Monday, April 01, 2013

Should I Be Mad at Scribd?

Googling around, I have come across quite a lot of material I wrote on the Scribd site, including a sizable chunk from this blog, a sizable chunk from the Miscellany (a book my wife and I wrote and self-published on our medieval hobby), the full text of several of my commercially published books, and what appears to be the full text of translations of my first book into several languages.

With the exception of the translations, all of this was material already available online for free from my site. The commercially published books include my name as author and my copyright notice, so although the publishers might possibly object to their being up without my or their authorization, I don't see much reason why I should. Some people may read the books on Scribd instead of on my site, but the only downside of that from my standpoint is that they are less likely to come across other material on my site in the process. And the upside is that some people might find and read the books on Scribd who otherwise wouldn't.

I am unhappy about the first two things I listed, however, because, so far as I can tell, the material copied from this blog contained no link to this blog, and the material copied from the Miscellany did not contain either my or my wife's real names—articles in the Miscellany are given under the names we use in the SCA, since it is about our medieval hobby—or a copyright notice, or any way that a reader could discover that the material was part of a larger book that he might want to look at.

I accordingly emailed Scribd to complain. The response I got was that they could not add anything, such as a credit line or a URL, to material that had been uploaded to their site. I accordingly asked for contact information for the people who uploaded it, and was told that that could only be provided via a subpoena. I have put comments on the text giving the additional information, but I don't know how many people who read the text will bother to look at the comment.

So far as I can tell, the only thing I could do is to file a takedown notice, which I am reluctant to do, and then upload the material to Scribd myself, thus keeping it available, but with the additional information about who the author is and where the rest of it is to be found. I may nor may not bother.



Eric Goldman said...

I've made the personal choice just to ignore this, but it's disappointing that Scribd and DocStoc don't do more to police these types of ripoffs. I have bigger issues with Scribd:


Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that as you get older you are afraid people won't steal your ideas, I don't think I've heard you make the distinction that you want people to steal your ideas from you and make sure they credit you.

Which is more important: The spread of your ideas in general or that your ideas are spread through your site and/or credited to you?


On a separate but related note. You've stated that you view property rights as a behavioral category, bringing up animal territorial behavior as a pre-human example. Imitation is also a behavior observed in some animals, do you see it having any implications regarding IP in the same way territorial behavior is analogous to property rights?

Douglas Knight said...

You need model of how people use scribd. If people use scribd to discover material, then (re)uploading it makes it available, but if they use it to store material that they discuss elsewhere, then taking it down breaks that and reuploading does nothing.

David Friedman said...

To Anonymous: The spread of my ideas is more important, but the other matters. And getting people who read one thing of mine to where the rest of my stuff can be found helps spread my ideas.

To Douglas:

Thanks--not a point I had thought of.

Anonymous said...

I apologize if the first part of my post sounded confrontational, that wasn't the intent.

Am I way off base with the second part of my post?
(territorial behavior:property rights, imitation:IP (or lack there of))

I guess I'm imagining cases of primates seeing other create simple tools or a unique method to perform some task, which doesn't seem to result in the originator trying to stake a claim on the use of tool or method.

David Friedman said...

To Anonymous:

Territorial behavior is a (primitive) example of individuals enforcing and (often) respecting property rights. Imitation is the other way around, an example of violating IP rights, so doesn't explain them in any analogous way.

Insofar as IP has a corresponding explanation, it's the same one--territorial behavior, extended to a very different sort of "territory."

August said...

Could you create an account and put your stuff there with your links included? Presumably, any search of Scribd that would bring up the items that are up there now would also bring up what you put up.
It sounds like Scribd, for its part, has to play like corporations do, in some part they are forced to, due to litigation concerns, but it aggravates me that the human responding feels incapable of responding as a human because he is part of this entity. Still, I don't believe in I.P. I read/listen to Stephan Kinsella too much for that.

Tibor said...

A partial (perhaps temporary) solution might be leaving the current file there AND uploading your version with all the credit notes and links to your other work. Some people will still read the uncredited material on scribd, but some other will read yours while now they all read the uncredited it would definitely be an improvement of the current state.

Anonymous said...

Surely the problem here is that you used a pseudonym? How is this scenario different to the book being purchased in a store? In both instances the reader is none the wiser as to the true author of the book and therefore not going to move on to your other works.

Anonymous said...

DMCA bomb that mother. they mess around with you?! they better get ready for your bigger brother, DoJ!!!

Milhouse said...

Here's a suggestion. You say you're reluctant to issue a takedown notice, and I agree it would be a bad thing; but I don't see any down side to threatening to do so. I suggest writing back to them saying that "this is not a takedown notice, but if you don't amend the material as I'm asking you to do, then the next message will be one".