Sunday, November 4, 2012

In Response

Because I apparently have no idea about how to answer short and sweet, I've chosen to post my response to one of my blog readers who questioned my post about piracy. By no means do I think it was wrong of her to question it. She raised some good points and I simply want her to understand where I'm coming from on the piracy issue.

This is her comment, followed by my response:

I can sympathize that it's painful to see your work pirated, but in your discussion of the myths and facts, I couldn't help but notice that you never mention any of the pros usually discussed by pro-piracy authors. You also stated all the "facts" without support of any research or statistics or...well...facts. They may seem common sense truth, but people who start doing research in piracy in book publishing, software, music, etc. often find the numbers tell a different story.

For example, here's Neil Gaiman (wildly successful author) on why he went from fearing piracy to believing it's really good:

and here's Gabe Newell (game software producer rather than author, but also dealing with piracy) with some really interesting statistics and insights on piracy. For his company, he found that piracy isn't really a price issue, it's a service issue.

If all this seems interesting, I encourage you to read more from Cory Doctorow (also best selling author) who speaks and writes a lot about this piracy, copyright, and the future of publishing, if your interested. He's most quoted on the topic for saying "The problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity."

And the Electronic Freedom Foundation has a lot of essays on the problems with current copyright system, including in Britain.
 ~Cathy B
Hi, Cathy. Thanks for writing.
I want you to know that this isn't a subject that just popped into my head on a whim. I've been reading about and learning about it (mostly firsthand) for the past few years. If it came across that I was making assumptions based on nothing more than this article, I apologize. I've been dealing with piracy long enough to understand the ramifications as well as most who've been dealing with it themselves.
I didn't mention any of the pros because for me, I don't see any. I wrote the post from a personal point of view and how it's affected me alone as well as how I've observed it affecting others. I genuinely can't understand how others think it's okay to take something free that wasn't intended to be free. There's a lot of justification out there from those who pirate books, music, movies, etc. I wanted to show from the POV of an author how it does affect me.
I'm boggled by the theory of "intellectual property belongs to everyone." Well, no, actually, it doesn't. Every product that exists in this world began as intellectual property. Someone, somewhere had an idea. Then they made that idea a reality. Now, as consumers, we pay for that idea by purchasing the product. Why is a book any different? Why is my work less valuable than anyone elses? Leaving marketing out of it, the amount of time that goes into writing a book can be astronomical: writing, researching, editing, exchanging editing/reading favors with others before publishing, formatting, creating a cover either alone or with an artist (who, by the way, is paid for their time). If I have the passion and even more, the talent and ability to create fiction that entertains other, why am I obligated to create it free? I've read a lot of posts where those who think pirating is okay talk about how any artist worth their salt gives their art away while working a "day job." 
Really? That's what makes my work valuable? Please do explain this rationale. Someone. Anyone. (Side note: Cathy did not bring this up or accuse me of needing to give my work away to be worth anything, so please don't think this is directed at her. It's not.)
As for those authors or other artists who think piracy is great, more power to them. Neil Gaiman (who I'm a fan of) is perhaps a little unfair of a comparison. The man already had a huge following, and had made a good chunk of money from his work before piracy came about. At this point, for him to laud the pirating of his work is understandable to me. He feels it's getting his work out to those who might not otherwise obtain it. If I were in his position, maybe my opinion would reflect his. Perhaps he can afford better than a new struggling author to blithely allow his work to be given away. The biggest difference, though, is that he is okay with and has basically given permission for his work to be pirated. I have not. Not yet, anyway. Neither have most other authors whose work is being pirated. Even Cory Doctrow admits there is no hard evidence to prove that giving away books is what has translated into higher sales, it's just his theory. But again, the difference is that he chose to give away his books, he chose to upload them free to his site to be downloaded. That was a personal choice and if that's what worked for him, I applaud him. I don't have his courage to take a risk like that. Not yet, anyway :). But again, that was his choice. It's not mine.
Here are a couple of links you might be interested in. One is from an author who talks about the pubbing process which might help explain all those affected by pirating.
Another is about an author who used to be one of the biggest proponents of pirating, until her own book was pirated, that is. In fact, she was one of the officers of Germany's Pirate Party. 
This one talks of yet another piracy site forced to pay for their theft of movies, and this one, while talking about music can also be applied to books .
I think most people assume that the items they're pirating come from artists whose income might go from $1.5M a year to $1M a year if they download their work without paying. Of course this is completely inaccurate. Most writers, musicians, filmmakers, etc., make minimum wage at best. Sometimes not even that. It's a very few who make a significant amount. Unfortunately those are the only ones who usually get the big notice, not the little guys who are just plugging away on a daily basis.
If someone who owns a torrent site came to me and said, hey, how would you like to give away your book on my site and use it as an advertising tool, and I'd agreed, then I couldn't and wouldn't complain. But these guys are uploading or allowing to be uploaded to their sites things that don't belong to them with the purpose of making an income off those things. I have a problem with that.
I just feel that anyone who makes the decision to download something from a torrent site should be doing so in an informed way. This post is nothing more than my own opinion of what it means to me as a new author who doesn't make much money from my 70-80 hours a week of work for them to do so. If, after reading my opinion as well as the opinions of anyone and everyone else whose work is being pirated, they still choose to download those items, then that is completely their own decision. This is my attempt at nothing more than a bit of education for those who might feel no one is being hurt by piracy.
Again, thanks for writing, Cathy. I do understand the other sides point of view. I do. I just don't necessarily agree with it.


  1. LURVE this post. Well said, Cindy. SO glad you popped up on my google reader.
    it just grates me when I have all these hits on my blog for people looking for free copies of my stuff...
    I give a TON away.

    And yeah...
    When you're a small fish, every pirated book counts, and it just sucks to have something created in a place that I didn't ask for it to be.

  2. From the wikipedia: Piracy is typically an act of robbery or criminal violence.
    That statement alone explains what piracy means. And to think it's okay to take something someone had put a lot of work into creating it be it a novel, a painting, a song, etc and use it for free WITHOUT that person's permission it's completely and utterly unfair. There is NO excuse to steal.

  3. I was going through my emails and once I started reading your response I could not stop reading it. WOW!! I completely agree with you. I'm not an author but I know a few that are just starting out and I could not imagine downloading their book(s), or any other author for that matter, for free on some torrent website. I just couldn't consciously do it without feeling guilty about it. But this is my opinion. Good topic Cindy!!

    1. I can't imagine it either, Lisa. Unfortunately I know a lot of people who do, and they justify it as "not hurting anyone". Kinda makes me sad.