I hid the name of the professional animator who posted this viral Tweet (over 13,000 retweets and 47,000 likes as of this writing); I could tell she hadn’t done it maliciously. And when I directly told her the book had been uploaded by some rando who also uploaded a bunch of other art books, she realized she’d had a blind spot: she’d always thought the Internet Archive was “generally legit.” She then posted replies encouraging people to buy the (totally affordable!) paperback editions of Michel Lauricella’s Morpho series directly from publisher Rocky Nook
But why did she (and the thousands of artists squee-ing in her mentions) have a blind spot?
Part of it is that many young adults seem to suffer from the same misunderstanding as older ones: that anyone with their name on the front of a book is rich. Others seem to think of books as products made by companies, so stealing them must be sticking it to The Man and not, you know, the author. Or that, because it’s difficult to prove how much piracy hurts sales, piracy must be fine!
If I uploaded Lauricella’s illustrations to RedBubble and started selling T-shirts
of it, the art community would denounce me with one voice as a thief. But when Lauricella himself got a book deal to combine many new illustrations with helpful instructive text, suddenly his art became information
that wanted to be free?
Yeah, no; neither Lauricella nor his art wants it to be free. People don’t wanna pay for it do.
The purpose of the Internet Archive is to destroy the idea of intellectual property.
The idea of intellectual property, on planet Earth in the year 2022, is the only way working creatives can afford to eat. In a world where copyright doesn’t exist, the only people who will be able to make books, movies, music, or visual art will be hobbyists and billionaires.
Speaking of, IA’s founder is Brewster Kahle: an MIT grad and 80s/90s tech entrepreneur who collects interest on his wealth and glowing tech-mag profiles
. A new batch of those went up shortly after the lawsuit, decrying how terrible was that authors and publishers would attack Kahle’s noble library.
But the IA’s actions were a deliberate IP troll–just like Amazon’s repeated rights grabs
are designed to suck as much money out of publishing as possible.
Here’s where the non-creatives who don’t know how any of this works tell me I love to lick the boots of my corporate overlords, or something. Not at all! I love a lot of the neckbeardier Web 1.0 ideals of open-standard, open-source, distributed computing–and as I’ve written before about NFT/crypto/blockchain/Web 3.0 technologies
, How Any Of This Works doesn’t work
for many people in the industry whose job title isn’t “Publisher.” We should be exploring any and every alternative.
But authors have been looking at the Internet and asking the companies that own all the printing presses what they would say they do here, exactly
, for decades. Technology still hasn’t provided writers a way to be both Authors and Eaters that doesn’t involve either licensing the results of our intellectual labor to publishers or doing lots more
up-front, unpaid, potentially fruitless labor beyond the actual writing of the books.
Kahle’s passion project, the hobby he sinks millions every year
into pursuing, is making either route to a living wage impossible. Until we live in a post-scarcity techno-utopia where artists and their families can live comfortably without trading the fruits of their labor for money, people need to stop going to that dude’s website and assuming whatever they find on there is somehow “legit.”