Cory Doctorow: Copyright Activist

You’d be forgiven for expecting little from a guy with a blog called Craphound, another called Boing Boing, and a penchant for distributing digital versions of his science fiction free of charge. The thing is, Cory Doctorow’s blogs are read by millions, and his traditional paper books have been distributed by some of the biggest publishing houses in America.

A figurehead for “copyfighters” everywhere, he’s on a crusade against a corporate monopoly on patent law. Doctorow thinks replication feeds a culture of creativity and might even be programmed into our DNA; it should be encouraged, not criminalized. Commercial sales of Doctorow’s books, like his essay collection Content and his novel Little Brother, have not suffered from free electronic distribution. He’s simply reaching more readers, who often end up buying something he wrote. His free editions become raw material for other creative people, who have produced comic booksiPhone apps, and even translations (including one in Braille ).

Doctorow doesn’t see these copies of copies of copies as infringements. “I just can’t imagine making art in the 21st century unless it was intended to be copied,” he says. “Of all the people who fail to buy my books today, the majority do so because they’ve never heard of them, not because someone gave them a free e-book.”


“This world in which we outlaw copyright criminals is like the Victorians, who pretended that they didn’t all masturbate,” says Doctorow in the film Rip! A Remix Manifesto, a documentary that explores copyright law. And those free books? You can find them–and all kinds of other copyright-free literature–at Project Guttenberg. Doctorow is notorious for excited and rambling presentations. Check out his riff on self determination in the video recording of a talk from 2006.

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