Monday, September 13, 2010

Arr! Walk The Plank You Scurrrvy Scum...

Recently, Kristi at The Story Siren did a post about e-piracy. That is, taking content that’s copyrighted, scanning it into electronic form or typing it up in word, and sharing it with others in some way, shape or form. So, basically, the share sites where people download digital copies of books for free? Yeah, that’s illegal.

Kristi makes some excellent points about how much e-piracy hurts authors, and linked to some great articles written by authors who’ve discussed the same thing. If you haven’t read these yet, it’s definitely worth it.

From what I’ve seen, e-pirates justify their actions with these reasons:

This is the same as utilizing a library. Or, the same as me giving away a copy to a friend.
Actually, it’s not. When you borrow a book from a library, you give it back when you’re done. When you download a copy of a book from a share-site, you don’t give that one back. Also, if you give your copy of a book to a friend, that’s one book that you’ve paid for. Therefore, it’s yours to do with as you please. You can give it away, loan it, keep it, or even sell it. The only thing you can’t do is turn your one copy into two (or more) and then distribute it to others.

Some of these authors are so rich, they can afford to lose a few dollars.
Okay, let’s put this into a different perspective. Let’s say you collect something—rocks, cookie jars, antique jewelry, watches, whatever. You work hard to search these things out because you love them, and you love seeing all of them on your shelf (or in your drawer, or wherever). But what if someone else came along and said “You’ve got enough of these things, so I’m just going to take one.” Would you be happy about that? Probably not. In fact, I’m guessing you’d get downright angry. E-piracy is the same thing.

Before you say “But I paid for my cookie jars/watches/etc! Authors don’t pay for their own work.” Let me just say that authors have paid. Most authors can’t support themselves with their books alone. Most have day jobs, and the writing comes in our spare time. That’s time away from our families and friends, all so we can share something entertaining with you, the reader. Don’t think for a second that this time is worthless, because it’s not. Sure, it’s a choice. Just like it’s a choice to spend money on cookie jars or watches or sparkly rocks that you want, but don’t need.

Some readers discover new authors on these share sites, and then they want to read more by that author. So that makes them a good thing.
Not really. Readers can discover new authors at libraries, bookstores, and other legal environments just as well as browsing an illegal download site. And with the massive online bookstores available nowadays, with some pretty detailed searching capabilities, you’re just not going to run into the problem of ‘they didn’t have the book I was looking for.’

I can’t afford to buy this book.
I can’t afford to buy every single book, I want, either. That’s what libraries are for. Real libraries, that is. Or, if you really want to own a copy of this book to read whenever you want, then set aside a little money each month. Even if it’s ten cents. If you keep saving, you’ll eventually get there. It’s what I’ve done my entire life, so, trust me, it works.

Everyone else is doing it.
Seriously? If everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you do that, too?

This article by Brian Scott states that, if you violate the copyright of another individual, you could be brought up on two different kinds of charges: civil and criminal. The civil charges could make you pay the copyright owner up to three times the actual damages of that violation. In other words, if you gave out 1000 unauthorized copies of a book, from which the author normally would have gotten $1 per book, then you’ll have to pay that author $3000. Possibly more, if you have to pay his/her legal fees, too.

You know those FBI warnings you see on every single DVD/VHS/Blue-ray/etc available for purchase? The one that says the contents of this movie are protected under copyright, and any and all attempts to copy and distribute can get you up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Yeah, that one. These are the criminal charges, and they apply to books as well as movies.

Are triple damages, legal fees, five years in prison, and a $250,000 fine worth giving away someone else’s novel for free? I, personally, don’t think so.


Mary Witzl said...

You're preaching to the converted with me, Tabitha, but I'll share all your arguments with anybody I meet who uses that 'It's the same as using a library' argument. Nobody would dare use that 'All authors are so rich' argument around me. Not after seeing my house, my shoes, and my car.

Solvang Sherrie said...

I'm amazed by the amount of piracy that goes on around the internet. And I think more writers fall into the starving artist category than the richer than the queen category.

Bish Denham said...

People who steal books/movies/music just don't get it. They don't understand the blood sweat and tears that goes into making THEIR entertainment. I don't understand why they think they should get it for free. Would they like it if I stole a burger they made and didn't pay them for it?

Tabitha said...

Mary - yep, the handful of truly rich authors make everyone jump to the irrational conclusion that all authors make a killing on their books. *rolling eyes* SO not true. :)

Sherrie - it sure is amazing. I get hits on my blog from people searching for free downloads of books that I *know* are not offering free downloads. Shame, really.

Bish - so, so true. They don't even see it as stealing, really. I think those FBI warnings on movies did a wonder on limiting the piracy industry. It's still out there, but not nearly to the extent it was when the technology first came out. I kind of wish there was a more obvious warning on books...maybe that would help people understand what it is, and what the penalties are.

writerjenn said...

It amazes me that people who would never expect to get the services of a plumber, a dentist, a cook, or a taxi driver for free expect a book--which takes on average a year or two to write, and longer to edit and produce--to be free. The best we can do is educate people who honestly don't understand that such downloads are illegal, vs. those who know they're illegal but just don't care.

And of all the arguments and rationalizations people use, the absolute worst is the "writers can afford it" one. Most writers don't make enough from their writing to live on. Even the very few who make it big and earn something more than poverty-level income usually had to work at it for five, ten, or twenty years before making any money at all. For the most part, pirating books is stealing from the poor.

Tabitha said...

"For the most part, pirating books is stealing from the poor."

Sure is. Which drives me nuts. I'm glad to see authors speaking up about how piracy is theft, and I wish there was more that could be done to raise awareness about that. Both that piracy is theft, and that it's also stealing from the poor.

PJ Hoover said...

ooh, great post, Tabitha. I never thought much about piracy until I started writing but it is rampant.