So recently a website hit the headlines because it lost it’s battle against copyright infringement after being served legal take down notices by publishing companies and authors galore, and was closed down. This website specialised in obtaining copies of books and giving them to readers via digital download for free, passing about current and back dated copies of books from best sellers to current popular reads. This website had a huge following and books into the thousands.
These being books by some bestsellers, some not, mostly a lot of indie publishers and not hugely famous authors. None of these people (including me with my books) had given their permission for their intellectual property to be used and distributed in this way – it was in fact – piracy. And yes, I also served this website several notices for the copies of ALL of my books.
Now the reason I am writing about this is because of the huge backlash from the general public, in what they think is the removal of a service. The idea that writers should not write with a view to being paid for their work, but for the enjoyment of the writing. This myth that somehow you are screwing big publishing companies and not the authors themselves when committing book piracy.
As an author who has both self published and trad published books can I just point out the following –
Yes, we do it for the love of writing, but why the hell should that not mean we make a living from it so we can do it full time? Why is expecting to earn from your craft so ‘despicable’ in the eyes of so many readers? Your logic is severely flawed.
Whether trad published or not, most of us are commission based, meaning we only get paid for physical sales. That means when a site takes our books and distributes them for free, then we do not get paid anything for all that hard work. And unsuspecting readers who know nothing about piracy download books they may have otherwise bought, thinking it was above board and no harm to their favourite authors.
Unless you write an insta-hit that gets huge attention, like Harry Potter or 50 shades, then you can pretty much forget big bucks as a writer going the trad route. Most Authors (even bigger names) cannot earn enough to call it a full time job. A lot of Indie authors too , do not see any sort of big return as for some reason, writing is a craft which is still not appreciated among the creative community. Publishers have only started to change their view in terms of what we are paid as Indie publishing brings in higher wage packets.
You pay artists, musicians, actors and film makers galore…praise them, don’t begrudge them the right to be paid – why is it any different for authors?
We put our heart, souls and sometimes mental health into what we produce, sometimes taking YEARS to write one single book. We do it because we love it, but then so does any one who pursues a specific career, undergoes training and hopes to climb the ranks in their chosen profession. Do you think scientists followed that path for any other reason than a genuine love for what they do? Car designers? Fashion designers? Anyone in the creative industries?
All those block buster movies you pay big bucks to go see… all started in a writers head.
How about this if you are so adamant that we do not deserve to be paid- the worlds writers rebel, stop writing, put down pen and remove all traces of every book we have ever written worldwide and hide them away instead. To be kept for ourselves, seeing as we do not deserve the right to be paid for them. How would you feel about our love for writing then? I mean I wrote it for myself so why should I let anyone but me read it. That’s your logic, not mine.
You pay for other things you enjoy – why not books?
They are not a right, they are a pleasure and we do not need to give you them at all.
Artists get paid for prints so don’t even tell me that copying a digital file leaves the original in tact and isn’t an issue. Another argument I see all over. We are in the age of digital media where our sales come from those copies. Would you prefer if we physically wrote out singular copies of books and sold them hand to hand? That way we wouldn’t have any old Joe copying them without a lot of effort and our books would never stray into the hands of thieves. Just because something is easy to copy, does not mean you are entitled to take it. I am pretty sure I can duplicate plenty designer items…does that mean I can then make them in a crap tonne and give them to everyone I know? I think I would probably get a knock from trading standards or some seriously legal notices from the owners of the originals.
Yes it is true that a lot of free book scourers will never actually pay for a book anyway and it does not actually affect physical sales, but so what? That is MY property and I have a right to protect it in any way I want, and if a reader does not respect me enough to pay for what I write…well I am not fussed if they read it. I would rather they did not to be honest. Which is my right after all.
Can’t afford books? Another argument I have seen in defense of book theft – use libraries, follow authors for free promo days and giveaways. Join review groups that are endorsed by authors , join net-galley, book bubs or any number of legal sites who actually help us rather than steal from us. There are a ton of ways to get free books which actually help promote and boost book sales and are fully endorsed by both publishing companies and authors. Stop using excuses and seek them out.
Saying I am not entitled to earn from my writing is a cop out to justify theft!
If I didn’t earn then I simply could not produce the books I do every year. I would spend all my time working to feed my family and pay the bills, and the books you seem to think are so easy to come by, would remain in my head, pouring out randomly over the years in stolen moments between work and life.
Earning a wage enables me to do my job – as a writer. It enables my readers to get multiple books from me a year. The sales enable me to market, network, pay for editing, cover design and so much more than just feeding the children at my table.
AND I DESERVE TO BE PAID FOR THAT!
Now, let me see you write a book and then have the same opinion when your beloved website duplicates what you are trying to sell and passes it about for free without your permission…then we can talk.