I was very amused recently to see that Julia Schramm, a national executive committee member of Germany’s anti-IP Pirate Party, was being slammed with criticism for releasing a book and then having her publisher go after unapproved online copies. One one hand, she appears very willing to publicly hate the “content mafia” (her words) and see intellectual property as a “disgusting” term, but then along comes a publisher with a big (100k Euro) advance and she signs the contract that puts her book under those very IP laws she claims to hate.
She claims that in 10 years the IP rights will revert to her and then the book will be available for free online, but that’s not exactly a purist view on the whole minimal copyright thing. In that 10 years she will have made her money and the book will be mostly forgotten, so it’s a weak gesture.
I’ve seen some defence of Schramm as saying that it is her publisher Albrecht Knaus Verlag (who are owned by Random House) that is going after those illicit online copies, not Schramm, but this misses the point – Schramm signed the contract that gave her publisher those rights. She didn’t have to sign the contract. Schramm could have written the book without signing the contract, got no advance and then released it under a Creative Commons (or similar) arrangement, if she so believed in the Pirate Party’s platform of legalising “noncommercial copying, publishing, storage and use of works to improve the overall availability of information, knowledge and culture, as this represents an essential prerequisite for the social, technical and economic development of our society“. Instead, she signed the contract and took the money.
The book has even been pulled off the Pirate Party website with an explanation and a note that you can buy the book on Amazon Germany for about 17 Euros. (I can’t help but think that at least a few people at Albrecht Knaus Verlag / Random House have had some very long laughs this week over this issue.)
This kind of behaviour just reinforces the belief that pirates are all for taking other people’s work, but when it comes to losing their own they suddenly want the very protection they used to decry.