“Creators aren’t getting paid,” says Cory Doctorow. “That’s because powerful corporations have figured out how to create chokepoints — that let them snatch up more of the value generated by creative work before it reaches creative workers.”
But he’s doing something about it.
Doctorow’s teamed up with Melbourne-based law professor Rebecca Giblin, the director of Australia’s Intellectual Property Research Institute, for a new book that first “pulls aside the veil on the tricks Big Tech and Big Content use…” But more importantly, it also presents specific ideas for “how we can recapture creative labor markets to make them fairer and more sustainable.” Their announcement describes the book as “A Big Tech/Big Content disassembly manual,” saying it’s “built around shovel-ready ideas for shattering the chokepoints that squeeze creators and audiences — technical, commercial and legal blueprints for artists, fans, arts organizations, technologists, and governments to fundamentally restructure the broken markets for creative labor.”
Or, as they explain later, “Our main focus is action.” Lawrence Lessig says the authors “offer a range of powerful strategies for fighting back.” Anil Dash described it as “a credible, actionable vision for a better, more collaborative future where artists get their fair due.” And Douglas Rushkoff called the book “an infuriating yet inspiring call to collective action.”
The book is titled “Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets and How We’ll Win Them Back.” And at one point their Kickstarter page lays down a thought-provoking central question about ownership. “For 40 years, every question about creators rights had the same answer: moar copyright. How’s that worked out for artists?” And then it features a quote from Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales. “Copyright can’t unrig a rigged market — for that you need worker power, antitrust, and solidarity.”
A Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 has already raised $72,171 — in its first five days — from over 1,800 backers. That’s partly because, underscoring one of the book’s points, their Kickstarter campaign is offering “an audiobook Amazon won’t sell.” While Amazon will sell you a hardcover or Kindle edition of the book…. Audible has a hard and fast rule: if you’re a publisher or writer who wants to sell your audiobook on Audible, you have to let it be wrapped in “Digital Rights Management,” aka DRM: digital locks that permanently bind your work to the Audible platform. If a reader decides to leave Audible, DRM stops them taking the books they’ve already bought with them…. Every time Audible sells a book, DRM gives it a little bit more power to shake down authors and publishers. Amazon uses that stolen margin to eliminate competition and lock-in more users, ultimately giving it even more power over the people who actually make and produce books.
The announcement says their book “is about traps like the one Audible lays for writers and readers. We show how Big Tech and Big Content erect chokepoints between creators and audiences, allowing them to lock in artists and producers, eliminate competition, and extract far more than their fair share of revenues from creative labour. No way are we going to let Audible put its locks on our audiobook.
“So we’re kickstarting it instead.”
The announcement notes that Cory Doctorow himself has written dozens of books, “and he won’t allow digital locks on any of them.” And then in 2020, “Cory had an idea: what if he used Kickstarter to pre-sell his next audiobook? It was the most successful audiobook crowdfunding campaign in history.”
So now Cory’s working instead with independent audiobook studio Skyboat Media “to make great editions, which are sold everywhere except Audible (and Apple, which only carries Audible books): Libro.fm, Downpour, Google Play and his own storefront. Cory’s first kickstarter didn’t just smash all audiobook crowdfunding records — it showed publishers and other writers that there were tons of people who cared enough about writers getting paid fairly that they were willing to walk away from Amazon’s golden cage. Now we want to send that message again — this time with a book that takes you behind the curtain to unveil the Machiavellian tactics Amazon and the other big tech and content powerhouses use to lock in users, creators and suppliers, eliminate competition, and extract more than their fair share….
Chokepoint Capitalism is not just a rollicking read, and a delightful listen: it also does good.
Your willingness to break out of the one-click default of buying from the Audible monopoly in support of projects like this sends a clear message to writers, publishers, and policymakers that you have had enough of the unfair treatment of creative workers, and you are demanding change.
Rewards include ebooks, audiobooks, hardcover copies, and even the donation of a copy to your local library. You can also pledge money without claiming a reward, or pledge $1 as a show of support for “a cryptographically signed email thanking you for backing the project. Think of it as a grift-free NFT.”
Craig Newmark says the book documents “the extent to which competition’s been lost throughout the creative industries, and how this pattern threatens every other worker. There is still time to do something about it, but the time to act is now.”
Organisational Structures | Technology and Science | Military, IT and Lifestyle consultancy | Social, Broadcast & Cross Media | Flying aircraft