When Organization Theory first came out in print, reactions to the cover image (that virally popular "Head Up Ass" picture you can find hundreds or thousands of on Google Images) were mixed. The negative reactions (some of them pretty pronounced) predominated. But that didn't matter to me. The first time I visualized that picture on the cover of my book, something clicked: perfect! I couldn't imagine it any other way. And I remember how I felt when my proof came in the mail, and holding it in my hand. Even more than with my first book, I was overwhelmed by the feeling of holding a solid object that I had originally envisioned in my mind, at seeing my vision transformed into reality. It was my book.
As you know, I have temporarily removed the book from availability for sale. The cover image, it turns out, is under copyright, and the copyright holder isn't interested in licensing it for my use. So I have to take it down or leave myself open to liability $30,000 in damages. As copyright law stands, there's no requirement to show actual economic harm; the way the courts work, if the copyright holder sues, he'll probably get it.
I'm not interested in naming or linking to the copyright holder and generating a lot of negative publicity. For one thing, suing me for past infringement will remain an option until the statute of limitations expires, if I piss him off--even though he's made clear his lack of desire to do so.
More than that, though, there's just no point to it. Given that the guy believes in "intellectual property"--and most people in this society do--he's been pretty decent about it. He didn't come across as a copyright troll, or anything. His family graphic design firm really did create the original image, and he didn't come on strong or try to blackmail me into coughing up money. I took the images down off my blog and removed the book from sale, and he thanked me, expressing his unwillingness to pursue legal action or seek monetary compensation.
For the past few days, I've toyed with different ideas for a replacement cover image. My first thought was Dilbert's pointy-haired boss--my most likely candidate before I saw the "Head Up Ass" picture--but I imagine it would fall afoul of some exclusive licensing agreement with Scott Adams' syndicate, even if he was interested in the idea. I also thought of a proto-mammal in the dinosaur nest or a T-Rex in a tarpit (William Gillis ought to love those). But the range of images on istockphoto is pretty limited.
And God knows I'll never again use Google Images as a source of free clip art. I've said in the past that the kind of copyright lockdown society Stallman envisioned in "The Right to Read" is impossible, that it would be simply unenforceable. And that's true--except for one case: the use of identifiable copyrighted material in mashups by an identifiable person, for commercial sale via conventional channels. All those billions of images on the web, most of them with no indication of copyright "ownership"--and if you use one of them, and a copyright troll decides to take you to the cleaner's, you've got absolutely no recourse.
I've just about decided to say "fuck it" and forego a cover image altogether, and just replace it with a notice that the original image, the way the book is supposed
to look, is under copyright lockdown. Because this thing that will come out will not be my book. It will be my text, which I'll still proudly stand behind. But it won't be my book
. My book has the "head up ass" picture on the cover. That's how it's supposed to look
. This abomination that's coming out in its place is mutilated. When I hold the new proof in my hand, my feeling will be one of violation rather than pride.
While I'm not angry at the copyright holder, I hate the whole system of copyright and proprietary content more than ever. I'll fight the idea of "intellectual property" and report on the wicked actions of the Copyright Nazis more fervently than ever, and work harder than ever in support of technological developments that render copyright unenforceable.
It's personal now.ADDENDUM.
By the way, how's this for a class act? On Monday, I announced that the book was in process of being made unavailable for sale, and specifically requested as a favor that readers refrain from ordering books in the meantime. I explicitly stated that I was in a delicate position, and ordering books might put me in legal danger. Guess what? Immediately afterward, Any Book
ordered seven copies of the book--in direct disregard of my request. And not only that! They ordered it at the retailer's discount, which meant I got paid a whopping $4 per copy, instead of the normal $14. And then they turned around and offered it for sale, marked up to $106. That's right, it's not a misprint: $106
! And they're also selling the used copies for $106. So they deliberately put me at risk, in direct disregard of my request not to do so, and took advantage of my personal difficulties as an opportunity for speculation. Monty Burns must be proud. Whoever did this probably had an ancestor working at Auschwitz who sold gold tooth fillings on the black market.
Needless to say, I hope everyone will boycott this company, and shun them in the manner they deserve. I hope those books rot on their shelves.
Gary Chartier is busy creating a new cover that will pass legal muster, and the new version should be for sale before long. So please wait to order, and please don't do business with Any Book under any circumstances in the future.