Giselle Marks

Regency Romance and Fantasy Author

Book Piracy is just Theft

on February 10, 2014

Have you ever been burgled? Were you sick as a result of the violation of your home? But so long as you were not injured in the theft, all you lost were things which could be replaced. Theft of intellectual property is like stealing a part of your soul, because for an author or artist, the work they have produced is their beloved baby, almost part of themselves. This is in addition to the damage to an author’s efforts to make a living.

There is no such thing as a victimless crime. I have some sympathy for a man who steals to feed his hungry children, or for an old lady who is losing her marbles who goes shoplifting, but even they have victims who have lost as a result of their thieving. The victims are first those they stole from, who pass their costs onto their insurance companies, who have to pay for the depredations. Finally everyone, us, the public pays as the insurance companies put up their premiums and shop-owners erect CCTV and increase physical protection before increasing their prices to pay for it.

I have had two of my novels published by Front Porch Romance. It takes time to write an original story. I researched, wrote, edited, then I rechecked my facts, spelling and grammar. I rewrote, cut, polished, had the books read by a beta-reader, rewrote again before offering the book to a publisher. I spent time with my cover artist Sarah J Waldock and my editor Debbie Rowe, trying to make each book as perfect as I could. After publication I promoted the books on Facebook, Twitter, Word-Press, my wix site and wrote numerous articles and answered author questionnaires which were published on a number of other blog sites. It was and is hard work promoting a book by a new author but I got on with it.

During this time I also tried to assist other writers who were learning their craft. I beta read for friends and proof read for my publisher, I wrote a few reviews and tried to keep my friends cheerful when they faced rejection letter after rejection letter. For none of that was I paid, other writers had done it for me and I was returning the favours by paying it forwards. I received some lovely reviews for “The Fencing Master’s Daughter” and “The Marquis’s Mistake” which are now available from a number of sources as e-books and print on demand.

I was surprised to be warned my books were being pirated. My first book came out in late September, my second in December; so neither has been available for long. Yet someone stole them and loaded them on to at least two sites. Some writers seem unconcerned by such piracy, arguing the people who use such sites would not pay for books and therefore they have lost nothing. I was directed to Cory Doctorow’s article, “How writers lose when piracy gets harder.” His article is well-argued and written but whether economically he is right or not, I disagree with the morality of his premise. He argues writers benefit from book piracy because it promotes their names. To me copyright piracy is totally morally wrong and should be punished, not encouraged as Cory seems to be doing. The backers of some of these sites are involved in hard core porn so I do not want to be associated with them.

If I obtain something stolen, I can be prosecuted for receiving stolen goods. If I resell or receive any benefits for that item from a third party I would be called a fence. Yet sites which accept books in copyright without checking the person loading those books has permission from the copyright holder consider themselves blameless. If a few titles slipped through to these sites because of the huge quantity of documents they accept, that might be understandable, but this is a huge endeavour by scammers who may even alter titles or author names to continue to rip off authors and publishers. The sites gain by advertising even if they earn nothing from downloading books.

Authors are businesses, if someone steals from authors, how do they recoup their costs? You may view writing as a hobby but this is a business and when people steal from an author, they have a loss of income. It is sad because my publisher had DRM protection but Adobe offers a DRM removal tool. This was originally for business PDFs, etc but it is ruining authors’ revenue. My publisher is being kept busy issuing DCMA forms for many of her titles which have been pirated by several sites. It is wasting her time as this scam is clearly big business. She could be promoting her authors instead of filing these forms to one site after another.

I posted a notice giving links to two of these pirate sites on Facebook and several other writers found their titles had been ripped off. These are not particularly famous authors, some were self-published but their hard work had been stolen and given away to others. And they have lost money from that. It is a slap in the face to authors. Telling us our work is not worth paying for but these hackers can get away with and benefit from stealing it.

They would not be going to the effort of loading our books if they were not gaining from the theft! It is damaging to all serious writers and to the publishing industry. The industry is trying to protect our product and to find legal ways to deal with these criminals; which adds to costs as well, increasing book prices.

These authors did not give permission for our books to be added to these sites, downloaded for free and our names associated with websites that are in essence dishonourable. These sites allow this to happen and do little to prevent it. They collaborate with the thieves who have distributed our efforts and make it harder to identify and prosecute the fraudsters. Even if the downloads are free, the site administrators receive revenue from advertisers who are prepared to allow these thefts to continue. The advertisers are tarred by the same brush of complicity in this criminal behaviour.

The pirate sites offer to remove any copyrighted items within 72 hours that does not make their actions blameless. Having removed these titles, do they permanently block the user who loaded those files, notify the police of their criminal action, or provide the author and publisher with the details of that user so they can prosecute him? No they do not.

February the 8th was Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s birthday; he was executed by the Nazis for speaking out against their atrocities. He argued that “Silence in the face of Evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless.” So the owners of these sites should be held responsible for their actions and be prosecuted for not doing more to convict these fraudsters.

If I insert one line of a popular song other than its title without the song writer’s permission in one of my stories, I risk prosecution for plagiarism, yet these talentless hackers can rip off my and other writers’ books with impunity. This is morally wrong and the site owners, directors, advertisers and employees are all guilty. Wikipaedia’s advice on how to Combat Book Piracy includes the statement “They may or may not care about the ethics of piracy, but they do want to avoid lawsuits. Approach them in a matter of fact way, rather than accusatory, threatening, or demanding. Take time to vent your emotions privately (typically you may feel fear, rage, grief, and indignation), but do not approach the site itself in that tone.”

I think the writer of that piece is wrong! Threatening and demanding may not be effective but they should not be kowtowed to. I had not read that advice when I let rip with an email to one site. I seriously offended the administrator who emailed me back trying to argue that they did care and were not guilty. I told him that was BS, he was guilty of receiving stolen property and he should close the site if he could not police it because he was dishonourable. I think if a few more authors told them what they thought and informed their advertisers that they would be named and shamed for using the sites, then they might start checking!


8 responses to “Book Piracy is just Theft

  1. Robert says:

    You make a good point about how theft by any name is still theft. It almost seems as if people are growing tolerant of such wickedness! At the store where I used to work, it was very common to find the wrappers from stolen movies, see people walking out with televisions, stealing video games, it honestly got sad to watch!

  2. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's New (to me) Authors Blog and commented:
    AUTHORS BE ADVISED about Book Piracy Issues!

  3. Giselle, you say, “(Cory) argues writers benefit from book piracy because it promotes their names.” and we both agree that’s complete nonsense. Or utter bollocks, Or haggis fried in motor oil.

    and you say, “To me copyright piracy is totally morally wrong and should be punished, not encouraged as Cory seems to be doing.” and I fully and totally agree. Your point about the song lines is strong. I was actually surprised when looking for a few short epigraphs to open my chapters of TobakkoNacht to find out how restricted such usage is.

    – MJM

    • Thank you but Cory’s view is also widely held. And I had a lovely argument with a friend on FB about my views. But I think the statement that it is unpoliceable does not mean we should not object to it and loudly.

  4. It’s an assault, pure and simple, upon one’s intellectual rights if one is being legalistic about it, and upon the soul if one is reacting with the gut. It’s like the drunks who pee and vomit over your garden wall on the way home and to add insult to injury break off flowers you’ve nurtured and spoiling the whole plant.

  5. Stacy says:

    Reblogged this on Official Website of Stacy Reid, Author and commented:
    Great post!

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