I was recently contacted by an indie writer in a panic: Her work was on offer in one of the innumerable pirate sites that crop up over the internet every other day and twice on Sunday, and what could she do about it?
I want to start out by saying that pirate sites are infuriating. And even when they’re giving the work away “for free” they’re making money off it, by requesting donations. I suspect they don’t make much, but it’s some and they’re making it on the back of creators who get nothing.
I don’t know a single writer who likes them, and I’ve seen people go to war with them and get consumed — time and money — for years, sometimes succeeding, sometimes losing, but always, always to their detriment. There are books not written, life not lived, while the writer chases down pirates and beats them, only for a new one to come up, again and again and again.
Don’t do that. You don’t have to “defend your copyright” by sending a cease and desist letter to every *sshat on the internet. I mean, you can send them the letters. Every so often I do. But in the end the result is absolutely nothing.
Even though a lot of these places have “offices” in the US or Canada, most of them are run by well, Chinese, Arab, Indian or other “unclear on the concept of copyright” cultures. And they move, and change names, and the books will show up again.
One of these is giving away blog posts of mine. Individual blog posts as “books.”
But here’s some things to make clear:
1- These people aren’t costing you money. Maybe the people who download your books actually read them. This is POSSIBLE, but unlikely. Most of them just want to brag about the size of their pirated collection.
There are exceptions, granted. When we were much, much younger and the internet was an innocent place, we sometimes “pirated” books or games, because we simply didn’t have the money to buy them. No, we didn’t think it was right. Yes, if WE LIKED IT first money we had we bought a legal copy. This will sometimes happen, in which case the pirates worked for your good. (Take note, because this is one of very few things I agree with Eric Flint on: The problem most writers have isn’t piracy. It’s obscurity. To the extent pirates might expose new readers to your stuff, they’re a good thing.)
And then there is what I consider “licit piracy.” If you have the book on paper, and can’t find a copy in ebook, and your eyes are going bad. I still don’t do it, because someone in this house has threatened to skin me alive if I risk the virus infested torrents, but that… well, if the book isn’t available and won’t ever be again (unlike Darkships. I had some problems with editing, but they are coming back, I swear. And there will be hard covers.)
But other than those two cases, most people who download your books are unlikely to read them. And those who download and read them likely couldn’t afford to buy them.
In fact, giving stories away for free now and then (these days mostly on my blog, but I used to have books in the Baen Free Library) seems to have a positive effect on sales. either people feeling guilty and buying, or just people reading a bit, liking it and buying more.
Yes, pirates are still annoying and infuriating. But the authors I’ve seen go to war with them, spend years and money and– And another site crops up, with their books.
It’s not worth it, and I’d rather you wrote more books.
Meanwhile you should, of course, register your copyrights, because well, the new hotness if for someone else to copy your entire book and put it up for sale, then get Amazon to kick you out for stealing “their” book. And that, you want as much documentation as possible to go after Amazon with.
Meh. Sip your pina collada and ignore the pirates. They’re not good people, but they’re hurting you less than you think.