Confessions Of A Dirty Old Pro

I confess that, not having come up through fandom in the US, I was a many-years published writer when I first got called a “dirty old pro.”  Interestingly it was the same year that it seemed to be fashionable to accuse me of selling out and of writing for money… even by other people who wrote for money.

I haven’t thought about it in a long, long time.  But lately there have been a series of events that contributed to rub me the wrong way like a stone in my shoe.  Nothing that would get me to the “argh” level, but a bunch of little things that just annoyed me.  People calling other people “hacks” because they write for a living, say.  Or people claiming that those who write this or that “aren’t real writers.”  And then yesterday, in the Passive Guy’s excellent blog, as they were discussing a writer’s disgust with the current traditional field and prospects of making it (in other words someone who is where I was) some young lady (Oh, I hope to heaven she’s young) opined that we writers would write anyway and that in any case “no one can hope to make a living from writing.”  And I blew up, which is something I REALLY don’t like to do in other people’s blogs.

Kris Rusch has talked about writers “liking” to work for free.  I don’t completely agree with her post, simply because well… yeah, I give things away free here and on Amazon.  I do it for a reason.  Kris is better known than I am.  I figure the short story a week (tab at the top) and Witchfinder might bring in people to read my other books and stories, particularly the indie published ones (Goldport Press) which pay me a lot more than the traditional stuff right now.  And some of you have been kind enough to donate for Witchfinder, which, of course, keeps it going.  Also, I’ve discovered that giving away some things on Amazon increases sales not only of that item but of all others vaguely related.

But these are not so much “giveaways” as loss leaders.  And mark my words, should I find that Witchfinder, when it goes up (probably end of April at the rate the writing is going) sells no better than my other “indie” properties, I won’t give away another novel.  And same for short stories, should they not promote my other short work.  (Which means shouldn’t the sales on that increase.)  (OTOH if Witchfinder sells massively better than the other stuff, I will do a novel chapter a week as long as it works.)

I hear you saying “But don’t you like to write this stuff and see our reaction?”

Well, yes and no.  Yes, I love writing and having instant feedback.  That is why I did the Austen fanfic during one of the darkest times in my career, when I thought I’d NEVER ever ever get published.  But note – I did Austen fanfic, not original stuff.  I did it when I felt like – and wrote maybe 1k words a week, if I was in the mood – I barely proofread (my early stories have so many contradictions, they’re pretzels) and I didn’t ANGST over them.  I posted, I got comments, I painted walls and fixed the house (we were living in a house that we’d bought in need of a lot of fixing) I walked with the kids, I took weekends off.  It was a hobby.  Some people do crochet or embroider (okay, I do both of those too), some people take up ceramic painting.  I satisfied my need to write with minimum effort.  And for no money.

But that lasted maybe six months.  Mind you, I needed those six months (for one I was also recovering from severe illness.)  After that, I decided not to give up and started trying to write for publication again.  That’s a completely different endeavor: I started studying books, again, not just reading them for fun – figuring out techniques and how people did what.  I started working nine to five again… and occasionally till five in the morning, while my family sleeps.  I started having writers/critique meetings again.  I held myself to a production schedule.  And I worked towards being paid, which meant proofreading, consistency reading, professional presentation, etc.

In a year after that, I sold my first short story to see print (I’d sold one before.  Eight times.  Long story.)  And in another year after that I sold my first novel.

Since then, writing has been my job.  And like anyone with a job, I expect to be paid.

Mind you, my expectation is based on the idea that I’m better than the average Joe-schmo, off the street; that the work, study and application I put into this make a difference.

This is not to say, btw, that some of the fan writers, notably on the Austen board aren’t very good.  Sofie Skapski who wrote A Touch Of Night with me, is one such.  BUT the essence of fan writing is that stories will stay unfinished if life intervenes, that you write only when you feel like, and that ultimately you need another job to survive.  (Sofie is a very talented artist.  Any of you who decide to friend her on FB, she often posts pictures of her art.  And I’m very lucky, because she sends me lovely little paintings for xmas.)

Also, as a note, it took me thirteen years of steady application to break into the field.  I will grant you a lot of this was less studying the craft – or at least the reason it took me so long was not so much that I didn’t know the craft (How do I know that?  Because I’ve now sold two of the novels that I wrote in that time, and countless of the shorts, to pro markets, and some are considered my finest work.) but because the field as it was required networking and some effort at proving to the editors that you were a real human being and at worst only mildly eccentric.  But that, like going to a college you have to take courses that have no bearing on your future career, was part of the coming up process, and often much harder on me than (just) writing.

Am I complaining about this?  Complaining about working regular (actually very irregular.  I think if you assemble all my days off, I take maybe ten a year, including holidays.  I’ve been trying to take more recently, simply because it seems to keep me healthy longer.) hours?  Complaining about having to network?  Complaining about studying my craft?

No.  I really am not.  I’m just saying that if I’m not going to get paid for it, I’m going to treat writing as a hobby.

Think about it, your average multipublished author is a highly skilled craftsman/woman.  There are several of these around in other fields too.  I used to live in a mountain town that had tons of potters.  Were they all better than the non-pro potters?

Probably not.  There is such a thing as inspired genius.  In my lifetime I’ve known three or four unpublished people who wrote at pro level.  (One of those my older son at twelve.  He later went on to be a pro. ) But – and I presume the same happens with amateur potters – their production was irregular, and, to be blunt, they wrote what they wanted to and didn’t overthink it.  That meant one book might be brilliant and the next “OMG, what were you thinking?” weird.
Meanwhile the professional potters were constant.  They worked at their craft, they improved, they made enough for the local stores to carry.  After a while, living in town, if you wanted a particularly nice platter to give as a gift, you knew whom to talk to or what store to go to.

And I never, in my whole time in Manitou, heard someone say “Hey, you just got to make pottery.  You don’t expect to make a living at it.”  Or “I’m sorry I charge $120 for a saucer.  I would have made it anyway, even without pay.  You want to give me $5 for it?  Cool!”

Now, like most writers, most of these potters probably made a precarious living.  That still didn’t make them apologize or think their work should be free.

Besides, let’s take that reasoning to other professions where people just feel like they have to do it.  Let’s say, programmers.  Most of the ones I know fool around with computers in their off time.  A lot of them, particularly young ones, are lousily paid.  Do people ever say “Hey, programming is just something you have to do.  You don’t expect to make a living”?  Teaching – I KNOW, I love teaching, which is why I fall into doing it on this blog.  Once upon a time I tried to make teaching my profession and writing my hobby, instead of the way it worked out – do you ever hear anyone say “I just got to teach.  I don’t expect to make a living at it.”  Doctoring… don’t let’s go there, because some people THINK that would be lovely.

This ties in with another discussion going around, which is about copyright.  I’ve stated here that I’m perfectly fine with copyright being, say, life plus 25 years.  I know I have friends – some puzzlingly childless – who want it to be forever and ever.  And then last night in a blog I came across the other side of this, the people who think that it should be granted at most for 15 years, and then the work should be free.  (And it should only be granted if the work “benefits mankind” – which is one of those shave the barber questions.  Who decides?  In one of the worst days of my life, reading Good Omens kept me sane and possibly alive.  Does that mean it benefitted mankind?)

One of the commenters on that blog didn’t get pulverized because I was out of laser-vision-powers.  He said something like “Why do I have to work everyday and a guy writes a song and expects to be paid the rest of his life?”

Do I have to explain that to you people?  Why I expect to be paid for a story ‘for the rest of my life’?  Well, it’s a lot like pharmaceutical companies.

Look, you get paid everyday because someone else is buying your time.  NO ONE BUYS MY TIME.  What that means is that I don’t get rewarded for sitting at the computer and writing.  Instead, I have to sell what I write.  The ratio of sales/non sales has increased.  Well, obviously.  Say, 1998.  I labored all year, and I sold a short story for $60.  Now my income is about 10k per novel (sometimes 12, but the mysteries pay worse.)  What it will be for the indie stuff I don’t know.  With somewhere between 20 and 30 short stories/collections out with Goldport Press (the number varies per outlet) I’m making about $100 or $150 a month.  This is not bad, for drawer-stories and stories I was already paid for, but it’s not, of course, a living.  I’m told novels pay much better than shorts, though, so… as soon as I have time I’m gonna try.  At any rate, the point is that I don’t get paid for everything I write.  At this point in time, I get paid what could be considered sort of “professionalish” rates for 50% of it.  And I don’t know if I’ll ever see another dime from the things that went traditional after the advance (experience suggests no) and who knows how long it will take for the indie stuff to pay off?

Complaining again?  Oh, heck no.  Just explaining it’s not a straightforward exchange of time for money.  Like something that takes a lot of time and money and might or might not pay off – medicine or for that matter pharmaceutical research – writing professional novels could suddenly pay off spectacularly.  I could write a novel that sells so massively that I never need to work again.  (Yes, of course, I still would.)  And of course then my entire backlist, including potboilers would sell and pay off.  And the chances of that happening increase the longer things are in copyright and the more I write.  And the chance of that happening keeps me writing, and kept me writing even when the compensation sucked and the psychological atmosphere in the field was somewhere between a bridge clustered with suicides and a madhouse.

To the extent that my fans appreciate my work (I hope they do) they should be grateful that copyright gives me hope of hitting the big time, sometime.

Why the twenty five years after death then?  Surely by that time I’m no longer producing?

Well, no.  But that doesn’t mean no one is alive who deserves compensation for what I produced.  First, though I’ve said more than once that my kids can make their own money, I don’t know if I’ll predecease my husband.  We’re of an age, and I suppose I could drop dead tomorrow, just short of fifty, and he could live as his family tends to, into his nineties.  He can easily outlive me by 25 years or more.

Look, let’s not get sappy here, but I wouldn’t be writing at all if he hadn’t encouraged me.  I wouldn’t ever have got published if he hadn’t pushed.  When I lost heart, he was my mobile, portable self-confidence unit.  Three years ago he told me “Keep trying.  Give it at least another five years” when I wanted to walk away from it all.  And yeah, he endured years with a wife who didn’t “work”, or at least not get paid for work, while at the same time having to pitch in with house and kids because his wife worked constant “overtime”; years of a lifestyle below what our peers had, because I was pursuing this thing.  We’ve never taken European vacations.  Heck, we’ve never really taken vacations.  Our idea of a rip-roaring good time is two nights at embassy suites in Denver with the boys on the pull-out-sofa and hitting museums and eating one meal a day at a diner.  Real luxury there. (We go to Embassy Suites because if we get up late, we can make do without lunch.)  Give us three nights, and we think we’re in heaven.  (That’s happened twice in the last twenty years.)  For the last twenty years, we’ve bought our clothes in thrift stores, eat 99% of our meals at home, and I cook from scratch because it’s cheaper.  We’ve bought our furniture used and refinished/repurposed it. With the exception of my kindle, we buy our tech downmarket and used.  We buy used cars and drive them until they stop.  All so I could pursue the possibility that my writing would pay off big sometime.  I’m not complaining.  It was my choice.  And Dan’s choice.  BUT we did make sacrifices in pursuit of this chance.  And he made as many as I did.

Should writing pay off the year after I’m dead, he deserves the pay off.  Should it pay off to any extent, even if not big, if it can help his retirement, he earned it.

Life plus twenty five years gives me the chance to do what everyone wants to do, I think – work and provide for my family.  After that, the kids and grandkids can get off their duffs and make their own money.

Now, the other side of this is stuff like when Kevin Anderson put a donate button on his blog, and people told him “I’m not donating because you have more money than I do.”

Do I have more money than you do?  Well, I suppose, than a lot of you.  Not that we’re even close to rolling (or to what people consider a prudent rate of savings) but given the economy I think a lot of you are into negative numbers.  Mind you, part of this is that we scrimp and save madly.  And twice in the last twenty years, the cupboard has been bare (and once Jim Baen came through with a check one month before we would be out of a house.  Which I hope has been taken in account if there’s some sort of judgement in the ever-after).

But while Dan has a job, he will make more than at least some of you.  That’s not the point.  The point is that my work, too, deserves pay.  Yes,  a few of you get my stuff for free when I finish it, but that’s because we’re friends and I know you can’t afford it.

The thing is, when I ask for donations, I’m not asking because I’m poorer than you.  It is not a charity thing (even if a lot goes to the perpetually hard-case cats.)  I’m not asking for money because I make less than you (though in aggregate, if you count the years of flat nothing and the five or so years of less than 1k a year, I probably do make/have made less than a lot of you.  Certainly less than minimum wage.)  I want to get paid because I work for it, and I provide value-added.

Does this mean you should pay me whether you like my stuff or not?  Whether you read it or not?  Oh, please.  No.  I don’t believe things are worth the work you put into them.  That’s Marxist nonsense, not applicable to the real world.

I believe things are worth what an informed purchaser is willing to pay.  So, you should pay me if you read my stuff regularly and derive value/pleasure/instruction from it.  And because writing is my job.  And if I do it well, you’ll want to pay me.  And if I don’t do it well enough to be paid, I’ll have to find another job and give this up.

And why should you pay me?  Because then I keep doing it.  And because you like what I do.  It’s kind of like buying a chicken at the supermarket.  Do you do it because the farmer is poor and needs support?  Or do you fail to do it because the farmer would raise chickens, anyway?

No, you buy the chicken because you need it – or want to have nice lemon chicken for dinner (okay, I make lemon chicken a lot.) – and the farmer produces it because he gets paid.  This works wonderfully because then the farmer will produce more chickens.  And you’ll have a chicken right there when you need it.

Is this a threat to stop blogging if you don’t hit that donate button (on the right side, to the bottom of the blog [grin])?  No.  Well, not while I have time and disposition to blog.  So far I enjoy blogging, and I’m going on the assumption it’s a loss leader, getting my name out there.

Does it mean I’ll do it forever if I never get donations and my book sales bear no relation to blog hits?  Um…  Bluntly, no.  Like creatures who don’t spend their days in front of the keyboard, I need to live.  And if this will not pay, I’ll write another story a week which might pay when it goes up on Amazon or I might even (shudder) get honest work.  Because I have two kids in college and, well, you know what the economy is…

For now, I can afford to blog for free, for your amusement (and hopefully my increased name recognition.)  BUT don’t say “she’d write anyway.  She shouldn’t expect to be paid.”

I’m a writer.  Writing is my job.  I get paid for it.  I work to support my family and provide for my kids’ future and my and my spouse’s old age.  If I also enjoy what I’m doing, that’s a plus, but it’s not a reason to stop paying me.  Or to stop expecting to be paid.

The laborer is worthy of his pay.  Even if all he makes are stories, and even if all he does is lighten your spirits for an hour or so.

25 thoughts on “Confessions Of A Dirty Old Pro

  1. Sarah, I whole-heartedly sympathise with where you’re coming from here.

    I’ve only been starting to take my writing seriously for a little over a year now, and I know I’m still learning and not writing at the best standard I can yet. I publish my short stories on my blog in the hope of getting feedback to improve, although I rarely get feedback on any of them. I’m resigned to the fact that I’m unlikely to get paid to write until I eventually finish one of the novels I’m planning, or possibly a short film.
    As such I’m currently running my writing “business” at a loss, having spent a fair bit of money on a whole heap of books for research, pleasure and learning. If I were to look at the situation in terms of money made against hours spent in process that business will always run at a loss.

    Sadly the same is true for my “real” job. I’m a stage manager/theatre tech by trade and I currently don’t have the reputation to pull the big, properly paid jobs. There’s this hideous ongoing culture, “work for us for free/expenses and it’ll look great on your CV”, and those that do pay tend to offer a sum that’s below minimum wage because once the show is running you’ll only be working 4 hours an evening, they quite happily forget the week of 12-18 hour days you put in to get the show on it’s feet.

    I know I can’t get away with putting a donate button on my blog yet, but it would be nice for all of us to see some revenue off our hardwork.

  2. And then last night in a blog I came across the other side of this, the people who think that it should be granted at most for 15 years, and then the work should be free. (And it should only be granted if the work “benefits mankind”)

    Oh dear. You met one of those, did you. It constantly surprises me that people like that can walk and chew gum at the same time.


  3. Well said. You are not some bleeding amateur, but a professional (which is a complement, btw), and you darn well should rightly expect to get paid like any other professional in any other field.

    Writers as a class sometimes startle me by their ignorance of commerce. Had I kept writing out of school instead of pursuing my own business (really businesses, as I made a lot of mistakes back then) I might be in the same boat. Now, coming back to the field I find some of the entrenched ideas quite perverse, and counter to what the rest of the world does. Thankfully you have moved past (or were never a part of) that junk, which is one of the reasons I enjoy your blog so much. Thank you.

  4. I agree, except for one tiny point. Programmers do work for free on Open Source projects. They do it either as a loss leader (something to show future employers) or because they want the tool they’re building for their own use.

    Copyrights are nearly unenforceable with modern technology. I don’t care – I’ll still pay for books that are worth it.

    1. I agree, except for one tiny point. Programmers do work for free on Open Source projects. They do it either as a loss leader (something to show future employers) or because they want the tool they’re building for their own use.

      Like hell they do. Almost all of the Free Software/Open Source programmers I know work for someone like IBM, and are being paid by IBM to program things like the Linux Kernel, or Libre Office Suite as a full time job. Free/Open Source Software is a paying proposition bucko.


      1. Like hell they do. Almost all of the Free Software/Open Source programmers I know work for someone like IBM, and are being paid by IBM to program things like the Linux Kernel, or Libre Office Suite as a full time job. Free/Open Source Software is a paying proposition bucko.
        Well depends on the project. But there are plenty of FOSS projects where some or all of the major contributors are not paid for their efforts except (possibly) for google-like support of personal projects. The basic building blocks (linux kernels/distros etc.) are I agree as you describe but there are plenty of things elsewhere that aren’t.

        1. I think you’ll find that almost everything major is covered that way. Odd stuff, like the sector editor I wrote because I needed a special one that would do what I wanted, isn’t (I was editing the save files for a specific game). But that sort of thing is not going to draw major support.

          Name a FOSS project, and I’ll tell you if there is corporate sponsorship. I write computer industry articles, and I know about most of the major projects. Heck, I’ve written about a lot of them.

          You’d be surprised at where there is sponsorship. It makes good business sense to share costs, rather than to have to do all the development work yourself.


          1. You’re right, for the major ones. But most of the major ones started out pretty minor. Linus might be making a living from Linux today, but he didn’t when he got started – and I doubt he expected he will. The same is probably true for Emacs, and possibly Apache.

            1. These days the corporate sector are looking for projects to support that will cut their costs. Take Sun’s original purchase of Star Division for example. It enabled them to stop buying Microsoft Office licenses, and saved them a bundle. They then released it as Free Software (GPL/LGPL) and it is one of the reasons I’ve projected Microsoft’s eventual bankruptcy. Microsoft Office accounts for over half of Microsoft’s profits. Take it away, and the company is in deep trouble, they can’t live on Windows alone, especially with Apple eating up larger amounts of OS market share every year. FYI, I wear another hat. Futurist.

              So if you come up with a good idea for a project, and get it started, it is often an easy sell. Linux owns Hollywood, all of the fancy CGI you see is done on Linux workstations. Apache owns the web, IIS is dying. WordPress and Blogger own blogging, Microsoft’s proprietary blogging platform is dead.

              The world has changed from twenty years ago. Free Software is big and professional now. You are thinking of the bad old days GRIN.


    2. Yes, of course programmers do. Dan just did a program to track our numbers through various outlets and presses (since he and Robert will be bringing their own presses Mankind Ink and Tilted Fedora online soon.) He’ll try to sell it, but primarily he wrote it for himself. And I’ve in the past sent money to programmers who did stuff that allowed one to keep track of submissions and put it out as shareware contributions requested. BUT again, they are doing it as loss leader, they don’t expect to not be able to make a living from programming.
      And lest you think this is a matter of my protesting against piracy, it’s not. It’s the idea some writers just tell publishers “I’ll do it for free. Don’t bother paying me.” This alone contributes greatly to the fact that advances are in free fall, in the face of unprecedented profits. It contributes to fishy statements never being contested and getting fishier. It contributes to the disrespect my profession is treated with by our employers. And I, for one, ain’t gonna take it anymore.

      1. Agreed. I’ve released stuff like that myself, usually save game editors. Back when I still gamed, I wrote save game editors for all of the Gold Box AD&D games, and a lot of other stuff

        Ever hear of a + 5 Helm of Fireballs? Wonderful little toy. Along with +5 Plate Armour of Fireballs, +5 Long Sword of Fireballs, and +5 Shield of Fireballs my Fighter was well tricked out. And no, Pool of Radiance didn’t come with those options, but with a little tweaking of the save game file…

        It was fun doing it. It was a lot of fun going up against a bunch of Kobolds with that. Instead of Kobold is dead the message was Kobold is gone!.

        As to those companies who do that. How about you hit them with the Minoan manuscript?


  5. Great points, Sarah. I have to admit that I stay “amateur” and plan to continue as such because I know that to move into writing as a job I would have to treat it as a job including doing things like a blog like this. I don’t want to do that, so I keep my attempts at fiction as a hobby and write when I have time, or I need to write to deal with stuff going on in my life. Maybe someday I will want to be a “writer”, maybe not. But if I do, I know I’ll look to folks like you to point the way to doing it well.

  6. I really appreciate the numbers on this post. I’ve thought for a long while that the best way for readers to understand that they ought to pay their pushers (err favorite authors) is to make clear
    a) how much work goes into the creation and
    2) how little $$$ come out
    It’s also why I’m massively in favor of indie publishing because more $$$ goes to the author per book. That %age is also a useful number to have clearly shown so those of us who have a choice of where to buy can buy at the shop that gives the most to the author (so the MGC post yesterday was v helpful).

    The laborer is certainly worth his pay, but without feedback one may feel that the laborer is getting hsi pay from others and hence doesn’t need one’s own contribution

    1. Oh, if you want numbers, I can give you numbers in tomorrow’s post. Baen is probably my highest-payer. The mysteries are next but the last refinishing mystery only paid 5k, citing “issues with the market.” So… so, nothing. Unless they pay SIGNIFICANTLY more for the option (and I doubt it) it comes out from PROBABLY Naked Reader Press (since they’re doing the kittens which is a sister series.) Meanwhile, the vampire musketeers are 3k a piece advance, medium press and SUPPOSEDLY will make it up in royalties. I don’t know. I didn’t at the time I sold know I had any other options. (Shrug.) It’s an experiment.

  7. Oooo! ::slow burn:: I have a tendency to get intemperate and incoherent when people assert they have a moral right to tell me what I can do with something *I MADE*. Scroom.


  8. Dirty… well, I don’t know about you, but that’s where my mind is. Old – I’m getting there. Pro – I’m getting there as well.

    So I guess that’s a good thing, right?

  9. If it helps, I’m pretty well read, but I’d never heard of you or any of your books until I followed a link to one of your blogs on a writing topic. That was about a year ago. After reading your blog, I’ve now read 80% of your books (per wikipedia listings).

    So from my perspective, your “loss leader” is doing very well. I especially like the auto-biographical and writing posts.

    Of course, I also skip over the chapter at a time posts because I dislike reading something that slowly. I’m one of those types who try to read a while series all at once and hate to have to wait for a book. I may get the ebook or read them all for free once you’re done, but reading something as slow as a chapter a day would drive me crazy. 🙂

    1. Yes, I know a lot of people hate to read a chapter at a time. I’m only used to it because of austen fanfic. Also, Baen people are used to snippets. And yes, I think my blog posts are working. For now . I was just explaining that while it might look like I’m doing this for “fun” it is part of my job, and my job aims to make a living.

  10. A number of years ago the local news reported on sexual assault charges against a man who had given two young damsels hitch-hiking, taken them through a McDonalds for fries & shake and somehow concluded this “entitled” him to the young ladies favours. That is the sort of thinking I perceive reflected in the arguments of those claiming writers don’t need to be paid (“it only encourages them.”)

    Life plus 25 is the current standard for copyright; if it were just life I don’t doubt some publishers would “hit” their writers just to avoid the royalties (which are largely fiction, anyway.) Reducing that 25 would inflict harm on writers who had relied upon that standard and provide scant public benefit; extending it would similarly provide no significant gain to the majority of authors and — look, it is an arbitrarily chosen time period and any alternative is equally arbitrary so just leave it alone, okay?

    I find it handy for people to complain about paying for their entertainments, especially as we are no longer allowed to publicly affix labels to them declaring them morally & mentally deficient. Oddly enough, with the popularity of tattooing it appears many of them are self-labeling (GD&R.)

    1. Except that in that as in everything else we’re going with “international law” — I don’t know how long Europe is, right now, and I’m too lazy to google it, but I THINK it’s life plus seventy five, and that’s insane. We might be life plus fifty in the states now. Does anyone know? I know everytime the Mouse is about to fall out of copyright it gets extended.

      1. No, the United States isn’t going with International Law. International Law is Life plus 50. The Sonny Bono extension took it beyond that by twenty years, mostly to the benefit of the Walt Disney Corporation.

        Here is a chart on copyright terms around the world.

        There is a lot of stuff going on right now that writers may not know about. Since I write about copyright, and I also have my own tiny recording studio, I’m tapped into the music side as well.

        Did you know that when the American Congress changed one of the copyright laws a while back, that they included a clawback provision, which would allow artists to take back their copyrights? All of the major labels are affected, and I know that all of the major acts have already filed their papers to reclaim their copyrights.

        To prevent this from happening, a Congressional staffer added some text to the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999 defining all sound recordings as Works for Hire. Curiously the staffer, Mitch Glazier, was almost immediately hired by the Recording Industry of America, where I believe he still works.

        Here is where it applies to writers. The same rules were used by the creators of Superman to take back some of their rights from DC comics. So if you are a writer, who has signed one of the current insane legacy contracts, you could, in time, attempt to get your rights back.

        However I am not a lawyer, and you really need to talk to one who specializes in Intellectual Property Law.

        Which goes away from what I started to say. Too many painkillers this morning. If anyone has a good, sharp battle axe handy, I’m consider getting this leg amputated. The pain is at the OMG range this morning. And I can’t remember what I started out with. C’est la vie.


        1. FYI – because of a massive outcry from musicians the change to the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999 was revoked.

          Here’s Billboard’s coverage

          Statement of the United States Registrar of Copyrights before Congress

          Open letter from ASCAP President Marilyn Bergman to Congress

          It didn’t of course address how a Congressional Staffer could add a change to a bill, without the politicians knowledge, and the change become law. Of course the shear complexity of some of these bills makes them virtually unreadable.


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