Cory Doctorow “Pirate Cinema” All Rights Reserved?!?

This is a review of Cory Doctorow’s latest book “Pirate Cinema” I just posted to

I was very surprised by the ending. Actually, I am not sure that my Kindle is not malfunctioning.

Just to be sure, I just double-checked before writing this review (I finished reading yesterday). Yes. Again, there it is:

“All rights reserved.”

So Doctorow writes a whole book about the evil Hollywood fat cats buying draconian copyright laws from Parliament. And then he reserves all his rights.

What’s next? Auctioning off the movie rights? Might make for a fun opening night, if they really have suitable sewers in London.

I recall that Doctorow used to license his books over a Creative Commons license.

So what exactly is happening here? I may be misunderstanding something. This doesn’t make much sense right now.

The problem with his point of view is of course that it is completely one-sided. There are actually good reasons why copyright would protect authors who don’t wish to opt out from such protection against someone else changing their works, most of them not of a financial nature. None of them are even mentioned anywhere, which makes “Pirate Cinema” less convincing as a work discussing copyright issues.

One may of course assert a right for everyone to turn famous movie stars into someone doing a porno movie by some clever use of digital editing tools, as Doctorow does right from the beginning. I would disagree. In my opinion, it is and should be for the author of the original work to decide if he wants to allow derivative works at all, and under which conditions.

But while I disagree with Doctorow’s radical views about copyright, I still liked this as a work of fiction. I just happen to read “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass. Maass recommends authors to have a message and a cause they are writing for. Doctorow certainly has one.

One quibble from the point of view of law, which is one of the subplots. While a 16 year old with no fixed income or any assets might be “judgment proof” in the sense that there won’t be much to collect, that might change rapidly with someone with the talent and obsessive creation work ethic of this particular novel hero. So it does actually matter that the judge lets him off with a very small amount of damages.

I bought this in the package, where it is described as a “work of literary genius”.

I am not sure if this is not slightly exaggerated for the purpose of generating business. But I think this way of packaging and selling books very remarkable. It has generated over $500.000 in revenue and distributed these books to over 40,000 readers in a couple of days.

That’s quite impressive. Doctorow is well on his way to become one of the greedy fat cats his novel is attacking himself.

Update: This review just went live at Amazon.

Update II: Update: Doctorow points out in a tweet that this “all rights reserved” is “his publisher’s version”, and that he provides a Creative Commons licensed version at his website.

I am still confused. How can his publisher reserve all rights, if Doctorow allows for copying?


Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

2 thoughts on “Cory Doctorow “Pirate Cinema” All Rights Reserved?!?

  1. So, did you ask Doctorow for an explanation? Maybe they are two (slightly) different stories, and Doctorw has exclusive rights to one, and the publisher has exclusive rights to the other. Still, if they are both sold under the same name, that will surely cause “confusion” (as the Japanese like to say).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: