Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Not So Yo Ho Ho of Piracy - Sunday Soapbox

Lately, there's been a lot in the news about piracy.  No, not the Somali pirates.  Online piracy.  You see, there's such a thing as "copyright," which
"is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time. Generally, it is "the right to copy", but also gives the copyright holder the right to be credited for the work, to determine who may adapt the work to other forms, who may perform the work, who may financially benefit from it, and other, related rights. It is an intellectual property form (like the patent, the trademark, and the trade secret) applicable to any expressible form of an idea or information that is substantive and discrete. 

The recent news glut concerning SOPA and PIPA was associated with Congressional bills enforcing copyright in the U.S..  I have opinions on both bills, but this blog isn't about them.  It's about the basics of copyright and what's happening currently in cyberspace.

Yes, this blog post is basically a rant, but instead of spewing and sputtering, I'd rather try to educate those out there who aren't familiar with what's right and what's wrong and what is being done about online piracy.

Piracy of books is now rampant throughout the internet.  "Pirates" scan printed books or strip DRM (Digital Rights Management) from electronic books and either offer for free or for a price on download sites, effectively cutting into the often meager earnings of authors.  It's gotten so bad that some publishers have created websites where authors can report that their work has been pirated.  Publishers then contact the illegal download sights and request the material is removed.  Most is.

Even without SOPA and PIPA, copyright laws are still in place, but it can be a pain to enforce them.  In the case of books, as soon as the pirated material is taken down on one site, it reappears on another.  There are currently 13 alerts in my inbox of suspected--and now confirmed--piracy of my books.  Those are just the tip of the iceberg.

Considering the fact that libraries carry copies of millions of books that can be checked out and read for free, not to mention things like used book stores, there's no reason why works need to be pirated.  So why do those who run download sites of pirated material do it?  For those who charge, it's obviously the money.  The sad part is, these people are sometimes making more money on these downloads than the authors are making on the copyrighted book.  For those who are offering these illegal copies for free, my guess would have to be that they aren't aware of the law--which I highly doubt--or have found it's a thrill to do something against the law, or maybe they think this will gain them friends.  What it might gain them is a little jail time or at the very least, the shutdown of their site, SOPA and PIPA aside.

Yes, I've borrowed books from friends to read, and I've loaned books to my friends and family.  I'm also acutely aware of the state of the economy.  But I also know that if you keep your eyes open, you can find free books or books at reduced prices.

If you've been in involved with download sites, please stop and think about the author of the book, who has not only spent a lot of time writing that book from her/his heart, but also hopes sales will help pay the bills.  No, most are not getting rich from book sales.  Not even close.  And maybe next time I climb on the soapbox, I'll explain how that works.

The copyright bargain: a balance between protection for the artist and rights for the consumer.  - Robin Gross

Officially climbing down from soapbox...until next time. ☺ 


Playground Monitor said...

It's part of the "Me" generation, I think. They don't consider the ramifications for anyone else. Yeah, I borrow books from friends and the library. And I buy books from a used book store. But many of those used book store books have led me to buy new copies of a new-to-me author's current books.

Great post!


Mad Romance Writer aka Rox Delaney said...

I agree with you 100%, Marilyn! I began my return journey to reading romance via used bookstores, where I was able to find backlists of the authors whose newer books I'd just bought and read. All this long before digital was available. And if it wasn't for friends, I might never have discovered and read several new-to-me authors, which led me to buy my own copies of their books.

Unfortunately, in life, with the good there's always the chance for bad. Hopefully we'll be able to find a way to at least curtail, if not completely stop, piracy without infringing on other rights.

Thanks for stopping by! It's always great to "see" you!