SOPA, Piracy, and Writers

| Friday, January 20, 2012
Today's Tune: Brain Stew

I apologize for not posting on Wednesday, but I was going dark in protest of SOPA and PIPA like every other sheepish nerd on the Internet. I'M SURE YOU WERE CRUSHED BY MY ABSENCE. If you're unaware of SOPA and PIPA, I highly recommend you run a Google search and read up.

As for why I even care, I will refer you to this blog post by Chuck Wendig. That's why I care. He brings up a great point: of course authors would be all anti-piracy and junk! BOO to people who illegally download our books and stuff! But I don't really buy it. I'm just not convinced that a significant amount of authorial (and other creative) income is siphoned away by Internet pirates. I also tend to subscribe to the argument that people who pirate entertainment were never going to BUY it, anyway. You don't pirate something you intended to pay money for.

I mean, I know in my hypothetical youth when I used to hypothetically use this hypothetical program called Napster, I didn't hypothetically download albums I intended to buy. I hypothetically downloaded music from little-known artists and discovered a lot of new music that way. If I liked it, THEN I bought more. Or I bought tickets to see their shows. Now that I am past my broke college student days, I either listen to Spotify or I purchase the music I want to listen to.

I mean, this is classic marketing. You give a track or a chapter or a clip away for free. Some people will take the freebie and walk away. Some people will enjoy the freebie and throw some money at you. Some people will enjoy the freebie, but not enough to throw money at you, so they'll go download it illegally. Again, those people were never GOING to give you their money.

Of course piracy sucks. Of course it's infuriating to spend all this time and energy and WORK on something and then have someone push a button and take it without paying for it. But it's something I'm personally choosing not to worry about. 1) I'd drive myself to frothing rage, 2) I was never going to see that money anyway, and 3) at least they're reading my work, I guess. Maybe next time they'll pay for it. (Spoken like someone who already has a book out lololololol what am I doing).

There are always going to be people who care. Those are the people who will support you monetarily. There are always going to be people who are selfish and lazy. Those people are never going to give a crap about your arguments about how they're DESTROYING CREATIVITY and TAKING FOOD OUT OF YOUR MOUTH. They don't care. They just want stuff. Personally, I feel like it's better to focus on the people who care.

I don't think anti-piracy legislation is overreachingly wrong or stupid. I think there's some merit to the idea that creative projects should be shared whether there's money exchanging hands or not, but I also understand that this is how a lot of people make their living and it is, at its core, stealing. I just think it's better to handle it with a more steady hand and established methods, rather than a panicky KILL IT WITH FIRE sort of approach.


Have a nice weekend, dudes!


{ Phoebe } at: January 20, 2012 at 6:16 AM said...

I was recently talking about this with another writer-friend, and I'm glad to see someone willing to blog openly from our other side of the fence. It's such an emotionally loaded topic within publishing that I'm often loath to discuss it.

When it comes down to it, the pirating that's problematic--people illegally downloading when they would otherwise buy--is just as often a supplier-side problem as it is a sneaky jerky thief thief problem. When communities lack libraries and bookstores; when ebooks are prohibitively expensive, unavailable in certain formats, not even sold in other countries--that is when you get spikes in pirating. (There are also large communities of torrenting completionists, people who amass and distribute torrents with no intention of ever even consuming the work. Those aren't the people we're talking about. Those are people who never would have bought the work.) Rather than coming out after people who want to consume their work it is probably more productive (and less alienating of their potential audience) for writers to support libraries and book stores, to do what they can to encourage ebook pricing to be driven down in the industry (because, I'm sorry, writers I love you, but ten bucks for an ebook of a middle grade novel is not a fair price). In some ways writers are powerless, but we need to do what we can can to encourage publishers to give you us fair royalty rate and we need to encourage those in power to sell rights widely. Get content in the hands of people who want it affordably and easily, and the need to pirate is significantly reduced.

Because what put a damper on music pirating? Not the death of napster--other file sharing services quickly popped up--but rather iTunes selling songs for a buck a pop.

{ Phoebe } at: January 20, 2012 at 6:17 AM said...

I . . . probably should have written my own blog post rather than write you a comment novel.

{ Justine Dell } at: January 20, 2012 at 6:27 AM said...

This scares me, actually. If our government controls the internet, I'm afraid it will be ugly. Very ugly.


{ Corinne } at: January 20, 2012 at 6:49 AM said...

Like Phoebe, I was actually just discussing this with a friend. (We may even have been discussing it at the same time... in the same chat... with each other. But that's just a theory.)

It's such a relief to see other people coming out on the "piracy, actually not such a big deal!" side of the equation. I agree that the vast majority of pirates will be people who would either never have bought the book, or who want to buy it but can't for some reason or another. Either way, I don't see the point of getting upset over it.

Moreover, I don't believe there have ever been any objective studies that piracy hurts sales... while there have been several author experiments that indicate it may boost sales. It makes sense, too; it's a way for Pirate A to easily try out authors she may not otherwise have bought, which means that when she is in a position to purchase books, she'll probably be more inclined to buy that author's.

Plus, word of mouth is a huge factor in sales. Even if Pirate A likes a book and never buys it, she might talk to her friends and family about it, or create fanworks, or review it, discuss it on forums, etc. I'd rather that five people pirate my book and talk it up to everyone they know than that one person buys it and keeps mum.

Which isn't to say that every author should magically be OK with piracy, because I understand how frustrating it must be to spend years on books while struggling with your bills and then seeing people downloading it with a single click, but... I just can't bring myself to get upset over it. It's not productive. And it frustrates me when people who don't know much about piracy discuss it, because I see a lot of incorrect assumptions tossed about.

tl;dr; sorry. Thanks for this post! <3

{ Steph Sinkhorn } at: January 20, 2012 at 7:26 AM said...

Phoebe & Corinne - You both bring up GREAT points. I hadn't much thought about the availability angle, but it's completely true. If pirating a book is someone's only way of getting the book and they want to read the book, what else are they going to do? Also completely agreed that I've yet to see any actual studies or numbers to indicate to me that piracy significantly damages sales, though I'm more than happy for someone to post one and prove me wrong.

{ Emy Shin } at: January 20, 2012 at 8:23 AM said...

I have mixed opinions when it comes to piracy. You're right in that it can be tiring to care so much about the majority of pirates who never would have purchased your book anyway. But on the other hands -- there are definitely those who would have bought the book but didn't because they were able to pirate it instead.

The thing is: The majority of readers don't care about either the author or the publisher. I didn't, either, until I joined the writing community. When I bought a book, I didn't use to think in terms of: "I want to support my favorite authors!" I thought: "Ooooh, shiny! I want to read this book!" And if I wanted a book desperately enough, I'd eventually fork out money I didn't have in high school & college to buy it.

For those readers, what matters is that they get to read the book -- whether it's through legal purchasing or piracy. If piracy didn't exist, at least some of these readers would've bought the book.

So I do think that piracy can hurt authors.

However, is it as detrimental as sometimes made out to be? I don't think so. And SOPA is definitely not the answer to it as it's currently written.

{ vic caswell (aspiring-x) } at: January 20, 2012 at 8:24 AM said...

sopa/pipa scares the bejeebus outta me.
i'm anti-piracy as well...
but seriously- through water on a grease fire people.

{ Matthew MacNish } at: January 20, 2012 at 9:01 AM said...

It's a bit like borrowing a book, loving it, and then going to buy some other books written by that author. Sort of.

{ Mindy McGinnis } at: January 20, 2012 at 10:24 AM said...

Brain Stew = the only song I can play on a guitar.

{ Sean Wills } at: January 20, 2012 at 11:13 AM said...

I don't know how I missed this, but I agree completely. I'm jut not convinced by economic arguments against piracy, particularly when it comes to books. Have you seen how small the seeder numbers on most book torrents are? And, as Phoebe pointed out, MANY of those people are completionists who never would have paid for the book to begin with.

I also have a lot of sympathy for people living outside the main e-book 'regions'. I live in Ireland, which is relatively well-served by Amazon, and I still often have trouble getting my hands on books that are available in both the American and UK Kindle stores. I don't even want to think about how frustrating it must be for people who live in countries that routinely get shafted by both publishers and online retailers.

{ prerna pickett } at: January 20, 2012 at 11:19 AM said...

there is definitely a better way to handle piracy. Thankfully it looks like the bill is going to kick the bucket.

{ We Heart YA } at: January 20, 2012 at 5:41 PM said...

Don't want to speak for all the WHYA girls this time, but I agree with you 100%. That's been my stand on piracy for years.

- Kristan

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