I learned an interesting lesson the other day when a series of events occurred. These events not only helped me understand what we do here, but also shed some light on what our manifesto and perhaps our ideals may truly be. It also left me, at least for a while, in a state of conflict with myself.
Let me explain.
A while ago one reader contributed a story. After asking whether he had read and agreed to our legalese, which he claimed he had, I ran his story. The legalese seems, to me, both fair and perhaps a little harsh: the story remains the author?s, with all the copyright and related rights belonging solely to the author. We gain, however, the right to send the story to the subscribed members of CoN, post it on Usenet and display the article indefinitely on the website.
Is this too extreme? The idea is not to take advantage of the author, make money off of him or steal his article but simply to let others enjoy the work, whether it arrives in their inbox or they read it online.
Some time later, the same author found a publisher willing to buy the story from him on the condition that the publisher has "first rights" to the story. Rightfully, the author mentioned that the story had been run on this e-zine and another, causing the publisher to turn down the offer.
In the hopes that the publisher would change his mind, the author requested that the story be removed from our site (and possibly, I assume, from the other) and wrote back to them. I'm currently not sure of what the situation is, but I do hope a cheque is in the mail for him.
On my end, the first thing I did was remove the story. Later, I offered to write to the publisher that the article had been removed.
But I can't deny that I was somewhat upset. Not much for the fact that we were given something and then it was taken away; I was upset because the removal of the article disrupted the integrity of the issue in question and that by removing the story to sell it defied what CoN stood for: writing for the sake of writing.
Other issues occurred to me, such as getting slapped with some sort of lawsuit for "stealing" work we had been given. While the article in question no longer appears on our website, you can still look at the cached version of it on Google, probably Web Archive, Usenet and whoever happens to keep a copy online, all of them carrying the Capital of Nasty banner. And that's not counting the many, many copies received by subscribed members all over the world. I wonder if that would work to our advantage in a legal battle.
As such, I am currently refusing to run any other article he has submitted just in case this happens again. I?m not sure if this decision was too harsh or just zealous carefulness.
At the same time, I was happy for the author. In any way, shape or form, if we can help with the success of an author we'll do it. In some cases, we've even written letters for authors who use CoN as a place to show off their work.
Nonetheless, I was annoyed and yet I did not want to be. I have absolutely no right to be such a wanker. An author decided, out of his generosity to provide content completely free of charge, and here I am whining like a little bitch. We have absolutely no right to interfere with one who would like to make a profit, even if minimal, from his or her work. It is that person?s work after all, and our ideals, no matter how pretty they may be, should impose no obstruction.
My only defence, if it can be accepted, is to be a gullible fool that believes things can be done, not for money, but for love. CoN is an expensive and time-consuming hobby but very rewarding. We do not provide any monetary compensation for the articles we receive. But we do provide an audience, take care of distribution and have a website where others can read an author?s work. I am hoping that this does count as something.
When CoN first started, it started as a labour of love, for a love of writing, entertaining whomever may read it. Money is nowhere in the picture (other than the money required to pay the bills to run CoN), and I foolishly assumed everyone else saw it the same way. It remains this way.
This does get mocking comments and responses of surprise questioning our seriousness but remains an ideal that I and many others strongly believe in.
So to the author or any other contributor to CoN, all I can say is good luck. I seriously hope that this is the first step into a great career in writing for you, but keep in mind the commitments you?ve made.
For me, I shall begin by smelling the ever-famous coffee and realize that ideals are a great thing, but I can?t possibly expect everyone to share them, for ideals don't pay the bills.