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.