Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Thoughts on book piracy
I've read Katherine's March 12th Entry and I agree with a lot of what she says about ebooks. That's not a surprise since a great deal of my life revolves around the ebook industry. I think ebooks should take their place in the line up with the other formats -- hardbound, trade paperback, mass market, ebook and audio book. Just another format available for the reader if that's what they would like, and just as not all books are brought out in hardbound versions, not all ebooks would be brought out in print versions.
There is one section in her entry that I very much disagree with, however, and that's the dismissal of book piracy as trivial and something that should be ignored in the hopes that the person will then go and buy the book.
I never think it is wise to purposely undercut the only power that writers are granted in the publishing world -- the copyright. Allowing others -- encouraging them, in fact -- to copy books that are under copyright seems to me to be saying that we, as writers, really don't need it. If anyone can copy a book and distribute it, that makes copyright useless. It throws away our only hope of controlling the distribution of the material by which we make a living.
And that's what book piracy is -- distribution of work without paying the author or acknowledging the author's right to control the process. This isn't a case of someone copying a book for himself -- after all, if he has it, he doesn't need a copy -- though a few might do that with library books. However, the book piracy situation is people copying material and making it available to anyone who comes to the Usenet community. If you have been to any of those sections, you know that this isn't a handful of people. There are thousands of them -- and for some writers that could be a significant part of their income.
Allowing and encouraging book piracy means having no control at all over how that material might be changed or modified, and still passed off as the author's original work. It also encourages people to believe that writers shouldn't be paid for their work -- that what we do is not worth it. Just words to download.
Writers need to make a stand against book piracy. We also need to respect other authors' rights as well, and not encourage or collect pirated books of our own.
I wouldn't encourage a kid to steal candy from my shop in the hopes that he would come back and buy some next time. I just don't think it's a good practice for writers to encourage readers to steal books, no matter what the format.