Returning to the questions raised by the JK Rowling lawsuit thing, another argument that I may have overlooked seems to be whether free material, in the form of free chapters and extracts, e-book downloads, fan paraphernalia, or anything else you find on the internet, impinges on the official sales of an author’s text, or boosts them.
One of the concerns Rowling apparently had about Van Ander’s unofficial encyclopaedia was that it would cannibalise the sales of the official encyclopaedia she intended to release (she was going to donate proceeds to charity). But will it? Or will fans go on to buy her official edition anyway? How popular could an unauthorised lexicon ever have been, especially in competition with her official version? (Link)
It’s almost as if the book industry is finally getting in on the piracy debate. Now that e-books and online texts are more and more available, will we have to deal with pirated books? And are they a bad thing, anyway? This article, which is actually about the circulation of early episodes of Battlestar Galactica, says that a ‘try-before-you-buy’ approach can really work. A lot of publishers have already embraced this, in the form of free sample chapters, and in Neil Gaiman’s case, free e-books. A recent post on Booksquare also asks a few pertinant questions.
Neil maintains an excellent blog, by the way, with a whole thread on copyright issues as he encounters them. And he has several interesting posts on the Rowling case, including one from a lawyer who outlines a few interesting copyright points (apparently, the ‘Fair Use’ clause RDR is attempting to apply to Van Ander’s lexicon only applies to ‘transformative’ works, where the contested product is significantly different to the original).