April 2, 2009

Filedbyauthor or Rippedoffbyshyster?

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The folks behind the FiledByAuthor website have a good idea — they’ve “cataloged the information of about 1.8 million authors into individual pages. There are biographies, photos, links to purchase books from online retailers and links to share the author’s FiledBy page through a dizzying list of social networking sites.” Then, as Carolyn Kellogg reports in this post for the Los Angeles Times‘ book blog, Jacket Copy, the site “‘invites’ authors to ‘claim’ their free pages. For a fee — $99 or $399 per year — an author can raise their membership level to ‘verified.’ This allows an author to gain more control over his or her page, being able to do things like add more than two links, use a blog tool, manage a calendar.”

So how is this site different from other author-centric info sites, like Good Reads or Red Room? “At those sites, authors sign up voluntarily,” observes Kellogg. “At FiledBy Author, 1.8 million writers are already conscripted — and they can’t be removed from the site [her bold]. There is no opt out.”

The most obvious problem, then, seems to be that the site is using lots of material — even copyrighted material, such as author photos — without permission. And if there’s mistaken information listed, an author has to pay to fix it. In a word, it’s illegal, so it may be sued out of existence soon. In another word, it’s reprehensible, both in its form of blackmail and in its attempt to make people pay for waht may already be freely available.

So the real question may be: How is this different from the internet itself?

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives

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