SOPA, PIPA, and Unilateral Decisions.

I don’t have a vast readership here, so I did not bother with blacking out my site on 18 Jan, but I did write to my representatives. In short, I’ve had some kind of creative presence on the internet and its precursors since 1984. (See, I am not kidding when I say I’m nearing a certain age. In fact, by some definitions, I’m already there. But I digress.) I have routinely lost things like blogs and websites and hard drives, but there is still a fair amount of content out there with my name on it.

Much of it has brought me no money. Reputation that waxes and wanes based on how active I am in a given community, yes, but money? Not so much. Certainly I have dealt with piracy and crackers — and still, to this day, can not get over the hilarity of a “pirate software cracking group” adding their brag screen to a shareware software piece*; specifically seen here, among many other places, and yeah, it burns my ass that these dicks are being credited with my game. Under SOPA/PIPA, I could shut those shits down. I am a nobody out here in the wilderness. No one would ever be so foolish as to imagine that I am a producer of Big Content. But I could technically shut that site out of the United States because they are displaying my content as someone else’s–should SOPA become real.**

The fact that I can do that is part of why I don’t like SOPA. You wouldn’t think that is the case, would you? However, here is the next bit:

I used to have AdSense on this site. (Yes, it’s related, hold on). It generated very little money and I actually found it far more useful as a way to have products and businesses I’d be interested in brought to my attention. This makes sense: if you put up a vanity website that is chock full of stuff you are interested in, the advertisements that are served based on the webpage contents are going to be related to things that interest you. It was how I found (and started using) CreateSpace, and what made me decide to apply to UWM, and so forth. Still, one day, there was a spike in traffic, which I simply can not account for, and my account was subsequently disabled. I, or anyone who shares my address, was permanently banned from using AdSense. There is no recourse. I could send a brief explanation regarding the issue, but some guy sitting behind a desk in India decided that this is what it is and too bad for me. Do you know how much money I generated over the course of the 5 years I had AdWords here? Approximately $124. And good luck to Google in refunding the pennies they now owe to various companies that got clicked back in 2006. It will cost them more to find and refund all those companies than it would cost them to just leave my account alone and label whatever they identified as the problem (because they don’t tell you what the actual problem is when you get the email shutting you down) as an aberration after 6 months of monitoring (or whatever).

However, the system is set up so that Google can decide that your account is fraudulent even if you have no control or awareness of the issue. It’s rather like jailing you because your neighbor’s dog was on your property when it bit your kid. You should have kept the dog off your property!

This kind of unilateral power on the internet is appalling. The thought of someone just deciding that your site statistics are proof that you are misusing the system or that someone else’s inadvertent misrepresentation/poor choice could take a whole site down because someone at a giant company too powerful for an indie artist to fight got a bug up his or her ass is chilling. Long sentence, but you get my point. I’m not in love with the idea of some trash talking teenagers getting credit for my work. But I am also not in love with the idea that my ire over this could remove the works of hundred of other legitimate creatives from distribution. I get that I deserve to have my content protected. I don’t think it should be at the cost of everyone else getting their content restricted.

Of course, today is Jan. 21. What brings this all up?

Moon Hollow Press.

I spent some time looking for alternative hosting programs and sites. I’d like the products I put forth to be as professional as possible, and while I can create a really lovely anthology/chapbook/compendium with HTML, a blogging platform, or as a straight-up PDF, I also want to use this time frame to experience and explore other free tools on the web. I stated out with blogger/google, and will complete the first ‘zine there, but I think I want to try some other products for electronic publishing of Grantswood. On the other hand, I also think about permanence on the web. As I have many times cried and ranted about–and surely will cry and rant about again–the intransigence of the web means that I have lost a lot of work. Poof, into the magnetic fields it all went to be buried! Some can be saved–a la the Internet Archive–and others may be resurrected by chance, but some stuff is just gone forever. When I put the anthologies and compendiums and chapbooks out, I want there to be a reasonable assurance of existence-at least for the lifetime of the authors.

I don’t want it shut down forever by an arbitrary and unilateral copyright decision.

I don’t want it shut down forever because of bad business decisions.

And I don’t want to never be able to offer anything but the token prizes I can pay out of my own pocket because the site hosts restrict revenue by independents.

So there are a lot of things to think about as I spend this next year experimenting with platforms and possibilities.

That said, I think I am going to open the call for Grantswood. I was going to wait until I had Marauders of the Waterways on line, but I/we don’t have any more works coming in for that and all I need to do is put it together and then web it on 25 March. I think I/we can start reading for Grantswood.

I could stand to edit this entry–it is a little run-on-ish, and some sentences are surely awkward–but I think I’d rather work on writing the call for Grantswood. I’m wiling to be awkward in my blog.
Some articles that discuss some of the things I am thinking about here, but did not get to addresing during the course of this writerly ramble:

How to free your work. — Nina Paley’s contribution at Question Copyright. I have a lot of respect for Paley and what she went through with Sita Sings the Blues.

SOPA and PIPA: Where we are. What they want. — which says a lot of the things I’d say myself, so I won’t recap here.

*Hilarious because while I retain copyright, the program was released as shareware. There was exactly no copy protection on it, and it was intended to be freely distributed over the modem–in 1985, when the first version was released, it had to be released to specific services (Q-Link, Compuserve, various local Bulletin Board Systems) and then would be redistributed by people exchanging programs at various sites–essentially, a very early bit-torrent system. They didn’t crack shit, they just appended their stupid screen.

**I know you are not likely to d/l those old interactive fiction games, and if you were going to, Tramontane Alliance would not be the one I’d specifically recommend (my favorite stand-alone game remains Garden of Balance), but if you did suddenly have an urge to play an oldtimy IF game in a way that reminds you of oldtimey computers, d/l this stuff from a place I respect: Internet Fiction Data Base, or 8-bit Adventure World, or from my own host of a loved but lost site. They don’t run independently; you need an emulator, such as VICE. And they are flawed, baybee, believe you me. Still, I am not the kind of creative who disowns her earlier works, and they were well-received in their time.

This does bring up another topic for discussion, though. The games are shareware, and it would be reasonable to consider how the crack screen could be considered an infringement. Here is how:

1. They are being presented as the authors of the work.
2. By presenting it as a piece of cracked software, they are misrepresenting it as a pirated version of a more standard commercial model, and thereby divert attention from the shareware model–people who might have sent money for the game are now discouraged from doing so based on the presentation of the program as one that was illegally obtained.

But we can consider that another day.

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