This is a post that has a lot of history behind it that I’m not going to try to recap right now. The gist of it is that I published a collection of short stories to Amazon Kindle last year about this time, and a certain PZ Myers decided to ‘review’ them one by one, culminating with his review of the short story “Richard Dawkins Goes to Heaven.” In that review, he transcribed a huge chunk of the story itself; so much of it-almost half of the story-that it looked immediately like copyright infringement to me, as well as to others, who raised the issue with me.
I have since taken all the steps necessary as a prelude to a lawsuit, but first of all I of course sent several messages directly to Myers. Hearing nothing in response (and expecting nothing, since it is PZ Myers we are talking about here), I followed the steps of the DMCA, and once again saw no action. The server host in question, Rackspace, passed word along to the management of scienceblogs.com, which hosted Myer’s blog, and they in turn told me to contact Myers, which of course I already had. A follow up email by myself to Rackspace was unanswered, so that’s what left me looking at my legal options.
A discussion with two lawyers indicated that I had a good case, and under the DMCA one could even press for criminal penalties, since Myers appears to have desired to deliberately harmed the marketability of the stories.
It is not my purpose to ‘litigate’ this matter in this post. It is my desire to get this out in the open. PZ Myers is a professor for a tax-payer supported state university in Minnesota, and as a putative academic, one expects a certain level of professionalism and integrity. I have decided that I, personally, should not pursue this further. As a citizen of the United States, I have the right to protect myself under the law. As a citizen of another Country, I have to conduct myself under different laws, and I have decided that this particular one falls under ‘do not resist an evil person.’
However, it is not as simple as that. It is one thing to make a judgment that has an impact on my own livelihood, but if Myers, ScienceBlogs, and Rackspace continue to tolerate copyright infringement, then others may have their livelihood’s impacted. My silence may serve to harm others. Rackspace, for example, hosts tens of thousands of sites. If they do not follow the law on my matter, they may not follow the law in other instances.
On the same reasoning, allowing PZ Myers to trample my copyright could similarly lead to others being harmed. That is the tension, but I have decided that I’d feel much more comfortable advocating for those people than advocating for myself. But I consider my claim to be valid, so if anyone wanted to advocate for me, I wouldn’t stop them. I don’t think that idea of ‘not resisting an evil man’ means remaining silent, or means not calling attention to the ‘evil’ being perpetrated.
I actually feel some bit of satisfaction; as my stories were DRM protected, that meant PZ had to actually sit down and do some real work. I don’t know if that is enough to satisfy Minnesota’s tax payers, but I count it a minor victory. However, since PZ had gone around those DRM protections, it seems pointless to me to concern myself with them as much for these stories.
So, in response to this series of events, I have added 2 new stories to the series and made it available on Smashwords (which does not encrypt the text). However, to make up for the lost revenue, I have added a dollar to the price of the collection. However, you can still get it for $2.99 if you use a $1 off coupon at Smashwords
The coupon is good for a year- thru today’s date in 2013. See below.
(Some people complained about the list price before, but you can actually blame Amazon for that, because they penalize you if you do not list a book at $2.99. If you don’t like where it is now, you can blame PZ Myers for stealing my work.)
I will be discussing these stories and the two new ones I wrote (eg, “Anthony Horvath Goes to Heaven”) at the online apologetics conference my ministry hosts. The event is April 19-21st. I will touch on the PZ Myers episode, but will approach it more broadly because the whole thing generated thousands of comments, many of them hostile, and some of them threatening. I will talk about what the atheists got right and wrong about my stories and reflect on the use of stories to convey ideas.
Read the stories online:
For reference sake, here is Myer’s offending review of the Dawkins story: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/02/christians_are_morbid_ghouls_n.php