Now we know that the good people at Wikipedia are bastards on a par with the self-satisfied tossers at Google and Facebook.
Click on Wikipedia today and you’ll see a page informing you of the horrors of living in a world where there’s no “free knowledge.” That’s the underlying lie of all these big media companies masquerading as heroes of the freedoms of the internet. Because behind all of it is the desire to create cost-free pages around which to place advertisements – the revenues of which go to those big companies.
I’m writing about this here, because it’s as much of a threat to creativity in the crime fiction genre as in any other creative endeavor in which artists attempt to eke out some kind of a living.
Wikipedia joined Facebook and Google in opposing a couple of bills now before the US Congress which would hit international internet piracy. Rupert Murdoch, among others, joined in on the other side of the battle, arguing that newspapers and publishing houses (owned by him, of course) shouldn’t be pillaged by people who want to make money off them without paying the artists and journalists and editors who make them.
But the “new media” assholes seem to have been winning. The White House is opposing key elements of the bills. Blackberry-surfing Barack Obama has evidently been bought off by the bums in Silicon Valley. If he continues to block such bills, it could well be that other media ventures will go the way of the newspaper business (I’m a former journalist who watched as “free” internet access, aggregating by sites like Huffington Post, and pure theft destroyed that industry and put so many of the people I’ve worked with over the years out of a job. Yes, people do lose their jobs when you take what they do and don’t pay them for it.)
There are many examples of how this affects crime fiction writers. Let me give you just a couple in my case. All my novels are published in Norwegian. All of them are out there on the web for a free download in Norwegian. (The Scandinavians are at the heart of the internet piracy con; there’s even a Pirates Party in the Swedish parliament.) But the book wouldn’t be in Norwegian if my publisher in Oslo hadn’t figured on making a small amount of money from it, had it translated, and put it out there. So the “free” information wouldn’t exist, were it not for someone who deserves to put bread on the table in return for providing it.
My latest US novel “Mozart’s Last Aria” just turned up on a free download site. I alerted my publisher, which has started a procedure to have it taken down. Now I’m not a millionaire – not even in Hungarian forint or Israeli shekels – so I need to earn some money off my Mozart novel if I’m to be able to write the next one. Or else that’s another book that won’t exist – or won’t be as good, or will take a lot longer to write, while I find another job with which to feed my family.
Now, I hear some of you rolling out the usual litany of excuses for these racketeering Silicon Valley wankers: Wikipedia is a foundation, not a profit-making company; information wants to be free; people would write books even if they didn’t get paid for them.
Well, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales presumably gets a salary, and I expect it’s rather a good one judging by the proliferation of smug photos of him around the web. No doubt if Wikipedia weren’t able to include copyrighted information on its site without paying, there’d be fewer users and, thus, fewer donors and, thus thus, Mr. Wales wouldn’t be able to swan around in the style to which he has grown accustomed.
As for “information wants to be free,” think of the kind of information you traditionally could get free –– that’s the information that “wants” to be free. Because the rest of it wouldn’t exist if someone didn’t make a little money for producing it. That desireable, important information wouldn’t “want to be free,” unless information also “doesn’t want to exist.”
And finally, creative writers for the most part get paid very little, unless they’re huge bestsellers. Other writers, of nonfiction for example, earn even less. To suggest that writers – or photographers, or filmmakers, or musicians – shouldn’t expect to earn money for what they do goes against the grain of our entire society. Why don’t you go to Ikea and tell them that their Ektorp two-seater sofa “wants to be free”? Or just go to your bank and tell them that the money in the cashier’s till “wants to be free”?
You see, Google and Facebook – and now in a perverse way Wikipedia – have convinced everyone that theft is in all our interests and that people who don’t want to be stolen from are Orwellian monsters who’re against freedom of thought.
Studies show that people will steal as long as they can get away with it. They’ll steal if no one sees them do it. That’s why we need laws passed by Congress –– and other national jurisdictions around the world –– to protect the rights of writers and other creators.
The wait for a successor to Amadeus is over. MOZART’S LAST ARIA by Matt Rees, 2011 www.mattrees.net