Would the Bard Have Survived the Web?

That’s the title of a timely op-ed piece by Scott Turow and friends on today’s New York Times web page that every serious writer should read. It’s about existing copyright law – why it is important, how it relates to the web.

The thesis is simple: “Literary talent often remains undeveloped unless markets reward it.”  During the history of this country, “our poets, playwrights, novelists, historians, biographers and musicians were all underwritten by copyright’s markets.”

“Yet today, these markets are unraveling,” the authors warn. “Piracy is a lucrative, innovative, global enterprise. Clusters of overseas servers can undermine much of the commercial basis for creative work around the world, offering users the speedy, secret transmission of stolen goods.”

They go on to oppose the “view among many users and Web companies that copyright is a relic, suited only to the needs of out-of-step corporate behemoths.”  They criticize the “traffickers in stolen music movies and, increasingly, books — who transmit and receive copyrighted material without the slightest guilt.”

And they let us know who is responsible: “A handful of law professors and other experts who have made careers of fashioning counterintuitive arguments holding that copyright impedes creativity and progress.”

I’m quite familiar with such rationalizers and enemies of genuine creativity.  If you write, or aspire to publish, you should know them, too. They’re the same type of sneak thieves who gave us the current Recession. For your own sake, then, please read the article  today.  

Full disclosure: novelist Scott Turow is president of the Authors Guild, a national organization of writers based in New York.  His co-authors are Paul Aiken, the Guild’s executive director, and James Shapiro, a member of the board, who also teaches Shakespeare at Columbia.

I am not a member, but I admire the Authors Guild for its leading role in the legal battle against Google’s corporate schemes to take over the world’s books.

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