Ethics—always something to consider in business, even publishing. We need to look no further than the recent flag dramas on Steemit to understand how an ethics debate can impact a community. The issues aren’t always about legalities. Some things can be legal in every sense of the word, but so sketchy from an ethics standpoint that no reputable entity should be associated with them. In this post, we’ll attempt to address some of the more bothersome trends we’ve seen on Steemit lately, and clarify our position as best we can.
Since the middle of summer, our founding members have talked about launching Steemhouse Publishing. This would be a hybrid company, utilizing print on demand and digital services like those offered by Amazon. Yet our books would still have ISBNs that trace back to us, important for major booksellers like Barnes & Noble. And our authors would get the benefit of working with a team, not having to walk every step of the publishing mile alone.
During these discussions, many points were made about ethics on the blockchain and how this new access to publication will evolve. Very few of the recent issues surprise us. Most of them we saw coming months ago. It was simply a matter of waiting for them to materialize so we would know which form they’d take.
The views we’re about to disclose might not be shared by all of the writers affiliated with The Writers’ Block. However, this is our official statement regarding them. Members of our Discord group (red status and above) should be mindful of our stance on these issues and that they, as bloggers and authors, represent us to the community, especially if they use our watermarks, gifs, or tags. Noncompliance with our official position may result in a response from our arbitration team, and possibly further action from administration. Also please note that our gifs and watermarks are restricted for use with content that has been edited by our team.
If content has appeared on Steemit previously, it should not be re-presented to the community for another round of upvotes. If an article or story has been heavily edited and the author would like to publish the improved version, it should be done with declined payout.
SELLING WHAT CAN BE HAD FOR FREE
This can work two ways. If an author has published elsewhere, in print or digital form, and it is offered for sale, we believe it is unethical to re-publish that same content on Steemit where it can be read free of charge. The obvious exception, at least to us, would be “teaser” chapters posted as a form of promotion. “Teaser” chapters are typically no more than three of the first consecutive chapters of a novel, or fewer than 5,000 words.
Alternately, if work appears on Steemit, whether or not it is past payout, it should never be offered “for sale” in digital form anywhere, for any reason. Permafree on Amazon would be acceptable. Exceptions would be if the work is part of an anthology or offered in physical print.
We do believe that Steemit authors reserve the right to revise early incarnations of their work and publish them for the mainstream if response from readers indicates a market. However, most traditional publishers will not accept submissions if they appear online, and Amazon will price match if they determine something for sale is offered elsewhere for free. These are things authors should consider before posting anything on the blockchain that they may wish to publish later in a different format.
The only way that derivative work is considered acceptable by The Writers’ Block is if it is commissioned or endorsed by the copyright owner. Fanfiction is usually frowned upon in the industry and we want no part of it, either. By the same token, if someone creates a derivative work from a Writers’ Block author without securing permission first--in writing--we reserve the right to seek action from resources like Steemcleaners on that author’s behalf.
Hopefully this will help clarify our position on several matters. Publishing is a tough industry. If we hope to compete in the mainstream, our best hope for doing that is to remain untainted by any type of ethics scandal. It's important to note, however, that the publishing industry is in flux, and any stance we take may evolve and change to accommodate.