Writers Against Piracy

Featuring: Kinney, Brady, Dickerson, Tesser, Shpuntov, Cassis, Todd, Villanti, Rainswept, Sung

Improv Everywhere Mission
Agents Cassis & Brady

Improv Everywhere Mission

Improv Everywhere Mission

Over a pint of beer, agents Kinney and Todd started brainstorming ideas for an IE mission centered around a fake protest. What would be the most absurd place to picket? What is the one place that no one in their right mind would oppose? The answer was clear: the public library.

A fake organization was born, Writers Against Piracy (WAP). The members of WAP would be published authors who were fed up with their intellectual property being “loaned” out for free in the public library system. A slogan was created, “Libraries = Napster for Books”. WAP would do for books what Metallica did for music. Utilizing Agent Sung’s brilliant graphic design, Todd created a website for the group (which can be viewed here), and he and Agent Kinney prepared for the protest.

Nine Improv Everywhere agents met at high noon in Bryant Park (located behind the main branch of the New York Public Library). It was freezing cold, and the forecast was for snow, but dedicated agents were ready to cause a scene at all costs. The mission was simple: never break character. The agents posed as members of the New York chapter of WAP. They were all published writers who truly believed that the library was stealing their royalties.. Their objective was not to instigate conflict with those passing by the library, but to attempt to convert them.

Improv Everywhere Mission
The protest begins

The agents armed themselves with posterboard signs boasting WAP propaganda. Agent Todd brought a mini-amplifier and microphone that the group used for inspirational speeches. Agents Dickerson and Shpuntov positioned themselves on the street and handed out over 300 WAP bookmarks that promoted the organizations philosophy and listed its website.

Improv Everywhere Mission
An open dialog

Astoundingly, a large percentage of those the agents talked with were swayed by the cause. Many conversations ended with, “I see your point, good luck.” The scene prompted a certain amount of laughter, but the laughter was always at the group rather than with the group (i.e. “I can’t believe these people are this crazy!” rather than “I can’t believe these people are pretending to be this crazy!”).

Improv Everywhere Mission
Audience Members

Not all who passed by the protest reacted with support or laughter, there were a few who were visibly angered by the sight. One man positioned himself in front of the video camera (the mission was openly filmed under the guise of it being a documentary in the making), crumpled up a WAP bookmark, and yelled, “You’re f*cked”. Another woman yelled to the members, “You can’t tell me you didn’t use a library when you were students!!”, and stormed away in a rage.

Improv Everywhere Mission
Agent Todd pleads his case while Villanti looks on

The agents dealt with the upset audience members by rigidly remaining in character and sticking to their objective. Rather than trying to start an argument, the agents tried to create an “open dialog” to discuss the issue in a calm manner. Arguments are easy to achieve and boring to watch.

Improv Everywhere Mission
Shpuntov and Todd recruit

A police car arrived on the scene and a cop passed the group and went into the library. He left several minutes later, and never spoke to the group. It was a peaceful protest, and there was really no policing necessary.

Improv Everywhere Mission
Agent Kinney explains the book he’s written, Websites for Free

Things WAP Protestors Chanted:

  • “Only crooks…Check out books!”

  • “You’d don’t have permission…To read without commision!”
  • “What do we want?” “Royalties!” “When do we want them?” “Now!”

Improv Everywhere Mission
Agent Todd draws a crowd

Other Highlights:

  • Agent Kinney, “I got paid $0.25 when this library bought my book two years ago. Since then it’s been checked out over 200 times. I should at least be paid $0.25 times 200.”

  • Agent Brady, “Why is it that when a programmer writes code it’s protected by copyright law? You can’t check out Windows XP from the library! Digital bias bites! We want our rights!”
  • Agent Todd, “You don’t expect to check out a movie from Blockbuster for free based on the premise that you promise to return it!”
  • Agent Cassis, “We want our rights! No pun intended!”
  • Agent Shpuntov, “If you love books, then you will love our group!”

    Improv Everywhere Mission
    Agent Dickerson. ’nuff said.

    Mission Accomplished.

    Comments

    comments

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31 Responses to Writers Against Piracy

  1. 4libros says:

    http://www.BookCrossing.com is an event happening all over the world, every day. And would play into this particular event.

  2. Janet Shuter says:

    Enjoying the site very much, especially “no pants” and the bathroom attendant [oh dear!].
    Believe it or not, since the early 1980s, by law UK public libraries really do have to pay writers for books issued, supposedly to support creative lit.
    Unfortunately this means:
    (a) less money to buy books
    (b) bestselling authors get 99.9% of the money
    (c) they pay nothing to authors with issues below a certain amount.

    best wishes
    – Janet

  3. Ryan says:

    Fascinating. I have two reactions to this. The first is that I am actually sympathizing with the fictional authors. The second is that it’s cool how this kind of points out the absurdity of the concept of music piracy.

  4. Agent Smith says:

    You guys rock. Try not to creep people out, (a la Ted’s b-day party).

  5. Wayland says:

    I was wondering if y’all would actually try to get involved with this seriously. Because as far as I can tell, the point is valid enough and I think it’s awesome that it came up as entertainment by the IE crew. Good luck with whatever :D

  6. sophia says:

    ROTFL! I love this one. Keep it up.

  7. Halcyon says:

    Sadly, there are a number of authors (pro authors, even) who truly feel this way. They see a library as a revenue-killing machine. (North American, I should mention). It is also the same argument they use in their anti-used book rants. (And no, they won’t be swayed by "But people are enjoying your work…"). Thankfully, the "books shold only be sold new and in bookstores" crowd is a vast minority amongst pro-authors. =)

    A good mission.

  8. elge says:

    Didn’t you know? Many years ago famous Swedish writers took their own books out of the libraries to protest about their books being read withou them getting anything for it. As a result the government initiated a law giving all authors and translators a fixed sum for every loan of a book in the public libraries. Not the university libraries though, something that recently have been discussed as a case for action in the writers’ union.

    This is actually the economic backbone for many writers and translators, expecially since all the money that is impossible to account for– like books with just a few loans – is collected into big funds giving out grants to the union members. This means that the bestsellers actually are supporting the less selling writers. Being a translator myself, and having had a grant for 5 years of like $ 1000 a year, I think it’s great. You should get the writers to repeat your mission for real!

  9. terpstra says:

    OMG.

    I can’t believe all the people who think that what they fake protested for is a good idea. Sharing of culture and human knowledge is the foundation of our society. How does a copyright term of life + 75 years make sense? The author is long dead.

    Open your eyes: copyright is out of control and needs to be radically brought back to serving the people. Not just publishers or author’s of popular tripe.

  10. Andrew says:

    that was soooo funny!! Thanks, you guys made my day!

  11. Liz says:

    The difference between libraries and music downloading, is that the person who checks a book out from the library frequently ends up buying it later.

    http://www.baen.com/library/defaultTitles.htm is an excellent commentary on this issue by Eric Flint, author and first Librarian of the Baen Free Library. (That’s right a *publisher* has an electronic library and authors *volunteer* to have their books put on it.)

  12. Jacob says:

    @Liz – How is it different again? I discovered many of my favorite artists through downloading their music.

  13. Rob says:

    I really wish you guys would do something in Baltimore. I love your work, and I think you guys should move around a little :)

  14. tyr says:

    Good one. Its good to know Im not the only one tired of how companies manipulates copyright laws and of people who try to make a profit out of everything, even knowledge.

  15. Adelaide says:

    …I need to tell my sister (who lives in NYC) to be on the lookout for you guys.

  16. Jadd says:

    questioncopyright.org

  17. Karena says:

    That is an interesting mission, I think it does pose a good point even though there are some who were angered by it.

  18. phyllis says:

    This may have been intended as a joke, but in more than twenty countries, including the UK, Canada, France and Germany, writers and other creators *do* receive payment for having their books in circulation in public libraries. It’s called public lending right, and the organization of the system varies from country to country. Check out this Web site: http://www.plrinternational.com/

    PLR gives writers and often translators income that most of them really need to keep on producing work.

    Phyllis

  19. Agent Bunny says:

    I thought I saw this in the news back in high school. Could have been you guys or the real thing. Either way, it got laughter out of me. Haven’t been to a library for a year now. I’m celebrating my anniversary with LA: Librariacs Anon.

  20. Abby says:

    Love the WAP logo.