Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Copyright conundrum

Good debate over at Surroundings regarding Wendy Cope's Guardian piece on poetry copyright, which I only got round to reading last weekend.
I think I'm firmly on the side of those who think that reproducing poems on the internet is likely, in the long run, to mean more sales for the poet concerned, although obviously it's entirely up to the individual poet what line they want to take regarding their own work. For my own part, I think nearly all the poetry I buy now (and the already groaning new bookcase I shifted into my back room two weeks ago tells me I buy a lot) is purchased after I've sampled the writer's work online. It doesn't happen nearly so much with the non-poetry books I buy, purely because they're usually much easier to find in bookshops, where you can spend hours flicking through them while you decide (Borders even provide sofas and coffee to help, for heaven's sake). So, is internet browsing of work really so different to hiding yourself in quiet corner of Waterstone's while you read all the best bits?


Emma said...

I think Wendy Cope's basically highlighted two problems here:-

1) Generally no one reproduces entire novels or short stories on the web without permission, but feel they can with poems because poems are short.

2) It's a rare poet that can earn sufficient income from publishing poems (most poets earn from workshops, readings, editing, teaching and other periphery activies) so why should poets tolerate activities that decrease their publishing income even further.

Personally, I feel that publishing individual poems on websites isn't going to do any harm - it's like sharing a poem with a friend, which is what people on forums are effectively doing. An odd poem here or there is like a trailer to entice people to buy the book (after reviewers might quote an entire poem to support their review - it's fair use). However, I'd object strongly to someone publishing 10 or more poems - that's the sort of number where people will feel they've seen enough not to buy the book.

Matt Merritt said...

I'd pretty much agree with that, Emma, and as I say it's got to be entirely up to the individual poet. But I do think it's a bit like 25 years ago, when I'd tape stuff off the radio, usually with the thought that I'd avoid buying the album. I almost always ended up buying it, though, if I liked the music in the first place.