Cory Doctorow: front matter from For the Win

Cory Doctorow's second YA book, For the Win, launched today. Below is the front matter in its entirety, which I think is incredibly worthwhile reading even if you aren't interested in and don't plan to read the book itself:

----------------[all below is by Doctorow]-------------


For the Win is my second young adult novel, and, like my 2008 book Little Brother, it is meant to do more than tell a story. For the Win is a book about economics (a subject that suddenly got a lot more relevant about halfway through the writing of this book, when the world's economy slid unceremoniously into the toilet and got stuck there), justice, politics, games and labor. For the Win connects the dots between the way we shop, the way we organize, and the way we play, and why some people are rich, some are poor, and how we seemed to get stuck there.

I hope that readers of this book will be inspired to dig deeper into the subjects of "behavioral economics" (and related subjects like "neuroeconomics") and to start asking hard questions about how we end up with the stuff we own, and what it costs our human brothers and sisters to make those goods, and why we think we need them.

But it's a poor politics that can only express itself by choosing to buy or not buy something. Sometimes (often!), you need to organize to make a difference.

This is the golden age of organizing. If there's one thing the Internet's changed forever, it's the relative difficulty and cost of getting a bunch of people in the same place, working for the same goal. That's not always good (thugs, bullies, racists and loonies never had it so good), but it is fundamentally game-changing.

It's hard to remember just how difficult this organizing stuff used to be: how hard it was to do something as trivial as getting ten friends to agree on dinner and a movie, let alone getting millions of people together to raise money for a political candidate, get the vote out, protest corruption, or save an endangered and beloved institution.

The net doesn't solve the problem of injustice, but it solves the first hard problem of righting wrongs: getting everyone together and keeping them together. You still have to do the even harder work of risking life, limb, personal fortune, reputation,

Every wonderful thing in our world has fight in its history. Our rights, our good fortune, our happiness and all that is sweet was paid for, once upon a time, by principled people who risked everything to change the world for the better. Those risks are not diminished one iota by the net. But the rewards are every bit as sweet.


The good folks at Random House Audio produced a fantastic audio edition of this book. You can buy it on CD, or you can buy the MP3 version from a variety of online booksellers. I also sell it myself on my site.

Unfortunately, you can't buy this book from the world's most popular audiobook vendors: Apple's iTunes and Amazon's Audible. That's because neither store would allow me to sell the audiobook on terms that I believe are fair and just.

Specifically, Apple refused to carry the book unless it had "digital rights management" on it. This is the technology that locks music to Apple's devices. It's illegal to move DRM-crippled files to devices that Apple hasn't blessed, which means that if I encourage you to buy my works through Apple, I lose the ability to choose to continue to sell to you from Apple's competition at some later date in the future. That seems like a bad deal for both of us.

To its credit, Audible (which supplies all of the audiobooks on iTunes) was willing to sell this book without DRM, but they insisted on including their extremely onerous "end user license agreement," which also prohibits moving my book to a device that Audible hasn't approved. To make it easy for them, I offered to simply record a little intro that said, "Cory Doctorow and Random House Audio grant you permission to use this book in any way that does not violate copyright law." That way, they wouldn't have to make any changes to their site or the agreements you have to click through to use it. But Audible refused.

I wouldn't sell this book through Wal-Mart if they insisted that you could only shelve it on a Wal-Mart bookcase and I won't sell it through any online retailer that imposes the same requirement on your virtual bookshelves. That's also why you won't find my books for sale for the Kindle or iPad stores -- both stores insist on the right to lock you into terms that I believe are unfair and bad for both of us.

I'm pretty bummed about this. For the record, I would gladly sell through both Apple and Audible if they'd let me sell it without DRM, and under the world's shortest EULA ("Don't violate copyright law.") In the meantime, I thank you in advance for patronizing online audiobook sellers who respect the rights of both authors and audiences. And I am especially grateful to Random House Audio for backing me in this fight to get a fair deal for all of us.


The Creative Commons license at the top of this file probably tipped you off to the fact that I've got some pretty unorthodox views about copyright. Here's what I think of it, in a nutshell: a little goes a long way, and more than that is too much.

I like the fact that copyright lets me sell rights to my publishers and film studios and so on. It's nice that they can't just take my stuff without permission and get rich on it without cutting me in for a piece of the action. I'm in a pretty good position when it comes to negotiating with these companies: I've got a great agent and a decade's experience with copyright law and licensing (including a stint as a delegate at WIPO, the UN agency that makes the world's copyright treaties). What's more, there's just not that many of these negotiations -- even if I sell fifty or a hundred different editions of For the Win (which would put it in top millionth of a percentile for fiction), that's still only a hundred negotiations, which I could just about manage.

I hate the fact that fans who want to do what readers have always done are expected to play in the same system as all these hotshot agents and lawyers. It's just stupid to say that an elementary school classroom should have to talk to a lawyer at a giant global publisher before they put on a play based on one of my books. It's ridiculous to say that people who want to "loan" their electronic copy of my book to a friend need to get a license to do so. Loaning books has been around longer than any publisher on Earth, and it's a fine thing.

Copyright laws are increasingly passed wihtout democratic debate or scrutiny. In Great Britain, where I live, Parliament has just passed the Digital Economy Act, a complex copyright law that allows corporate giants to disconnect whole families from the Internet if anyone in the house is accused (without proof) of copyright infringement; it also creates a "Great Firewall of Britain" that is used to censor any site that record companies and movie studios don't like. This law was passed without any serious public debate in Parliament, rushed through using a dirty process through which our elected representatives betrayed the public to give a huge, gift-wrapped present to their corporate pals.

It gets worse: around the world, rich countries like the US, the EU and Canada have been negotiating a secret copyright treaty called "The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement" (ACTA) that has all the problems that the Digital Economy Act had and then some. The plan is to agree to this in secret, without public debate, and then force the world's poorest countries to sign up for it by refusing to allow them to sell goods to rich countries unless the do. In America, the plan is to pass it without Congressional debate, using the executive power of the President. Though this began under Bush, the Obama administration has pursued it with great enthusiasm.

So if you're not violating copyright la right now, you will be soon. And the penalties are about to get a lot worse. As someone who relies on copyright to earn my living, this makes me sick. If the big entertainment companies set out to destroy copyright's mission, they couldn't do any better than they're doing now.

So, basically, screw that. Or, as the singer, Wobbly and union organizer Woody Guthrie so eloquently put it:

"This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin' it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."


Every time I put a book online for free, I get emails from readers who want to send me donations for the book. I appreciate their generous spirit, but I'm not interested in cash donations, because my publishers are really important to me. They contribute immeasurably to the book, improving it, introducing it to audiences I could never reach, helping me do more with my work. I have no desire to cut them out of the loop.

But there has to be some good way to turn that generosity to good use, and I think I've found it.

Here's the deal: there are lots of teachers and librarians who'd love to get hard-copies of this book into their kids' hands, but don't have the budget for it (teachers in the US spend around $1,200 out of pocket each on classroom supplies that their budgets won't stretch to cover, which is why I sponsor a classroom at Ivanhoe Elementary in my old neighborhood in Los Angeles; you can adopt a class yourself here).

There are generous people who want to send some cash my way to thank me for the free ebooks.

I'm proposing that we put them together.

If you're a teacher or librarian and you want a free copy of For the Win, email freeftwbook@gmail.com with your name and the name and address of your school. It'll be posted to http://craphound.com/ftw/donate/ by my fantastic helper, Olga Nunes, so that potential donors can see it.

If you enjoyed the electronic edition of For the Win and you want to donate something to say thanks, go to http://craphound.com/ftw/donate/ and find a teacher or librarian you want to support. Then go to Amazon, BN.com, or your favorite electronic bookseller and order a copy to the classroom, then email a copy of the receipt (feel free to delete your address and other personal info first!) to freeftwbook@gmail.com so that Olga can mark that copy as sent. If you don't want to be publicly acknowledged for your generosity, let us know and we'll keep you anonymous, otherwise we'll thank you on the donate page.

I've done this with three of my titles now, and gotten more than a thousand books into the hands of readers through your generosity. I am more grateful than words can express for this -- one of my readers called it "paying your debts forward with instant gratification." That's a heck of a thing, isn't it?

-------------------------[end Doctorow]

FTW, indeed.


MEM said...

I'm not even sure the book would need to be any good after that, but it kind of must be. Thanks, good inspirational stuff....

Digital Rights Management said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Collin Kelley said...

Very informative and more than a little frightening. The continued stifling of art by these restrictions is ridiculous.