Among a certain class of online internet user there is a perception that piracy is acceptable and normal. But, no matter how common it may be, it is certainly not normal. It is theft. It is criminal. It’s extremely costly to copyright holders and the only way to put an end to this culture of crime and recoup losses is for more authors and publishers to pursue damages and criminal charges against pirates.
Arguments commonly made by the thieves in defense of online piracy are given here followed by the author’s rebuttal:
Piracy Myth #1: If you’ve ever bought or sold a used book, you’re a pirate.
Fact: This is simply not true. There is a big difference between buying and reselling a book and buying a book, making thousands or perhaps millions of replications of it and giving them away or selling them to other people.
Piracy Myth #2: People stealing books and giving them away helps the author with marketing by getting his or her name “out there.” “Authors and publishers don’t know a good marketing opportunity when they see it, so I’m helping them by spreading their work far and wide.”
Fact: Publishers establish their own marketing system, which varies from book to book. The determination of an appropriate marketing plan is entirely at the discretion of the book’s author and publisher, who often spent years in college or at jobs where they learned the art and science of marketing. When books are stolen and resold or given away by thieves, the author and publisher are robbed of their strategy.
Piracy Myth #3: People who steal books just want to read them and if they like them, they will buy them later.
Fact: This is, of course, ridiculous. Most people are not going to pay for something they received free and if they already made a purchase to obtain it from a pirate site, why would they buy it, again? Obviously, they wouldn’t.
Piracy Myth #4: Stolen books aren’t really lost sales. “People who steal your books weren’t really customers, therefore, it’s no real loss to you.”
Fact: This is a vicious lie told by criminals to rationalize their crimes to themselves and others. When one of my books was pirated and resold at another site, I experienced a loss in sales that was discernible once the pirated book was removed from the sites. Numerous surveys have come to the same conclusion: Piracy causes a drops in actual sales and deprives the authors and publishers of income.
Piracy Myth #5: Stealing books isn’t really hurting any individuals, it’s sticking it to corporations or “the man.” “Big corporations make plenty of money, it won’t hurt them if I take something without paying for it.”
Fact: On the contrary, it’s independent publishers and small publishing houses who suffer disproportionately from losses due to theft. Many people who are being stolen from are people like me – authors with no other source of income who spend most of their lives writing and are struggling to make a living. Pirating a single book to the tune of thousands or even hundreds of dollars is extremely damaging to someone who is already having difficulty paying their electric bill.
Piracy Myth #6: Information should be free, research, art and the mental brain children of artists and thinkers belong in the public domain. “Information belongs to everyone, therefore, I have the right to ‘liberate’ copyrighted information and make it available to others.”
Fact: The internet is a source of a lot of free information and it facilities the free flow of information. When that information is in the public domain, it is legal and helpful to share it. But, when the information is someone else’s property, it is not free to share and doing so is a crime. You don’t own pieces of another person’s mind anymore than you own their body and it is not the right of someone to do what they want with either simply because they want to.
Piracy Myth #7: Everyone who uses the internet has pirated something, at least, once. “Everyone steals something once in a while.”
Fact: This is absolutely false. This “everybody else does it, so it’s all right” argument falls flat in the face of the fact the majority of people are still honest. Most people do not frequent known pirate sites. In fact, for the most part it’s only thieves who visit those sites, except for those who must descend into this seedy underworld to monitor the theft of their property.
Piracy Myth #8: Writers and publishers should find better ways to sell their wares to prevent stealing because “sharing” is the nature of the internet.
Fact: You do not have the right to “share” other people’s property. Writers and publishers do not control the nature of internet. As a writer and publisher, I shouldn’t have to spend my time tracking down thieves and presenting cases to attorneys. Presently, t he only option for us is to pursue our lost revenues and whenever possible punish the criminals who directly threaten our livelihood. While sharing is a foundational and very wonderful aspect of the internet, the information that is shared should only be that which is given freely by the owner or is in the public domain due to copyright expiration.
Furthermore, such devices to control piracy do exist, for example DRM (Digital Rights Management), but they are just ignored by pirates and sometimes anger over the application of the devices, themselves, is used by thieves as an excuse for stripping it out and infringing on copyright.
Piracy Myth #9: Being unable to afford to buy something is a good enough reason to steal. “If I think someone is charging too much for something or I just can’t afford it right now, it’s all right if I just take what I want.”
Fact: Books are not food, water and shelter. In other words, they are not necessities without which you or your loved ones may die. Taking something that belongs to someone else just because you want to is sociopathic.
Piracy Myth #10: If I buy something I have the right to share it with others. “I used to buy cassette tapes and make copies for my friends. Online pirating is no different.”
Fact: No, you don’t necessarily have that right. For example, many books are not available in lending libraries. In fact, I’ve pulled all of my books out of libraries because of all the piracy. When books are permitted to be lent, it is through a program and there are limitations on lending to which the author and publisher have given consent. Online pirating is so damaging because an item can be replicated hundred or thousands of times in anyone instance.
Piracy Myth #11: If I don’t get caught pirating, it’s not really a crime.
Fact: Piracy is a crime, whether you get caught or not. It is the theft of another person’s property and it can be very costly to the victims. This is why the penalties for piracy are so high. If you are caught:
1. You can go to prison.
2. You can be held liable for the actual dollar amount of damages and profits ranging from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed plus the cost of all attorneys fees and court costs.
See the following sites for the penalties, then ask yourself if stealing someone else’s work is worth it:
Many authors and publishers must pursue thieves in order to recover losses and to try to discourage more such crimes against them.
Piracy Myth #12: Stealing books online doesn’t have a large negative impact on anyone. “Copying and sharing doesn’t really hurt anybody because big corporations make enough money, anyway.”
Fact: When people pirate books, they not only deprive larger publishing houses, but small ones and independent authors of income. In the case of independent authors and publishers, many of whom are struggling, that money comes directly out of their pockets and represents tangible and painfully felt losses.
Furthermore, there is a broader impact because when books are stolen, the taxes on those sales are not collected. The authors and publishers, when deprived of income, are unable to create more jobs for people because they do not have the economic resources to hire help. Their businesses stagnate or get smaller instead of growing. And, many writers have just given up after becoming the victims of pirates.
Regardless of their moral stance or their personal rationale for engaging in criminal activity, those who engage in piracy should consider this: Authors and publishers are increasingly in the position of being forced to take legal action to recuperate lost revenues. While losses to a larger publishing house can add up quickly, losses to an independent author or publisher can be a far more substantial portion of their income. This means they have pretty much been forced to prosecute thieves to protect their livelihoods.
This creates a lot of stress, loss of productive time and it ultimately has an impact on the amount and quality of creative work available, especially when the creator has to spend time communicating with lawyers and pursing lost income. The emotional toll can be high, as well. There are instances where writers, researchers and creative people have simply given up, overwhelmed by the army of thieves preying upon their labor, their minds, their incomes and ultimately their lives because a great deal of a person’s own creativity, thoughts and time go into creating books. These losses take both a financial and eventually a personal toll on the writer. The former is quantifiable, the the latter is truly incalculable.