I’m referring everyone I can to these two blog posts, because if you own intellectual property it’s important to know your rights.
First, Copyright is People, a guest post by Michael Capobianco for Writer Beware™ blogs:
Next is a post by Neil Gaiman, Important. And Pass It on…:
In the second post there is a link to a very basic will that all IP owners should take a look at.
Intellectual property is just like any other property you own: It’s yours. You can do whatever you want with it.
Say you go into your attic and find a stunning piece of Ming Dynasty pottery. It’s yours, you own it. You can put it on display in your living room if you like. You can sell it at auction. You can give it as a present. Or you can leave it in your attic.
You can even smash it to bits if you’d like, though I wouldn’t recommend it.
After all, it’s yours.
Intellectual property is the same. If an author wants to sell or lease the rights, they can. If the author wants to sit on the work and never let it see the light of day, that’s within their legal rights as well. If they want to gift the rights, or will them to their children, they can do that, too.
No one can come into your house, go up to your attic, take that Ming vase and say, “This is ours now to share with the public. After all, you weren’t using it.”
This is not a use it or lose it situation.
Your copyright extends seven decades after your death for a reason. Because it’s property your family can benefit from. It protects the right of your heirs to continue to reproduce and profit from the work.
Essentially, as a writer you are a business. And like any small business you can leave it to your family after you’re gone. Or sell it while you’re still alive. Or dismantle it all together.
Don’t let any amount of hand-waving and talk of “the benefit of the community” take that from you. Writing is not a civic duty. If you want to give your work away for free that’s your prerogative, but no one gets to force your hand.
No one else is made to work hard for “exposure” and “good feelings” alone. Why should we?
What do you all think about this situation with HathiTrust? Have you ever encountered someone who felt writers should naturally write for little or even for free?
I saw a comment on another blog the other day where someone cited $25 as “normal” compensation for a short story. Sheesh.
ETA: P.S. If you support copyright, please comment on the Writer Beware blog post to make sure your feelings are known. The more people stand up in favor of copyright, the less other people will be able to infringe upon it with impunity.