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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/15647/gaiman-on-copyright-piracy-and-the-web/

Gaiman on Copyright Piracy and the Web

February 11, 2011 by

Fascinating short comments by science fiction author Neil Gaiman on how he came to realize that there was nothing wrong with people copying his books:


J. Murray February 11, 2011 at 11:35 am

This sort of argument is particularly strong when it comes from someone like Gaiman. His works are excellent and benefit greatly from the IP regime. So for him to come out and reject it is major.

JFF February 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm

If only Alan Moore was so reasonable.

Stephan Kinsella February 11, 2011 at 1:00 pm
V. LEHO February 11, 2011 at 12:22 pm

The song will be different when most people realize that reading on kindle or Ipad can be as pleasurable as reading a paper book. When this happen, Neil Gaiman will miss the time when his copyright was enforced.
When Google Espresso Book Machine or equivalent will be widespread, and making money writing books nearly imposible, future potential Neil Gaimans will turn away from novel writing to some other business.
While it may be inescapable, copyright death doesn’t deserve daily posts from a Ludwig Von Mises website.

J. Murray February 11, 2011 at 12:42 pm

What other business? You act like labor is some giant aggregate that just ebbs and flows wherever. Future authors will just have to do what the rest of us in society do to maintain our desired incomes in the face of increasing productivity and competition – increase our output. You seem to think that because one person can’t just write a single book and sit back to tuck away millions without future effor that no one will bother. I point you to a host of excellent, and free, online stories, novels, and comics that don’t ask for a single penny from the reader.

Stephan Kinsella February 11, 2011 at 1:01 pm

When that happens, people of integrity will work to benefit in other ways such as reputational, bundling, first mover, etc.

Cory Brickner February 11, 2011 at 1:42 pm

This would be a paradigm shift for the industry. It’s not a bad thing. Competition spurs innovation. Should we still be using horse and buggies instead of cars? I don’t know what authors / artists you know, but making money writing books, or selling artwork, or being a musician was already almost impossible way before the internet. Only the top 0.1% actually earn a very good living doing this stuff because they are the best at what they do. Selling over 1,000 actual books actually is considered “successful” for the industry. How many authors are there, how many books are there, and how many books are bought each year by consumers? The reality is the supply of books way exceeds demand for books.

In order to make it in the “arts and entertainment” industry, you need to be the best at what you do solely for the fact that it is very hard to differentiate your product from someone else’s. Words are cheap — hence blogs and websites and my reply to your post. Just as Stephan routinely points out, there’s nothing sacrosanct about ideas and those ideas put into words. I have ideas, you have ideas, we all have ideas. A lot of ideas overlap. It doesn’t mean one stole one idea from another, they just aren’t scarce. The law of supply and demand holds here as much as anywhere else.

V. LEHO February 12, 2011 at 6:32 am

” What other business? You act like labor is some giant aggregate that just ebbs and flows wherever. Future authors will just have to do what the rest of us in society do to maintain our desired incomes in the face of increasing productivity and competition – increase our output”

That was not my meaning. I was reacting to NG optimism for book sales. He is not delegitimizing copyright, he is just saying that for him piracy increased his sales. He is not opposing copyrights per se.

“This would be a paradigm shift for the industry. It’s not a bad thing. Competition spurs innovation”

The problem with this sentence is that if moneymaking is impossible by writing books, there won’t be any industry at all. There may be some “ouput”, but it won’t be an industry.

“Only the top 0.1% actually earn a very good living doing this stuff because they are the best at what they do. Selling over 1,000 actual books actually is considered “successful” for the industry.”

It is mostly for the ouput of the 0.1% that I care, because they are the books that most people enjoy to read.

While I understand that there is something wrong with patents today, I don’t understand this obsession with copyrights(there is a post nearly everyday). People new to mises.org must be puzzled. When they read Human Action, they don’t have the impression that this issue is central to Mises, or to our lives

Cory Brickner February 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm

“Nobody who would have bought your book is not buying it because they can find it for free. What you’re actually doing is advertising. You’re reaching more people. You’re raising awareness.”

This is an awesome quote! I don’t think you can sum it up better.

Julien February 11, 2011 at 1:39 pm

He’s not saying that there is nothing wrong. He’s saying that in his case that arrangement worked better for him as an author.
He says piracy is like lending, but lending pre-supposes ownership.
His comments are encouraging, but there is still ways to go to de-legitimize IP.

Tyrone Dell February 11, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Sure, but it also seems like he has a very naive view of what the Internet even is or how it works in the first place. I’m cutting him some slack for this one.

Michael Richards February 11, 2011 at 6:00 pm

That’s kinda a relief to hear a famous author talk about IP this way. Also, ereaders are not going to hurt authors. They will probably just bundle the sale of the book with something else so that way it becomes more appealing. This is what authors did in the past and how some websites selling info goods do it today. :D

WhiskeyJim February 11, 2011 at 6:35 pm

To reveal how naive I can be, I naturally assumed extensive quotations of authors on the Internet, like bad MP3 recordings of the original song, to be free advertising. I was initially befuddled when I learned that authors and musicians viewed it as a copyright issue.

I believe the fallacy arises because organizations view people who will make do with a poor substitute as potential consumers. They are not.

Stranger February 11, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Bill Gates gives his money away. Surely this must mean that capital should be owned in common.

Tyrone Dell February 12, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Money is scarce. Ideas are not.

Sione February 15, 2011 at 2:02 am


Ideas are common. Everyone has them.


TANSTAAFL February 12, 2011 at 2:12 am

Yes digital media has made it easier to ‘pirate.’

One thing I have not seen mentioned are the transaction costs associated with pirated goods. Things like needing internet access, some sort of electronic device to access the information on the internet, computer literacy, unwanted attachments, viruses, bad files. In short it can be a real pain to acquire these ‘free’ goods. You see for some of us it is easier to pay the market price for a good than deal with the extra hassle of getting something for ‘free.’

Remember, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch…

John Doe writes a book. Since there will always be demand for printed books, he publishes 100k copies. From the beginning John has great advantage. He can plan ahead and is ready to print more copies. By being the first to market he has gained the advantage having the shortest lead time for more copies if the demand is there. He also has ‘insider information’ on how strong the demand is, he knows how fast they are selling. Whether selling hard copies or digital media John the innovator has a competitive advantage.

Even if others were free to distribute the book John still benefits greatly, as does ‘society.’ John gets name recognition if his book is good. Producing, making available, and dustributing copies puts people to work. If the ideas are good they spread quickly. If the are bad they are sooner discarded. Everyone is better off.

Let’s say there are no barriers to sharing of information or what Mises called recipes. John can only benefit in the long run if his book can be freely shared. The more people that read his book, the bigger his ‘brand’ becomes, the greater his future earning potential. If John is well received he could sell a million copies of the first edition of his second book.

I can see that it is possible that all individuals may be better of by encouraging open sharing of information.

Rafal February 12, 2011 at 5:22 am

He is happy about his books being advertised on the Internet but I’m not so sure if he would be so happy if someone sold his books without paying him any fees.

Edgaras February 12, 2011 at 10:37 am

Maybe he wouldn’t be, but then again, who does that anyway?

Rafal February 12, 2011 at 3:44 pm

And why doesn’t anyone?

Sione February 15, 2011 at 2:04 am


They do.

Plenty of books available for free on this very website. Take a look.


Joshua February 12, 2011 at 7:24 pm

The fact that there are increased sales in this instance of copyright infringement is a happy result, but I feel it is not a core argument against IP. IP is wrong for many reasons not the least of which is moral (you cannot own what is in my head and neither can I).

Ideas do not exist in a finite pool where thoughts are caged by the thinker, preventing their appearance in another mind.

Capn Mike February 12, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Am I the only one who sees this analogy?:

If you’re in a pop band you would throw your mama in front of a TRAIN to get airplay!

And airplay? Why, that’s EVERYBODY listening to your stuff – FOR FREE!!!

Airplay = record sales. Couldn’t be clearer.

Rafal February 13, 2011 at 1:23 am

But whose record sales? The point is they may not be yours.

Dan February 13, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Do find a lot of people successfully selling pirated music? I remember when Napster first came out and people would pay their friends to copy some songs on a cd for them but I’m not aware of anybody who needs that service anymore. I wouldn’t even take the time to put something on a cd anymore. iPads, iPhones, kindles, etc. make the sale of pirated goods very remote at best. I don’t even need to download most of the stuff online anymore as I now have access to it whenever I want anyways. Technology is only making pirating easier or more convenient. It’s about time we get with the times and realize ideas are not scarce.

SirThinkALot February 13, 2011 at 10:35 pm

It’s offical I’m going to copy the complete Sandman series to my computer….

Anthony Shelley February 13, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Wonderful that Gaiman is actually taking direct control of his work and his destiny and playing to the strengths of a division of labor society (remnant) instead of embracing and feeding the rat race and its cancerous insinuations. Bravo!! And Thanks Stephan!!

I believe the following relates on so many levels….


Re: IPR proponents don’t need our agreement to protect their property
« Reply #1 on: 2010-October-31 08:08:37 PM »


Number 593, October 31, 2010

The Great Milk Robbery
by Anthony Shelley

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

In last week’s TLE, (Number 592, October 17, 2010) Paul Bonneau makes interesting points to IPR proponents without getting into the “we have copies—you still have your original” issue. He puts the burden of property protection where it belongs—on the one who claims ownership.

Whether intentional or not, he uses good Harry Browne-like points…. HB saw rights as a trap, and group traps such as government trap… and HB’s answer is to take direct action to get desired results that don’t involve changing, controlling, convincing others–including IPR proponents. (Controlling others is a form of dependence on others.)

Freedom from the treadmill: Do what you want to do. But recognize that there are many things you want to do and you can’t have them all. So establish priorities in your values and stick to the ones at the top. (Innovation is at the top for me but apparently not for Disney.) When you have to give up the lesser values (such as policing others and forsaking the profits of innovation), don’t waste your time bemoaning the loss of what could have been obtained only by giving up something more valuable (which is what Disney, Watt, Whitey, Wright brothers ended up doing.)

In fact HB called this the great milk robbery—leaving one’s milk out on the porch and finding it stolen, there is a risk someone will steal it…. so? Put it somewhere else or continue to leave it alone and write off the cost of the robbery because you have more productive uses of your time than catching milk thieves—productive uses such as innovating!

The Great Milk Robbery

To illustrate this, let’s suppose that I walk out to my front porch one morning, expecting to pick up my milk. But lo and behold, I find that it’s been stolen. What do I do next?

I can bitterly feel that the thief had no right to steal from me. But would that get my milk back? (rights trap)

I could stand on the front porch and deliver an eloquent speech, cursing the disgraceful fact that there are thieves in the world. But what would that get me—aside from a few angry neighbors?

To say that there are thieves in the world is only to repeat what I’ve known all along. To say that it’s disgraceful is to say that if I were God, I’d have made the world differently. But since I’m not God, that point is irrelevant, too.(I would call this the relevance trap)

To say that I would never steal someone’s milk is to acknowledge that I’m different from many of the people in the world and that I have my own way of trying to achieve happiness. But why should I expect someone else to use my way? (identity trap)

Direct alternative / self rule:
The only area of interest is that which I control. I’ve decided to risk theft by having the milk bottles left on the front porch. And I can decide to continue that risk or have the milk handled in some other way.

If I concentrate on the thief’s immorality or on my rights, I’m probably leaving myself vulnerable to another theft. But if I use what I control to make new arrangements, I can see to it that the theft isn’t repeated—and that should be my major concern.

And I can think about that while I’m pouring water on my Wheaties.

Ideas from Harry Browne’s “How I Found Freedom In an UNFree World”

Anthony Shelley is “Living On Freedom Road In an UnFree World”

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