Thursday, October 1, 2009

Um? Huh? Wha?

I like Ian Thal just fine, but this post is a total mystery to me (via). To quote:
In other words, "I'm looking for a free version of your work-in-progress." This, irked me as I am also a writer, I don't take kindly to people nicking my work. More importantly, I have had my work nicked (blog entries reposted elsewhere without attribution, book reviews quoted or reprinted without attribution or permission, et cetera) but this was the first time somebody had the chutzpah to tell me, "I would like to nick your work, because it sounds really interesting!" This is despite the fact that I am already making the effort to put my work out for a public viewing.
To Ian, nick may mean something different from what it means to me, but generally, this works:
(transitive, slang) To steal. Someone's nicked my bike!
But, in this context, well, that just doesn't make any sense. Is the fear that they're going to plagiarize it? Attempt to produce it without paying royalties? I'm not sure who or what is being nicked here. Is it just that someone reading his play, after he posts it on the internet, rather than waiting for it to be published and buying a proper copy, is stealing from him? I honestly really don't get what the complaint is.

Also, as a general rule, as is mentioned in the comments to Ian's post, is reading your script a copyright issue? If the same person had e-mailed and asked to be sent a script, would it be the same problem? I could see it being a question if they announced their intention to produce the work without your permission or if they were planning to disseminate it. That would be getting into some copyright issues. Or if they were planning to pass off your work as their own. But...just reading it violates your copyright? Really?

I'm definitely in the copyleft, open source camp to begin with, so I don't really have any issue with someone downloading a script of mine. In fact, I think it would be a good thing. More people reading the work, hell, even more people doing productions or readings is a grand thing. That's what we're supposed to want. Exposure and audiences, maybe even a fan. Ooo, someone is intrigued by my work and wants to download it. That's sca-ary!

I admit, I'm mocking Ian, maybe a little unfairly. He has every right to be protective of his work, especially a work-in-progress. But he says, in the comments, that he wouldn't have minded if the person identified themselves as an "actor/director/contest judge," though and I find that problematic. I mean, if someone just wanted to read his script because they thought it was interesting and couldn't make the reading would be told to take a hike, but someone with the appropriate credentials can get it, even if it's a work-in-progress? Who is the person of value here? And what are we telling that person?

Ian sees the new world of on-demand downloads as a problem for artists. I see it as an opportunity, a chance to connect directly with our audiences without intermediaries. And I do see it as an opportunity and possibility for revenue. I mean, no one is going to put my play on the internet if I don't do it. And if I do, and allow people to download it, who's to say I don't charge a little bit for it. Yeah, people are used to finding free things on the internet, but they're also used to paying a little bit for things. Lots of other artists are capitalizing on this, why not playwrights?

It seems foolhardy to slap away a hand being extended, especially since, for most playwrights, making money off someone just reading your play is so rare. Why not let this person read it, enjoy it and maybe pass it along to a theatre wherever they are (Ian, rightfully so, withheld the details, so I don't know if this person was local to him or not)? Why not just let them read it and maybe drive and come see your play when it's being performed? Having someone reach out to you is such a great compliment, take it! And let's try to live in the modern world.


joshcon80 said...

I'm with you. I post most of my plays on my site in the hopes that somebody will want to do them.

Ian Thal said...

I'm as deserving of as much of a ribbing as the next guy, and there is even a case to be made that I over-reacted.

But as I think I elaborated in some of the conversation that followed both in the comments section to my blog (you should feel free to post a link there, by the way) much of the reason I took issue was because Total War is a work-in-progress; and I am happy to share it with theatre people (and even close friends with a sincere interest) with the understanding that they are reading a work-in-progress.

Having someone reach out to you is such a great compliment, take it!

Yes it is, but my interlocutor, even after I identified myself as the author of the work in question, was more interested in finding a way of getting hold of the play without even opening a dialogue with me, or making introductions.

I also think that if you read to the end of that particular blog entry, I've not completely made up my mind as to what intellectual property rights mean for me in the digital age.

You also misread me when you suggest that I mean to say "reading your script a copyright issue." Obviously it isn't-- but copying work is, and that is what happens when they are posted on line. As I said, I've seen plenty of things I've written reposted online without attribution.

Ian sees the new world of on-demand downloads as a problem for artists.

Also incorrect: I only want to make sure that when Total War is in a finished state that the on-demand-download model works with minimal problems-- but as I said, my main reluctance was that a.) it's still in development; b.) the model isn't set up; and c.) I felt I was being treated discourteously.

99 said...

Hey, Ian-

Sorry for the lack of link. Bad internet form on my part.

You mention the copyright issue a couple of times, in terms of protecting your intellectual property and the fact that the piece is still under copyright. I'm still confused about what that has to do with reading the script or even publishing it on the web, beyond fears that someone will plagiarize it (i.e. post it without attribution). Definitely a problem with a blog post or piece of journalism, less so with a play. You present the whole issue in terms of copyright protection and

I may have gone off a bit half-cocked, but from the back-and-forth you published, it's hard to get a sense of how the dialogue went. It seems like they didn't give up a lot in terms of details (always frustrating) but, I have to say, from what you published, it doesn't seem like you tried to figure out what they wanted. Maybe they didn't realize that making it clear they just wanted to read it was key. I don't know. You ascribe them benign motives, but make it sound...well, creepy.

I could understand if they approached a theatre demanding a copy, but they approached you directly, asked a couple of questions and then went away (from what I can tell). I understand you were feel you were treated discourteously and that sucks, but I don't know if one discourteous person is enough of a canary in a coal mine to raise alarms about your work being nicked.

Ian Thal said...

I generally don't rant like that on my blog-- even my most controversial post was one that I refrained from posting until long after the initial anger had passed and I had time to do research and find citations and make a clear argument.

So you overreacted to my overreaction, no worries; Apology accepted. Enough days have passed that I can have a sense of humor about the situation, and see how I might be deserving of a little teasing.

I probably wasn't entirely clear either as to my concerns about piracy: if I share a work-in-progress with other theatre people, there is a basic ethical understanding that if they share it with a third party, it will be because they feel they could help my play along. But again, that wasn't going on here. I didn't know if I was dealing with somebody just looking for interesting reading material or somebody who saw that my play had received both praise and protest and thought some piracy might be fun.

The dialogue exchange was reposted in full. Note that my interlocutor didn't approach me directly but was posting to someone else's Facebook account after they posted a link to my reading announcement to their account. So there was no effort to reach out to me-- even after I identified myself.

99 said...

Fair enough. I think, in the end, we're of very different camps and styles. I'm of the opinion that if someone wants to read my work, I'm happy to provide it, free of charge. I'm never sure who's going to help me or in what way, and even if they aren't a direct help to my career, they might have a good insight or thought. And, again, having fans is good. Helps keep the theatre packed.

And that holds true for works-in-progress for me, too. I want to share my work as widely as possible.

Ian Thal said...

I don't have a strict ideological stance on the issue, and reserve the right to change my view point.

That said, I'm not sure how you reconcile a copyleft position with the on-demand-download revenue stream model. They seem almost contradictory to me-- but that's really a whole other conversation.

Ian Thal said...

Since it has become clear that despite having some real concerns I over-reacted, I have posted a follow-up.

Ian Thal said...

Since the Bush Theatre has set up their bushgreen social networking site for posting of new plays, I've decided to at least experiment with a position very different from the one for which you gave me a well-deserved ribbing.