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John Scalzi Defends Ethicist Randy Cohen’s Piracy Stance

underthedome.jpgIn one of the most controversial links ever placed on this site, author Randy Cohen drew the ire of publishers with his weekly NY Times column on ethics. Cohen told a reader it was permissible to illegally download a copy of Under the Dome by Stephen King once they had purchased the hardcover edition of the book.

Earlier this week, novelist John Scalzi defended the column in a long post that has already generated more than one hundred comments. Here’s an excerpt: “Personally I think Cohen is pretty much correct. Speaking for myself (and only for myself), when I put out a book and you buy it for yourself in whatever format you choose to buy it in, the transactional aspect of our relationship is, to my mind, fulfilled. You bought the book once and I got paid once; after that if you get the book in some other format for your own personal use, and I don’t get paid a second time, eh, that’s life.”

The entire essay is worth reading. Add your thoughts in the comments section.


Cursor founder Richard Nash also contributed a brief commentary on the issue in our comments section. Here is the complete text: “Laws fail all the time, when society fails to see their legitimacy. I’m not fan of Cohen’s but he’s the Ethicist, not the publishing industry advocate, and he’s delineating the collapse in social legitimacy faced by a law that grants people and corporations temporary monopolies in what would otherwise be a cultural commons in order to advance the arts and sciences. The copyright industries are losing this one, because they are doing little to justify this government-granted monopolies.

“Incidentally, those who demand these copyright laws be maintained for the sake of the health of the publishing business would do well to recall that the American print publishing business is built on pirating British editions of books.”

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