kung fu grippe

  1. My first “FAIL!” review

    [CONTEXT: earlier]

    Amazon.com: Merlin D. Mann “merli…’s review of Tweet Nothings (Mini Book) (Charming Petite)

    Oh, look! Apparently, Amazon lets you review the books they sell. Neat. Idea. I’m in.

    Anyways, so, I says to her, I says:

    My stolen “tweets” are hardly “nothing”

    [Note: This book’s unauthorized commercial use of my Twitter posts is the basis for this review]

    As others reviewers have mentioned, this book is primarily a compendium of Twitter posts that were written by people who are not the author. I am one of those people.

    While I’m thrilled that anyone enjoys any of the 4,000 items I’ve written and posted for the entertainment of the 67,000 people who are deranged enough to follow me on Twitter, I’m disappointed that the author, editor, and publisher of this title never bothered to seek any kind of permission before publishing and selling my stuff. And, from what I can gather, I’m neither the only person who got nicked, nor the only person who absolutely does not consider it some big-hearted honor.

    Ephemeral as this material might seem to anyone who didn’t write it—whether to the publisher who essentially stole it, or to the readers who share my grave distaste for the glut of similar shovelbooks—it’s simply not cricket to compile and sell a collection of anything other people have made without asking permission, negotiating a license, and paying a mutually agreeable fee to the creator. Period.

    Everybody’s stuff—even the so-called “nothings”—are still THEIR stuff. And, any decision about how that stuff gets used—especially commercially—is solely THEIR decision. That’s not negotiable. And, I’m pointing enthusiastically at several hundred years’ worth of post-Magna Carta law on this matter to back me up here.

    On the other hand, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m a tireless defender of both fair use and liberal licensing, as well as a vocal critic of IP-obsessed artists and corporations. But, at least in my opinion, there’s a huge difference between what I choose to give away versus what other people unilaterally elect to take from me to sell. If you think that’s a distinction without a difference, imagine a “charity” based on pick-pocketing, or a fast-food chain that incorporates around the model of reselling all the hamburgers and corn on the cob they can manage to steal from your backyard grill.

    Any ethical adult who thinks something is valuable enough to sell necessarily understands that it’s also valuable enough to buy. So, in my own case, all those “free” online writings, videos, and podcasts I’ve “given away” have apparently been valuable enough to someone to form the basis for a comfortable livelihood. I’m insanely grateful for that. Still. That doesn’t mean a bowl of Jolly Ranchers I leave by the door can be scooped into a trash bag and sold at the flea market—simply because someone has a spare trash bag and the bonehead desire to make a fast buck.

    Silly as it may seem to object to someone distributing material that many people consider trivial at best, I think it’s important to the health of ALL free content to point out when somebody’s deliberately abusing a medium’s openness for selfish reasons. That appears to be precisely what’s happening between this book’s oddly-pigmented covers.

    So, while I’m loathe to contribute to this depressing trend of joining a mob to tar a product with a surfeit of one-star “FAIL!” reviews, I’m also way WAY more concerned about the unchecked growth of the carpetbaggers and charlatans who refuse to acknowledge the entirely real distinction between “free to use non-commercially” and “free to sell en masse via unlicensed ‘copy-and-paste.’” That’s just cheesy.

    Finally, I’ll just mention that, like many of this title’s unwitting contributors, I recently received a (form) letter from its—what?—literary “fence,” I guess. They expressed “regret” that they had not sought my permission before publishing my posts.

    That’s a theoretically lovely sentiment. But, as I’ve implied elsewhere (Google: “regret toots book license”), an apology from a burglar only becomes meaningful when he’s returned all your stuff, repaired the window he broke, and promised he’ll never rob nice people again.

    Me? My window’s still broken, my stuff is still stolen and still up for sale, and that ridiculous, xeroxed “apology” I received still seems precisely as credible and clueful as the original decision to deliberately rip off so many talented and entertaining people—140 “nothing” characters at a time.

    Not “sweet.” Not at all.

    [review permalink]

    Care to join me?