Pirates in the Family

I knew it would only be a matter of time before I would discover that someone on one of the forums I frequent has been pirating my books. I’ve been on this forum for more than five years and I feel comfortable and at home there. Apparently the pirate doesn’t share the same level of esprit de corps.

Oddly enough, though I am perfectly capable of backtracking someone to discover their identity, I’ve deliberately avoided doing so. If a “friend” was doing this I really would prefer not to know. If it hadn’t been for the fact that this person got on my goddamned nerves by repeatedly posting the same book despite my efforts have it taken down I probably wouldn’t even have bothered to try to figure out just who the hell she is. Uh pirates, if you don’t mind awful much, could you at least make a nominal effort to conceal your identity and cover your tracks? KTHXBAI

People can argue left, right, sideways and back as to whether or not piracy has any real impact on sales for a small writer like me. Hell, I’m even willing to stipulate that it doesn’t, but you know what? It hurts, it hurts on a molecular level that’s difficult to explain. It’s like when a relative walked out of my house with an ancient black and white TV. The television was worth nothing. I kept it in the kitchen to watch the news while cooking dinner. However, I was deeply hurt that this person I trusted would take something of mine. He had no way of knowing whether I valued that TV or not. And worse, he didn’t care. Pirates don’t know whether they’re hurting authors, and they really don’t give a good goddamn.

To my mind piracy violates a contract that I have with the people who buy and read my books. To my mind the contract is thus: I will write the best, most entertaining  book I can write. My publisher will retail it, and readers will buy it. If I break that contract by writing a crappy book, then readers will stop buying my books. That’s only fair. When someone pirates my book they’re cheating me, and they’re cheating my readers as well. And when that pirate is someone “in the family” so to speak, well the impact is devastating.

When I realized what I was seeing I cried. Some might call me silly or simple-minded for being that deeply impacted by the actions of someone I wouldn’t know if I ran them over in a Wal-Mart parking lot. And they’d be right. But you know what? It doesn’t make it hurt any less.

For me, piracy is one of those topics like book segregation that I try to avoid. Otherwise I get unbelievably depressed, and when I’m depressed I can’t write. Coming across this one, well it’s going to take a while to recover. Please bear with me

2 thoughts on “Pirates in the Family

  1. It is always hard to find out that someone that you think and just is a trusted friend…. isn’t. I am sorry. I hate when this kind of stuff happens.

  2. that’s awful — I’m sorry that this happened. I have pretty strong feelings about piracy and copying for 2 reasons:

    1) My own mother is an author and she and my father operated a small press (non-fiction) in addition to their “day jobs”. At home I understood that writing was very hard work, and that everyone needed to help out by doing chores, being quiet when someone was working, not moving books or papers when someone was using them, etc. My parents took me with them to libraries and archives. During my teen years I accompanied my parents to printing facilities and worked the table at book fairs where people from other small presses were selling. We had friends who were authors as well. I saw firsthand how much time, energy and focus was required, and learned about such things as “stripped books”, working with distributors, sales, etc. Because of this early experience I have pretty strong feelings about protecting authors. Piracy is no victimless crime.

    2) I have a library science degree & am interested in copyright and government documents.
    Although I love technology and am interested in the ways people use it, I have pretty conservative, old-fashioned ideas about illegal copying and violation of copyright: it’s STEALING. Having made the mistake of telling a guy selling pirated DVDs on the street that I preferred to respect the law — which of course produced his shouted response, “Well, I don’t respect YOU!” — I try to diplomatically discuss copyright now. “Hey, those bootleg DVDs represent people’s jobs. Not everyone who gets paid on a Hollywood film is getting paid big acting money. Someone has to wrap the cables. Someone has to make the coffee. Someone has to drive the trucks.” Or, “Writers aren’t usually rich. Each book that you buy might help somebody make their light bill this month. Try to look at it from their point of view.” Not to mention the people working for publishing companies, who are not generally rolling in $ themselves. It ain’t all that different from shoplifting from the grocery store. Libraries can drive sales of print copies — a reader may discover an unfamiliar author and decide to purchase personal copies, especially if the library doesn’t have an author’s entire backlist. You can make a conscious decision to support an author through purchases.

    Sometimes speaking up works, sometimes it doesn’t, and I’m sure people find me tiresome, but I think it’s important. Sometimes I have to wait to buy the books I want, but I’d rather have them later than steal them. Isn’t there an old saying, “If you are dishonest in small things, you will be dishonest in large things as well”?

    Very much enjoyed MORNING STAR, by the way. Waiting for my budget to allow purchases of other titles.

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