To pirate or not to pirate, that is NOT the question

Over the last few days, social media has been alive — again — with author outrage over e-book piracy. Apparently someone on Facebook started a thread on her wall asking for recommendations for pirate sites where she could download e-books for free. It’s no surprise that the authors were up in arms. After all, no one likes seeing work they have up for sale in one place being offered for free — without permission — somewhere else. But, when the woman who started the thread started blocking those who didn’t agree with her, and when others started attacking those who pointed out what they were advocating was stealing, the internet exploded.

I’m on the record as being against piracy. I’m also realistic enough to know there is little we can do about most pirate sites. Those who are often the worst offenders aren’t located in the U.S. They have little concern for the law or for takedown notices. The time and money that it often takes to get that site in the Ukraine or elsewhere can be better spent writing my next book.

What does get me, however, is the attitude of people like the OP and her supporters who have this sense of entitlement to our work. Like so many in society today, they feel they have the right to take our work without compensation, because they want it. In this case, the OP claimed, from what I’ve read, that she was “poor”. Yet she either had internet or the means to get somewhere there was internet. She had access to a computer, tablet or smartphone to post her request. That request also meant she had access to something that allowed her to read e-books. Oh, and from what those who have purportedly seen her post and Facebook page have said, she is a photographer. Hmmm, I wonder if she gives her work away for free.

One of the commenters said that he had no problem pirating e-books because writers make enough money as it is. Yes, I laughed. He suffers from the Castle Syndrome — thank you very much, ABC. For every Stephen King or Nora Roberts, there are thousands of authors working one or two jobs to make ends meet.

From personal history, one of the sites that did — and possibly once again does — have my books listed, they also listed the number of times a title had been downloaded. I lost several thousand dollars from just that site alone. I was lucky, however, because they did take down my books when I contacted them. But I have to spend time every few months going back and seeing if my work has once again found its way onto their menu. That money could have been put to good use doing things like, oh, paying bills.

Much as I hate pirate sites, I know they also serve a purpose, limited yes, but a purpose. The problem is that they also cause issues with retail sites like Amazon and B&N, etc. If those sites learn that our work is being “sold” for less somewhere else, they will send notice, telling us we need to either price match or risk having our work removed from the legitimate site. Fortunately, the few times that has happened with me, either the pirate sites have taken my work down when I’ve sent them a DMCA notice or Amazon, etc., have accepted my explanation that the offending site is a pirate site and has failed to respond to the DMCA notice.

But, when someone tells me they have the right to pirate my work because they like to read and can’t afford my work, well, that does get my dander up. First is the sheer audacity of it all. What is it about our society, both here in the U.S. and elsewhere, that has bred this mentality in some people? I have been known to ask people like that if they are willing to give away their own hard work to someone just because that person wants it.

The argument spotted in the Facebook thread from one person saying they like to read, so they should be able to pirate any book they want, almost had me beating my head against the desk. There are libraries, and most libraries now allow you to borrow e-books, if you want to read something for free. There’s Project Guttenberg. Amazon and other e-tailers offer hundreds to thousands of free titles. That’s more than enough for someone who wants free books to read.

Jim Baen proved the validity of the “give the first taste for free” with the Baen Free Library. Unfortunately for writers, there are some out there who believe every taste should be free. Fortunately, they are in the vast minority.

Here’s the thing. Writing is a business. It is our profession. The reason the vast majority of writers hold down a “real” job — or two — is because writing doesn’t pay a lot. Not when you consider the number of hours an author spends writing and preparing a book for publication. If that author then publishes that book traditionally, his income is cut even further per unit sold. Most of us don’t live in fancy apartments in New York, play poker with famous Hollyweird folks and go out solving crimes with NYC detectives. Most of us are lucky if we can replace our laptops before they wear out.

Here is something else to consider. Most of us are also very thankful to our fans and are more than willing to send a free e-book to a fan in need. I would much rather do that — and have done that.

Now, I know there are going to be some of you out there who will note the high prices of e-books coming from certain publishers. Those books, if I have to read them, I borrow from the library. Sure, it means I won’t get to read it as soon as I might like but I am still sending money to the author that way. The only time I will even consider pirating a book is when it is something so obscure that it hasn’t been published here and isn’t available through any legitimate means — and I have to have a pressing need for it. Funny, I haven’t found anything like that, yet. I have always managed to find an alternative. However, I know there are some reference materials that aren’t available through anything here in the U. S. except pirate sites. Fortunately for my conscience, I haven’t had to use those materials yet.

So here’s the thing, folks. Just because there are pirate sites out there, that doesn’t mean you need to use them. If the download links go anywhere but to Amazon or another legitimate e-tailer, you are taking money out of the hands of the author. If you legitimately can’t afford an e-book, contact the author. I have a feeling if you do, and if you explain your circumstances, they won’t hesitate to send you a copy. That’s especially true if you offer to leave a review for the book when you finish reading it.

Most of all, don’t be a butthead about it. If you are going to pirate, that’s between you and your conscience. Don’t go to Facebook or Twitter, etc., and ask in a post authors can see that you want recommendations for pirate sites. It tends to get our backs up, especially if you then start blocking those who point out that what you are doing is wrong. And, authors, take a page out of Jim Baen’s book. Offer your work for free from time to time to hook new readers. Your bottom dollar will come to appreciate it.

158 thoughts on “To pirate or not to pirate, that is NOT the question

  1. On Castle, there are story reasons for him to be successful and wealthy. However, that ain’t most of us.

    I write full-time, but most of what pays my bills isn’t fiction. Meanwhile, *I* am an anomaly since my sole source of income is writing.

    Anyone who thinks the average writer is pulling down six figures is clearly someone who doesn’t understand the realities of this business.

    1. Yep. Unfortunately, Castle burned into some folks’ brains the idea that all writers are like that. Shrug.

      1. Unfortunately.

        However, people only see what the elite make and never think about the guys in the trenches. When I first started writing columns for the local newspaper, a friend of mine from high school figured I was making really good money. He was shocked when I told him the money for writing a part-time column in a single newspaper isn’t that much. The money comes from having your column in a hundred newspapers.

        He just saw what the top columnists were doing and figured I couldn’t be that far behind them.

        1. Or they look at something like the NBA, where the vast majority are making at least six figures. (Actually, there is apparently one, and only one, poor guy who’s salary is less than the national median income.)

          They never seem to think it’s more like pro baseball. Yep, if you’re in the Majors, the minimum salary is $500K. The average MINOR league player makes between $3,000 and $7,500. WAY below the poverty level.

          1. Any sport, really.

            We used to have an Arena 2 league team here. Their star wide receiver was a school teacher during the day.

            The reality is any of the public face, high-profile jobs with big paychecks tend to have people who don’t make nearly as much as you want to think.

            Even actors who work fairly regularly aren’t rolling in the cash like some folks. There are folks who work regularly that are still basically living paycheck to paycheck.

          2. Lowest level Single A players minimum salary is $1150 a month plus away game meal money of $25 per day.
            This is what only a very few make, as many have received a signing bonus that is not figured into the salary.
            Most of these minor league players are young and will only last a few years as a paid baseball player.
            One has to think of it as a “just out of school first job”.
            The seasons are short, many are three to five months. So players usually have a fall back job.
            Or should have.
            And one of my pet peeves is using average instead of mean for salaries.

  2. I’ve been pirated; I didn’t like it, and don’t. But…
    That said, consider this. Would the customer who got your book free and read it have bought it, absent the pirate site? And would that customer have gone back and bought other books that AREN’T on the pirate site? I’ve had that happen, and in one case someone who got a free book liked it enough to pay me $10 through Paypal voluntarily! I didn’t ask for him to, he volunteered, and I sent him a free copy of another book as a thank-you.
    It may be that authors help foster the idea that ebooks should be ‘free’. They promote free books every day, hundreds of them. If they’re free today, why shouldn’t they be free tomorrow? After all, how much does it cost to send out an email? And don’t authors sell the same work over and over at almost no additional cost?
    We’ll always have fleas, bedbugs, and pirates.
    I remember back when movies on tape came out. They were sold for around $100, substantial bucks back then. Pirates sprang up all over the place, ‘clubs’ that pooled their money, bought a copy, and circulated it among members who recorded their own copy. Then the price dropped, rental stores came into being, and the pirate clubs vanished.
    We’re following a similar course, in case you hadn’t made the connection. Our books sell for less than $5, for the most part. You can also borrow them through Amazon and others free after paying the subscription charge.
    To me this means that yes, there will be pirates, but their effect won’t kill the industry.
    And the customer of the pirate who gets your book free today may well buy others from authorized outlets tomorrow.

    1. That is pretty much my opinion. I don’t mind the occasional pirated book. I’ve had folks tell me that is how they discovered me and, after pirating the book, they went back and legitimately bought it and then recommended it to others. That I can deal with. It is the sense of entitlement from those like the OP on Facebook the other day who see nothing wrong with pirating, and who have no intention of buying a book they can get for free, that bothers me. I doubt the OP gives her work away for free and she sure wouldn’t appreciate doing a photo shoot expecting to be paid, only to be told afterward that it wasn’t going to happen. Her work is “art” and therefore should be free.

      I also don’t see piracy killing the industry. For the most part, people aren’t going to pirate. I probably wasn’t clear in the original post because, well, it’s morning. I look at pirate sites almost as promotional sites. I can’t stop them but I do have to monitor them to make sure they aren’t giving everything away. As long as there are goods of any sort being produced, there will be pirate sites and smugglers and black markets. That’s life.

      Again, it was more the attitude of entitlement of the OP on Facebook that got to me. Shrug.

  3. I am reminded of some years back when “fans” got up in an outrage at the late musician Prince having videos with his music taken down from Youtube. They were all “it actually helps him. He gets free promotion.” Yada yada yada.

    As I pointed out, though, while all that could be true (I wouldn’t know), nevertheless, it’s not their call to make. It’s his. His music. His call. Pure and simple.

    1. Bingo. You may love it to pieces, but it ain’t yours. One of the neatest videos I’d seen of “March of the Cambreath” was a lovingly done Stargate homage. It got pulled because the owners of the Stargate franchise complained. And I sent a warning note to someone on YouTube who used Michael Yon’s photos without credit, because he was starting to get really irked about his work being stolen. Next week, the video was gone for copyright violation (in all fairness, they’d taken images from a lot of other photographers and news agencies, so it may have been CNN or the AP who protested to YouTube.)

      1. I’m a little ambivalent about that. There’s a lot of factors I’d consider in situations like that before I’d personally consider the use right or wrong. Obviously, is the creator making any money from it? And what about the work involved in putting the vid together to get the maximum effect? Doesn’t that count for anything?

        But it looks like the Stargate franchise were being a bunch of jerks and yeah, the law is on their side.

    2. Exactly. Those holding the rights to the work should have the right to choose where it is offered and for how much.

    3. On the other hand, he also forbade digital distribution of an album (maybe his last album?) because it would ‘prevent piracy’… and all it did was make sure his sales were barely a blip on the radar.

      1. and all it did was make sure his sales were barely a blip on the radar.

        I didn’t say that it was a good decision. Just that it was his decision to make. Not yours. Not mine. Not anybody else’s.

  4. Short on time, since I’m about to head off (oddly enough) for my other job but …

    Piracy sucks. And I’m as shocked as most others at how brazen people are about it. There are some truly ridiculous things said in defense of their crime by pirates.

  5. I used to hang out on video forums when BluRay was new (enjoyed the battles between BluRay and HDDVD fanboys) and there were threads about piracy. Saw pretty much the same justifications. And some real weird ones as well.

    Studios are rich!
    Prices are too high!
    You should save the money to give to charity!

    Can’t remember the exact words of one but it was something like “Where does god say this is wrong?” I guess he wasn’t familiar with the god that passed down the 10 commandments.

    Made absolutely no headway arguing with them. They couldn’t (or more likely wouldn’t) understand the concept of theft regarding intellectual property. Like talking to a brick wall.

    1. I remember hanging out in some of those forums, or at least some similar to them, and seeing the same arguments. Funny how it was always okay to take from the studios and artists who were seen as having money but never all right to take from those doing the demanding. I guess what’s good for the goose isn’t so good for the gander.

    2. I think there’s a different ‘feel’ to pirating a movie. You don’t really see who you’re hurting. Pirating a book or something produced by an individual creates a different sense of guilt: you KNOW exactly who it is you’re stealing from.

      1. well, the thing is… many of the movies i want to see, I *do* know someone working on it.

  6. A few years back, I encountered somebody who thought that authors were all rich & entitled. The funny part is that I used his own link to disprove his idea—he’d linked to the top 100 authors of the last decade in sales. I broke down the numbers over a ten-year period and showed that the lowest person on the list was barely clearing six digits of gross income, assuming that was their actual income and not the sales numbers. (I think it was at least that accurate.) I then pointed out that several authors on the list were dead—Shakespeare isn’t collecting any royalties—and that if this were the list of the top 100, *every other author in the world* was making less.

    To that poster’s credit, he immediately saw the flaw in his logic and agreed that “rich authors” were not a common feature of the world.

    But oh, the entitled mentality of some folk. “Information wants to be free.” Well, in most cases, it’s more that somebody is a cheap bastard…

  7. The strongest blow anyone ever struck against piracy of e-books was Amazon making it so easy to buy the books legitimately. By far the biggest motive I ever have for using torrent sites and similar is when there’s too much bullshit involved in getting things for pay.

    That said, I must object to the characterization of digital piracy as “stealing”. “Intellectual property” is a lazy shortcut category covering several different kinds of law, none of which bear much resemblance at all to actual property law. In particular, violating a limited legal monopoly (copyright) is not “stealing” in any sense, either on the part of the person posting it or of the person downloading it. (Whether it’s depriving you of income you’d otherwise have gotten is another question, which itself is more complicated than just assuming every pirate download is a lost sale.)

    1. Yes, Amazon has done a lot but it is still out there. As for digital piracy not being stealing, sorry, but I disagree. When someone takes an item — be it tangible or digital — without paying for it and without being given it through legitimate means, that is stealing. It may be viewed as theft of services under some aspects of the law or something else but it still comes down to taking someone’s work or property without paying for it.

      Income doesn’t even come into it. If someone walked into a store and took a book without paying for it, it is theft. They intended to take the book without paying for it. If someone goes to a pirate site and downloads a book without paying for it, that, too, is theft. They are taking goods from someone they know, or reasonably should know, does not have the right to distribute said book or music or video. When that person brags about doing so online, intent is shown.

      1. I’ll happily agree that it’s better to pay the author. But legally, copyright violation doesn’t even have anything in common with stealing. (And legally, if you use a standard Web download, as opposed to something more technically arcane like a torrent client, the person downloading the book hasn’t even committed a crime; copyright violation is on the part of the person posting it, not the person downloading it.) The crime of theft is in the “taking something from someone else” part, not the “acquiring something without paying for it” part; given a good like a digital file that can be provided infinitely without taking it from anyone, it’s not actually even possible to steal it.

        This may seem something of a fine distinction. But banging on about how downloading from pirate sites is stealing sounds like the stupid RIAA ads saying “You wouldn’t download a car” or whatever, and ends up being a good way to make a large number of people write off your argument without paying further attention.

        1. So, what do you suggest we say to make it clear that those doing it are taking something that doesn’t belong to them, something the average person will identify with? Of course, using your own argument, you are basically saying that an e-book is nothing but a license — something that is the argument of the Big 5 but not necessarily how indies and small and mid-sized presses feel.

          I’m sorry, but you are arguing about semantics and not talking about the problem. You are also illustrating the problem a lot of folks have with the legal profession — you would rather argue about what a word means than in what the intent is.

          1. “Freeloading” would be an entirely reasonable way to describe it.

            An e-book is not a license. An e-book is a digital file, which is basically just a number. The slogan “information wants to be free” is kind of eye-rollingly hippy-ish, but in an important physical sense it’s true; once the digital file exists, making it available to the entire universe is a low-cost operation. The concept of “stealing”, as familiar to people from the material world in which things can only be in one place at a time, does not apply.

            Thus, freeloading. Those who write books are making the entire universe better, by turning it into a universe in which those particular files exist. Pirating benefits from this labor without contributing anything back to the necessary support of it. It’s more like, say, living in a country without paying taxes; you aren’t depriving anyone of anything, but you aren’t paying for your public goods.

            1. Ah, but Tom, when you freeload you deprive everyone of a small bit of the whole. And when you freeload and get away with it others see you and wonder why they can’t get the same free ride you are enjoying. And as time goes by that thing you value, just not enough to pay for, goes away or is at the very least degraded.
              This is the economic theory known as The Tragedy of the Commons.
              And an e-book, just like a computer program, is generally considered to be an individual single use license. You can use it, but you can’t sell it, and you can’t change it and claim it as your own.

              1. That’s a legal status under copyright, which is a human attempt to deal with the physical fact that information can be copied infinitely. Anyone who’s pirating can probably already be assumed to be willing to ignore copyright laws.

                “Tragedy of the commons” refers to a public good which is large but finite and adversarial; say, grass for grazing in a public area (the original example), or fish in the sea. Some public goods, such as military security over a country or the existence of books people have written, are non-adversarial. One person using them in fact removes nothing from anyone else who’s using them; there’s no scarcity involved. It’s still bad to freeload, however, because creating the public good has a cost, and it won’t get created if there’s no way to furnish the costs of its creation.

              2. While I imagine I will be long gone, I do wonder what will happen in 150 odd years to my “license” will it remain a licence forever and only the paper version go into the public domain. What if its its a big 5 purchase that the publisher reported as a Sale to the author?

              1. Er, what?

                To my knowledge, the only books I’ve pirated are ones I own physical copies of, for which there’s no sanctioned ebook. I certainly don’t pirate the works of people around here. See above, under “paying for it at Amazon is easier”.

                I object to the term “stealing” used for digital piracy because it is clearly and obviously erroneous, not because I have a guilty conscience.

                1. Stealing is what it is — morally, legally, and as a matter of fact. It costs in five figures annually to maintain the life of an author. It’s hardly a low-cost proposition and is far from trivial. It’s none of your business what it costs to put a single copy of a book on the market. It’s for sale at a set price. Pay it or leave it alone. To do otherwise is to steal the life force of the book’s creator — tantamount to murder.


                2. Digital piracy is stealing. Copyright is an exclusive license to copy and to profit from copies. This is no less theft than photocopying a book or purchasing or knowingly receiving a photocopy of a book.

                  Robin Munn can correct me if I have this wrong (him being the IP lawyer around here) but my understanding is that in knowingly acquiring an illegal copy of a copyrighted work, you’re inserting yourself as a third party in the contract between the copyright holder and legitimate purchasers; and causing material damage in the form of money the copyright holder should have received and did not, as well as in the form of time spent in contract enforcement activities rather than income producing activities.

                  Your pirated ebooks are stealing from the authors. Helping yourself to a paperback of a hardcover you own would be stealing. So would photocopying the hardcover.

                  Stop dancing around the topic and own it. Your moral cowardice is on display.

                  1. As I said earlier, I am not in the habit of pirating books. I certainly haven’t pirated any of yours. Your absurd accusations are transparently attempting to avoid the actual issue.

                    “Stealing” means something specific. (Photocopying a book doesn’t qualify, either.) If you make false claims in your moral argument against a certain practice, observers who know what the fuck they are talking about will naturally come to the conclusion that you don’t have an argument, and are reduced to relying on falsehoods out of necessity. This is not helpful to your case.

                    I have not disagreed with you or with the OP that you should pay authors for their books. I am not attempting to justify my own practices; when I want a book, I buy it. I object to your idiotic moral preening, that asserts that anyone who doesn’t wholly buy your classification system must only be doing so to salve a guilty conscience. I particularly object to being falsely accused of unrelated sins on the basis of a position I take in debate.

                    I had generally thought that successful indy authors would have better sense than to insult their customers for no reason.

                    1. Actually, my issue with what you’ve been saying goes back to your statement that legally, copyright violation doesn’t even have anything in common with stealing. There are a number of jurisdictions that will disagree with you. Strenuously.

                      USA law is a bit fuzzy on which way to lean, so introduced the rather more obvious “copyright infringement” – but that doesn’t mean that copyright violations are not considered theft in many places. So no, I am not, as you claim relying on falsehoods out of necessity

                      As for moral preening, sir, perhaps you should remove the plank in your own eye before judging the speck in mine. I don’t care if you purchase my books or not. I don’t care if you think I’m wrong or not.

                      I do care that during this thread, with multiple people, you’ve managed to make a number of statements that read as though you stand with the entitled who think that they are entitled to take the product of someone’s time and effort for any of a number of reasons.

                      If that is not your position, then perhaps you should have considered your words with a little more care before posting. If it’s foolish to insult potential customers for no good reason, it’s equally foolish to tell or imply to potential vendors that you don’t think something which causes them financial loss is really a problem.

                    2. I quote from here:

                      Copyright holders frequently refer to copyright infringement as theft. In copyright law, infringement does not refer to theft of physical objects that take away the owner’s possession, but an instance where a person exercises one of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder without authorization…. Instead, “interference with copyright does not easily equate with theft, conversion, or fraud. The Copyright Act even employs a separate term of art to define one who misappropriates a copyright: ‘[…] an infringer of the copyright.'”

                      Thus, in US law at least, it seems there is no fuzziness at all. I know of no inconsistency between US case law and English common law on this subject. If you can give examples of jurisdictions in which copyright infringement is treated under the same law as criminal theft, I would certainly be interested to hear of it; that would be a strange decision indeed, given the many material differences in how the two violations must be treated.

                      The adverse reaction to my specific point — “copyright infringement is not the same thing as theft” — seems predicated on the idea that the only way an act can be considered wrong is if it is, in fact, theft. This is obviously fallacious when stated outright. Perhaps those who read my argument as an apology for pirates should work on their comprehension of logic.

                    3. Nice straw man you’ve got there.

                      No one claimed it must be theft it order to be immoral. As you have been told ad nauseum, “freeloading” implies that it should not be illegal. There are plenty of things that do not constitute illegal acts that can be immoral.

                      But whatever. You claim I’m unable to comprehend logic, yet you have shown repeatedly that you are unable to comprehend the plain English in this discussion.

                      Be an apologist. It’s your God-given right. You don’t have to justify your apologist positions to me.

                    4. Okay, under the I am not an attorney heading, first of all, if you want me to take a legal argument seriously, don’t quote Wikipedia. Second, if you want to be very limited in your application of terms, yes, those running pirate sites are guilty of copyright infringement. However, you can also make an argument that they are guilty of theft of services. In other words, they are appropriating work that is provided for pay. Note that this is a form of theft and, while the generic legal definition of theft does require the taking of a physical thing, through offenses like theft by deception and theft of services, that definition has expanded.

                      However, let’s also look at those who use pirate sites because they don’t want to pay for a book — or movie or music. They aren’t freeloading. According to Webster, freeloading is “to impose upon another’s generosity or hospitality without sharing in the cost or responsibility involved”. I am not being “generous” when I write a book. It is my job. I expect to be paid for it. When you go to a “pirate” site with the intent of taking my book without paying for it, you are doing more than imposing on my generosity. You are stealing from me. You may not like the term, but the intent is there.

                      You seem to believe that just because something is not tangible, it can’t be stolen. Here we are going to have to disagree.

                      What I do find interesting is that you have failed to address the harm these sites and those who use them do to authors (or musicians, etc.). As has been noted in earlier comments, we have contracts with the different e-stores where we sell our work. Part of those contracts is that we will not allow our work to be sold for a lower price elsewhere. These pirate sites put us in violation of our contract, at least until we can prove to Amazon and the others that we have not given permission for our work to be on these sites. That can and does cause financial harm and can possibly cause ill-will with our fans.

                      Is what these pirate sites do — and, by extension, those who use them — illegal? Yes. In some jurisdictions, such actions are against the criminal laws of that jurisdiction. In others, they are against the civil laws of that jurisdiction. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, illegal is defined as, “an violation of statute, regulation or ordinance, which may be criminal or merely not in conformity. Thus, an armed robbery is illegal, and so is an access road which is narrower than the county allows, but the violation is not criminal. ” So, whether such actions are “theft” or not, they are illegal in many jurisdictions.

                      Frankly, you have been the one to hang up on one definition of terms without wanting to listen to what anyone else has to say. You have dug your heels in and refused to budge — and you have taken an in your face attitude about it. So if some of the commenters have returned it tit-for-tat, you shouldn’t be surprised.

                    5. Hmm. Guess this is the deepest level at which I can comment. Let’s change that quote around just a tiny bit…

                      “In criminal law, rape does not refer to theft of physical objects that take away the owner’s possession, but an instance where a person exercises one of the exclusive rights of the body holder without authorization.”

                      So… Let’s just call it rape of the author.

                1. Oh, yes. It’s almost as good as when people jump to absurd conclusions on no evidence so that they can ignore any actual argument.

                  I am not saying that pirating books rather than paying the author is morally right. I am not in the habit of pirating books. I categorize it as “freeloading” rather than “stealing” as a matter of basic logic; if anything, I would consider freeloading to be morally worse. But forget all that; anyone who does not instantly agree with all your thundering moral pronouncements to the nigglingest detail must have no motive other than to rationalize their own guilty conscience.

                  When I read your books, I bought them from Amazon, paying the entire price, exactly as you’re so desperate your fans do. But forget that too. Clearly it’s more important that you win an Internet argument than that you refrain from gratuitously insulting your customers. This is hardly inclining me to continue selecting your particular product for my finite ebook-reading dollars.

                  1. How you categorize it is irrelevant.

                    It’s theft. It’s been explained to you HOW it is theft. The fact that you reject these explanations doesn’t change the validity of them.

                    Frankly, you’ve been a pirating apologist this entire thread. I don’t care if you’re saying it’s still wrong, by arguing it’s “freeloading” rather than theft is important. Freeloading may not be morally right, but it’s not illegal. Theft is. Arguing it is *merely* freeloading is tantamount to excusing something that should be relegated to annoyance status, rather than the crime it truly is and should be.

                    1. No, it isn’t. Nobody has actually advanced any arguments. The sum total of argumentation on display here is increasingly loud assertions of the original thesis, combined with accusations of bad faith. It’s honestly fairly disgusting.

                      Piracy is, generally speaking, already illegal, under the heading “copyright infringement” or similar. If you’re of the kind who finds enacted law to be the first and the last of all moral obligations, I refer you thereto. It is also morally wrong, under the heading “freeloading”, as previously explained. Neither of these are equivalent, either logically or legally, to “stealing”, which is a specific thing with an actual definition.

                      This is not an argument that piracy is morally right, nor is it “apologism”. There are plenty of things that are also not stealing and are also still wrong. It’s been others here who have misread this logical argument to mean something entirely different, have taken moral exception to that argument I did not make, and have proceeded to accuse me of crimes I did not commit and make false aspersions against my character, all without the slightest evidence.

                      It’s understandable that authors are annoyed by the prospect of people pirating their works without paying. But for heaven’s sake, check your target before you fire.

                    2. Check my target?

                      You’ve been making the same argument, been refuted, and continue with your head in the sand.

                      And your whole defense is, “I’m not saying it’s morally right.” Who freaking cares? You’re still comparing it to something that is, at worst, annoying but not criminal. The fact that you’re deluded enough to not comprehend what you’re saying or how it’s coming across makes it clear that your head will continue in the sand.

                      We’ve checked our target. You just keep putting yourself in the line of fire, and I’m starting to get amused by it.

                    3. You’ve been making the same argument, been refuted, and continue with your head in the sand.

                      My argument, in a single sentence, is “Piracy is not the same thing as theft”. This argument has not been refuted; I reread the entire thread to make sure. Responses seem to fall into two categories: 1. louder and more adamant reassertions that it is actually the same as theft, without any argument provided, and 2. accusations against my conduct, aspersions against my character, &c.

                      You seem to be saying something along the lines that the only way piracy can really be considered wrong is if it is called theft. This is absurd when plainly spoken. I have repeatedly said that not calling it theft does not make it right; in response to this, you seem to be informing me that I did not say what I in fact said. If my understanding of your position is incorrect, pray do rectify it.

                      As best I can discern, no one has advanced a moral argument that I actually disagree with. Instead, everyone has seized on the logical argument that copyright infringement is the same thing as theft — a claim insupportable both in law and logic, see e.g. here — and shouted loudly that if I do not assent to this logical claim, I am a thief, an apologist for thieves, &c. It should go without saying that there is no evidence for any of these accusations.

                      I don’t think it is too much to expect logical argument from an audience selected for its verbal intelligence. This conduct is absurd and unbecoming.

                    4. And yet you wonder why I said your head was in the sand.

                      See the comments regarding copyright being the right to determine who has permission to copy and distribute said copies, and pirates steal that right by doing so against your wishes. If someone takes something — in this case my right to determine who has permission to copy and distribute my work — then it is theft. This was pointed out to you previously. The fact that you disagree doesn’t make it any less valid.

                      You have the nerve to talk about unbecoming conduct, yet here you are, pretending no one has refuted your claims when they have. Repeatedly.

                      So I’ll continue to claim you’re a piracy apologist through your absurd claim that it’s really only “freeloading” rather than the theft that it legally is.

                      Don’t like it? Then deal with disappointment.

                    5. Except it’s not theft. Indeed, the only reason it is a civil violation AT ALL is the govts. stated interest in promoting the Progress of Science and useful Arts. Without that particular constitutional clause you wouldn’t have even a fig leaf to hide behind. Continual pounding on the table about it being theft does nothing except make edge cases more likely to ignore you.

                    6. Then technically, theft is only a crime when government defines it as such, and they legalize theft all the time, so that argument does not make piracy be suddenly *not* theft.

          1. Possession of stolen property is an entirely separate notion, which is conceptually like being an accessory to the crime of theft. It has even less meaning in a regime of infinitely copyable information goods than theft does in the first place.

              1. What problem there is with piracy lies where the person benefits from the public good of the created material, with no intention of contributing to the cost of making it by compensating the author. This is the whole of it. There’s no inherent evil in possessing “bootleg” music or video (what would that even mean?); for instance, a maneuver I use pretty often is to buy some music through a service like Amazon MP3, then go find a torrent of it and download that instead, because such services tend to put lots of bullshit in the way of just listening to the music you paid for.

                Intuitions from the material realm, where any good you have is either something you made yourself or something someone else doesn’t have, fundamentally don’t apply to information goods. “Receiving stolen property” makes sense in the physical world, because a piece of property is one thing with a single legitimate owner, and if you have it then he doesn’t. A file on a hard drive, copied from a file on a different hard drive, is not a piece of property.

              2. You don’t have to practice something to disagree with the terms used to describe it. After all some authors consider public libraries to be theft, some consider loaning a physical book to be theft. A friend of my brother was recently in hospital for a long term stay. I felt no guilt at all in loaning my brother a dozen physical books for him to read.

                I have pirated one book, I tried to buy it from Amazon, but was unable to because they did not have the international rights, Six months later it was for sale locally from a seller promising that I could read it on both the computer and various readers including mine for only twice the price of Amazon. Sadly not, after 2 hours I still could not do so. Mainly due to a failure to understand the instructions in German to do so , I had brought the book in Australia. At least the international rights issues seems to have been resolved I was able to buy his latest straight off Amazon.

  8. “I lost several thousand dollars from just that site alone”

    I’m sure it can *feel* that way, but it’s not the case. Many of those downloads (if not most) are people who wouldn’t have purchased the book if it weren’t free. Claiming each illicit download = a lost sale ignores basic economics. There are many books I get on deep discount amazon sales or free deals of the day that I would never buy if they were priced higher.

    For instance, I have no problem downloading a text copy of a book that I purchased an audio version of.

    1. It does feel that way and whether or not I would have earned that much is beside the point. The books were offered without permission and in such a way that they could jeopardize my standing with Amazon and the other e-taliers. That is something those who download pirated material don’t think about. We have contracts with places like Amazon and B&N and Apple that state we will not allow our work to be offered at lower price points. When a work is pirated, as I noted in the post, those shops where we do offer our work have the right to demand we match the price — and free for everything will not work if you are trying to make a living — or they will remove the work for their store. They also have the right to bar us from the store. Yes, they usually understand if it is a pirate site but we still have to jump through the hoops and sometimes those hoops are higher than others. So I have to look at the time it takes to deal with pirate sites in financial terms as well as in terms of potential lost sales.

      As for downloading a text copy of a book you purchased the audio for, I leave that to your own conscience if you are getting the text version from a site that is not authorized to distribute it. As I noted above, each pirate site can cause problems for authors with their legitimate distribution sites.

      1. I’ve been told that pirate sites’ download numbers are as fake as the reviews they put alongside their titles – generic English as a second language pap like “Loved the book! Great it was and free it was as well!” I know one of my books got pirated and several sites claimed to have tens of thousands of downloads within 48 hours of its release on Amazon, and that doesn’t pass the smell test, much as my ego might want to believe there are indeed legions of fans ready to go storming the internet for a free copy of my latest release. My guess is that next to nobody actually downloads most of the books, and in many cases those downloads consist of trojan horses and other malware rather than the alleged free copies.

        And imagine the depth of my sadness for any freeloaders that catch an e-virus or have their identity stolen because they decided to go deal with criminals instead of spending a couple of bucks. Want free warez, beware.

        I still send DCM notices, of course, but that’s mostly to protect myself from legitimate vendors who, as you say, can claim I’m violating their TOS because those pirate sites are offering the book for free.

        1. The download numbers on the torrent sites are real. I know some of the torrent people. They’re all pretty shocked at how many books of mine are on torrent. They keep telling me that torrent isn’t supposed to be about books.
          go figure.

          1. While the numbers downloaded are real. A book or movie pirated is not the same as a lost sale. If your going to torrent 1 book, then your going to torrent a thousand books even if you only read one a week. Yes a % of them are lost sales but its far from 1:1

            1. Wrong. While every torrented book is not a lost sale, more than half of them are. These people will pay for something if they can’t get it for free. But if they can get it for free, they will. Most of them won’t even do they stealing themselves, they want other people to do it for them.

              The only real issue is just how long are they willing to wait for it to be pirated? There are a lot who look out of habit, before buying, to see if it is free. If it is, they pirate, if it isn’t they buy. It’s more out of routine than anything else, they work in tech, have lots of disposable income, and no morals whatsoever.

    2. I’ve been told the same – that the piratey downloads are going to the equivalent of hoarders who will never actually read the book – they just like possessing all the downloads, and boasting to each other about how many they have.

      1. I’ve known several major pirates in meatspace. They had major investments in bandwidth and storage… but for the most part they never made use of any of the stuff they downloaded. It was all about the acquisition, and their ranking among the others in their pirate groups.

        I called it “Smaug Syndrome.”

        1. This is a Real Thing. I had several long conversations with an admitted pirate a few years ago. He had downloaded several of my books but had never read them. He just downloaded everything in sight because, in his words, it was better to have them on his own hard drives than somewhere that might go away someday. (At the time he was worried that Usenet was going to shut down, but last I knew it was still there, still serving copies of most of my books.)

          He put me on to something else that was weirdness squared: the use of downloaded but never-used content as a sort of virtual currency to retain membership in private torrent sites. Basically, to keep from being thrown off certain private torrents, downloaders have to maintain at least a 1:1 upload/download ratio. They have to upload huge wads of new content for the other torrent members to download in order to download the stuff that they themselves want, which may have nothing to do with ebooks. In a sense, they’re paying for pirated movies and MP3s with my (and probably your) pirated ebook files.

          Ebook files are generally not torrented individually, but instead as parts of massive multi-gigabyte archives containing thousands or tens of thousands of ebooks. So in truth people may be downloading your stuff from torrents but never reading it. These may not all be lost sales; I don’t know. It is, however, one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen in the online world, and I have been online for a *very* long time.

    3. This is a myth.
      If the people couldn’t download those books illegally, most of them would have bought a copy instead.
      You say no? PROVE IT.
      I can prove the opposite, because I go to these sites, I see people begging for others to steal the book for them, so they don’t have to pay for it, because they HAVE to have it. And if they don’t get it, they will buy it, and then share it around, to pay back the author for making them buy it.
      They’re pricks, and they’re scumbags, and they’re thieves.
      I also can often tell when my books hit the pirate sites, because I see a sales drop on the day the book goes live, because people flock to the pirate site, enough that google shares the link on the first page of search results (google loves to help book pirates) the only thing so far that I have found to actually help prevent pirating, is to have Sarah put my book up on instapundit. Because so many people echo instapundit, it drives the links to the pirate sites down to about page 20 or worse.

      But don’t ever tell me pirates don’t by books, so don’t worry. Yes, some don’t. But most do, if they’re forced to. Because they have money. Usually more than me.

      1. The latest round of gaming DRM, Denuvo v2 and v3(really Denuvo 2.8 something since early v2 didn’t work) has remained uncrackable(More like the only ones left in the advanced cracking game were 3dm because there wasn’t a significant need since no remarkable advancements had been made, I give it a year or 2 before the Scene swings back into action), but there has not been a significant upswing in purchasing of games using it compared to either previous trends or current games that don’t use it. Yet according to you, because they can no longer pirate games, they should be going out and buying all those Denuvo protected games at a greater rate than the non-protected ones.

          1. In your words, PROVE IT. Gaming is quickly becoming, if not already, THE biggest entertainment medium on the planet. What makes your books so special that those people who just have to have the latest release of X ranging from biggest blockbuster to niche eroge are any different from those who just have to have your latest book.

            1. What is the price of the average new game? 60 dollars? 80? Even the small press stuff is 20 or 40 dollars, most ebooks are $2.99 to $3.99.
              Then there is the time investment and reuse, most people read a book once, and never again. But a game? You can play that for dozens, if not hundreds, of hours the first time through. And many people will play a game more than once.
              Also, games need specific requirements to be played. Ebooks can be viewed on anything, and they don’t require much in the way of computer power.
              You’re talking a totally different demographic. Totally different product. Just because both are in the entertainment market, it doesn’t not make them compatible.
              There, I proved it.
              (And why do I feel like I’ve had this argument before).

              1. Except mobile games aren’t pirated at significantly different rates than PC games and plenty of them cost between 2 and 5 dollars. Not to mention your length of entertainment and price points would seem to negate each other. The fact of the matter is that the vast, vast, vast majority of people pirating something are NOT going to take those factors into account. Your special snowflake syndrome as to the nature of book pirates vs game pirates, while amusing, does not have any kind of empirical evidence backing it up.

                1. Furthermore, you are the one making the claim that books and games are pirated at the same rates by the same people.
                  If anyone needs to prove anything, I think you’re the one that needs to prove that first.

        1. Or they just don’t find the hassle worth it. Back in the 90s I wouldn’t buy a game I hadn’t cracked first. Why? because I wasn’t shelling out 40-60 bucks for a game that had a 50/50 chance of breaking my machine due to incompatibilities, crashing within the first two levels, or just being crap, then being told I couldn’t return the defective product because I opened the package. Manufacturers like iD wised up and started putting out 1-3 level demos of games like DOOM so that I could try it. At that point, it wasn’t worth the hassle to pirate it, so I quit bothering.

  9. Just ask your public library. They take requests within budget.
    Okay, mine don’t ebook, but they’ll buy books. The only problem is certain authors don’t publish hard copies.

    1. Yep. My library does carry e-books and they will order the hard copy or get it through inter-library loan if necessary. As for authors not publishing in hard copy, I’m guilty of that because I put off doing the work to get the files set up, something I am working on today.

      1. Hell you can read any book of mine you want free. All it costs is a hundred bucks a year for Amazon Prime — cheap at twice the price.

        1. You mean, all it costs is obtaining a credit or debit card and linking it to Amazon, because Amazon gift cards can’t be used for Prime or KU.

          Yeah, I’m the last plastic holdout in the country.

      1. Because blocking adverts falls in the exact same category as piracy: freeloading. I was just curious how many people who objected to piracy were engaging in similar behaviors.

        1. Not even close.
          When you pirate you are taking someone’s intellectual property without compensation.
          When you block ads you are preventing a site from pushing unwanted information onto your screen.
          By the way, I do not use ad blockers. If a site is obnoxious I just won’t go back there, ever.

          1. “you are taking someone’s intellectual property without compensation”

            Nope. Piracy does not deprive you of your copyright, so no, your IP was not taken.

            “When you block ads you are preventing a site from pushing unwanted information onto your screen.”

            That sounds a lot like the justifications made in the original Facebook post.

            P.S. Just to be clear, i don’t care if anyone does either; I’m perfectly fine with someone blocking the ads on my site. I’m just curious if everyone has thought this through.

            1. Piracy does not deprive you of your copyright

              Copyright is the right to make copies, and the right to decide who can and cannot do so. By making said copies without agreement with the author (directly or indirectly) they are depriving the author of that right. So it is exactly a deprivation of copyright. Exactly the same as if someone were squatting on my physical property–I might still “own” it, but they would be denying me use of it.

              1. ” So it is exactly a deprivation of copyright. ”

                So if someone pirates a copy of a book the author can’t make or sell any other copies of the book ever again?

                That’s what you and Lars are saying when you use the word “deprive”, and it makes no sense whatsoever.

                When an author’s book is pirated, the worst they lost is a sale. They were not deprived of their IP. The author still controls the copyright, and you are misusing the words.

                1. So if someone pirates a copy of a book the author can’t make or sell any other copies of the book ever again?

                  Good market for scarecrows where you live? If you’re going to make straw men, you might as well get paid for it. That’s not what I said.

                  When an author’s book is pirated, the worst they lost is a sale.

                  What I’ve lost is the ability to decide who can, and can not make copies: the very meaning of the word “copyright”.

                  The author still controls the copyright

                  Nope. By deciding for yourself who can, and cannot make copies of the author’s work, you’ve taken that control.

                  and you are misusing the words

                  Sorry, but that’s exactly what the word means: the right to determine who can, and cannot, make copies. Piracy steals the ability to say “no, only the folks I have an agreement with can make copies.”

                  It may not be what you want it to mean, but that is what it means.

          2. The reason I use ad blockers is because fake ads were a source of malware, such as fake system messages. Have had to clean up too many computers over the years where someone got infected that way. An ad blocker coupled with a script blocker stopped such things cold, though the script blocker could get annoying.

            Lately I noticed that Wired throws up a screen if you use an ad blocker. My solution is to no longer read Wired articles.

            1. This. Ad blocker blockers are the latest thing on big web sites, including Wired and Forbes. I’m unmoved; if they would take legal responsibility for their ads and accept liability for malware they had served, I’d disable my ad blocker right then. But not a moment sooner.

              The risk of malware served from ads is real, and serious:


              Of course, the war escalates, and there are now ad blocker blocker blockers. I haven’t tried these yet, but they work, and they may be inevitable. It’s a little surprising how much I don’t miss Wired.

              1. The difference that people don’t get is that web ads are different from print, radio, or television ads. Those can only be annoying, at worst (sometimes amusing, if the copywriter is really good) – web ads are downright dangerous.

                And – the danger aside, my using an ad blocker is no different than what I used to do in the “old media” days. I’d turn the pages right past the ad in print, or go stir the pasta sauce when an audio or visual ad started running. There is no “right” for the advertiser to have me actually pay any attention to their ad (and most people, I think, do not these days).

        2. By your definition, blocking Javascript, Flash, images, and audio is also piracy. All of this, including ad blocking, is picking and choosing content. Or do you browse every single page on a web site?

          To cross into piracy would be if a web site did not display where it detected ad blockers and a person hacked it to view the content.

          1. No, Kevin, my point was that both piracy and ad-blocking are types of freeloading. They are related, but not the same.

            But if we want to talk about pirating web content, one example would be when a user circumvents a paywall (shared password, or having someone email an article to them).

            1. So, do you pirate network television by making a rest/refreshment break during commercials? Aren’t you freeloading if you don’t sit there and watch them?

          2. There are a significant number of sites that try just that. Most adblockers are updated with workarounds to ignore such soon after a new ‘trick’ comes out.

          3. Also, there is a rather significant difference between ignoring an ad and never being exposed to it in the first place. Indeed, by their very nature ads assume that many, if not the majority of the people exposed to it will end up ignoring the ad. But they are still exposed to it which means X percentage of people will pay attention and possibly buy whatever is being advertised. By removing that exposure entirely, you are consuming a product without paying the entry fee, as it were. Morally, not very different from digital copying.

            1. That should read purveyors of ads as the ads themselves do not assume anything, no matter what South Park says.

        3. Tell me what law I’ve violated by using an ad blocker, and I might agree with you. But since there’s no question about the illegality of copyright violation, I can’t agree that they’re in the same category.

          As for adblocking being “freeloading”, there have been multiple cases of browser bugs being exploited via “malware ads” (e.g., files carefully crafted to trigger a bug and run arbitrary code inside the browser, which could then install a keylogger or virus). As far as I’m concerned, using an adblocker isn’t freeloading, it’s basic computer security practice — and if you’re not running an adblocker, you’re actually exposing yourself to a significantly higher risk of getting malware on your computer. It’s like leaving your car unlocked on a regular basis: sure, MOST of the time your car radio won’t be stolen, but every single time you park it, you’re running a small but non-zero risk. And if you visit bad neighborhoods (open certain kinds of sites in your browser), your risk goes up by a lot.

          1. It is the same statement of how overbearing drm or restrictions can encourage piracy that works with ad blockers. If I can trust the Site uses clean ads and is protected I may turn off. Others I have paid a fee to get an ad free experience. But lock up my machine, use page filling ads or obnoxious noises or unsecure sites and block is used.

        4. No, keeping sites from pushing malware to my computer is not freeloading.

        5. Wrong. The advertiser presumes ownership of my computer and the bandwidth that I pay for — a pretty penny, too. By using AdBlock, I reclaim ownership of that which THEY stole from ME.


          1. That and it’s my attention. So even if I do allow some things through, I can be selective. (Hint to advertisers: If it blinks, it dies.)

  10. I’ve had no luck getting pirated books taken down thus far. It’s something I’m sort of resigned to at this point. More annoying are the sites that sucker in readers with a “free” download that lead back to Playster. They don’t carry my books and apparently they run a subscription scam where the only way you can see what they have is subscribing. I had a message from a reader the other day who got suckered by them and was unhappy with me because they use Amazon titles and descriptions in their adds to get people to subscribe. He blamed me for them using my name and book cover.

    1. Most of them don’t take them down. Some do. I still have to jump through those hoops to prove to Amazon that I haven’t authorized those sites to distro my work. So far — knock on wood — when Amazon has queried me about such sites, they have accepted my explanation that they are pirated sites, I didn’t give them permission for distro and here is the copy of my DMCA takedown notice.

      1. Yeah, that’s basically what I’ve done.

        The ad sites are the ones that really piss me off, but having looked into Playster, they apparently encourage that sort of crappy behavior.

  11. J.K.Rowling’s publisher hated the idea of e-books and refused to allow them for the Harry Potter series. Yet as each book was released an electronic version came on line within 24 hours. Various teams each took a chapter to scan and someone did the collation.
    I will note that I also bought every one of the books, four copies of each of the last several that came out. One for myself, one for a teacher friend, and two for her to lend to her students.
    I do see that Rowling’s publisher has apparently since relented as Amazon offers all her books in Kindle format.
    Now the pirating of college textbooks on the other hand is something else entirely.

    1. It’s like how edrm is destroyed within a day.

      And I hate the move to electronic textbooks. I am better with paper

      1. Ditto. I need to be able to flip pages and tag things for reference. I cant go from image to image, compare map to text, and other thing nearly as fast enough with an e-copy. And reading columns of text and wanting to go back and double-check something? Arrrgh.

        1. Well, you can do multiple bookmarks in Kindle. What annoys me is that you can’t run multiple instances. I can get two by having the same book open on the Fire as on my PC, both being downloaded – but that is not enough for most reference books.

          When I get the time to play with Calibre, I am going to see how well mobi to HTML works for some of the reference works I have. That would let me have as many “views” open as I want. Of course, then I lose the bookmarking functionality… I’ve already been disappointed by the conversion to PDF, which would have given me (almost) the best of both worlds.

  12. Your Castle Effect, I call the Photoshop Effect in software, and it’s close to the same thing. People use the price of Photoshop as the reason why pirating is okay; but if it’s the price that matters, then it isn’t really Adobe that’s losing. It’s Adobe’s competitors whose products don’t do everything Photoshop does, but do cover that subset of features that the pirater needs, and whose product costs $50 to $100 instead of $450 to infinity, that get hurt by the choice to pirate Photoshop.

    Adobe would never have made that sale. But Lemkesoft or PixelMator would have. To some extent, that sort of piracy helps Adobe, because it keeps their competitors smaller and less well-known.

    Yes, books from the big writers cost a lot—new. But if you don’t want to pay those prices and would have actually read something anyway, it isn’t Stephen King and Barnes & Noble who lose from piracy; it’s the used bookstore owner who has a copy for $1 to $5 instead of $15 to $30. It’s the mid-list or independent horror writers whose works the pirate would otherwise have purchased, whose e-books are $10 or less.

    1. I’ve encountered a couple of authors who were slightly nuts on the subject of used book stores. They had the idea that a resale was a violation of their copyright. Didn’t like the idea of public libraries much either…

      1. – freeware program that can do a ton of what photoshop does.

        Interestingly I have actually paid for free programs before – and fraps being two, because their product is worthwhile and I want to see them continue.

        There are alternatives to pirating – libraries being one in the case of books, stuff like these programs in others.

        As for libraries – I think of them as advertising the author gets paid slightly for.

        Sure, the x number of copies get read by a lot more people than x, but the author is still paid for them.

        (I also recommend authors not piss of librarians. Just this week I’ve had four opportunities to talk up series I enjoyed to patrons, and I don’t mean out of the blue stuff I mean ‘you like X? You should really read Y.’ I will recommend authors I don’t personally like if I think the patron will like them, but its much easier to be enthusiastic for ones I do like.)

  13. I would make the distinction of profit. If the pirate is making money off of the stealing, they are indeed hostis humani generis and should be hunted down like dogs. Simply copying…eh, the poverty excuse is a lot more believable. Especially if accompanied by shame, as was manifestly NOT the case here.

    Cheerfully informing people who frequent the pirate sites that a) if it’s free, YOU are the product, and b) the chances of your poor computer getting a nasty virus go up exponentially when visiting a dodgy site hosted in a former (or current) Soviet bloc country, may help too. Along with the raised eyebrow and “of course it fell off a truck!” But that is for more logical hominids. For special snowflakes, you may need to work up a story about how this is how the Patriarchy exploits downtrodden $whatever and how DARE they help exploit them! Or tie it to global warming…

    1. There are a couple of series that I have “pirated.” ONLY because they just plain were not available while a war over IP was being fought to the death.

      One is now available – and is on my purchase list for the fall. Most people, though (the ones that aren’t just weird hoarders as others have described), will watch such things once and forget about them.

      (Which is another good reason to watch your contracts carefully, and have those end-of-life matters thoroughly worked out. Things that are not on the legitimate market do not sell – and never will in most cases.)

  14. Again it seems more an issue with the attitude of ‘I deserve (the good) without paying for it’s that drives the annoyance. Only items I pirate have been programs long out of production where second hand sales only and usually don’t know if it will run or TV shows no longer shown or available. Books especially are extremely available. Other than reference books where there are available copies but an e-file is on a pc for convenience it’s hard to accept.

    And I usually buy the eBook after the audiobook because often it’s cheaper.

    But it is not victimless and it is a wrong. It’s like the reason that stores destroy inventory rather than donating. It can often produce adverse incentives like edrm and the like

  15. If you want to read Pride’s Children, but don’t want to pay for that privilege, I will send you a Review Copy, and ask that you consider writing a review. Consider only.

    If you want one of my few paper copies, I’ll consider sending you one – at my expense – if you sound serious about CONSIDERING writing a review.

    If you have Amazon Prime or KU, you can borrow it for free.

    If you don’t like my price, you can sign onto the newsletter at, and you’ll be notified when the book is 0.99, as it will be periodically.

    And I am still engaged with as a beta tester using their service to automatically ‘blast’ pirate sites (if you’d like to do that, they’re still in beta, still accepting free memberships as they refine their product_.

    What’s the holdup? That all of these methods involve a bit of effort. And some manners. Both things in short supply in some individuals – who probably aren’t going to become great fans, anyway.

    I’ve stopped worrying – I hope I don’t have to put up DMCA notices just to keep ownership of my own books and control over my own prices, but that may be the cost of doing business.

    There’s only so much authors can do.

    1. Alicia – thank you so much for that link. Looks very interesting.

      It just takes them out of Google results, of course – but that is a big chunk bitten out of the problem.

  16. haven’t read the comments yet, but to the original post — very well said!

  17. I find myself pirating oftener and oftener tbh.
    The way it works is this:
    1: I mess around on the internets and find a title I would like to read.
    2: I find that title on the Apple bookstore which is my preferred platform.
    3: I click buy
    4: I get the message “this item is only available in the US bookstore, you will be tranferred there”
    5: I click buy again
    6: I enter my credentials and get the message “your account is not valid for the US bookstore, you will be transferred to [national bookstore]”
    7: I think F**k this and go pirate the item.

    I honestly can’t think of a sane reason to restrict books to the US and if you have books on the apple bookstore it might be an idea to check if yours are so restricted.

    1. I honestly can’t think of a sane reason to restrict books to the US

      This usually comes from rights issues (and you’ll probably find it mostly with the bigger “Traditional” publishers).

      Historically, you’d have a publisher who has “North American Distribution rights” and then the author (or his/her agent) selling Swedish distribution rights and British distribution rights and Japanese distribution rights separately.

      So Apple might only have North American rights for a particular work–because the publisher that had it only had those rights or maybe the publisher thought they could get more money selling other areas rights separately. And this is “enforced” by it only being available in the US store.

      1. Quote:
        This usually comes from rights issues (and you’ll probably find it mostly with the bigger “Traditional” publishers).

        I suspected some such, which is why I added the ‘sane’ qualifier 🙂 In reality, this means that I don’t get books here until they are translated which in most cases is never when it comes to genre fiction.

        The bit about traditional publishers is also a correct observation, all Baen books are available here, so they are as usually doing their bit to raise the sanity waterline

        also, how did you do the quote bit? I find no markup tips on this site after a cursory look?

        1. copy paste the text you want to quote and use blockquote and /blockquote wrapped in angle brackets to set it off as a quote. Other tags that I use from time to time are i /i (italics) and b /b (bold).

    2. Depending on what restrictions on certain topics exist in different countries, an author or publisher may block sales so they don’t get in trouble with the government. Or a distributor in (say) Pakistan may decide that the Better Home and Gardens _Pig and Pigstys for the Urban Farmer_ might not be a good volume to stock.

  18. I used to sell a programming book online; here’s half, if you want the rest send money. I quickly saw versions appear where someone had replaced my name and payment information with theirs, ones that did that and denounced me as a plagiarist, and once a cease-and-desist order from a lawyer claiming I was stealing his client’s intellectual property. Funny, he never replied to my answer…

    That was 25 years ago, when most of “online” was dialup BBSs, and it was a book about a pretty narrow subject. Which has made me wonder how often really popular stuff gets pirated and pimped out as someone else’s work. Yeah, I hear about cases every now and then, but I have a nasty suspicion it’s *way* more common than that.

    1. Not an expert, but in a recent conversation it was explained to me that if Amazon catches you publishing plagiarized material on their site it is immediately taken down and you are banned from ever selling through them again. Since they are the big dog distributor for e-books that would seem to be a fairly strict enforcement tool.

    1. Eh — as one of the other commentors here says (B.Durbin, IIRC) :”Exposure is what you die from, when you don’t get paid.”

      1. I say that as well. Of course, you don’t get paid when you don’t sell either.

        And on the third hand, you don’t sell more when you don’t have anything new, so I need to work on that.

  19. I first heard the “but I can die from exposure” via Harlan Ellison. Someone wanted something for free. And well, you know Harlan.

    1. That last reference is a fully legitimate site – PLEASE take it off of your “pirate” list. The Baen CDs are fully redistributable so long as it is not for profit.

      Yeah, they are VERY strange people over there, which is why we love them…

      1. Yes. These are the famed Baen CDs, loaded with books from the Baen Free Library and other goodies, and once included with some books. IIRC, one author took strong exception, and when Baen pulled the CD, Fifth Imperium did likewise. The site is legit.

          1. My understanding is the Baen Free Library was a promotional success. That’s how I discovered some writers that I like.

            The main thing to keep in mind is that the Baen Free Library, with the exception of that one misunderstanding, was done with the consent of all involved. It was like the free book promos we have now, on CD form. Since it was done with author consent, it’s all quite on the up and up. It’s like when I discovered an author’s story on a website and dropped him an email, and he replied he might have given them permission. If it didn’t worry him, it sure didn’t worry me.

        1. Erm. If anyone happens to know which author/work that was, please let me know. I think I have all of the CDs in plastic form; Jim was doing that deal when I happened to be rather flush in the book budget. I’d like to know which one I shouldn’t feel free to pass around. (Or maybe I’ll just ask over on Toni’s Table; she should know.)

          That said – the CDs aren’t quite like the freebies I snag here – they explicitly include non-profit distribution permission. I’ve grabbed quite a few in the specials here – but I don’t pass those around, they don’t have that explicit permission. Yeah, I know, a technicality, but it could screw up people’s marketing result evaluations…

          (Which, I really do love you Mad Geniuses, but the Kindle is beginning to look like the “hoarder’s pile” mentioned – a whole bunch of “0%” books sitting on it right now. Sigh, I’ll try to knock that down, and actually write some reviews when I’m done with Black Tide Rising for the third time…)

          1. Did ask over on Toni’s Table. Apparently it is the “Cryoburn” CD. Remembrance by others there is that it was withdrawn for a bad copy of the novel (apparently only the Kindle format, at least by my check of my CD), and then not put out again. So my assumption is that none of the LMB titles are legitimately shareable. Pity, but… (She is the only major author with nothing in the Free Library, too.)

          2. Which, I really do love you Mad Geniuses, but the Kindle is beginning to look like the “hoarder’s pile” mentioned – a whole bunch of “0%” books sitting on it right now. Sigh, I’ll try to knock that down, and actually write some reviews when I’m done with Black Tide Rising for the third time…)

            This, unfortunately. This is usually because I get books when they come up on Daily Deal or other discount, and haven’t forgotten how I missed my chance at Byrd’s Alone. That said, I’ve about decided to go on a purchasing hiatus until I catch up on my reading.

            1. But they’re on sale! Um, yes, I don’t dare say to the wife; I would lose all moral superiority…

    2. Agreed, the fifthimperium is a legit site and has worked with Baen to post not only the CDs but also snippets, etc. As for the other sites, I haven’t had a chance to check them and won’t have a chance until later today. If they are to anything but legitimate sites where the authors have given permission for their work to be listed, or the work is in the public domain, please delete the links. If they are links to pirate sites and are still here when I have a chance to check them, the comments will be deleted.

      1. The “free-online-novels” one has Mad Mike’s “Better to Beg Forgiveness” on it. That one is not free. (“Freehold” is the only one that is free – and not on any of the CDs, only in the Free Library – it was published after those were discontinued.)

        The “lmgtfy” one is one of those stupid “Fill in the Google search terms” links. Which means some legit, some not sites.

        The “” – a random check of ones I happen to know about all went to legitimately free items, and I saw none that I know for a fact are not. I’d say “probably OK.”

  20. The simplest explanation is twofold. The first is that there’s no such class as civics or ethics anymore, and the current hugbox in child rearing that is all the rage means that with neither proper explanation or consequence, “I want” is a perfectly cromulent reason to do anything so long as it is not seen to cause direct harm.

    The second is that copyright is outright BROKEN. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. This was done primarily at the instigation of the Haus of Maus, but let’s face it, there were plenty of other copyright holders not just jumping on that bandwagon but figuring out how to make it go as fast as possible. Because copyright is, according to a lovely US supreme court decision, legal as long as it is infinity minus one day, the Haus has lobbied to have copyright extended anytime it’s property as come under danger of lapsing. Add in the utter INSANITY of the DMCA as regards backing up media, and the last two generations by and large have about as much respect for copyright as I do for obscenity laws. You want to even begin to FIX the problem? Go back to 14/14 for individuals with a flat 20 year copyright for corporations. Repeal the idiocy that is the DMCA entirely.

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