Wednesday, 9 January 2013

A Few Thoughts on Internet "Piracy"

The only good type of piracy, if you ask me.

This morning I spent about two hours searching for audio books on writing. I'm (still) looking for things like The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. What I kept running across were websites where I could download them for free. Now, there was a time in my life when I would have jumped at the chance. I mean, who doesn't like free stuff?

But let me tell you, spending months and months hard at work on a novel, sweating and agonizing over character details and holes in the plot,(and if it’s good enough for the public), is enough to throw things into perspective. So now, when I see websites where I could download free books, I stop and think to myself “Do I really want to get this for free? Or do I want to give fifteen dollars to a great writer, to the man (or woman) that worked hard on this book for months, maybe years?” My answer has changed.

This has changed my outlook on downloading music as well. Instead of grabbing music off of illegal downloading sites, I’ll listen to classical music on youtube, or when I find a band I really like I’ll buy a few songs off itunes or the entire CD, because I want them to keep making music.

This is the way I look at it now: Let’s say my favourite writer is Betty Sue (sounds like a romance writer). Betty Sue has written three books, and managed to make enough money from them to stay home and write. This is great! Now she can produce a new book every year that I can get my eager little hands on, maybe more! But more and more people start downloading Betty Sue’s fourth book for free, and I figure, hey, I don’t want to spend fifteen bucks on the books, even if I really like them, why pay when they’re on the internet for free? Only problem is, the amount of money coming in for Betty Sue is getting smaller and smaller. Now Betty Sue has to get a full time job, and only gets to write in that one hour time period between work and supper time and putting the kids to bed. Now I'm getting, let’s see…maybe one book every two years, if I'm lucky. Hmm, nope, I think I’d like to keep my favourite writer doing just that…writing. Full time. Producing as many books for me as they can, as fast as they can.

I've seen the arguments for piracy – you know what, I'm not going to call it piracy any more.  Pirates are swashbuckling and dangerous, people that create these sites to steal art are more likely to be fat, pimply and living in their mother’s basement, so I'm going to just say “stealing”. Sorry, but it is what it is. Anyhow, as I was saying – the arguments for stealing books and music are always the same, and always very weak. They usually go like this:

I steal books because I can’t afford to pay for them:

Okay, I understand that you’re broke. I've had times where I've lived off cup-o-noodle and macaroni and cheese, I get it. But there are other alternatives to stealing literature. I mean really, get thyself to a library!

I live on the plains of Africa, dodging mad rhinos and walking fifty miles for fresh water. There’s no library. So I have to download illegally onto my ipad.

Um, okay, I’ll accept the Africa story just for the sake of argument…here’s my answer: it’s called wattpad. It’s chalk full of free novels, everything you can possibly imagine, from do-it-yourself books to fantasy to romance to steampunk. You name it, it’s on there. Yes, you might have to dig through some coal to get to the diamonds, but that’s why they have the “top categories” section, and the cream rises to the top. It’s easy to find good books on there.
In fact, I myself have five full length novels on the website for all to read, absolutely free.

It will actually HELP authors get publicity!

You know what, that argument isn't even valid, because the author has NOT given you permission to put their work up on the website. If the author is offering free downloads of his book (like I do on wattpad) then everything is fine and dandy! But because the creators of these free download websites are not asking the author’s permission, what they’re doing is illegal.

It is not up to people to say, “Hey Betty Sue, I'm giving you free publicity, if you like it or not!”  If an author actually believed free downloads would give them publicity (for whatever reason) they would offer the book for free themselves.

In any case, these are just some thoughts that occurred to me, and reasons why I will not be (now or in the future) downloading free ebooks or music. I would much rather support my favourite musicians and authors.  Also, remember, if it’s a free download, it’s probably not legal unless the author himself/herself is offering it. It’s astonishing how many people don’t realize this.


  1. Completely agree. This is why I like Wattpad and Smashwords. Both of these sites have free, or in Smashwords case, cheap, books to read. If you are downloading a book illegaly, then you are very low. That is all I have to say on the matter.

    1. I completely agree (or just ignorant, depending on the person).

  2. I completely agree. The funny thing is, when I challenge people on this they don't have a good argument. They just say "well, but I can do it." The logic seems to be that if you can get it for free, why not? Augh.

    1. Sadly, I think people have a "but...I don't care if it's stealing, I still want it for free" mentality. When someone calls them out on it, they'll make up any excuse, even though there's really no leg to stand on.

  3. Disagree on some points, but agree on others. You don't live in a near 3rd world country where kids have to work their asses off to help their parents to pay off the bills. With that said, should a person like me who has 2 parents working constantly for a low income, with a younger brother and a sister, going to middle school and that's in a library that can't supply him with a decent epic fantasy books buy them? Same goes for music - although more and more I plan to buy some music.Believe it or not - even those who WANT to buy books and music like me don't have the means to pay it - today, everything goes through PayPal which is not available where i live. Not to mention that the things I'm interested in aren't even PUBLISHED here. So if I can download it for free, and I have found it, I will take my opportunity 'cause life's not generous twice in a row. :)

    1. Hmm, well like I suggested, wattpad has loads of free books that are downloaded there by the authors, and therefore, you are given the author's permission (and blessing) to read for free.

      And I guess it comes to the old question, would you steal bread if you were going hungry? It's a moral dilemma, only it's a book, not bread, so...would you steal to entertain yourself? More and more people do, and the price is paid by the authors, unfortunately.

  4. Legalize it and regulate it to that if they sell it, it will be illigel

  5. This, so much!! :)

    ABSOLUTELY support the artists!! If you wanna "try before you buy" (which is fair, I'm very choosy about my media) there are TONS of ways to do than, up and including contacting the artist in question. Chances are, they'd happily send you a sample to make a sale.

    The other way is just selfish and greedy.

    (Now, I realize I say this and then I have Cap'n Hook pirating media in my novel, which may seem *ahem* to unintentionally condone such behavior. This is why it's called parody.

    No-no, children. Cap'n Hook is a bad guy see? So he does bad things for which, I think you'll find, he's punished for eventually through Neverland due process. What he's doing isn't right, nor is online piracy. It is in fact stealing and devaluing the creativity, resources and efforts involved in making it.)