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Science Fiction Writer’s Association Dissolves Anti E Piracy Committee

Science Fiction Writer’s Association Dissolves Anti E Piracy Committee

If you aren’t a member of the SFWA or a regular reader of that community, you might have missed out on an important development that took place over the last week. The SFWA sent out take down notices under the auspices of the DMCA (the act used by the RIAA to target music downloaders) to various sites on the ‘net. Most of the take down notices were improperly executed because the SFWA had not had authorization from the copyright holders to send out the notices.

Cory Doctorow was one of the victims of the notices because he has been a long advocate of giving his work away for free. He had reader email calling him a hypocrite for encouraging the copying of his work on the one hand and ostensibly giving SFWA authority to order a take down of his work on the other. Doctorow called SFWA on this and many other writers and bloggers took up the clarion call against the SFWA’s unauthorized action.

In response (and a knee jerk one at that), the SFWA disbanded the anti epiracy committee. I think we’ll have to talk about the DMCA and epiracy this weekend on eBook Sunday.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. El
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 16:47:13

    Not so kneejerk – they’re going to try to figure out how to do it right.

  2. Jackie L.
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 19:19:36

    The threads on this one–Angela James’ link got me started–were almost as entertaining as the SB’s on a roll. SFWA targeted a middle school teacher for simply making a list of SF books that kids would enjoy. According to one post purportedly from a lawyer representing Scrib’d, SFWA violated the law and could be fined large amounts. The kneejerk part appears to be they just “googled” for Asimov or Heinlein and sent out notices about people who just mentioned the name in any context. Didn’t seem as if they double checked the hits they got at all.

  3. Jane
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 08:15:23

    The reason why I called it knee jerk was that there didn’t seem to be a need to disband the committee, simply re-evaluate its mission and goals and the manner in which to execute said mission and goals.

  4. DS
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 11:12:08

    I’ve been following this. I think disbanding the epiracy committee was done to get Andrew Burt out of the spotlight (the VP/SF writer/college professor who screwed up the DMCA take down). There was a potential legal liability there that I don’t think he had considered. The main push behind the whole mess seemed to have been Robert Silverberg and the estate of Isaac Asimov. Or maybe Burt just had a itch to try out the DMCA and approached Silverberg and the Asimov estate.

    It’s turned into a discussion about the reactionary attitudes of some of the old guard vs the Baen free-library experiment. And of course it brought up the “pixel stained technopeasant wretches” diatribe from Howard V. Hendrix, a former VP.

    I don’t think that epiracy has anything to do with the fact that I haven’t bought a book by Hendrix or Burt ever.

  5. RfP
    Sep 06, 2007 @ 09:41:11

    A contrarian viewpoint from a commenter on Teleread:

    Please be careful accusing SFWA of “bully tactics� and conflating them with “a third of all DMCA take-down notices are illegal�. SFWA and some of their member authors tried to work with scribd by sending polite requests to take down infringing material; as Pournelle shows (, scribd never bothered to answer.

    SFWA had a list with thousands of scribd copyright infingements on it; among these were 3 errors (that's an error rate of somewhere between 0.0015% and 0.0003%), all of which SFWA corrected immediately when brought to their attention. The storm brewing over this is almost entirely Doctorow's concoction….

    so far, the record of action shows scribd infringing thousands of copyrights for months, SFWA asking scribd nicely to stop and being ignored. Apparently DMCA notices are the only way to get their attention, so this is what SFWA resorted to, with a very small error rate, after exhausting more polite measures.

  6. Jules Jones
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 04:16:36

    Jane, this hasn’t been the first problem with the SFWA anti-piracy committee. I don’t know the ins and outs as I’m not privy to the member-only forums, but there seems to have been a history of attempts to control piracy that did more harm than good, or were simply ridiculous. Some of the stuff that’s showing up in non-SFWA forums suggests a massive civil war going on in the private SFWA forums about Burt’s actions, which isn’t actually anything new (civil war in general, or Andrew Burt’s views on epiracy being a trigger for one), but apparently people are really, *really* pissed off this time.

    Disbanding the committee seems to be the best way to make sure that an attempt to rethink what they’re doing actually happens, rather than the committee navel-gazing and once again deciding that their actions were substantially correct and nothing much needs to change.

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