Friday, August 06, 2010

A Pirate By Any Other Name

Is a thief. I'm talking about e-pirates, people who illegally upload things like movies, music and books to file sharing sites to that other people can download them without paying.

The dirty bottom line is piracy is stealing. No matter what country it happens in. No matter who does it. I've heard arguments for it like the particular book isn't available in the country of the person who wants to read it. My answer? Then you don't get to read the book. Don't ask me questions like "Would I steal to feed my family?" and "Would I steal to provide them life-saving medicine?" to try to show me that everyone's willing to steal. Those questions don't really compare to "Would I steal for a few hours enjoyment?" do they? It's not the same thing. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

Authors are often told that piracy isn't lost sales or that people who download one book illegally often go out and buy the whole backlist when they discover a new author. Really? Authors have stopped writing series because piracy has gotten so bad. I know at least two that I could name. Who knows how many more didn't get another contract because of lost sales and dwindling sales numbers? And it doesn't matter if you're print published or epublished, you'll be pirated just the same. Ask JK Rowling - the Harry Potter books have never been released in eform and yet her books are some of the most heavily pirated.

I'm a small fish in a very large pond when it comes to being pirated, but I know authors who've seen hundreds of thousands of illegal downloads on their books.

Ebooks aren't the death of publishing. The epirate is. What do you think should be done about epiracy?


  1. Honestly, I don't know what could be done, but I wish i could install a little chip on the book that would cause the pirate's computer to fry.

  2. I hate them too. All my Ellora's Cave books have been pirated within hours of their release. A nansty computer virus attached to the pirated files would be awesome.

  3. I get tired of seeing people argue that authors can afford piracy because we're all so rich. These thieves tend to think we're all making money like JK Rowling and we won't miss the royalties we'd get from the few copies they take for free. They don't feel bad downloading a song from a rock star because they know that person has six houses and 14 cars and private jets, so they assume we do also. I'd love to get them to understand most of us can't even write full time because it doesn't pay the bills and those royalties we lose don't go to pay for another Mercedes, they pay this week's grocery bill or a dentist appointment or the rent.

  4. drawn and quartered. Yup. I think that's the appropriate punishment.

  5. It still blows me away how many people don't think there is anything wrong with this. It's stealing.

    And yeah, I'd love to know why we can't convince the world that there are very, VERY few authors getting rich on books. *sigh*

  6. Wow, this is a really good post. Piracy is bad!

  7. Lately I've been wondering how easy we make it for people to pirate our books. I know that I've sent at least 25 free copies of my ebooks to contest winners. I wonder if that "free" mentality ever makes people get enthusiastic with redistribution. I'm sure my readers are awesome, honest folks, but then, it only takes one person. And I know that there are many folks out there who try to win every contest, regardless of their interest as me as an author or my books. Those are the folks I worry about. I also wonder about honest mistakes. People who don't know that the book wasn't free in the first place (because I do have free books available.) I wonder about people who get sucked in to those torrent things, not knowing that all their books and songs are being zapped off into space. I don't really even understand how it all works, which makes me worry.

  8. Anonymous6:11 PM

    Every story has two sides. Some people just don't have the broad perspective to understand them. No matter what you think about it, some of those evil, horrible pirates end up generating more sales to begin with, sales that would never have happened in the first place, whether by buying books themselves, recommending them to everything that breathes, posting reviews.

    An action doesn't make a person good or bad, honest or dishonest.

  9. Actually an action does make a person honest or dishonest. A person who steals is a thief, regardless of how pure they believe their motive to be.

  10. An action doesn't make a person good or bad, honest or dishonest.

    That has to be the dumbest thing I've ever read. If it's not our actions that make us who we are--what is it? Our intentions? That and $5 will buy you a cup of coffee from Starbucks. If you lie, you are dishonest. If you steal, you are dishonest. It you think this is okay because it's somehow helping authors, then you're whacked.

    There is no "other" side to this story. Piracy=stealing. You want to help me sell my books? Buy them and give them away to friends. Don't help me by giving away what is not yours to give. Want to read books and have no money? It's called a library.

    Great post, Kristen!

  11. Okay, so this is really off target here (although I do agree with everything you're saying) but you know what really chaps my ass? People who go to FREE book giveaways (such as the publisher give aways at National conferences), go up to your table and ask for you to sign a book without a name on the dedication. Like I don't know they are going to go right around and sell a book they've gotten for free.

    I have no problem with people giving away a free book they've rec'd, or selling a book they've paid money for, but to try to actually make money off a freebie makes my ears steam. Luckily, I only had one person try this and I smiled very sweetly and insisted I put a name on it. She finally had to relent.

  12. I agree that infringement is a big problem, but I must respond to a pet peeve. Illegal copying and redistribution of materials is infringement, *not* theft. Here is the [partial] definition of theft:

    "the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods or property of another"

    In these infringement cases, the book is not "taken and carried away"; the original electronic version still exists for the first person. Now a second copy exists for a new person.

    I reiterate: infringement is a serious problem that writers must find ways to address, but it is not theft. Theft is a separate crime.

  13. great post--I think the only thing you can do is educate. Educate your friends, your family, your readers--and don't forget your children!

    I think it's really, really hard to teach your kids about personal integrity when they see their parents doing things like telling the box office that their 13-year-old is still 12. Part of the piracy problem in our society is that we allow so much gray area when it comes to right and wrong. Yes--there have always been thieves, but it used to be that they were regarded as the scourge of society.

    So--my answer is to lead by example and keep the discussion going.