Avast ye maties, there’s Pirates!

Piracy has been the hot topic everywhere lately, even if you didn’t know it. From SOPA to Megaupload to the recent discovery of plagiarism on Amazon.

I remember the day my first traditionally published novel was released. I already had mixed feelings about it but then I got an e-mail from a ‘friend’. It seems my book had been pirated. Already. It had been out for a little less than an hour or so. For a newly published writer dreaming as we all do of leaving the day job, I was horrified and furious. They were feeding on my dreams AND stealing out of my pocket! How dare they?!  I got a little hot about it with one of my coworkers. He insisted that if I were a true artist, and writing because I loved it then I should do it for free. I asked if he liked his job, because if he liked it that much as his supervisor I’d be more than glad to take him off the payroll.  Not that it mattered, I wasn’t going to change his mind, he was still going to download. And of course, the pirates did dare and after a little time I gained some perspective.

As Joe Konrath said in his most excellent blog – “Copyright is unenforceable in a digital world. Period. Exclamation point. At no time in history has any individual, company, or industry been able to stop file sharing. No country or law has been able to stop it. No technology has been able to stop it.” And that’s the truth. (See the link to that blog below.)

They tried to write a law to stop it – SOPA – the Stop On-line Piracy Act. Most of you rose up against it, and rightly so. The politicians had gotten ahold of it and loaded it with unrelated and unreal provisions. They wanted to make the internet carriers responsible for policing, added provisions for Homeland Security that gave the government the right to spy on you and the ability to shut down any site that didn’t comply or couldn’t control their millions of uploaded content. And that was the end of that.

If you’ve been following the newspapers lately and heard about something called Megaupload, well, that was one of the many download/torrent sites responsible for a lot of illegal file-sharing – including movies, music and, of course, books. In that case they successfully arrested the owner of that site and shut him down. If any of you have downloaded music from one of these sites, though, I do suggest shutting your pie hole about piracy because you’re doing it to someone else. Sorry to be so direct, but that’s nothing more than the truth. Lots of people do it, which is another reason why it’s so ubiquitous – as Joe Konrath also points out. We all like getting something for nothing. Some of us have even contributed by uploading our manuscripts to some sites where it’s easy to copy content up and down, like Scribd. Just type in the name of your favorite author there. You’ll be shocked by how many of their books appear, not uploaded by them or their publisher.

Recently there’s been another post about piracy, this time aimed at Amazon. It seems the author just noticed that someone was selling his book for twelve dollars more than he was and he objected to the reseller making a profit on his book greater than he was making. Well, that’s not exactly piracy. Depending on the contract the reseller has with Amazon, they may be able to do that. Realistically, however? Who’s going to pay twelve dollars extra for a book they can get on Amazon for twelve dollars less?

However, there was a legitimate issue with piracy on Amazon that illustrated the difficulty of policing – someone had copied the entire contents of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (among others), put a new cover, title and author name on it, then sold it as their own. Which personally I have to admit I find pretty funny since the Kindle Edition is free but apparently whatever buyers there were didn’t notice. A real author, checking out the competition for her book, read Inside the Book, recognized and reported it. Amazon moved quickly to shut it down. Technically, that’s plagiarism as much as piracy but either way it’s stealing someone else’s work. It’s particularly ubiquitous in erotica, probably because it’s so popular or they think the authors won’t make a fuss because of the content. But with thousands of  books being uploaded daily, it’s impossible for any company to pay someone to read every book there. Not unless you want to return to the days of the gatekeepers and traditional publishing.

So, does that mean you have to just stand there and take it?

Well, that depends on how you look at it.  It’s a matter of perspective and money. If you’re traditionally published your publisher probably has someone on staff whose job it is to send cease and desist letters. In which case, let them earn their paycheck. And after all, what these guys are doing is wrong. For the rest of us, particularly indies? If your pockets are large enough, go for it.  There’s hundreds of them. Megaupload was in New Zealand, but some are in the Ukraine, while others are in other ex-Soviet bloc countries who really don’t care about our laws. I wish you luck.

Otherwise I’d follow Konrath’s advice “Don’t worry about what you can’t control. You’ll sleep better.”  and “There is zero reliable evidence that it hurts sales.” Really. In fact, it may even help them. I mean, think about it, of all the books out there they found yours interesting enough to download. You just have to view those pirated sales the same way you do  the freebies you give away, or your free days on Amazon’s KDP Select. It’s word of mouth advertising. If someone downloads your book and likes it, they’re going to talk about it, recommend it to their friends. Maybe they’ll give it away or just maybe their friends will go buy it.

That’s the way I look at it, as free promotion, and probably the way you should, too. You really will sleep better and your stomach won’t hurt.

Here’s the link to Joe Konrath’s blog, he says it much better – http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/05/piracy-again.html

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Valerie Douglas is a contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and the writer of the epic fantasy series The Coming Storm and the contemporary romance series The Millersburg Quartet. For more information please see the IU Bio page, her blog http://valeriedouglasbooks.blogspot.com or visit her web page http://www.valeriedouglasbooks.com/ .


6 thoughts on “Avast ye maties, there’s Pirates!”

  1. Agree with you on all that, Valerie. Yes, piracy is awful and repugnant, but there's only so much anybody can reasonably do about it without making it a full time career. And as for the idea that every pirated download is a lost sale, it's a stretch to think that everybody doing so would have even heard of or happened upon any given book, and then actually paid for it at all. Particularly for a book by an "Indie."

    So yes, without liking piracy at all, it's not something that I'm going to personally put a lot of energy into worrying about. Obscurity scares me a lot more than losing a buck here or there. 😉

  2. "If any of you have downloaded music from one of these sites, though, I do suggest shutting your pie hole about piracy because you’re doing it to someone else." Exactly, Valerie.

    Thanks for the info.

  3. Good stuff Valerie,

    I refuse to download any "file-sharing" movies, music or written material, and most people know.

    My brother-in-law came in the other day and said "Hey, has Gavin (my four year-old son) see the movie "whatever", I said no,

    He said, "Do you want it."

    I said, "Did you buy it?"

    He said, "Oh, that's right, you don't do that kind of thing."

    Little by little, we can help change the culture, maybe we won't make a big dent, but you might influence others around us.

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