I'm not sure how many of you have heard of Torrent, so let me begin by giving an explanation of what Torrent, or BitTorrent, is. It is nothing more than a way of breaking up files into small chunks in order to make file sharing more accessible. Basically, a large file is spread amongst a bunch of servers. When you download the Torrent file, it comes from all of those places to be put back together into a single file on your computer. Sounds like a great idea, right? Makes file sharing simpler, quicker?
Well, as with all great ideas, leave it to some low-life, greedy, lazy people to turn it into something criminal. I'll tell you why Torrent sites are on my Uzi-radar these days.
I had never even heard of Torrent, but like anyone else in any developed area of the world, I was aware that there was piracy of movies and music floating around. However, I wasn't aware of just how simple it had become, that anyone can sign onto the internet, search for a book, movie, music, etc., and find it for free. There's a lot of controversy over whether or not it is illegal. In and of itself, a BitTorrent file is completely legal. But take the legal file, and attach copyrighted material that you do not have the rights to, and suddenly we're in murky, underwater territory.
Free is always good. But is free always right? Absolutely not!
As you all know, Geek Girl has been optioned by a publisher, and is therefore no longer available for purchase--at least, not until it's re-launch in December. However, someone emailed me and told me they had found it. So I did what any person who fancies themselves as tech-savvy would do, and Googled it. Sure enough, it began popping up on various sites as available for download.
Hence, my introduction to Torrent, and all those lazy freeloaders who are making a buck off my work. Have I seen a single penny for the copies they were giving away for free? Will I? Did I one time give permission for any of those sites to go ahead and copy my work and distribute it? No, no, and no.
Someone said to me, "But at least your books are out there being read. Isn't that what you want?"
Of course it's what I want. Otherwise I would never have published them in the first place. If I wanted to give them away for free, though, I would do it myself. I don't plan of getting rich off my books, but there has to be some value placed on my time. Therefore, I sell my books. I sell them for a pretty low price, and my royalties per book (whether eBook or paper book) are not going to buy me a yacht. But it's at least a small return on the time I have invested in writing, publishing, and marketing my book.
Let me put it this way: Would you go into work in the morning, and work for 5 or 6 hours before punching in, in the interest of having someone "see" your work? Of course not. Why is it any different for me? Or for anyone who has created a work that is now being stolen and given away for free? Even more so now that I have a publisher on board. That particular book is going to help pay a lot of people's wages. What if you were one of the employees of said publishing company, who now has to take a pay cut, or be laid-off, because of lost book sales? On just one site, in one month, Geek Girl was given away to the tune of 1253 copies. Yes, you read that right, twelve-hundred-fifty-three!
Another person told me there was nothing wrong with it, that some producers had even put their own films (usually indie films) on Torrent sites to generate interest. I concur: in that case, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, because the person who created the work put it on the site--not some scum-sucking parasite who wants to make maximum money with minimum effort.
Someone else argued as to how can the Torrent site owners be making any money if they are giving the files away for free. It's called advertising, my friends. You see ads on almost every website you visit. The more hits a site gets, the higher rates they can charge for advertising. So if one site has, say, 5000 free items on it, they are arguably going to get approximately that same number of hits per day. Times that by 30 and you get 150,000 hits per month. That's going to bring in some good advertising revenue.
One person, who recently received a Kindle, was very excited as she told me that someone had told her where she could get free books to download. I was shocked that she couldn't understand that if she's downloading them for free, without consent of the author and/or publisher, that she is stealing the book. How is that any different than walking into a bookstore, picking up a few books, sliding them into your bag, and leaving the store? You're not hurting anyone; they're making plenty of money without your fifty bucks. And yet, if caught, you will be arrested and charged with shoplifting. It's a crime. Just because you can do the same thing on the privacy of the internet does not justify or make it right.
Even if you convince yourself you're not hurting anyone, and there isn't anything wrong with downloading illegal files, consider the cost to yourself. There are a couple sites discussing the fact that you are very likely in the crosshairs of the government who are cracking down on these sites. Many sites have been shut down, their admins arrested and fined.
While I was in the midst of fuming about the whole thing, and debating about whether or not to blog my rant, I received an email that I subscribe to from author Holly Lisle. Not only did she find someone had taken her copyrighted writing course and uploaded it onto a free site, stealing directly from her pocket, someone else wrote her and asked if she knew of any software available that would take a known work and change the words around just enough that they could then publish it as their own. !!! In her succinct way, she refers to those who would prefer to steal someone's hard work as "dirtbags", "thieving scum-suckers" and "parasites", works I find so appropriate you will find them repeated in this blog. (If you'd like to join to receive her always interesting newsletter, click here)
FYI, there are also a large number of "authors" who have found sites where they can take pieces of different works and cobble them together and call it their own. Yes, they even sell them. And they figure they aren't infringing on copyrights, since it's only bits and pieces of a variety of wholes. In other words, I walk into a mall, take a pair of pants from one store, a shirt from another, and shoes from a third, and I have a whole outfit that I can now call my own--I didn't take it all from one place, I took it from a variety of places. Therefore, it's okay because the damage is spread thinly rather than gathered in one place, and a store can afford to lose one pair of pants from the many. Does that make any sense at all? Neither does it make sense to think that stealing a few words here and a few words there isn't hurting anyone.
So, here's what I would ask of you, my trustworthy reader: stop and consider the consequences of your actions before taking the "free" leap. If you think it's a legit site, take five minutes to contact the author/publisher/producer/artist and ask. If they say yes, go ahead and download. My guess is, for the most part they're going to say no. There are, of course, some legit sites, with legitimately free items. Give them your business. As to the others...
My even bigger wish would be that we all avoid these sites altogether, drop their monthly hits and therefore their advertising revenue. Perhaps we can put them out of business on our own hardworking, honest backs. And be able to hold our heads high, with a clear conscience, and answer with a resounding "no", when asked if we have ever stolen anything.
It's all about respect for one another, in every facet of life, whether you can be seen, or not, whether you are caught, or not. As H. Jackson Brown, Jr. said “Our character is defined by what we choose to do when we think no one is looking."
**Special thanks to Holly Lisle, who gave me permission to quote her in this blog!**
***Click on the links in the blog to see some sites I acquired information from***