Posted by: stelladuffy | March 20, 2012

Copyright Theft – Robin Hood it ain’t.

Let’s not call it piracy – let’s call it what it is – theft.

Yesterday I noticed that a couple of my books are available on a downloading site. To obtain the book – that neither I nor my publishers will be paid for – someone needs to BUY the equipment on which they will download. They need to PAY the downloading site.
Apparently then, these pirates who like to see themselves as the Captain Jack Sparrow of the high seas (and seem rather more like modern-day pirate-thugs to me) have no problem paying Apple or Microsoft or Dell or whoever for the hardware. They have no problem paying the site that is hosting the theft. The ONLY person they mind paying is the originator of the work, the writer.
So basically the only person these people hurt is the artist at the bottom of the heap – they’re fine with continuing to pay the man, but not the writer.
Because after all, writers are paid so much. That Katie Price, that JK Rowling, they get millions in advances don’t they? So all writers must get millions, right?

Well I don’t. I’ve never had massive advances for my work, I’m proud of the fact that many of my books earned out their advances and I’ve earned royalties from them. I do not have a private income and earn my only income from my creative work. I’m proud that, having worked part-time since I was 15 and full time since I was 21, I earn my living from my creative work. I inherited debt when my father died and the grand sum of £1422 when my mother died (and had less than three weeks to clear her flat because it was an almshouse flat needed by another old lady) – there was no property to inherit, no car, no nothing. Just what my mother had saved from her pension because she wanted to leave us each (we’re a large family) a ‘little something’. And, of course, we wished she’d spent it on herself, the something that was really brilliant was a massive box of brilliant old photos and letters. Lovely stuff.
The point is, I do not come from money and I cannot afford to give it away. (And actually, even if I did, even if I was rolling in it, it would STILL be theft. No matter how rich an artist might be, to take their work without their permission, is always theft.)

When the ‘pirate’ steals a TV series or a copy of a latest movie, those performers and creatives have already been paid. (Usually – obviously this is not true of much of the indie film-making world, and why would someone steal from an indie?! Oh but they do.) The performers and writers and makers on a TV series often aren’t on a repeat-fee deal. Yes, it’s theft, but it’s unlikely to stop those performers making more work. They aren’t often relying on the sales of their DVD to earn enough to give them time to make more work in future.

When the ‘pirate’ steals a music track or album, those artists still need to earn from this work, but the artists do, sometimes, have the opportunity to sell themselves live, people who have enjoyed the music they stole can pay for tickets to see them live, they might buy merchandise from the musician.

The music model does not work with writing – the ONLY thing a writer has to sell is their writing. Once that’s stolen, there’s nothing left.

When writers cannot earn from writing, we will quickly return to a time where the only writers are those with a private income or supported by a rich partner. The day of the gentleman/gentlewoman writer returns.

The really sad thing is that the pirate likes to think of him or herself as a rebel, taking from the man, undercutting the big boys, making all art free – in truth, they’re still paying the big old rich man on the hill for the hardware and the internet time – it’s only the little craftsperson they’re stealing from.
Nice going guys, that’s the way to change the world.

Here’s publishing industry writer Danuta Kean saying the same thing, but with a much more business-like analysis!

Oh and this too from the Guardian last week Lloyd Shepherd and Mobolism. Loads of interesting comment discussion too.


  1. There seems to be a strange belief, particularly among the younger generation (yes, I felt old saying that too), that all content on the Internet should be free. Whenever you argue the point with them, and point out that by downloading songs and films and books they are hurting the originator of the art, they have no justification, but they keep doing it. it’s become so commonplace that most people don’t consider the morality of it at all. Thanks for this blog, will be reposting.

  2. Thank you. Yes, that’s been my experience too. What really astounds me is that someone has no problem paying several hundreds of pounds for an i-pad or a laptop, on which to download the material they want for free, but resent paying £2.50 for a book. Sigh.

  3. Any indication where these copies have come from? I don’t think you do Kindle versions and I *hope* your publisher/editor is not leaking copies. That leaves scanning – which would probably result in a corrupted version of the text.

  4. Many of my books are available on kindle, and this is one of them, so I assume it’s been taken from the kindle format. Def NOT from publisher leakage!!

  5. Great blog very interesting!!
    I have just purchased 2 of your books on Amazon, I have never read you before (sorry) but I am looking forward to reading them. Please, never stop writing, girls need talented and intelligent role models!!!

  6. brilliant. thanks Michelle. hope you enjoy them!

  7. While I appreciate the digital age and certainly the sales and income from digital sources, (which is most of mine) I persomally don’t own a kindle and have to have the feel of the paper book in my hands to appreciate it. And I have to say that, before the dawn of digital publishing, stealing books was much, much harder. It mystifies me why people do this. My own books are about £2 on kindle and yet even they are subject to piracy. Why bother? They cost less than a pint of beer!

  8. I mm very angry of that too. The saddest thing is that people support these pirates by buying this software instead of buying your book in bookstore and take it home. Because this is the biggest pleasure. Stella, please do something against them. Love you, Kat xxx

  9. So angry for you, I can never understand how people justify copyright theft!

  10. I had a long email twitter debate with three people openly justifying piracy. They said it was no more theft than watching someone else’s fireworks display. They argued that technology had made copyright law obsolete, that because a book could be pirated then piracy was the future. When asked how the author was to make a living they said that an author would, in the future need to reply on crowdsourcing, fans who liked their work enough to commit to subsiding them through payment. They are open, brazen, unapologetic and if writing becomes an amateur activity, they have no problem with it. ‘The world doesn’t owe you a living’ one said.

  11. The world doesn’t owe anyone a living. The people who use and consume ANY product owe the maker/grower/creator of that product a living. It’s so infuriating.
    And good luck searching out the good work among the dross when it’s all out there for free …

  12. I understand your frustration, but I don’t agree.

    Firstly, copyright violation is not theft in the sense that shoplifiting is theft. You suffer no actual loss, just a potential one.

    Secondly, to paraphrase the publisher Tim O’Reilly, the big problem for most writers isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity. The writer Cory Doctorow cites this in his explanation of why he gives his books away online – and Neil Gaiman makes the same point quite strongly in this video – .

    For many years, public libraries have had a model of allowing people to read books for free. Friends lend books to each other for free. And this is how people have discovered new favourite authors. The internet is bigger and more unruly, but has the same potential.


  13. We are clearly thinking the same here. We have to ensure people understand this is not a victimless crime that only affects corporations. If it carries on, the culture e-looters will end up with is more Katy Pryce and X Factor and far less interesting, innovative or worthwhile. They really are stupid.

  14. Libraries purchase the book, buy new ones when the old copy is worn out, and pays authors copyright. Individuals purchase the book and lend to two or three friends not to thousands.

  15. That should be pay public lending right, hard won by the Society of Authors

  16. in response to Rob’s comment :

    firstly – no. when someone steals a book from a digital format and gives it away on the internet I do suffer a loss. I lose the percentage I make from a sale. a fairly small percentage admittedly, but a percentage all the same.

    secondly you cite very high profile authors who can, quite obviously, afford to give some work away from free while being paid for some aspects parts of their work. I suspect both authors might feel very differently if they had no other sources of income, if they were at the start of their careers, if they didn’t ALREADY have a fan base. Your model would suggest only already-famous people should write as only already-famous people can afford to give their work away. That’s not the kind of writers I want our world to be limited to. And Tim O’Reilly is correct when he suggest that might be problem for already-established writers, but I’m concerned too, for the writers yet to come. Their work also deserves protection.

    thirdly libraries are NOT free. The public borrow freely from the library but the government pays the authors for that lending via the Public Lending Right. PLR is not a subsidy, but a right enshrined in law in the UK.

    And finally, a world where it’s all given for free? Brilliant, when Apple and Microsoft start giving away the hardware for free, and the internet servers start giving their services for free, do let me know. Also the people I buy food, heat and lighting from. I look forward to all this coming for free too. Meanwhile your model allows the big boys to continue to cash in, while the actual makers of new work suffer. How anyone can condone a practice that supports the wealth of the multi-nationals while eroding the rights of individual artists is beyond me.

  17. You make your case very clear, Stella, and I’m glad you address the point about musicians still being able to benefit from live performances (although that in no way justifies stealing their recorded material), unlike authors.

    I am heartily sick of these vile people, their ridiculous excuses and vain hope that they can defeat authors by tangling us in pseudo-legal twaddle surrounding the precise definition of the word, ‘theft’ rather than their unquestionable offence against the Copyright Act. And as for their arguments that all creative work should be amateur: they really have a problem if they don’t anticipate the obvious repost (“Go on – you try working for nothing, then, if it’s so noble”).

    They take this stuff because they can, period.

  18. Hi Rob. May I ask? Is Rob short for Robot? I think it must be you see because whenever any author raises this subject someone like you comes on and raises exactly the same boring, long-disproved canards. Neil Gaiman (as if he’s typical). Cory God Help Us All Doctorow (owner of a website bringing in millions in ads so you bet he can give his books away). And that ridiculous nonsense about the biggest threat being ‘obscurity’.

    Can you name me one obscure author who’s less obscure thanks to people stealing their work instead of buying it? I know plenty who’ve been deeply, personally hurt by thieves ripping off their first book. So much that some don’t want to write any more. I’ve never met one who’s been jumping up and down shouting, ‘Steal me, steal me again!’

    Your problem, Rob, is you don’t think for yourself. I suspect I know why too. If you did you’d have to accept that taking things you’re supposed to pay for without paying for them is wrong. A five year old knows that’s stealing. So why don’t you? Is it because there’s a little compact among the book-nicking community? One that says: if an author complains, hit them with the same old Doctorow-Gaiman-O’Reilly nonsense and pretend that book thieves are actually reasonable people trying to help authors, not harm them? And then go back to hunting the torrents, looking for books to read (fingers crossed they’ll look good on that new £500 retina screen iPad).

    You need a new script, mate. This one’s old and tired and utterly unconvincing. You could always try and write this one for yourself too, though I have to be honest: I won’t hold my breath.

  19. I totally agree Stella.

    I think there is a danger in using words like ‘pirate’ and ‘piracy’ to describe creative theft. As you touch upon in your post, people use the romantic connotations of these words, the plucky adventurer against an unfair world, as a justification to themselves that it is ok to commit this theft. I believe it should instead be termed ‘thieving’ and the people who do it called ‘thieves’.

    However, I do think that some artists (I am not including you here) perpetuate the myth that money is ‘bad’, and that to be ‘pure’ and/or ‘legitimate’ then you have to in some way be financially struggling, or at least have financially struggled at some point in your life. So people then think, well if money is ‘bad’, and creative work ‘good’ then shouldn’t creative work be free? Of course, as you have so rightly pointed out, this model doesn’t work. We all need to pay rent/mortgage, to eat, to be able to clothe ourselves, to be able to go out and have experiences. Regardless of one’s opinions about money, the fact remains that we all need to live, so the money has to come from somewhere. I personally would much rather empower the artists or the craftspeople by paying them direct. By paying them direct, and contributing towards their economic freedom, it gives an artist a freedom of speech that they would not have if they are dependent on being paid funding or being paid by advertisers. To me, paying the artist, is far preferable than getting an artist’s work for free, but incurring hidden and more sinister costs, and lining the pockets of the advertisers.

    For what frustrates me is that people seem to fail to realise that ‘free’ material on the internet is not really free. It may appear free, but it is actually paid for by adverts. For example, Facebook proudly states on their log-in page ‘it’s free and always will be’. What they fail to mention is that you may not physically pay them money, but they will generate income by selling your details to advertisers and also by selling advertising space on the site. Advertising of course, is designed to make you want to buy stuff. Advertising is designed to make you feel in some way inadequate or unfulfilled, so that it can offer you ‘the solution’ in the advertised service or product. So in the end, you may pay out much more buying one of the advertised services or products, never mind the spiritual cost! People may think they are expressing socialist principles by demanding creative work to be free, but actually, ironically, they are merely underpinning capitalism.

    What I am trying to promote at the moment is the idea of ‘Fairtrade for Journalism’, which I now realise I should really re-term ‘Fairtrade for Artists’. The rise in popularity of Fairtrade products over the last twenty years, such as coffee, fruit and clothing, gives me hope that people can be re-educated with regard to how they use the internet, and access creative work. In the same way, that a segment of society now derives satisfaction from knowing that they are ‘doing good’ by buying a particular brand of coffee (even if it costs them more), I think there is the potential to make people realise that ultimately they themselves will benefit from paying for creative material.

    So I am glad you posted about your experience of copyright theft, it was interesting and thought-provoking, thanks!

  20. Dear Rob,

    I would like to know if you work in your own job for free?

  21. I have found my book on pirate sites. I fire off an email and tell them to stop, but I don’t worry unduly about it. People are not going to stop stealing whether from Tescos or the shop on the corner, from millionaire authors or the rest of us. I agree we need to make sure it is seen as immoral, but I very much doubt it has diminished my sales to any degree.

  22. Hi, Stella,

    First of all, I want to say that you can’t really tell how many people who downloaded your book would actually pay for it. Many might, but many might not. That’s the definition of a potential income. It’s like someone shouting whodunit in front of a theatre. He surely damages you, but you can’t really tell how much. Damages from theft are always exactly enumerable.

    But let me get to the point: While I do believe that you could be short-term financially better off if the sharing sites didn’t have your books, I also think that they actually do you good. The fact is – people who read books tend to have quite healthy attitude towards how the world works, and if they have an option to buy quality stuff for reasonable money, they will. However, they must be sure it’s worth their money. I wasn’t able to find a decent demo of your books other than Amazon’s Look inside, and I can’t really make an image of a book based on first 10 pages. Make it half the book, and I will know if I like it.

    Another problem I see is that you, as a reader, don’t own the e-book. I am now not talking about paperbacks, paperback readers are a completely different audience and I hardly think they would substitute the real thing with a downloaded PDF. Amazon licenses you the book, and if they suspend your account, pull the book, or simply run out of business, you’re done for. Also, you can view the book only on Amazon-enabled devices, and if you just so happen not to have one, you’re left with reading from the PC screen, which is close to torture.

    So I am saying – make the book available in many open formats (TXT, PDF, EPUB), make a very extensive demo version and price your books low (that’s not really problem of you as Stella Duffy and your publisher, that’s a problem of many other publishers that price e-books higher (!) than paperback versions), and I guarantee you that most of the piracy will go away itself. For some people, even the crazy idea of having a portion of their entire portfolio available for free has worked. It lured in people who could see if they liked the author’s work and bought the rest of his/her books because they knew they were worth it. A starting author first needs to build a reader base to have someone to charge.

    So yes, piracy is pretty much bad and it’s not going away any time soon, but you can work with it and if you show good will to your readers, most of them are decent people and they will show their good will to you too.

    Have a nice day, TR

  23. So Tomas, if you were to buy a book in a bookshop, you’d expect to read HALF of the book in the shop before buying it? If you were buying a drink in a bar you’d expect to drink half before deciding whether or not you wanted to pay for it? Or taking a flight, buying a house … why is it only the creative industries that are expected to conform to your exacting standards? (Or perhaps you often eat half of your shopping in the supermarket before deciding to pay for what you’ve consumed?)

  24. I’m glad you asked.

    Of course I wouldn’t, but that’s where e-books differ from paper books. Tell me, how is that different to you if the people know the first 10 pages or first 100 pages? If they like the book, they will still need to buy it because they don’t know the ending, and if they don’t like it, they have enough material to find out.

    The thing is – if a person buys a book based on the 10 pages and it turns out he hates it, they will only be angry at you because they invested money into something they didn’t like. I do believe the reader does certainly know if he/she likes the book after reading a half of it.

  25. Oh, you amended your post. So, to react to the amendment:

    The difference is that half the book is still an incomplete experience. Two first-halves of a book don’t make a whole book. Two halves of bread do make a whole bread.

    That’s why.

  26. Yes, I added correct grammar!
    I truly don’t believe readers are as suspicious, stupid, or as angry as you make them out to be. But maybe I’ve met a lot more interested, generous, sensible readers than you have?

  27. Well, the interested, generous and sensible readers wouldn’t download the book from the sharing site, will they? That leaves us not interested, cheapskate, cynical or insensible readers that might.

    The only question is – do you want to appeal to these readers as well? If the answer is no, then you don’t have a problem and this blog post is void. If the answer is yes, then I’m offering you ideas to do it.

  28. I disagree, the post is entirely relevant, no matter kind of readers I want, because the fact remains that I, like pretty much every other writer I know, object to my work being ripped off and offered for free by a stranger. If I chose to offer my own work for free (as I do on this blog and other similar places) that’s my choice. If someone else thinks they have the right to do so for me, they are not only infringing my moral copyright as author of the work, they are also taking the choice as to whether I share my work or not away fro me. I made the work, these choices should be up to me, the maker, not whoever feels like it.

  29. You’re free to sue the guy, but we both know that leads nowhere.

    I guess your work was put there by someone who opposes copyright on a general principle and doesn’t really care about any of this, and there will always be few people who download it without even thinking of paying you, just like there will always be a guy who snitches one or two oranges from the fruit stand.

    But that’s minor, that’s not threat to you or your living. It makes you angry, I understand that and feel for you, but it is in no way a real harm. What is a harm to you is mass piracy by mainstream audience. If your books are mass-pirated by 15yo teenagers and their moms, something’s not right.

  30. Clearly you and I have very different feelings about principles – I don’t need to lose millions, or even thousands, to believe a principle is at stake, and to be concerned at the erosion of copyright/artists’ rights and where it is going to lead for our communities.

  31. “But that’s minor, that’s not threat to you or your living.”

    Wrong. When half an author’s sales turn into ‘reading for free’, how is their living not threatened? Most authors make less than minimum wage for their work as it is.

    There’s a simple divide here, between people who understand the loss inflicted by (or indeed suffer from this ‘victimless’ theft), and those who just want free stuff because ‘all property is theft maaaaan’. It’s human nature, I guess, we’re all greedy. You certainly are…and I look forward to the day when you give your work away.

  32. I am a pragmatist. I care about principles as much as you do, but at the same time I am realistic about their acceptance within society. Computers and the Internet, as always, are only amplifiers to the already-existent problem. There was piracy since always, there was rogue publishing, and all that changed is that more people have access to it.

    I would love if all the people were nice and gave back to the authors as much as the authors deserved, but, seriously, that’s not going to happen. Not with everybody. So, either you accept it and just make sure it doesn’t go large-scale, or you’ll always be unhappy that not everybody is nice.

  33. Hi Stella,

    I accept that there are differences between the internet and libraries/lending between friends. However, to respond to some of your questions:

    “when someone steals a book from a digital format and gives it away on the internet I do suffer a loss.”

    Only if the person downloading illegally would otherwise have bought your book. This is not always the case.

    “you cite very high profile authors who can, quite obviously, afford to give some work away from free while being paid for some aspects parts of their work.”

    I agree this applies to Neil Gaiman, but I’m not sure that Doctorow’s profile is that high. The sales ranking on for your “The Book of Lost Things” is higher than that of Cory Doctorow’s “Little Brother” (probably his best-known book).

    “Tim O’Reilly is correct when he suggest that might be problem for already-established writers, but I’m concerned too, for the writers yet to come. Their work also deserves protection.”

    To be honest, I’d see it exactly the other way round. Established authors (e.g. the J.K. Rowlings) don’t struggle with obscurity. It’s authors who are trying to get established who need to grab the attention of readers.

    And does their work deserve protection, or recognition and recompense? Overly intrusive attempts to protect works can be detrimental, and actually be a driver for people to get around it.

    “when Apple and Microsoft start giving away the hardware for free, and the internet servers start giving their services for free…”

    I accept entirely that writers deserve to make a decent living. However, there’s an obvious difference between material goods (where there is a significant cost to copy/reproduce them) and ebooks (where this is minimal). A better comparison would be computer software, where there is a lively debate between companies like Microsoft and Apple, and the creators of free and open-source software.

    If you listen to Neil Gaiman’s talk, he says that he noticed that where his works were being pirated, his sales were actually higher.

    And David… I won’t bother to respond to respond to your baseless assumptions and accusations.

  34. To Tony:

    Ad half the sales: As I said, if pirate downloads turns large scale, it’s a problem and something is wrong. Maybe the book is too expensive, maybe there’s a different problem. Most people do understand that the book is invested effort and it should be paid, and they pay if they deem the price acceptable. But if they download the file, it’s a problem and it needs investigation, and investigation needs hard numbers. By the way, all my U. S. friends buy music on Amazon. Most of my friends from the Czech republic download the music, because we don’t have Amazon and paying USD 30 for a CD is simply outrageous.

    Ad victimless crime: Please note I never said anything about victimless crime. I very much acknowledge the authors being damaged by piracy.

    Ad giving work away: I work at Red Hat, the Linux company. Everything I do is available free of charge to anyone under the GPL free software license, irrevocably and eternally. That day is now.

  35. Rob, just very quickly because I really need to be writing not blogging about writing (!), if Doctorow’s sales ranking is less than mine, might that suggest his giving stuff away isn’t such a great idea after all?!

  36. btw folks – am very much liking the DISCUSSION going on here. so much more edifying than the Newsnight slanging match I was on last week! thank you.

  37. Well, Doctorow might be selling less, but I think that it needs to be viewed with respect to the size of the actual audience. If he writes as good as you do, his audience is larger than yours and composed of comparably financially-backed readers, and he still sells less than you, then it might be a bad idea after all. However, if any of the aforementioned is not true, you can’t quite compare.

    I hope you took something from this debate, because I did. I am very happy I could actually talk to someone who is personally involved in the issue and discuss things with you. I wish you good luck and many interested readers.


  38. thanks Tomas, you too.

  39. Hi Tomas and Rob. It’s still the same old, same old, isn’t it? You really do have nothing new to say.

    Hate to introduce some facts but….

    1. You can download a substantial trial chunk of any ebook for free on all the major systems. So no one needs buy blind.

    2. As pirate people also know very well you can also return bought titles within 7 days and get a full refund (this is what book thieves do in order to get the original copy which they then rip off without paying for the original copy).

    3. Price has nothing to do with it. Book thieves rip off EVERYTHING, whether it’s 49p or £10.99. Or free.

    Book theft is organised fraud, run by criminal gangs behind servers in countries which you, Rob, as a professed socialist surely ought to avoid (I’m assuming you didn’t learn your socialism from Neil on the Young Ones even if it does sound that way – a penguin for an avatar??? Please…).

    I am still waiting for one you to come up with that other old classic though: if I rip off a book I like I then go out and buy it. That’s always good for a laugh too.

    You lot remind me of fox hunters who say, ‘We’re only doing it for the environment, not because we get a kick out of seeing wild animals torn to pieces.’ If you were just honest with everyone and said – we can nick all we want because we can and you can’t touch us – you’d sound a lot more convincing.

    As for Doctorow… here’s his catalogue entry in my local library system

    And here’s mine

    Taking career advice from nis is almost as daft as taking career advice from you two.

    I do hope you both get a knock on the door very soon.

  40. Oops – should read ‘Taking career advice from him is almost as daft…’

  41. Agreeing totally. Just addressing same point that has been said before. Why is it that ebooks often cost nearly as much as the physical books, sometimes even more? Wouldn’t you agree that an ebook is much cheaper to get to the customer?

  42. In this debate, it seems to me that the pro-piracy/theft/whatever clan conflate two separate issues:

    1 – whether, in the long run, piracy adds to or detracts from an artist’s income; and

    2 – whether it is acceptable to enjoy the fruit of someone’s work for free, without that person’s permission.

    You can dance around 1 forever; the answer to 2 is pretty straightforward to anyone on a nodding acquaintance with ethics. The ‘firework display’ analogy is daft: a display takes place in public and it is an unavoidable consequence that people outside the venue will be able to see it if they look in the right direction. You don’t ‘accidentally’ enjoy an ebook.

  43. To Karen and Bob:

    I might be wrong, but I read somewhere that the actual cost of the printing and shipping is actually only about 15-20% of the price, the rest being writing, editing, formatting, marketing as such. I would then guess that the e-book version can’t bee much cheaper than the paperback.

    What also doesn’t help is that in many countries, the physical books have lowered VAT while e-books don’t. It hardly makes up the 20%, that’s for sure, though.

    To David:

    What do you mean? I’m not quite with you.

  44. 1) the value of a book is not its paper or its jacket: it’s the thoughts and their expression on the pages that you’re buying. Or are you suggesting that everyone who buys book-books is only doing so as a form of interior decor?

    2) Always entertained by the way the ‘property is theft’ brigade always use it as a justification for getting, um, free stuff

  45. Re cost of ebooks versus physical, if the ebook is published by a publishing company, as opposed to self-published, it still incurs all the same overheads as the print edition, ie payment of advance/royalties to author, payment of publishing staff (editors, proof-readers, marketeers, publicists, sales people, finance people, production people), fixed costs (rent, lighting, heating) etc, etc. The only costs avoided are the final production costs – paper, printing, shipping etc – which is actually quite a small proportion of the overhead.

  46. I understand your frustration, both with the theft and the reaction to those who genuinely don’t seem to understand that it’s wrong. I’m an author and a publisher and one of my books was posted on an online library in breach of my contract by my publisher. It was promptly pirated and I read comments from the people who downloaded it for free thanking the thieves. Every illegal download lost me royalties which I would have used to pay my bills – put food on the table and pay the rent. My publisher didn’t help me remove the pirated copies but some sites agreed to remove the book when I informed them that they’d breached my copyright and, as a ‘small’ author, I couldn’t afford the loss of sales.

    As a publisher, I won’t risk using libraries for my authors’ eBooks because of my own experience. I pay extra for them to be produced in all eBook formats, not just Kindle, so readers don’t miss out. I also won’t send PDFs for reviews so these don’t get leaked. Instead, I pay extra to send ‘real’ books for reviews.

    I really hope people revise how they think about illegal downloads. It’s theft and most authors just can’t afford to lose those sales. Thanks for raising awareness!

  47. Just a quick query Tomas; you say that you work at Red Hat and that everything you create there is given away free (although if i’m correct, Red Hat charges for using their services for commercial purposes) But who pays you? I’m guessing that you’re employed by Red Hat and that you receive a salary from them. Authors and other artists don’t have that luxury because they’re almost always self-employed. Therefore, if they don’t get paid for what they create then they don’t have an income.

    Stella’s point earlier that pirates are supporting the big companies who provide the hardware such as Ipads and Kindles whilst undermining the much more lowly-paid creative is exactly right. And if the self-employed creative keeps being undermined so that they have to take up an alternative occupation, then there will be less good writing around and more of the dross.

    To say that people who steal books, love books, is wrong. People who love books don’t steal them.

  48. This discussion made me put 2 + 2 together…

    I’ve seen a lot of filmmakers and musicians talk positively about piracy because they feel it has a “try before you buy” effect and results in more, rather than less, sales in the long term.

    But what this has made me realise is that it’s exclusively well known artists that say that. Though I’ve heard it a lot; I’ve only heard it from global stars, never struggling artists. Perhaps the effect of piracy differs depending on the prominence of the artist to begin with?

    I have never stolen a book though I must confess to pirating TV shows. As a fan of slightly quirky TV shows that are *never* going to get a DVD release I actually think piracy is a really important way of preserving the show for future audiences that might read about it in an article in 5 years time and have a desire to watch it, but unless it was available via pirates they’d never get the chance to see what might be a little bit of telly heaven. One torrent site I use has a *really* strict policy of only allowing TV shows that are not available on DVD so it doesn’t result in reduced DVD sales. Which means that the kind of shows they do make available are exactly the ones I think are important to preserve.

  49. To David (now I can see your entire post):

    Please note that I have bought every single book of which I have read at least, say, a third, and I frequently contribute to authors that give away their works for free. So much for the ‘nicking’.

    Also, due to the vitriolic attitude of your posts, I feel no desire to talk to you further. However, I do thank you for bringing the 7-day return policy on Amazon, I didn’t know they had one. That mostly invalidates my argument on lack of a demo.

    Have a nice day, TR

  50. Oh, well said! And thanks for saying it.

  51. To Vanessa:

    I do receive my salary from Red Hat, but if Red Hat is not paid for support and additional services (which is where Red Hat makes the money, and it will not be paid if it doesn’t deliver), I will be laid off, so even I am threatened by consumers not paying, yet indirectly.

    I do not oppose the point that HW manufacturers and sharers are supported by piracy. They certainly are, and I do think that’s a bad thing. However, at the same time I do think that there are not only downsides, but also the upside that piracy does bring the author to wider audience, therefore a potentially greater customer base (I, for one, didn’t know 6 hours ago that Stella even existed, but thanks to this whole thing I do now). If this fact outweighs the lost immediate revenue, I leave for everybody to contemplate. I just felt this needed to be said.

    And that’s all, folks, I need to go. See you some other time. TR

  52. err… Tomas… you ‘now know Stella exists’ because she was protesting about the destruction of her income by people, like you, who don’t think they should make any contribution towards supporting the years of work she has put into writing her books, not because you were trawling the theft sites in search of a good read. That’s the most specious of your arguments yet!

  53. To reen:

    All right, that was a bad example. Anyway, I do find it tiresome that people put words into my mouth that I didn’t say. I never endorsed piracy, I only said that piracy is not going away, drawn out ways to effectively counter it and pointed out that it actually might have an upside, which should at least be considered.

    Also, I feel offended by being accused of destroying someone’s income. I have never shared a book on a file sharing site, and every book I have consumed without prior payment I have bought retrospectively.

  54. Terrible – the hargreaves report makes this copyright issue even more worrying – how disempowering! grrrrrrrrr xxxxxxx

  55. Hi Tomas. Red Hat currently has a market cap of almost $10 billion (and maybe as an employee you have some tasty share options). Please explain how it managed this by giving things away for free.

    Do you think Red Hat (and you) could have prospered the way it has if people treated its products the way you think writers deserve to be treated in the marketplace?

  56. PS – glad to see we finally got in the old. ‘If I nicked a book and liked it I then went out and bought it’ line. I did say we were missing that one earlier.

  57. To David:

    Again, I never said the writers deserved this. Please, stop it.

    Red Hat makes money by trusting the customers that they will pay for every license they are using. In return, we make sure their applications work. Also, we provide certification, employee training and various other services. The operating system itself is indeed given away for free, but if you choose the free way, you don’t get the support.

  58. One more to David:

    I had said before that I had bought every book of which I read approximately a third. I call that ‘a substantial portion of a book’, which you too happen to mention when talking about evaluation.

  59. So you’re really saying you pick up a ripped off copyright book off the torrents and if you read a third you go out and buy it??? Honestly? Where from? Given you didn’t know about Amazon’s returns police presumably not them.

  60. To David:

    Yep, that’s it. I bought some from Amazon (I didn’t bother to read the conditions on the return policy, my bad), but mostly paperbacks from bookdepository.

  61. Weirdly, it is less annoying to think of someone swiping the book from a bookstore shelf.

    Great blog entry. Lively, issue-profile-raising debate.

  62. Well Tomas at least you finally admitted what was pretty obvious – you are a book thief. Every one of those ripped off copies you pick up off the torrents is stolen.

    As to the idea you then go and buy the ones you like… that’s a big ask on your part. I mean we know you’re dishonest already. Why would anyone believe you, especially when you could get the same trial look at the book for free by using the samples on Amazon without breaching anyone’s copyright? If you want to browse there are legitimate ways of doing it. Yet you choose to thieve instead….

    Quite why you come on here offering ‘advice and best wishes’ to writers when a) you clearly know nothing about the publishing industry and b) you steal their work is beyond me.

    Does it make you feel better? I hope not because frankly from here you look a bit of a condescending twit.

  63. To David:

    You trivialize things. First of all, the samples on Amazon are mostly the 10 pages, which is utterly insufficient for me. Also, some of the books aren’t (or weren’t, we’re talking 2003 here) available as e-books, so the only way to have a demo was to see the OCR’d scanned version. Not to mention books in Czech, which still today aren’t available on Amazon or mostly anywhere online at all.

    But that aside, what happened here is that a discussion on what to do with piracy shifted to digging in my past, as if not playing exactly by the rules (especially if nobody was hurt, because I did buy the books) would eternally disqualify me from talking on the subject. Much like if I got a speeding ticket and couldn’t have a say in any public debate on transportation from then on. That’s ridiculous.

    I didn’t want to say it, but obviously I have to: Sadly enough, the moral compass in people is not too strong on this one. Either you, as an author, deal with it somehow, or you’ll be spitting fire in discussions like this one forever. I might not have released any book, but I know how book piracy works and what the motives of pirates are, and I was willing to share that knowledge with you. I can hardly see many other people doing that, yet instead of a constructive discussion we have got this.

    With this post I end my participation in this discussion entirely, because I don’t see any point going further. I hope the people willing to listen will take something from my answers. And for you, David – even though you disdain my wishes, I wish you to open your eyes, understand that the world is not fair and it never will be, and see that there are people who, unlikely as it may be, want to help you.

    Have a nice day everybody.

  64. The fact the world isn’t ‘fair’ doesn’t mean you should evangelise how to make it less so – and have the cheek to claim you’re ‘helping’ authors to boot.

    Would it be fair if I emailed your CEO and asked him if he approved of his employees admitting to stealing copyright work online? And whether Red Hat polices its own networks to see if you use them for stealing such material (which would put you squarely in the sights of the FBI by the way)?

    No one was ‘digging into your past’. Just trying to verify what your dubious statements are actually worth. As I said at the beginning, the ‘pirate party’ always reacts to author complaints with the same tired, identical canards you and Rob trotted out so obediently here. Never anything new. Just the same old, same old. By revealing you trawl the torrents for copyright work (and software, movies and music too?) it’s pretty clear what exactly your recycled opinions are worth.

    To quote from an old movie (a character who’d just been shafted by someone who turned out to be something they weren’t)…. I think we’ve been ‘helped’ enough thanks.

  65. “Ad giving work away: I work at Red Hat, the Linux company. Everything I do is available free of charge to anyone under the GPL free software license, irrevocably and eternally. That day is now.”

    Yeah, but you get paid, right??? Or do you work pro bono? If I lose a sale I don’t get paid, simple as that. The day you go to work for NOTHING and give your work away I’ll take notice of your pov. Until then you’re just advocating theft.

  66. Stella, you are a rare talent. An artist. You deserve a rich income for your rich work. This is thievery. These book rustlers should be ashamed. No doubt they gripe and finger wag when some hungry soul steals a loaf. They should have a hard look in the mirror. Bloody brigands, that’s what they are.

  67. This is a tricky one for me. I’ve been an actor, a musician, and am now also an author. I have been subject to every possible ‘theft’ mentioned above.

    I am not hugely famous and I do occasionally work entirely for free on projects I believe in. I manage to live comfortably.

    All of these creative realms, and the businesses derived from them, operate on what are now aged principles in my opinion.

    The world woke up to the internet, the pirates increased in numbers rapidly before any of the media outlets understood what was happening, and the debate about ‘free publicity’ versus ‘theft’ began.

    I think it’s time for these industries (and indie producers alike) to look at their products and see how they can outsmart the pirates – because they can. Not by stamping them out – this is far too expensive, and every time you kill one site, three more spring up because they are the ingenious weeds of the virtual world – No, instead beat them at their own game.

    If people can get something for free, they will. Not everyone, but it will happen. These pirates are making money giving things away… why not start to use that as a model? Why cling to an age-old idea that might be terribly wonderful in moral principle, but which is failing in the modern world?

    I’m not saying give everything away for free. But give an option where one version is free, but comes with clauses. Like adverts…

    Free can still come with a price tag, one that is not monetary to the punter, but which can yield earnings for the creative.

    If anyone has run ads on youtube content, you soon realise how money can be made. Yes, it’s directly related to popularity – but so is the traditional model. The more popular you are, the more money you make.

    We’re creatives, so lets GET creative. We don’t have a choice.

    By the way Stella, I’ve read close to all of your books. Of those I purchased, not a penny of what I paid will have made it to your pocket. The rest were borrowed. Do I feel I stole from you. No. This is how the physical model of publishing has always worked.

    Is a digital version different? Perhaps it should be, but the costs to the purchaser rarely are I feel – perhaps this is partly where digital output is failing.

  68. Piracy is no different from hacking into someone’s bank account and stealing their hard earned money. End of. No excuses. I’d really like to know how these people who think it’s okay to pirate downloads of books, films or music would feel if it happened to them. This society has lost its moral compass.

  69. Piracy…ugh. Thanks for this article. I completely agree. As a poor author struggling to make it in this industry, sweating over every word and chapter, it enrages me to think that people feel they can steal my hard work just because it is so easy to do so online.

    I don’t understand why people think that publishing ebooks should cost next to nothing as opposed to paperbacks. Do people seriously think the value of the book is in the paper in which it is printed, not all the hard work that’s put into writing a book, editing it, doing the cover, etc. The idea of pricing the creative efforts of an author like a dollar store item that has very little value or quality, makes me ill.

  70. I definitely do not think that every writer is a millionaire. Only those very good ones may be. And important for a writer is to be clever and use every mean he can. That is the way to become popular and increase your income.

    The technology moves on and you are stupid if you think that writing how terrible and unfair it is you can change something.

    When I am buying a computer, I can try it out. I have no problem to bring (or send) it back if I found out it does not suits me, besides, there are parameters to help me with my choice.
    When I am choosing an internet connection, the first week or month is usually free of charge.

    But when I am buying a book, there are no objective parameters, no objective references, I might not like it at all. If I am not able to find a fine preview on the internet, I am able to stay in a bookshop and read quite a bit to be sure the book is what I want, because nothing but reading can tell me I will like it. Another possibility is to go to the library or find a friend to borrow it from.

    The thing you call stealing was there long before internet. Friends lend each other tons of books without paying to the author for it. You are OK with it just because you have no track about it and you suppose it causes just minor or not at all damage.

    You have no idea how many of them who borrowed your book (either from a friend or from the internet) liked it enough to go and buy a copy for himself.

    You should not tell people (and ACT LIKE) “I am doing everything to stop you to download it for free!” because it is like saying “Are you skilled enough to pass those obstacles?”. You should rather tell and act in the way “Here you go, it is no problem to steal it anyway, but if you liked it, you should express yourself and endorse me to create more.”

    Of course you can be angry with me and write me thousand times I am stealing and how unfair it is, but it wont help you nor will it hurt me. You are the only one who can do something about it, and snivelling is not way to improve your situation. I wish you luck🙂.

  71. 1. hah – you equate all millionaire authors with good authors. brilliant. v funny.
    2. stupid? thanks. how nice you dropped by the blog to say so.
    3. books are really nowhere near the price of a computer, so the comparison is pointless.
    4. loaning a friend a book – 1 loan at a time to 1 other person – is (again) an irrelevant comparison to internet piracy, where the ‘loans’ (as you would have them) could be in their tens, thousands, or tens of thousands.
    5. ACT LIKE – I don’t understand what you mean, or the need for the caps?
    5. no, I don’t need to write to you a thousand times, I would prefer not to be writing even this once (what with having a book, a play, and a film script to be getting on with), but – rather than simply delete your comment – I though I’d do the polite thing and respond.
    6. you, on the other hand, don’t have the grace to leave your full name when you comment and suggest that to complain about internet piracy is ‘snivelling’. Hmm, given there are major actions against internet pirates internationally, given the Writers Guilds and Societies of every major nation condemn internet piracy, and given the two unions I belong to (The Society of Authors and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain) condemn piracy, I’d suggest ‘snivelling’ is a little unwarranted.

    Do pop in to my blog any time you fancy being impolite to a stranger.

  72. 1. Sorry, I thought my comment long enough so I erased important part. You have to be very lucky (so as to be widely noticed) or very very good (I do not know about many that good people) or do a lot and use every mean at hand.
    2. I do not say you are stupid, I described what I consider to be stupid, sorry about that, you might be nice and clever and your books might be pretty good, but the only thing I have read is this blogpost and I think that saying “How unfair it is” is stupid. Remember Julia Roberts, You can pity yourself or do something.
    3. Whatever I buy, I want to be worth (for me) buying it. I do not have too money to spent them for stupid things, but I do not regret to buy expensive ones (or many cheap ones) in case it is worth it.
    4. From friend I can loan it for two days and then pass it on and I can find it in his bookshelf later. From the internet lots downloads but you are never sure the people actually read it. And they are downloading it usually just now and then they are no longer interested. But still, it isn’t stealing if it is to one person at a time? You have no power in this case, no idea what to do, I do not mention the possibility to copy the book (in the old way). The internet is something what can work for you, and it is because of thousands people can access it.
    5. ACT LIKE – sorry for my English, it is very poor, but I mean that in everything you are doing should be the the sort of message I wrote about.
    6. I do not use my name on the internet. I have no profit (unlike you) from it, and I do not like BigBrothering. But I left there enough about my identity, don’t you think? And if result of leaving my real name is being threaten by someone he will contact my CEO,
    There were “major actions against” sorcery in a time, there are major actions against lots of thing, major action is prove of nothing. Snivelling might not be the best word, but sorry again, it fits best as far as my poor vocabulary is concerned. Again it reminds of the movie with Julia Roberts I haven’t seen in original, do you happen to know it?🙂

    See I am using lots of smiles, As I do not mean to offend you, I am just saying what I think. And I am not writing it to drive you mad, but because I would like to show you that on the internet are people who will buy a book they have read, just because they want to support the author, you just have to think a bit about their ways to buy things. Sorry I am using “you are stupid” maybe in English it has different meaning, in my language say “You are stupid, if you are doing something” mean “Whoever does it is stupid, because doing it is stupid.”

    Thanks for such a warm welcome anyway🙂 Pity you do not consider actually doing something in new way😉.

  73. Ok, well obviously I’m late to this party but I thought I would chip in but I will do it quietly because I was finding that David a bit of a blow hard and I’m not sure that I want him here bellowing at me like he did to Tomas.

    First of all I totally get that artists have a right to expect remuneration for their work however I am not down with the whole pirates are just ruddy tea-leafs argument.

    I never knew that you existed till this weekend when I started mucking about in twitter. (My other half is away on a 7 week tour of the USA, so I get to geek and make stuff rather than cook and dog wrangle while she does tour prep.

    However I have read quite a few of Cory Doctorow’s books, some which I have downloaded from his site and subsequently bought, some which I have just screen read and one that I went straight out and bought in Hardback (Makers). I like his work, there is some interesting stuff in the books (maybe a bit too much is crammed into Makers – I prefer, Little Brother and In for the Win). I have been a long term fan of (Cory’s group blog) and got interested in the copyright debates early on. I’m mostly down on with a more liberal Larry Lessig Creative commons type approach than outright piracy, but got to say. I’m in rural Wales with shit broadband. It’s sometimes easier to download a pirated copy of a Dr Who ep that I missed from a torrent site rather than have the bloated iplays splutter and die every two seconds.

    I wasn’t wealthy growing up so I have always relied on a mixed economy of loans from friends, copies from friends, lending from libraries and buying the works. Working in ICT I have always worked with guys who download a lot, but they don’t do it for profit, they do it for social capital among their peers most of the time. And the majority of the time they are not going to watch all that they have downloaded. If however they do see something that they like, they are most likely to go out and buy the blu-ray.

    When the Digital Economy Bill kicked off, I saw young men getting politicized for the first time. In ICT it’s cultural. Although I work in Local Government ICT now, I am from an artistic background, I studied humanities and Ceramics in college and was asked to teach the Professional Studies module on the MA Art Practice course and MA Moving Image Course. In it we discussed copyright quite a bit and concluded that there were no one size fits all solutions but that criminalizing your markets wasn’t the best thing to do.

    However, the reason I started this ramble was to share with you the work of the animator and copyleft activist Nina Pailey.

    I am absolutely in love with this woman’s work and urge you to download Sita Sings the Blues immediately after you have watched this video.

    I think that she is such a charmingly challenging artist… another vid I would recommend would be where she speaks at the Power to the Pixel conference about the making and economics of making Sita.

    Anyway, nice to meet you, and I’m looking forward to reading some of your work, I’ll probably download something for the Kindle.

  74. “I never knew you existed” is always such a polite way to pop into someone’s blog. Er, thanks so much for stopping by.

  75. […] Of course I kind of made the possible mistake of writing the following in the comments: […]

  76. You summed up my thinking on the whole issue very well indeed. I had been a little lost for words on the subject. I hope you don’t mind, but I have put a link on my own blog to the article.

  77. of course I don’t mind. thank you.

  78. Dear Stella,
    If I found your books in ebook format, I would gladly pay money for them. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find the first book of the Saz Martin series in ebook anywhere… I read them translated years ago and I wanted to re-read the series in the original language, but the paper version is quite difficult to obtain in my country.
    In these conditions, if I found a scanned/pirated copy of Calendar Girl, I probably wouldn’t feel too bad downloading it – what I mean is, please distribute all of your books in ebook, so I can pay you the money you deserve🙂

  79. Also I think the main problem with piracy is the lack of alternatives (or the poor conditions of those). Whenever I buy a DVD and it doesn’t contain the proper subtitles, or it’s missing the original audio, or it contains 20 minutes of unskippable intro about piracy – then I really wish I had downloaded the movie. The Oatmeal recently illustrated this concept, far better than I could ever do:

  80. They’re coming! Serpent’s Tail are doing them soon. All five. This year, soon. Yay!

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