This week's focus: Epirating. Do we beat 'em, or join 'em? Please note, at the end of this post there are polls. You will have to visit the blog to view the poll. Thank you.
So... Where to start?
Epirates. What are they? The blunt truth is they are people like you and me. They hold or manage sites, usually on file sharing webhosts. Can anyone spot the oxymoron in that sentence?
I'll give you a minute....
Okay. It's this: Epirates // File Sharing. Only it's not a joke like Military // Intelligence. One does NOT roll with the other, because file sharing is considered just that: sharing. Recipes, public domain literature, royalty free music, royalty free photos. You get the idea. What Epirates are, literally, is pirates. Thieves. Unscrupulous individuals who have no care nor interest in the content they have in their hands, on their computers and in their "file sharing" systems. They toss these files around between each other as if they were nothing. And will do anything to keep these files available even after being repeatedly shut down by the courts, if the courts even have jurisdiction.
Put bluntly, it is because in legal terms they are 'nothing'. A digital file can't be litigated as a tangible, material item, so theft is hard to prove. Now this isn't poking at data files like emails and such that can be subpoenaed. That is written proof the legal courts are looking for to substantiate wrong-doing. What I'm discussing today is the basic premise of theft and copyright. So sit back because I'm on my high horse, soapbox, whatever you want to call it and I have the microphone.
Earlier this week, I was informed by Author X that I should just 'suck it up' and find a way to 'take advantage' of these thieves. Reward them if you will be giving all ('all' being discretionary, I'm sure) my books up for free and quit complaining about being stolen from because, well, I can't stop them and the law and government don't give a damn about them. Author X's argument was if I give my books away, I will be garnering readers to come, that they will look for books to buy because they found it online to read. Before I go any further, let me say that Author X is a NYT Best Seller, multipublished, and International, just for a little background.
Want to know what I have to say to that? Don't worry, it won't be mean....much.
The people who have these sites don't care. That is true. To them, it's nothing (again). They are 'files', intangibles. That people who use these sites do so to not have to spend money is also true. Letting them get books for free to encourage future purchases is a crock. Giving books away to these people to 'share' does not increase sales, because the majority of people who go to these sites are specifically looking for things they want, but don't want to have to spend money on. Libraries were the predecessor to this type of sharing, only the item (yes, I'm talking books folks) was ONE. It could not magically multiply because five people checked it out in a month. That encouraged readers to purchase. The lack of supply when in demand prompted readers to hunt for the books they wanted.
File sharing has destroyed that premise. Put bluntly, one file can be downloaded infinite times. Let's just say, 1,000 times in a month. No, that's not a hard number, just a point. That's 1,000 copies the originator will never be paid for, nor the multitude of people who worked to produce it. Say five of those people also have sharing sites. That's another 5,000 downloads. So we're up to 6,005 copies. In a month. If you're a New York Times Best Seller, I can easily imagine that being triple the downloads in a month, especially at first release. Why?
Simply put, why would a person spend money on a physical, takes up space book, when they can own the exact same thing, forever, online, for FREE? The supply and demand issue has vanished. That book will always be there. Somewhere. They switch computers? The reader's favorite author is on any number of sharing sites. Heck entire backlists have been found. For some that is a very long list.
I know some people don't care about these sites. And that's their perogative. Some don't consider what happens on those sites as theft. I do. It's a difference of opinion and I respect that. The thing that upset me was the 'suck it up' attitude. Going back to Author X, I'm sure they make quite a bit more than I do, so maybe to them, the loss of a few grand every royalty payment doesn't bother them. Maybe they've conceded the fight. Maybe they really believe that theft on this scale is permissable. I don't know.
I had posted a note some time ago about respecting copyright on this blog. It can be found here. Basically I was told to quit moaning about it. Education isn't working. I disagree. If the only means I have is educating the reading public, then I will use it. The government isn't going to do anything about it. Authors don't have the legal or monetary backing like the music industry (ergo Napster) to do anything about it. Some have no problem downloading bootleg movies instead of watching VOD or just going to see it in a theatre. The same for music. Downloading a song here or there doesn't seem like a big deal, but in truth it is. It is still theft. The only things I have downloaded are royalty free music and RF pictures, which can be seen in my book videos, and public domain books, from The Gutenberg Project, free reads from authors and free stories from retailers. I've purposely looked for them to find new authors.
Does it burn my cookies to be stolen from? You bet it does. Did it bother me to be told this? A resounding yes. I want to make a living writing. In today's economy, in the shakeup of the industry, it's not looking like it will happen but I really want to stay optimistic. I want to write. I want to make enough money for it to mean something to me. For some, that's taking the family to dinner (as a small press and ebook author I can relate to the monetary difference) or making the six month in full mortgage payment.
I am a published author. Does that make my work any less valuable than any RCA recording artist? Than any MGM contracted actor? No. Yet according to Author X, I'm suppose to find a way to accept, deal, and maybe find a way to take advantage of this theft, which means working with the criminals to benefit us both. And that right there is why I can't agree with Author X. I wish them all the best, but in this instance, we will disagree.
Below are the polls. You can only vote once per poll.
Thank you for reading,
P.S. All voting information is annonymous and no information will be kept or viewable to the public, including the answers until the end of the polling period, midnight January 19th, 2009, when I will post the answers next week. The polls are for any reader, including authors.