Can Copyright Save Authors?


Copyright is old school. Don’t get me wrong, the law has its place. Copyright is the last line of defense, not more and not less. Authors need to evolve instead.

Let me give you an example. These years, all mobile telecommunication service providers face a dilemma. They used to enjoy exclusivity from purchasing frequencies and licenses from governments. These were licenses to print money. Until Over the To’ developers appeared. Nowadays, companies like Skype, WhatsApp, Google, and Facebook offer free content and communication – call and messaging. Operators are reduced to bit pipes. The telecommunication value-added service business, a multi-billion dollar market, disappeared in just five years! Consider yourself lucky that people still buy books ;-).

Business is evolving and the law can’t stop that. Neither should it. Authors need to adapt. “The slowest runner will be bitten by the dogs,” said Gorbachev, the last president of the USSR.

Mobile telcos and authors need to rethink their businesses. Mobile telcos do, authors not yet. Why? Not because authors aren’t organized and because authors don’t think like businessmen. That’s their nemesis ;-). Organizations like the Author Guild should not take money to court, but invest it in the creation of new business strategies.

Authors and publishers have hidden behind the copyright law as telcos relied on their licenses. It was a cosy couch they slumbered on. Copyright can be even detrimental to success. Paolo Coelho has proven that piracy – the violation of copyright – can be a catalyst for book sales.

These days, business is user driven and who owns the users owns business. That’s what companies like Amazon and Google understand. Instagram was sold for Billions of dollars – a business that did not produce any profit. How was that possible? Facebook did not buy the Instagram app, it could have developed it in a couple of months. Facebook bought Instagram’s users! This is tribal marketing that seem to be partially successful, allowing writers to sell directly to their readers. Again: Google and the like collect and keep customers by giving value for free. How do they make profits? Freemium.

Amazon may abuse book discounting to maintain customer ownership. The inevitable conclusion: Authors need to fundamentally rethink their business and take matters into their own hands, business matter that is, not legal matter.

The key idea: reader ownership.

The vision of a possible solution: An alternative publishing platform collectively supported by authors. Such a platform would allow authors to create their reader tribes and promote their work. Such a platform needs to offer traditional publishing services, like editing, marketing, etc. – the authors’ nemesis, remember? And maybe financial support as well. A self-governed, democratic publishing platform with professionals support? It appears that such a platform – if done well – could turn the table, e.g. even (ab)use Google Books as a marketing platform.

The technical barrier for building such a platform is low. One just needs to create a website and an author app the like of Blinklist. The challenge is reader acceptance. Quite a few attempts of creating such a platform have been made. So far, all failed, at least as far as I can tell. Why? Various reasons. What reasons? Now, we are asking the right question. Who can answer this question? Experts.

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

– R. Buckminster Fuller

Picture attribution: Copyright jirsak / 123RF Stock Photo

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.