Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Piracy - Arrr ye sittin' on t' fence?

Last year Forbes printed an interesting (if rather depressing) article on piracy—something that is becoming an increasing problem in the publishing industry and affects practically all authors indiscriminately.  If you've poured sweat and tears into your treasured book, someone out there wants to own it (whether or not they ever choose to read it) for free.  These people are effectively thieves, and our dilemma is: do we fight them, or not?  
One popular argument is that people who seek out free download sites for music, films or books would be unlikely to dig into their pockets to actually pay for the booty, if it were not available for free; ergo piracy does not affect your royalties.  On the other hand, research has also shown that those who pirate do spend more—at least on music—than 'non-sharers', so are we losing potential sales?  Should we become complacent and turn a blind eye to this scourge of the world wide web, or do our utmost to fight it?
Many authors prefer to do nothing, but one author group has been proactive in seeking out pirate sites and warning other authors as well as making their thoughts on the subject known wherever possible.  I was so impressed by author Rowena Cherry's articulate response to the Forbes' article that I asked her permission to quote this in full on my blog.  Here it is:
Piracy is not the saviour of the book industry. It's the bread and butter of Search and of advertising. The money in ebooks is being made by Google, and by those whom Google and Yahoo and Bing pay to display advertisements.
Unfortunately, the media --including Forbes, CNBC, and others-- promote and encourage and validate piracy and immoral business models. That is why public attitudes have changed, piracy is widely accepted.... and embraced. The law cannot keep up, and the lawmakers follow either the money (Google) or the wishes of the majority (who want free content).
Advising authors and musicians to turn themselves into street corner buskers is simply not realistic. If every author and musician were on the street (or on the road, or on the internet superhighway) giving away their content willingly, and begging for charity, the culture would be depreciated.
You might as well advise authors to buy stocks and shares in Google and Amazon and PayPal/EBay, and share in the profits from piracy.
Suggesting that authors and publishers give away more, or add additional content (why would that not be ripped off, too?) , or take more time away from what they do best to "engage" with the public is simply not going to improve the quality, depth and diversity of what is written.
It's killing the golden-egg-laying goose for its feathers. It's eroding copyright protection for content creators. Eventually, there will be no incentive for smart and original minds to invest the time to hone their craft and "share" their stories.
Shame on Forbes for lending its gravitas to the forced redistribution of property. Make no mistake, that's what piracy is --a forced redistribution of wealth-- real wealth, and intellectual property. The irony is that the wealth is being taken from the weak, the minority, the relatively poor and given to the rich.... Amazon, EBay, and Google.
So what do you think?  On which side of the fence do you feel most comfortable?

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