I received an email recently from a publisher who took exception to a post on pirated John Glassco titles at my other blog. "Hey there," he begins, "actually, we're not quite without permission on Glassco."
He then goes on to acknowledge that he "may be without permission" for one of the works in question. "Amazon won't carry it, and the thing was going for $500 used before I came along," he writes in defence.
You see, the man is performing a public service.
I stand by my words, which are supported by contracts and correspondence found in the Glassco fonds at Library and Archives Canada.
As I've not responded to this email, it seems unfair to identify this particular publisher.
Oh, I would have, but his concluding remarks rather rubbed me the wrong way:
Too bad you didn't contact me before. I have around 14k paying customers on the site, not to mention half a million visitors each month to —. Some of these readers might have been interested in your book.
He's referring here, of course, to A Gentleman of Pleasure, my new biography of Glassco. Well, I happily sacrifice any sales that I might have enjoyed in associating myself with this individual and his various ventures. One is, after all, known by the company one keeps.
No pun intended.
With the spread of POD technology and ebooks, it's hard to imagine that the problem of piracy won't grow, perhaps returning us to the turbulence and tumultuousness of earlier times. I'm reminded of poor Mark Twain, whose pocketbook took shots from Canada in a copyright war between the United States and the British Empire. In the end, of course, it was the writer who suffered the most.
Same as it ever was.
Twain wrote about his frustration with pirates – counterfeiters, he called them – in a 1 October 1880 letter to Congressman Rollin M. Daggett. The letter, with entertaining p.s., can be found online here at the Mark Twain Project.
Thirteen decades later, it's still enough to make one reach for Scotch whiskey, certain lemons and hot water.
I want to go to Washington, but it ain’t any use, business-wise, for Congress won’t bother with anything but President-making. My publisher got me to send a letter of his to Blaine a month or two ago, in which our grievance was fully set forth. I didn’t believe Blaine would interest himself in the matter, & I was right. You just get that letter from Blaine, & cast your eye over it, & try to arrive at a realizing sense of what a silly & son-of-a-bitch of a law the present law against book-piracy is. I believe it was framed by an
goddamdidiot, & passed by a Congress of goddamdmuttonheads.
Now you come up here –that is the thing to do. I, also have Scotch whisky, certain lemons, & hot water, & struggle with the same every night.
MarkIf you want to see how thoroughly foolish section 4964 is, just read it & substitute the words
“U. S. treasury note” for the w “copy of such"counterfeit U. S. treasury note" for the words "copy of such book."
My books sell at $3.50 a copy, their Canadian counterfeit at 25 & 50 cents. If I could sieze [sic] all the Canadian counterfeits I could no more use them to my advantage than the Government could use bogus notes to its advantage. The only desirable & useful thing, in both cases, is the utter suppression of the counterfeits. The government treats its counterfeiters as criminals, but mine as erring gentlemen. What I want is that
mimemine shall be treated as criminals too.S L C