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Wednesday, October 19, 2005
 
Neil Gaiman, Copyright and making a living ::

Stephen Garner, source of so many stimulating ideas, pointed me to this gem of a discussion from Neil Gaiman's Journal. The section is untitled, so I'll call it the "Neil Gaiman and iPod ethics" entry:
Neil,
Last week I got an ipod nano. After putting some music on the ipod, I checked out Anansi Boys from my library and copied the audio book CDs onto my ipod. I have been listening to the book as I go about my day. However, I feel guilty, as if I have ripped you off somehow. Is it okay to copy library versions of your books onto my ipod? Have I broken the law?

Thanks in advance for either slapping my wrist or easing my guilty conscience.

A HUGE FAN!
Jeanne


What a wonderful ethical question. I feel almost rabbinical pondering it. No, I don't believe you've broken any law. If you'd checked out the MP3 CD from your library you'd be expected to put it onto your iPod, after all. There's a weird sort of ethical fogginess, in that I suspect that part of the idea of libraries is that when you're done with something you return it, and of course once you have your MP3 on your computer and iPod you can keep it forever. But I think this is just one of those places where changes in technology move faster than the rules.

If you're listening to it, and you've got an iPod or suchlike MP3 player, you're almost definitely going to listen to it on your iPod. That's how things are, and it's a good thing (it's why I got Harper Collins to release American Gods and Anansi Boys on MP3 CD, after all).

Probably wisest not to pull it off your iPod and give it to other people, though. Let them at least take it out of the library themselves.
It's lovely, and generous, I think it deals with the ethical issues pretty well, but it doesn't solve the systemic problem of how producers of such cultural artifacts get paid in the new world...

I'd like to believe that decency, of the sort both Neil and Jeanne display in this conversation holds the answer, but I believe in Sin... People have a deeprooted tendency to act wrongly, just as we have deep in us a desire to act decently. Economics does not seem often to bring out the decent! I can only see two answers, micropayments or advertising. And I hate living in a world of the ubiquitous sales pitch, but that's what the Internet is becoming :(


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