Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Digital prisoners

Giles Foden is deputy literary editor of the Guardian and also a novelist. His book The Last King of Scotland is being filmed in Uganda. (Which makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Obvious place for it.)

Anyway, Giles is as well placed as anyone, one would think, to spot trends in such matters as copyright, film contracts, digitalisation, and all like that. And Giles's view, expressed in an article on Friday last, is that things are changing, rapidly; and not to the writer's advantage.

His view, generally, is gloomy. He tells us the he has 'a vague presentiment of doom, a feeling that new technologies and those who control the information they carry are in danger of making prisoners of us [i.e. creative people such as writers]. Some time in the future, there could even be revolutions about such things.'

Well, I'm not sure that I'm as gloomy as all that. As I have remarked before, it is often a grossly optimistic error on the part of writers to assume that their work has any serious commercial value at all. Hence, it may not be a disaster if, on those rare occasions when someone actually offers to pay for your stuff, you sign one of those contracts which Giles thinks are objectionable and much too far-reaching.

According to Giles, typical media contracts now give the purchaser the right to publish your work, sell it, et cetera, 'in any and all media and by any and all means now known or hereafter invented, throughout the world and all parts of the universe, in any and all languages.' Without any payment beyond the original fee.

Well, in my opinion the loss that you suffer will often be theoretical rather than actual.

But we can all dream.

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