Thursday, May 9, 2013

Piracy Revisited

A little over 3 years ago, I wrote a post about piracy, specifically as it relates to the publishing industry. It's safe to say things have changed. The view of piracy, in general, has shifted. No longer are pirates blank faced strangers. You know at least one personally. I guarantee it.

Back in the early 2000s, the internet discovered Napster and we thought it was awesome. I wasn't really even into music, but the availability of anything I wanted to check out, for free, right there for the taking was definitely an interesting look for the future.

Then people started realizing it was illegal. It was stealing. It was a hard concept for many to understand. How do you steal something that has no physical form? We all taped our favorite songs from the radio. Was that stealing too? Because I was pretty sure that was allowed.

Most of us, jail-fearing, generally law-abiding folks didn't question the situation much. It was illegal, so therefore there was no way in hell we were gonna keep downloading things and risk being put into jails with killers and rapists and whatnot. And things stayed that way for many, many years.

In 2010, I was hearing a lot about ebook piracy and decided to do my own little investigation to see if this was a real issue or if people were just freaking out for the drama of it. Honestly, I found it to be a non-issue.

Yes, there were ebook pirates. But this wasn't Napster music stealing stuff. Few people were actually doing it. A small percentage of books were available, anyway. And you really had to know someone to get involved in that. My general feeling was that not returning library books was a more prevalent crime in the book world than piracy.

And I considered it no longer.

Until, I started noticing the sheer number of people I personally know on Facebook and in person talking about all the movies they're pirated. Stuff that's still in the theaters. People without cable, just an internet connection - because pirating last night's TV shows just made more sense. It was somewhat shocking to see these otherwise law-abiding citizens not giving a damn that they're bragging about the crimes they're committing.

My first thought - what about the book world? My people, readers they are not. So I went back out Googling and, yeah, things have changed.

You can now download any book, within days of its release, without having to "know someone."

For an author to keep their books from being available for free download, they have to be super vigilant. Contacting torrent sites and demanding the files be taken down. Every single time one is uploaded.

And that isn't enough to keep they from being available. Sure you can search out your work by name, but most new releases and best sellers are bundled together on these sites. A hundred new books or more available in a single download. Most times without the title or author being searchable. Making it next to impossible for authors to keep these files from being available.

Movies, TV and music is still more widespread and publicly discussed, but books are definitely in the game now and I find that very sad.

Authors don't make the kind of money actors, directors, and musicians make. Their percentage from sales isn't great to begin with. Factor in the time and energy it would take to stalk torrent sites to protect their published works, and you've now cost them even more. They could have been writing. Touring. Taking a well-deserved day off with their families.

Right now, the only thing the publishing world has going for them that all other forms of entertainment currently lack, is the stigma. You could be a hardcore TV, movie or music fan, pirate everything available and society would pretty much give you a high-five. Not so with the book world.

Book people know the precarious situation publishing is in. How bad sales could spell the end of a promising career. How it could end a beloved series. And we don't put up with that nonsense. You won't find book lovers good gaming each other over a book they illegally downloaded. Because at least that is still looked down upon.

The big internet providers have been cracking down on high level downloaders. Throttling their service and occasionally banning them entirely. It's a step in the right direction,but it isn't perfect. Who's to say all that data wasn't legally downloaded? Or streamed via Netflix and the like? It's like a built in get out of jail free card.

Further, when you look at the numbers, pirated ebooks are teeny tiny files compared to movies and TV. Are they really raising red flags with the internet providers? I'd imagine not.

I'm scared for authors and publishers. I truly am.

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