So why should freelance writers give a damn? It boils down to copyright. Burt has been vigorous in protecting members’ copyrights — perhaps too vigorous, considering the fact that he’s issued take down notices for plenty of websites with a legitimate right to the content they were hosting. On the other side of the fight are plenty of authors who are proponents of looser copyright law, such as Cory Doctorow (the ‘proof’ that authors can make money with works licensed under Creative Commons).
While I’m not an all-out defender of Creative Commons — I do need copyright to ensure that I eat on a regular basis — I don’t think that Andrew Burt’s approach could do anything but hurt authors’ rights. My opinion boils down to the fact that current copyright law is abused extensively. A SFWA president who relies on the same tactics as RIAA lawyers trying to prosecute senior citizens and children would tarnish the image of the entire association, if not the science fiction genre. Strenuous copyright protection does not make authors more money. Instead, it prevents fair use and limits certain accesses to intellectual property: what if a teacher wanted to use Isaac Asimov in a classroom curriculum in an attempt to interest students in reading? In my opinion (which admittedly doesn’t matter), SFWA needs a president that will chill the heck out, one that can encourage fair uses and limit take down notices to actual copyright infringers.
I’m not a SFWA member by a long shot, but I’m keeping an eye on this election!