I was recently alerted to the fact that a number of my books are available on pirate sites. I’ve got mixed feelings about that, and I thought it would make suitable fodder for a blog so I thought I’d toss my hat into the debate.

On the one hand, I’m flattered. With almost a million indie authors out there who can’t get arrested, that sites feel my work is in suitable demand to offer it, albeit pirated, can only be considered a compliment. Another way of looking at it is that pirated copies are basically no different than the freebies I give out during free promos, and the more readers familiar with my work, the more are likely to buy something eventually.

Perhaps.

Still another way of looking at it is that this is merely book lending, albeit with no limit on the number of times a book can be simultaneously lent. In the physical world, you can only lend a book one at a time, like a library. In the virtual world, you can do the equivalent of counterfeiting, which is where you fire up the Xerox machine and make 10K copies of that one book and distribute them. There is a reason that copyright wording restricts the ability to copy to the copyright holder, not the purchaser of a single copy of the book. If you want to look at it clearly, the content of the book is licensed for that single use copy, and the copy is the property of the buyer – but not the content, at least not to reproduce it. Because again, that would skew supply and demand.

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NEWS: How about that? The Geronimo Breach is featured as an example in a blog on self-editing for indie authors. Worth a read.

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The other hand is less pretty. That perspective is that piracy is theft, pure and simple – a book’s intellectual property is still property, as clearly articulated in the copyright notice, and it’s not anyone’s property but the copyright owner. That’s not ambiguous. One might argue that’s unfair, or bad, or shouldn’t be, but the one thing it isn’t is ambiguous. So if you are pirating, it is clear you DON’T OWN the property you are electronically copying and distributing, and that it is AGAINST THE LAW to do so, because the law views the taking and distributing of material that isn’t yours as copyright infringement – a kind of theft. Those offering pirated goods are offering stolen goods, and those downloading the stolen goods are participating in the theft – they are benefiting by getting something they would have had to pay for if they obeyed the law or if the stolen articles weren’t available for download.

I’m familiar with all kinds of arguments for piracy – that the receivers of the stolen property might not be able to afford the goods, or that it does no real harm and is thus a victimless crime, or that it can have a benefit for authors by familiarizing readers with their work, or that protection of intellectual property is basically greed-driven and “old paradigm.” I can sympathize with all of these arguments, but in the end I find them to be rationalizations for stealing. Inevitably those with broken moral compasses try to muddy the water and debate whether stealing is wrong or not (if you had to steal to survive, is it really so wrong? To save your baby? And so on), but I’m pretty clear that whatever it is, it isn’t right.

If I invest several thousands of dollars in editing and creating covers and the like, I hope to recoup that cost, plus a reward for my time in creating the work in the first place. That’s reasonable – as per the copyright, I own it, so I’m entitled to expect compensation (if I have the work for sale) for my effort. When someone decides to download a pirated copy of one of my books, they are gaining the benefit of my work without compensating me. All other arguments aside, that’s the net of the transaction. I don’t see the revenue that is my due as the intellectual property rights owner.

I’ve heard folks who say, yeah, but it’s not really hurting your sales anyway, or the sales of big companies, who are making tons of money and thus can afford to be victimized by criminals. The problem with that idea is that it assumes that I’m not being harmed. I would argue I am being even more harmed than a large company that can afford to have some lost revenue due to theft. Because I’m a small business, every lost sale hits me directly in hundred cent dollars. My self-publishing business is a business, not a philanthropic enterprise. It pays bills. It does so by being paid for the product it distributes.

I believe that the more people who read my work the better. But it is my right to decide which work I make free, and when, and to whom. If someone bought a hard copy book of mine (assuming I had them) and lent it to a friend, who lent it to a friend who did the same thing, I would have no problem with that. Because the form factor limits the ability to distribute it – there’s no chance of that same copy being lent 10K times in one month, or simultaneously. Likewise, I have no problem with someone selling it for 10 cents at a used book store or garage sale, for the same reason. But with an ebook it is very different.

It’s my right to decide, as the IP rights holder, when and how I want to give stuff away free. It is not someone else’s right. Forgetting for a moment any moral arguments, can we agree at least that if something is illegal everywhere, it’s probably illegal for a good reason? Now, one might argue that it’s OK to break bad laws, and I might even sign up for that. But the real question comes down to, how much of someone else’s property that I have no legitimate right to is it OK for me to use and receive the benefit of and distribute? Put another way, how many hours of your 40 hour workweek, after you deduct the roughly 20 hours you work for the government, and the 10 to 15 you work for the bank and insurance companies…how many of the five remaining hours are you willing to work for free, for me, so I can have the benefit of your labor? One? Two? All five? How would you feel if a criminal syndicate showed up and simply stole one hour’s worth of post-tax, post-mortgage/CC money from you every week? Would you be ambivalent? Would you be furious? Would you figure that you weren’t really being harmed, or worse, that you were being “greedy” because you sort of had use for that money you worked so hard to make?

Or we can look at it another way. You are a sculptor who has managed to create a line of work that is unique, and you have protected it so nobody else can knock it off and represent their copy as your creation. You make little sculptures for a living, and you have opened a store to sell your designs. How many sculptures is it OK to steal from that store? 1%? 10%? 20%? Or how many copies of the protected work is it OK to make and sell, represented as the sculptor’s work, in a shop right next door?

I’ve heard pirating likened to book lending. It isn’t. I’ve heard arguments that say “the more pirating of books, the better, as it increases my sales.” Well, maybe so, if you sell hard copy books through stores. But when the only thing you have to sell are the bits and bytes that compose the intellectual property of a book, there’s no such distribution or form factor-based differentiators. There is simply product X, which consists of bits and bytes, and pirated product X, which is identical in every way. I’m quite sure that if someone was operating a factory to create hard copies of Neil Gamon’s work and sell them alongside his legitimate work in bookstores or at the airport, he wouldn’t have the same laisser-faire view he tosses out now. If Barnes decided to print copies of his book, foregoing that annoying part where they have to pay the author or publisher anything, and then sold them for nothing as a loss leader to drive store traffic, what would the value of his identical legitimate offering priced at $12 be perceived as, right along side of the identical copy for free?

The answer is obvious. But somehow the concept that in cyber-space, because the bookshelf is virtual, versus in a store, it makes it OK to do the same thing. Except even a cursory analysis shows that it isn’t OK at all. If Nora Roberts has a book for $8.99 at Amazon as an ebook, and Shiftyreads has the identical book available as a free download for anyone who wants it, it DOES have an impact on how many books she will sell at Amazon. Of course it does. I can go on and on. If Baskin Robbins charges $4 for a scoop of Y flavor here, and right next door they give away knock-off Baskin Robbins flavor Y for free, will it have an impact on Baskin’s legit sales? Figure it out. Of course it will.

About the only two arguments I’ve heard for piracy being good are anecdotes from authors who seem to mistake correlation with causality (sales increased by 100% since being pirated), and those comparing it to book lending via libraries or in book clubs. Let’s address the first. If one makes the mistaken assumption that pirating didn’t occur BECAUSE the author was picking up steam and becoming more popular, one could mistake that for pirating RESULTING in higher sales. It also requires that one confabulate print books with ebooks. I could see where if you have a radically different product (print books) than the pirated ebook, familiarity with the author’s work which was a function of reading a pirated copy could boost paper sales. But I think it’s fairly obvious that they aren’t going to boost ebook sales of the available-as-pirated titles, if all the same work is available either as a pirated good or as a genuine one. If you think it will, go back to my Baskin Robbins scenario. How much more of flavor Y will Baskin sell out of its location if Pirate Ice next door gives away the identical thing for free? My gut says not a lot. Now assume that it’s a virtual storefront, and that the store is everywhere at once, available to everyone at once. Same question – how much ice cream will they sell? The answer – less than if Pirate Ice wasn’t giving it away right next to them.

In the end, I have arrived at several conclusions. First, pirating can increase visibility of an author’s work, which is good. No question. Second, theft of intellectual property is still theft, just as counterfeiting a stock or a note is theft (it deceives the receiver, and robs the remaining genuine articles of their value by the number of fakes in circulation – diminishing the true value of the real thing due to increased supply. All markets are supply/demand driven, in that if you increase supply to one unit more than existing demand, the price goes down). Third, I believe those taking the stance that pirating is OK haven’t thought it through, or are making some flawed assumptions (mistaking causality with correlation).

I think it comes down to whether you believe that theft is OK, or not. Because none of the pro-piracy arguments can surmount that one niggling detail – that copying and distributing the work is prohibited by copyright, and violating that prohibition is copyright infringement, which amounts to stealing from the intellectual property owner.

Put me down as anti-stealing, I guess. Call me old fashioned that way. If I seem intolerant on this topic, it’s probably because it’s my shit being stolen, not yours.

What do you think?

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Comments

  1. Sat 15th Sep 2012 at 4:26 pm

    I think your arguments are comprehensive, well-reasoned and accurate. Having said that, I can’t really see a solution. DRM is laughably ineffective and, as best I can tell, merely serves to piss off non-pirates.

    I don’t like to see my stuff up on pirate sites either, but trying to combat it seems to be a bit like fighting a forest fire with a water pistol. The effort to get a book taken down is usually not successful and a huge waste of energy.

    So what’s the solution?

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 15th Sep 2012 at 5:13 pm

      I’m afraid the solution is really not a very good one. It’s for those that patronize those sites to recognize they are taking revenue away from the very authors they like, many of whom are not pulling down huge bucks. It’s like the drug problem. Until you deal with demand, you haven’t dealt with anything. And I’m afraid that free shit, whether right or wrong, is always a strong draw. That’s why once a government starts doing handouts to get votes, the civilization is doomed. Churchill understood that.

      My gut says we just learn to live with a chunk of our revenue being stolen every year by those who would go berserk if theirs was stolen.

      Reply
      • R.E. McDermott  –  Sun 16th Sep 2012 at 11:10 am

        I concur. Sad but true.

        Reply
      • Tasha Turner  –  Sun 30th Sep 2012 at 2:58 pm

        Learn to live with it yes. But there is part 2 of the problem: artists not getting copyright issues of other artists. I’m still arguing with authors over why they can’t use pictures on their blog or in there book “but the picture is all over the net” and then there is sharing music “what’s the big deal?”. So it seems we only get “stealing” when we are being stolen from and not when we want to use someone’s work and are either ask for permission/take our time or money.

        Reply
    • yoon  –  Mon 24th Sep 2012 at 9:22 pm

      I think the advancement of DRM technology is painfully slow compared to the explosion of digital contents but hopefully it will catch up (and I think it will) in a few of years.

      Reply
  2. Sat 15th Sep 2012 at 6:41 pm

    This was a wonderful summary of the problem. My wife is a NYT Bestselling author from one of the big houses and let me assure you that piracy affect ALL authors. There are so many downward pressures on book prices (mostly backed by the implicit threat of piracy) that the future of publishing is uncertain.

    Education hasn’t worked. People know it’s wrong, and do it anyway. All the arguments you so lovingly discredited are nothing more than excuses and rationalization. Worse, piracy is growing in popularity while sales (and profits) falter. Ultimately, I think it comes down to a simple choice. We either have to remove anonymity from the internet (which has serious implications for political dissidents and free speech) or concede that the all creative content (books, movies, software and probably music) is not commercially viable.

    Neither option is attractive. As long as there is anonymity, there’s no way to control the infinite and free distribution of content. Removing anonymity breaks many of the useful features of the web.

    Personally, we’re hoping it stays viable for a few more years. We’re racing to pay off everything and stash a bit away, because I’m increasingly afraid the future is going to be composed of fan-fic and shadow puppets.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 15th Sep 2012 at 7:06 pm

      I don’t know. I personally believe that there is only somewhat of an audience that will resort to piracy, and that most are like me – unwilling to behave in some ways, whether or not someone is watching. Because that is what this is all about – being willing to behave in an unethical manner because you think the odds of getting caught are almost nil.

      Not everyone cheats on their mate, even if they have the opportunity to do so. Not everyone will steal if they think they can get away with it. As Vonnegut said (and I paraphrase), “I’m not surprised by how many bad people there are, as I am by how many good.”

      Stashing a bunch away is never a bad idea, but if the future of publishing is bleak, it has more to do with the model faltering as the delivery system moves from brick and mortar to ebook, than it does with piracy. Having said that, there will always be those who will put their thumb on the scale or take a cookie when they think nobody is watching. Sadly, that’s just human nature.

      Let’s hope that we continue to be surprised by the number of good people.

      Reply
  3. Sat 15th Sep 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Blake, I hope you’re right. Sometimes I’m pretty optimistic, and feel (as you obviously do) that most people are basically good, and will do the right thing. I certainly like that feeling better!

    It seems like the past year or so we’ve run into a lot more dishonest people than ever before, and I think it’s shaken my faith in humanity a little. It’s good to recognize my negativity, and recognize that it probably has more to do with sampling bias than any widespread change in human nature. :-)

    So far, books are selling, and readership is actually rising. I’m grumpy with a handful of rotten apples, but probably I’m overly hasty in assuming the sky is falling. Thanks for the re-calibration in my perspective, and your article was truly excellent. Now I need something good to read, and I see you have books, presumably written at the same high caliber. Thank you!

    Reply
  4. Sat 15th Sep 2012 at 7:27 pm

    P.S. My two posts sound contradictory. Paper sales are falling (and that’s where we make most of our profit). Ebook sales are rising rapidly enough that TOTAL sales figures are actually rising. Profits, however, are usually lower on ebooks than hard covers, so higher sales doesn’t necessarily mean higher profits. And now I’ll quit monopolizing your excellent blog. :-)

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 15th Sep 2012 at 7:52 pm

      One of the reasons I didn’t try to court the trad pub world is because of the draconian royalties offered on ebooks, which I believe will rapidly replace paper over the next 5 years. Just as I believe all business cycles eventually shake out inefficiency, so too will the trad pub world have to change dramatically over time – ebooks will do to paper what the internet did to the newspaper. It’s merely a function of the delivery system. Unlike some indie authors I’m not anti-trad pub for any philosophical reasons. It just didn’t seem like a viable business decision for me given the radical difference I see selling a book for $5 as an indie ($3.50) versus as a trad pub author. I figure that at the point I sell several hundred thousand copies a year there might be some sort of a deal to be had wherein it becomes obvious to the trad publishers that a lot of folks are buying my product, but if I ever take a trad pub deal it will have to be because it makes a hell of a lot of economic sense. It hasn’t so far, and I have a feeling that won’t change anytime soon.

      I do have a few books out. Depending upon your flavor profile, I’d recommend either Silver Justice (police procedural/financial thriller) or King of Swords (think Day of the Jackal set in modern Mexico against a backdrop of cartel violence).

      If everyone is bad, which well may be the case, then I suppose we need to decide whether we should be bad as well. I choose to continue to walk the road I have, and I’m too set in my ways now to change. In the end there are always predators. Or as I think of it, there are the producers and the parasites. I don’t make a very good parasite so I have to continue being a producer. If not, I’d work on Wall St. Wink.

      Reply
  5. Sat 15th Sep 2012 at 7:47 pm

    This is the second reference to piracy I’ve read today. I don’t follow the ‘what a compliment’ school of thought. It’s stealing. Period. If someone likes my car, I don’t consider it a compliment if they steal it.

    What can you do, if anything, about the pirating?

    Reply
  6. Robert jones
    Sat 15th Sep 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Has anyone paid a lawyer to write a cease and desist letter to these sites offering free downloads? As much as it sounds like a good plan to go after the people who frequent these sites, as opposed to the sites themselves, is that you’re apt to nail as many innocent people as guilty.

    As people who understand the site is offering the book illegally, it’s easy to assume everyone else knows its illegal as well…and many might. But people are always scanning for cheap and free downloads on the net. Will all of them know that this illegal, or will they think the site may be compensating something to the author to offer the book for a period of time, like so many other giveaways in the land of ebooks?

    I have relatives who are older and not very computer savvy. I also know a lot of other folks who wouldn’t know what they were getting into if they stumbled across a site like this simply due to all the free content they found on Amazon for their kindle.

    I think the best defense is to make the sites known that are not authorized to carry the books, or find a way to hit whoever owns the site. Chances are they aren’t wealthy and don’t want to get sued for infringement. But I think such notices need to come from a legitimate source, or the property owner, not some website known for doing little more than pissing people off.

    Again, this is new territory for me as far as e- publishing goes, so I hope this doesn’t sound overly naive.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 15th Sep 2012 at 8:43 pm

      It’s entirely possible that there is some subset of internet unsavvy folks who are adept enough to find and download free books but have never heard of piracy. My hunch is they aren’t who is keeping these sites around.

      I’ve done cease and desist letters. Whether from an attorney or not, the truth is that many aren’t in a jurisdiction where suing is practical (not that it would be almost anywhere, unless you like paying your attorney a small fortune for nuisance suits). My take is that it’s like trying to plug holes in a dike. New ones sprout quicker than you can plug them.

      In the end, it’s a consumer behavior problem. As long as folks are willing to steal because they think they won’t get caught (a safe bet in this case) then there will always be another Latvian or whatever server with a file sharing program that enables it.

      I don’t think that it will have a material effect on my business over the long term. But I do think that it will have some effect, and that those who use these services know damned well that it is copyright infringement, and don’t care because they think they can get away with it. I also don’t think they care whether it cheats the author of his due. But I think enough do care that it isn’t going to become a widespread problem – I understand Netflix is still doing pretty well, as is the movie business, in spite of plentiful piracy, so I don’t view it as a complete deal breaker. Just another way the world can suck at times.

      Reply
    • T I WADE  –  Wed 19th Sep 2012 at 7:22 pm

      I believe Nora Roberts (and, or her publishers) went through legal representation a few months ago for her latest book; and won. Maybe it will come up on Google somewhere. I believe somebody had copied the cover and was trying to sell it with a mis-spelt author name.

      Reply
    • yoon  –  Mon 24th Sep 2012 at 9:37 pm

      I have to agree with Mr. Blake. Usually it’s the tech savvy people who keep these sites up. I work in IT, and I’m constantly surprised by how much they steal. Whenever I tell somebody about a great deal on MP3s or books (usually on Amazon), there is always someone who looks at me like I’m crazy saying, “but you can get them free.” I know one person has just over a terabytes of movies, another with about 250GB of MP3s, yet another one with about 3,000 ebooks, ALL downloaded illegally. For them, buying it legally is just crazy talk. And the degree to which they go to to get what they want illegally is ridiculous.

      Reply
  7. Sun 16th Sep 2012 at 1:43 pm

    I brought up this topic on a private FB page last week. Three of my six novels are being pirated, and have been for almost a year. Sales dropped about the time I noticed the piracy, but since I don’t know when exactly the piracy started, I can’t blame these sites for the decline. Although I do wonder. My sales four months prior to discovering the piracy were fabulous. It’s one of those ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ An author of YA novels on the private FB page is fighting these sites to the tune of $400 a month. She claims when she knocks them down (temporarily), her sales increase dramatically.
    How many of us can afford $400 a month? So yes, it sucks. One consolation for me is that one of my pirated books is not complete. It’s missing the ending. :-)

    Reply
  8. Tue 18th Sep 2012 at 8:35 pm

    I suddenly want to go out and buy all the ebooks, to support authors (whose ranks I hope to one day join). Thanks for highlighting this important issue! Makes it more real to hear a personal story about piracy.

    Reply
  9. Wed 19th Sep 2012 at 11:38 am

    I really enjoyed this article. I have also heard every excuse possible for piracy, but simply you’re right; it is stealing.

    I deal with thousands of authors every week, representing them in taking down pirated copies of their work. Fortunately for the publishing / literature world we had the mistakes music made to learn from. Unfortunately for the publishing / literature world, piracy is growing at a rate of knots – 6 months ago we were scouring 50m pirate pages a day for illegal content, we’re now searching in excess of 175m every day, removing over 1.5 million illegal files every week for our clients.

    Yes, it is an uphill battle, but it’s a battle that can be won in certain cases. Removing the source files, any blogs / social networking conversations that discuss the illegal file, and then removing any Google links to illegal content ultimately pushes the legal content up the Google search results and forces people that are interested in your book to purchase it legally.

    Think less about the people that are uploading the content, and more about those that are downloading it and of course, then reading it for free. How do they find the book? It’s easy to Google “russell blake epub free” and in order to do this they *must* have an interest in the book / author first. If there are no illegal links that come back, then maybe, just maybe, they’ll buy a legal copy instead.

    Reply
  10. Wed 19th Sep 2012 at 11:45 am

    also, in response to Carol Davis Luce – we provide a service where we will fight the piracy of your books (we’ll search the internet and return a list to you where you can remove them with one click) for between $19-$40 per month, that’s all, and it’s dependent on how many files are found…. The only time I could imagine someone paying $400.00 per month would be if there were 3,000+ illegal files every month of that book (which is very rare.)

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 19th Sep 2012 at 5:52 pm

      Sounds like a good service. I might become a customer at some point!

      Reply
  11. Wed 19th Sep 2012 at 6:19 pm

    I’m reading an interesting book on the subject, The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty by Dan Ariely. I don’t buy his solutions, but he does a good job researching details about the problem of unethical behavior.

    Reply
  12. yoon
    Mon 24th Sep 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Speaking of hard copies of your books, when are they coming out and when do I get them signed copies?

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 24th Sep 2012 at 10:31 pm

      I am working on it. By Xmas, hopefully. Have added it to the list.

      Reply
  13. Mark
    Wed 26th Sep 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Ask Ubisoft or EA how their DRM is working out for them.

    The cheapskates who pilfer such things wouldn’t purchase it anyway. At least, that’s what I hear. What bothers me more is when companies like EA and Ubisoft punish the paying customers with draconian measures and then make excuses for it, like some teacher who punishes the entire class for one student’s mishap.

    I don’t count the pirates in any measurable fashion to my success or failure, for either will happen as a result of what I do, not what some 15 year old does who is unemployed (or lives in Nigeria).

    Reply
  14. Mike
    Tue 20th Nov 2012 at 3:52 am

    Dear Russell Blake,

    Up to yesterday, I did not know of your existence and had never heard of any of your works. A browsing on the Internet for thrillers that have as subject an assassin brought your book ‘Night of the Assassin’ to my attention ONLY because it was a demanded item on a pirate site. Now I know that you’re an author and would recognize most of your titles.

    Not knowing if you’re a good writer or a hack, my first reaction was to try to download a FREE copy from somewhere. You might be happy to learn that I’ve downloaded a whole collection of Russell Blake books from a site AND had moved all of them to the Trash immediately WHEN I realized that the book ‘Night of the Assassin’ was not among them (The collection has Geronimo Breach, Fatal Exchange, Zero Sum, Voynich Cypher and others…) I wasn’t even interested enough to read any of the synopses. I am not lying. Who has time to read all the books available for free download? It would be like being a publisher’s reader with the Internet as the slush pile.

    You’ve talked about causality and correlation in your blog. Allow me to tell you about a ‘real life’ example: Like most people, I loved the movie ‘Hachi’ with Richard Geere (The one about a dog who kept waiting for his master after his death). When I saw on one of the pirate sites that there was a book by Leslea Newman, I immediately went out and bought 3 copies. One for myself and two for my nieces. A lady I met at the bookstore did the same thing but she bought five copies. We did not want the movie. We did not want an ebook. We wanted a REAL book! And after having read ‘Hachiko Waits’, I can assure you that I will never lend it to anybody for fear of losing it and I will buy any books written by Leslea Newman.

    As an author, you certainly think that people ‘just’ love to read books like yourself. I can assure you that that’s not the case. People who spend their time scouring the Internet looking for books are ‘really’ book lovers and they will not waste their time with bad authors or be content with a virtual book from their favorite authors. They also are the ones who usually will buy your next books. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be able to show my friends my paperback copies of Stefan Zweig’s ‘Beware of Pity’, Joseph Yoder’s ‘Rosanna of the Amish’, Icchokas Meras’ ‘Stalemate’, etc… but I admit that I wanted to download your ‘Night of the Assassin’ for free because I’ve been burned before (The book ‘The Final Theory’ by Mark Alpert came out with such hype that I pre-ordered it with Barnes & Nobles. IT WAS SUCH A CRAP! I threw it away right after the chapter where a gun-toting black female top physicist was shooting out with a group of Neo-Nazis at Einstein’s old residence! I wonder how come Dan Brown did not sue him for outline’s plagiarization of his book ‘The Da Vinci Code’.

    Anyway, I know it’s wrong to download someone’s work for free but I think it’s also wrong to have hundred or thousand of people spend money on a book that they will never be able to get pass the third chapter, don’t you? I have found your blog while looking for your book. You have my word that I will never download, buy or read any of your works from now on. Not because I don’t think that you have the right to defend your intellectual property but because now if I buy a book of yours, I would feel like you have forced my hand and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. Same for Lloyd Shepherd. The guy’s heading straight for oblivion because moderators of pirate sites no longer allow any posting of his books. Believe me, all his efforts at self-publicity and promotion will never equal a demand for a pirated copy.

    People who downloaded for free any of your books are thieves I agree, but how do you know that they haven’t bought your other books or recommended your name to friends? Can you really put a price on a good word of mouth? You should ask Lee Child what he thinks. All his books are up for grabs on multiple sites and he still sell copies. Go figure.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 20th Nov 2012 at 10:47 am

      Well, Mike, I’m not entirely sure what to make of the post.

      Are you saying that you only buy hard copy books? If so, I’ll have the whole collection out by Xmas.

      Are you saying that I should be happy that some are pirating my work, and thus I’m not being compensated for it, but that because some hypothetical subset might have also purchased my work, that I’m potentially alienating this hypothetical subset by being against stealing and piracy?

      Or are you saying that you feel that if you buy a book of mine, I somehow “won,” and that I’ve “forced your hand” by actually getting you to exchange value for value? That’s sort of odd to me, as it would view any purchase transaction as one where the seller “got over on you” by offering a product you wanted and valued enough to pay for. I guess if that’s your perspective we would have to disagree. My time is WAY too valuable to be looking for free crap. I prefer to just buy what I want. I’ve bought several new authors this year who were brilliant. I’ve also bought some who have no business writing. It happens. There are no guarantees in life.

      I’m also not sure I agree with your perspective about free books from pirate sites, if I’m reading you correctly. Using your logic, books like Geronimo aren’t worth even skimming because they were free – because someone is offering stolen, pirated copies. How that reflects on the $5 version most everyone pays for is beyond me, other than that someone felt it was worth pirating. That can’t be what you’re saying, is it? Using that logic, someone pirates The Magic Mountain or Infinite Jest, then automatically the books are slush and beneath consideration. Not too sharp a razor, there, if you don’t mind me saying. I must be misinterpreting that bit.

      How about this: Night of the Assassin is free. You can just download it for free at Amazon. But King of Swords is really the book that you should read first, as Night is a prequel.

      Or I’ll make it even easier. Go read the first 10 pages of JET. If it isn’t obvious what my writing is like by then, move on, as life’s too short. If you like it, spend the whopping $1 I’m charging for it. Thus, if you think it sucks a bag of d#cks, you’ve wasted maybe 5 minutes of your life. If you love it, you’ve made a discovery.

      That’s my suggestion. Others have been surprised and delighted. Given that I will sell over 100K books this year, my 18th month in business, I can’t complain, nor argue that I’m being too badly hurt by the pirate sites. Having said that, stealing is still stealing, whether one rationalizes an altruistic or benign motive to it or not. Kind of hard to get behind the whole, “yay, stealing!” movement, personally.

      Reply
      • Mike  –  Tue 20th Nov 2012 at 5:00 pm

        Yes, you’ve misread me.

        I did not read your books not because they were free to download from a pirate site and I consider them trash but because I did not know you as an author. I wanted to read ‘Night of the Assassin’ because someone wanted to pirate it. It had made me curious. I simply wanted to point out that because someone uploaded your books on a pirate site, it doesn’t automatically mean that hundred of thieves are downloading them, read them and enjoyed them. There are hundred of thousands of pirated books available on the Internet. Who in their right mind would ‘steal’ and read all of them?

        My first book of Lee Child was a pirated copy. Never heard of him before. I liked his writing and started buying his books and told my friends about Jack Reacher. Same for Jodi Picoult and a lot of others. I’ve read Deborah Ellis’ ‘The Breadwinner’ only because it was available on a pirate site. At that time, I had no clues who she was. I could not put down the book. I had since bought the Trilogy and other titles from her and can’t wait for her next books. For days after, I kept urging people at work to read her books for themselves and for their kids. Did I steal from Lee Child and from Deborah Ellis? Yes, I did, I admit it. Did I start reading these authors because they were on the New York Times or Amazon’s bestseller list? No, not at all because if I were to believe them, Tina Fey’s book is an ‘unputdownable’ book. Seriously?

        I don’t know if you should be happy or mad of the fact that your works are out there to be stolen but I can assure you that a pirated book, because it is illegal, because it is forbidden, because someone would never want to steal it if it wasn’t good, draw more attention to itself and its author than any display at Barnes & Nobles or Borders will.

        About the ‘forced hand’ topic. I am sorry you misunderstood me there also. What I meant was there are out there great authors with great works who might be understandably mad to see their works being read for free but who had never gone public. When you publicly rant in a blog about piracy, you are placing yourself in a higher categorie. That’s how I see it. You came out as someone who thinks his works are so much better than confirmed renowned authors when most of the public had never heard of you before one of your books was being pirated. I am not sure if I am being clearer now or not. If not, I am sorry. I simply hope that I would never see the day when one of my favorite authors would rant publicly about piracy because that was how I had ‘discovered’ them in the first place.

        All the best.

        Reply
        • yoon  –  Tue 20th Nov 2012 at 10:40 pm

          You didn’t know the author and what his or her books were like and didn’t want to pay for the book you just wanted to try out. I don’t see how that justifies stealing. It sounds like somebody trying out a meal in a new restaurant and leave without paying and trying to justify it. And not doing a good job of it either. Because I can hardly believe you’ve been trying very hard to download it free. As far as I know, Night of the Assassin has always been widely available, free. Not only Mr. Blake is offering it free for people who are not familiar with his work to take a taste test, about half of his books have been offered free one time or another. And I know this because I go through free books offered only on Amazon constantly to see if I can find something I might like and that is how I started reading his books.

          Why shouldn’t he rant about it if he feels like it? Although I don’t get what part of this post is considered ranting. I understood he was presenting his argument against piracy. It’s his property. People are stealing his property. I’d say he has every right to rant whenever and/or wherever he wants to, especially on his own blog. Also, your comment that Mr. Blake is putting himself above “confirmed renowned authors” by ranting about piracy just plain does not make sense. Unknown authors trying to make it as writers have much more to lose when their work is pirated than well-known authors. And still,if this article is the only one you’ve read against piracy by an author, I highly doubt you’ve read many articles on piracy because I’ve read many articles for or against piracy by writers, especially against.

          Now you are not going to read any of his books because he wrote a blog post against illegal downloading of his books? I might have tried to understand this bizarre reasoning if an author was an anti-semite (Shakespeare, Highsmith, Dostoevsky, etc), or an homophobe (Card) or even a simple cheater (Hemingway and about half the population more or less). Mr. Blake is not thrilled about people stealing his work, to which he invested time and energy and money while some of his work is legitimately available free online. How dare he indeed.

          Reply
        • Chris Anderson  –  Wed 21st Nov 2012 at 9:39 am

          In my opinions, your arguments simply aren’t valid. You’re revolving around the fact that you subsequently purchased some of Russell’s books because you found one of them on a pirate site – buy, why were you scouring pirate sites in the first place? I can’t imagine it’s because the reviews on them are better than those of Amazon, or iTunes, or anywhere else. I can’t imagine it’s because the users of these sites are more likely to advise you of what you’d like due to previous purchasing history…? What I do imagine is that you were looking through the pirate sites because the content is FREE? When I say free, I of course mean stolen, and illegal.

          I work with hundreds of authors every week, that put weeks, months, and years worth of effort into their work. To have this work subsequently stolen from them is simply unfair, and they entirely have the right to try and stop this where they can.

          If someone broke into your house and stole all of your possessions, you’d get an alarm fixed. Yes, there may still be some idiots that break in, but at least you’re preventing the majority from doing so. The internet is the same, it needs to be patrolled and people that use it to sell their creative content need to know that it’s not being stolen.

          Reply

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