Music is pirated because many people have an insatiable urge to listen to music, all the time, preferably with unlimited variety. And radio taught us that music to be listened to doesn’t cost money.
Books are free at the library but there’s no line out the door. Books are free to read in comfortable couches at Barnes & Noble but there aren’t teeming crowds sitting around reading all day.
Books take a long time to read, require a significant commitment, and they’re relatively cheap. And most people don’t read for fun. Most of the inputs necessary for a vibrant piracy community are missing.
In November, I participated on two panels with the Tacoma Arts Symposium. One of them was about social media/technology for artists. We had a lot of good questions from the audience, but a significant amount of them were about the audience member’s fear of piracy. People were afraid that if they started blogging their pictures or putting there ideas online, that they would be stolen.
I came down pretty hard on the other side. I said something to the effect of piracy being a validation that you had actually produced something of value. That your art was actually good. That you’d made it. That most piracy doesn’t really hurt the content creator in any meaningful way, and that efforts to prevent piracy generally just annoy the actual paying customers.
(As an aside, on the panel the only artist who I think has a serious issue with piracy was Laurie Cinotto, who posts adorable photos of cats (raising tens of thousands of dollars for the Humane Society in the process). Her work is often taken and used as LOLcats, which means it gets turned into images like this one:
(photo stolen with generous permission from Laurie Cinotto)
All that is to say: I’d made a pretty strong stand.
And this spring I had the opportunity to finally put my money where my mouth is.
After my successful e-book promotion for The Marinara Murders in March, I noticed that my google alerts for the book title found it on some sites where people download pirated books. I’d been pirated.
(The uncertainty is that all of them require some sort of login, so I didn’t test it, as often these sites make it just as likely that I would download malware as I would The Marinara Murders. This is especially true because the stated file size is much larger than my book actually is.)
But let’s assume the book really is there, awaiting anyone who wants to download it for free without paying me. How should I react?
The short answer is, I probably won’t do much. Obviously, I would prefer that people buy my book (here’s a link!). But let’s face it–two months ago I willingly gave away 11,000 digital copies and had my best month ever. So I’m not exactly averse to people getting it for free.
The truth is: authors should be much more concerned with obscurity than they are with piracy.
Seth Godin has a great post about how to think about ebook piracy.
I tend to agree with that analysis. I’m not saying I like that I’ve been pirated. But given the alternative–no one reading my book–it’s probably preferable.
So, even having been pirated (maybe), I think my answer stays pretty much the same as to what I gave in November. I’d rather be pirated than be obscure.