Monday, March 19, 2012

Arrrgh: The Ugly Truth About Piracy


This is a subject near, though not so dear, to my heart. I think most authors have probably dealt with it at some point or another, and it stinks! There's no knowing how many sales I've lost to illegal downloads. From what little data I've gathered (according to the few sites who have download stats), I've seen at least 300 in just a month. The likelihood of it being more is undeniable, since most sites don't list them.

For me, I've never personally illegally downloaded a book. I know for 99% of authors, we aren't rolling in the money, and I wouldn't take that away. (Not to mention the fact that it's wrong.) Whether an author for the Big Six or Indie, we don't make that much from one sale, and far be it for me to deny an author their measly percentage. 

I think for a lot of people who aren't involved in the creative process, they can't really appreciate what this means to writers. They don't see the countless weeks, months, or years we spend crafting, revising, editing, formatting, pitching, promoting ... on and on. They don't realize that a story is a part of the person who created it. It's a labor of love that involves the very deepest part of us. It doesn't matter if you're a new author or a seasoned vet, that feeling of sharing your heart with the world never goes away. And to have someone simply take it and offer all you've strained to give is painful.

Yes, it's stealing. Let's not argue semantics. While you may not "take" the original copy, duplicating or reproducing is the same. The people who post and those who download it are on the same playing field as one who'd walk into a bookstore, take a copy off the shelf, and walk out without paying. The principle remains. You're taking what doesn't belong to you, and that's wrong no matter how you look at it. Don't be a douche-canoe.

I make a percentage of my already inexpensive eBook. The Willows: Haven costs less than a Starbucks coffee or a value meal at any fast-food restaurant. Plus, reading has less calories. Most people can add up the massive amount of sales someone would have to rack up just in order to recoup the cost of publication for an author who's sought out an editor, cover designer, someone to format it, and so on. Trust me, guys, most writers AREN'T rich. If writing were my primary source of income, I'd be homeless at this point. For some authors, this is a sad truth. They do amazing work we'll never see because they can't make enough money to survive.

Not to mention the fact that piracy is hugely disrespectful! How dare a person take something they had no hand in creating and pass if off as if someone had vomited it out with no effort. That's gross and graphic but true. It took two YEARS start to finish for Haven to hit the shelves. Two years. That's time away from my family and friends. Time I nearly had to invent by sitting up all hours of the night, pounding away on the keyboard, trying to get ideas to paper. It was time I spent editing and revising while everyone else enjoyed their summer vacation or weekends off. Two years eating into my plan for world domination.

I don't resent the hours spent birthing Haven; I resent the fact that people who pirate don't care. They're as bad as those who mooch. They want something for free ... they demand to be entertained but at someone else's expense. How selfish is that? It's easy to see why authors get discouraged or quit, especially when you add the insult of them losing money. So in the long run, piracy ends the very thing the thieves demand: a good book. See there, common thief, now you've ruined it for yourself.

The good thing is, more and more people are being prosecuted. They can run you down using your IP address. PC World has an interesting article here. "Buying" a program to allow you to download from a site is stealing. Finding a loophole in a legal program/site is stealing. And Karma is vicious, I assure you. Not to mention the fact, hacks stand a good chance of A) getting caught and prosecuted, or B) catching a nasty virus that could wipe out everything on their computer. I wouldn't be sad about either.

To sum up this quasi rant, DON'T STEAL. Don't support people/sites/programs that do. There are options out there like Amazon Prime or Rhapsody that give you freebies but legally. I've spent endless hours researching, reporting, and contacting sites regarding piracy. So to all of you who love an author and want more of their work, report sites when you come to them! YOU be an active part of securing the future of eBooks. I suspect more and more will happen in the future concerning stricter regulations and punishments. While the insane notions of SOPA and PIPA fell by the wayside, we're bound to see more things like this pop up with the increasing popularity of eReaders and insta-music. And Heaven knows we can't trust the government to get it right! Be the superhero of eBooks everywhere!

As always, happy (and legal) reading.


  1. So true! Also what people don't understand is that, for our traditionally published compadres, piracy often determines whether their next book gets picked up. The reason being: the bigger publishers look at number of books sold. Someone gets their hot little hands on a book that is anticipated and it's downloaded illegally 30,000 times, that's 30,000 books that aren't on a spread sheet somewhere (not to mention the 30K that's missing from coffers). We'll find a way to eventually kill the parasites feeding off the digital industry, but until then the best way to keep the monster at bay is to not feed it. Take it upon yourself to not download illegally and don't support sites that do.

  2. Great post. I think this is something people tend to put a gray line on... that it's something people are waaaaay lax about. Stealing is stealing. No rationalizing there ;)

  3. I agree, being an author myself (though of fanfiction instead of original works), but I find myself in a quandary, Do I re-buy these books I've already bought once in another format (that I can't use now) or do I pirate them?' (I've already attempted to contact the author(s) of the books I need with no response.)

  4. There's a fallacious equivalence in the idea that stolen sales are lost sales. It assumes that, were the thieves to not be presented with the option that they would therefore be paying customers. I'm not saying what they do is right (the intent to deprive producers of reward for a valuable product is a reprehensible one), but let's not state with certainty that anything is actually 'lost' per se.

  5. Breila -- My thoughts on that are this: Do you own a DVD and cassette of the same movie? I know I do :) In my mind, there's not much difference. Again, semantics. Original copy vs duplicate, but it's the principle of the thing. I'm no Stephen King or JK Rowling, but if someone just said, "I have your paperback, but I'd love your eBook." I'd just give it to them. I'd rather offer it for free than have it stolen.

    Diaries of an Existentialist -- The intent of the post was meant to be mostly focused on the morality of the issue vs the legality. It is illegal. It is stealing. I do lose money *some* of the time. The part that irritates me most, however, is the utter lack of respect shown for the artist/musician/etc. Our work is NOT free for the world to share as they see fit.

  6. Hope - but what do you do if the authors in question don't respond at all? That's what has me in such a state, I want to do things correctly but if the author(s) don't even answer my inquiries...

  7. ... then you buy the book or you read something else. Are you honestly saying that if someone doesn't give you a copy of their book when you ask that you that have the right to illegally download it because they are being rude? Really?!

  8. Breila -- I've more than once bought books in both ebook and paper/hardback. I wanted it. I paid for it. Just like the with DVD vs VHS quandary. In fact, I have some movies I bought in Blu-Ray, DVD, and VHS. If an author chooses not to offer someone their ebook free, that's their prerogative. It might not seem fair to pay for the same book twice, but the fact remains. It belongs to the author, and if they choose to charge, others have to respect that. It's all a matter of respect.

  9. I tagged you in a fun writing meme! You might want to come join in!

  10. Hope: You cannot truly consider the morality and legality of an issue without first considering the epistemological aspects. As an aspiring author I support the notion of anti-piracy (albeit desired through post-scarcity economic reform rather than oppressive use of legislatures), but I would rather our side not be littered with fallacious supporting arguments that can be picked apart by pro-piracy rhetoric.

    By removing the notion of 'lost sales' (which is a metaphysically troublesome claim) the focus can instead be on the mens rea of the pirate, necessary for both moral and legal judgements to be appropriate. Otherwise it appears as though the anti-piracy argument is little more than complaints about lost revenue, and I would rather be an artist focused on moral ideals than a businessman focused on quarterly reports.

  11. Diaries of an Existentialist -- You're entitled to your opinion, however, your arguments are based on opinions, not experience. Ask any published author who has spent years on a project how they feel about their work being stolen, and I guarantee the ones who are passionate about writing will give you a colorful answer as to why they're against it. I'm sure those advocating piracy have never experienced someone taking their heartfelt creations and passing them off without care since they're too lazy pawning others' work to create themselves. As to your economic reform vs the use of legislature, you're right. The government is inept at best when it comes to anti-piracy, which is obvious in the failure of SOPA and why I said WE should do something about it before they try to again.

    I never said it wasn't about lost sales exclusively. That's absolutely an issue. BUT, like I've already said, the biggest problem here is the lack of respect for another's work. If you aspire to be an author, I wish you nothing but success. I'm genuinely intrigued to see how you feel once someone has pirated your own work. I know I feel a lot differently about it now that it's happened to me!

    Happy writing :)

  12. Yes, I might feel differently when I get pirated. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves and suggest that the reaction from authors is universal -

  13. Diaries of an Existentialist -- Again, semantics. We don't seem to be talking about the same things, and since each point is subject to opinion, I guess we'll agree to disagree.

    Good luck in your writing ventures!