minutes to find out how your state or national Congressional member feels about strong copyright protection and First Amendment rights that guarantee freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

Compared to staring at the white screen or empty piece of paper before you put down those first few sentences of your latest chapter or embark on a new short story or poem, doing some quick research to learn more about mid-term candidates before visiting your voting station on Tuesday should be a snap.

Wishing you happy writing!

Sandi Sonnenfeld

AG Communications Director