Some Background on My New Project
Jonathan Coulton Did Not Get Ripped Off

Ebook Pirate Logic

Today I received a message on Kickstarter inquiring into the copyright status of Enter the Bluebird.

The message came from an account bearing the name of a site where one can download ebooks for free.  This account has not started or backed any projects on Kickstarter.  But I'm sure it's legit and not at all sleazy!  I ran a search on their site and found one of my books available to download for free on the site.  I am quite sure the publisher did not give permission for the book to be distributed in this fashion.

"So now you care about copyright all the sudden?" I sent back.

I received a lengthy missive in return. I shall summarize its contents here.

1.We like books and authors!  We have vague plans to do some author-friendly stuff with our site in the future!

2.If you see one of your copyrighted books on our site and you haven't authorized its presence, we make it very easy for you to tell us to take it down.

3.If you see your book on our site, you can bet it's on other pirate sites as well. You should probably deal with us because at least we deign to communicate with you. Also, by the way, we are not a pirate site.

4. By the way, neither I nor any of my staff have ever uploaded copyrighted work onto our servers.  Though, you know, some of our users may have.

I was moved by the logic and moral clarity of these arguments, so I decided to try them out for myself! I marched into my local CVS and asked to speak to the manager.  What follows is a transcript of our conversation.

Brendan Halpin: I love drugstores. 

CVS Manager: I'm so glad.  Thank you.

BH: I'm going to start giving condoms away.

CM: Uh. Okay. Why?

BH: Because it's a new age, and condoms want to be free!  People deserve to be able to get condoms for free. I mean, some people can't afford condoms!  You claim to care about people's health, but you'd deny condoms to people with no money?

CM:Not at all.  There are plenty of places to get free condoms.  Like at Planned Parenthood, or a local clinic.

BH: I'm calling my thing a clinic.

CM: But it's not.

BH: It certainly is.  Clinics give condoms away. I give condoms away. Therefore I am a clinic!

CM: I disagree.

BH: Whatever. The point is that condoms should be free.

CM: And those who want free condoms already have access to them.

BH: But it's not always super convenient for people to get to the clinic!

CM: And?

BH: Didn't you hear me? I said, It's...Not...Always...Convenient! 

CM: Well, there are clinics in nearly every municipality in the country.  But, admittedly, they don't have two legs like you and can't actually walk up to someone.  But why are you telling me this?

BH: I can mention CVS when I give away the condoms.

CM: Well, that's very kind. We can always use the business.  Where are you getting these condoms, by the way?

BH: My users are going to give me condoms to give to other people.

CM: And where are they getting the condoms?

BH:  That's their business!  But don't worry! If you find that I'm distributing condoms that were stolen from your shelves, you can tell me, and I'll stop distributing them!

CM: So I'm supposed to search your inventory periodically to see if you've got anything that's been stolen from me?

BH: It's more than the law requires.

CM: Is it, now?

BH: Probably. But you know, people are going to steal from you regardless.

CM: Yes, I suppose that's true.

BH: Your anti-theft technology is ridiculously easy to hack.  I can open a box of condoms and take the magnetic strip out.  Or I don't even have to bother.  Nobody looks twice when the anti-theft alarm at the door goes off.

CM: That is certainly true.

BH: So people will steal from you.  You should probably deal with me because at least I like you.  I'm here talking to you!  That's proof of my good intentions!  I mean, other people will be stealing from you, and at least, unlike them, I'm a nice guy. Like I said, I'll mention CVS!

CM: But if people steal our condoms, how will we make money on them?

BH: Money?  It's not about money!  It's about exposure! Distribution!  Making sure that condoms get into the hands of as many people as possible!

CM: But who's going to pay?

BH: This is a new era, Mr. Brontosaurus.  In case you haven't noticed.  People aren't just going to pay for stuff because your hidebound old business model requires it. If people like you enough, they'll give you some money!

CM: Even though they can get my products for free.

BH: Yes!  It's called branding, genius.  You know?  Building your tribe?  Creating value?  Do these words mean anything to you?

CM: Not really, no.  But if nobody pays for condoms, who's going to manufacture them?

BH: Somebody will. People want condoms, and people want the satisfaction that comes with knowing their condoms are out in the world doing good.  Who knows what the future looks like?  But condoms will survive!

CM: But the fine people at Trojan, Durex and other companies who currently make the high-quality condoms you enjoy will lose their jobs.  These are real people with families and bills to pay.

BH: Puh-leeze. I'm disruptive technology, okay?  Now are you going to get on board, or do I just leave you to the other thieves? Not that I'm a thief, mind you.

CM: I think I want you to get the hell out of my store.

BH: I guess some people just can't adapt to the future.