Do you know Stephen King?
Monday, July 24, 2000 by Dave Winer.
Another moment of serendipity. Looking for "Where did the love go?" by Roberta Flack, I found "Where did our love go?" by the Supremes. Never heard of it. Double-click. Wow, it's an old favorite, a song I listened to in the 60s. Great stuff. "Baby baby ooh baby baby."
A couple of weeks ago, clicking on David Bowie songs, I must have also decided to download his Little Drummer Boy duet with Bing Crosby. I'm listening to it in the middle of summer in California, far away from the time of this piece. "It's a pretty thing," Bing says. So true!
The moment is made more poignant, learning that Crosby died a month after doing the song in 1977. Steven Lewis, a college biology instructor in Pennsylvania says "Some viewed the joint performance of Bing and Bowie as a symbol of the end of the inter-generational wars of the 1960s and 1970s."
That such ideas exist, and are expressed and shared is what makes the Web such a great medium. That perspective was waiting for me to click, listen and then search. It's waiting for you too. Powerful stuff.
If you know Stephen King, could you forward him this email? I'd like to get a message to him.
First a little background. Today there was an Associated Press story about King's latest book, The Plant. It's being published a chapter at a time on the Web, pay as you go, $1 per installation, on the honor system. He's taking a chance on the first two installments, if there isn't enough money from those, there won't be a third or fourth.
After reading the AP story, and linking to it on my news site, www.scripting.com, I commented "It almost goes without saying that I like this a lot. It's a route-around of the first order. Nuke the middlemen, like this one.."
Then I pointed to a Wired interview with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. It's no secret, I think Bezos and others are getting away with the rape of the Internet through patents. Other developers, creative people not that different from King, feel the same way.
Asked why he sues competitors Bezos says "Patents are not intended for defensive purposes only. The intent of the system is to give innovators a window to recoup their research and development costs, 20 years from the date of filing or 17 years from the date of issue, whichever is longer."
Then I went back to the King site, to buy the first two installments, and holy guacamole, he wants me to give the money to Amazon! You can check it out for yourself.
So here's what I want to say to Stephen King.
Mr. King, I've read every one of your books, paid for them of course, and I would happily buy this one, especially because it could help the Internet. But it's a shame that that you took this risk on behalf of the Internet (what if it fails?) and didn't check out who you're partnering with. I can't give money to Amazon and keep a clear conscience. I want you to understand why, because I think, as an avid reader of your books, that you would care if you knew.
I'm a commercial software developer and a writer. I enjoy the privilege of free speech in my writing that I don't enjoy in my software. If Bezos has a patent on something that I need to make my software work, I'm out of luck. He owns the idea. Until recently this was *not* the way it worked in software, but the US Patent and Trademark Office started issuing patents covering very basic ideas that take little or no R&D, they're so obvious.
The Internet which you and I use was built out of an open sharing of ideas. By erecting barriers, as Amazon has, and being aggressive about it, they are milking a cash cow they didn't create.
To put it in analogous terms for writers, imagine if you couldn't write a story because Dean Koontz had already written it. What if the idea were as basic as Boy Meets Girl? That's what's going on in another creative space, software.
Writers have a better ethic, only steal from the best. We want the same ethic in software, we used to have it. Now our art is becoming the province of lawyers and profiteers like Bezos.
Bezos is especially horrific because he uses his patents as a competitive weapon. The invasion of a new kind of monster. Driven by greed, he destroys the best hope of freedom for mankind. Naive author walks into a hornet's nest. Does he tell the true story?