A talk with Nancy Kress about copyvio and shit like that

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An Exchange With A Pirate

The following three emails were exchanged yesterday between me and a pseudonymous person who has posted my story "Computer Virus" on a website called VX Heavens. I offer them here without additional comment -- but with a request for other viewpoints.

Dear VX Heavens--

You have posted my story "Computer Virus," in its entirety, without my permission. Please remove it from your site immediately.

Nancy Kress

Dear Nancy Kress,

First of all I wish to say that I am heartily sorry that I (unintentionally) offended you. But as much as I dislike it I would still see no reasons why should I fulfill your requirement. It seems that as an author you prefer that people do not take your work without asking for permission, or that you have the natural right to control how to distribute your work, or to protect your copyright, and all that sounds great in the real world, but not for the geek like me hiding in the net behind pseudonym. I don't think that I am an important person, but it is ridiculous to try to force the virus writers (it is unlawful in many jurisdictions) to respect the copyright and recognize the law or the authority. Privately, I think that the freely available full text will serve you well as an advertisement at no cost. But I am afraid that I am overtaxing your patience. Just one question. Does the dissemination of the full text of your story affects you personally? Why? If so I will take that page down.


Dear herm1t.vx,

It's difficult to answer you because you have already listed my arguments and then unilaterally devalued them. Yes, I do think I have a right to control the distribution of my work. Yes, I do prefer people not appropriate my efforts without my permission. And yes, posting my story on your site is illegal.

You ask: "Does the dissemination of the full text of your story affects you personally? Why?" It affects me in two ways. First, I am a full-time free-lance writer. Writing and selling my work is how I make my living. When you -- not I -- make the decision to give away my work for free, you deprive me of income (however small) from selling that story to, say, Fictionwise or Kindle. But more important to me, you affect me by devaluing my efforts. You say that my work belongs to you, and you have a right to it without any compensation to me, and whether I like it or not. The term for that use of another's efforts is slavery.

What I think should consider is how your posting of my story affects YOU. It turns you into both exploiter and thief. Is that how you wish to think of yourself?

I could pursue this legally, but you are counting on the fact that I won't. You are probably correct. It would cost me time and trouble, both of which I'd rather expend on my own writing (although I may alert the Science Fiction Writers of America to the situation). My story is a good one. I don't think your degree of respect for it matches the quality of what you are stealing. Nor, in my opinion, does your character.

Nancy Kress

Posted by Nancy Kress at 3:49 AM

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More on the Story Piracy

Today I started to file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notice against netlux.org, the site that is hosting VX Heaven, which has posted my story "Computer Virus" in its entirety without my permission. A little research convinced me that this action would be futile.

Netlux, the ISP, is based in Ukraine; much of its website is in Russian. Only a small percentage of its users, according to whois.domaintools.com (thank you, Mary Kowal) are based in either the USA or the European Union. VX Heaven exists as a site specifically for "virus creators." These guys are just going to thumb their noses at protests from me, including any legal action. They are probably laughing at the somewhat lofty tone of my last email.

The site also has stolen stories from Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, and Greg Benford. I'll email all of them, but, frankly, I don't think there's too much that can be done here.

Then I received the following email, below with my reply. I'm almost getting fond of this character -- at the very least, his sheer gall is arresting.

In a message dated 4/15/2009 8:51:23 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, [email protected] writes:

Dear Nancy Kress

I will start from the end. No, I am not counting on what you wouldn't use the copyright law to solve this problem, but rather the knowledge (based on experience) that you can hardly achieve any results by moving in that direction. Being the part of so called"underground" I do receive much more serious menaces (from time to time) and I don't threaten easily. Yes, you're right, the posting of your story turned me into the thief and exploiter in your eyes, but we have completely different mindsets: the thing that frightens you - the absence of control is my value. I don't want to waste your precious time by explaining my position. The reality shows that there were no control, that you cannot lose what you don't have and you already lost it when you decided to publish your story. After all, one could walk to the library and read the book there for free. It is simply terrible! Usually, I'm receiving the requests for removing some materials from author's agent or publisher's representatives. Their reasons are obvious. The mail from the author surprised me a bit and my first intention was to take your story offline and I had a feeling that I ought to have begged your pardon, but curiosity won and I asked about your reasons. I changed my mind. Let your readers decide. Would them respect your position? Anyone who will try to open the text of the story will get the following warning:

The (C)ontroversy

Nancy Kress ([email protected]) the author of this text does not want to see it freely available. Probably she would call anyone who will infringe her copyright an exploiter or a thief. You have to choose:

[ I agree with administration, show me the full-text! ]

[ I respect the author's position, take me back to the index! ]

P.S. *) I'm not trying to shuffle off the blame on to another people. *) I can rewrite the text of the warning if you wish. *) I added "no index" tag to the text. It should disappear from the search results soon.

P.P.S. I am sorry for causing you to be offended in any way.-- http://vx.org.ua/herm1t/

Dear Pirate,

You are right -- there is not much I can do about this situation. (If you're interested, you might check out how I discuss it on my blog, at Blogspot.) However, I in no way believe you are sorry that you offended me. You are relishing all this.

Thank you for at least giving your readers a choice.

Nancy Kress

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