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A Modest Amendment

A modest amendment to the digital economy bill to ensure that writers profit reasonably from their labours as musicians do from theirs.                    

It is a melancholy thing to see poor writers, their beloved manuscripts clutched to their bosoms, wending their way from agent to agent and publisher to publisher, alone in the world and rejected by all. While they toil soullessly in menial office jobs, one eye on their boss and one on Facebook, they wait only for the day of publication and glory.

But what then? If they succeed in attracting the attention of a publisher they are rewarded with a nominal sum, rarely indicative of the years of work required to produce the book or perfect their art. They rely subsequently on royalties, and these depend on the mercurial consumer. For too many years people have been able to access these books without paying the market value. As a result, even published authors are forced to engage in ordinary work, which is completely contrary to their intellectual and creative inclinations.

Long overdue legislation to protect the rights of musicians is finally a step away, in the form of the digital economy bill. We must take this opportunity to afford the same rights to creators of the written word, and the amendment I propose will do just that.

For too long we have allowed people to ‘lend’ and ‘borrow’ books, thus denying the writer his or her monetary due. Despite the arguments of the parasitical people who engage in such practices, studies have shown that it seldom leads to the ‘borrower’ ever buying a copy of the book. These purported ‘readers’ actively prevent the author from earning a living wage. This lax interpretation of copyright law must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

My modest amendment to the digital economy bill will see all books electronically tagged and each sold to one owner, who will be the legal holder. Those caught in the illegitimate possession of a book will be fined. Unauthorised distribution of books must lead to a custodial sentence. Harsh measures are required if these habits are to be eradicated.

There will be people who maintain that the aforementioned practices encourage the sharing of knowledge, expanding the horizons of people’s imaginations and aspirations, and allow those without ready cash to access the cultural wealth of our civilisation. Would we listen if they said that listening to music was our right for any of these reasons? No we would not, and we would of course be wrong if we did.     

There will also be those who argue for the antiquated notion of how beautiful a gesture it is to leave a loved or personally influential book behind on a park bench or in a station, that it might fall into the hands of a stranger who would likewise be touched or changed by it. We must steel ourselves against such romanticism and remember that this denies the writer their cut.

Should the proposed amendment fail to be implemented, it is a certain thing that people will no longer write books. It could be denied by none that books have only been written since writers became confident that they might gain fame and fortune from their labour, in the same way as music has only been made since the early sixties, when large numbers of people began to pay for recorded copies of it. Without the certainty of financial restitution for their labour, we can confidently predict that no reasonable person will spend years of toil perfecting a literary masterpiece, any more than they would write a song, play an instrument or sing.

The future of creativity and culture is in our hands.

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