Oh, To Hell With It, Let’s Talk About Piracy

No, not the “Somalians stole my Booze Cruise!” kind.

Rather, “Some punk on the Internet stole my book!” (Or movie. Or article. Or photo. Or song. Or pants.)

Piracy kind of fucks me up when I think about it.

Intellectually, I oppose it. Grr! Piracy bad. Of course it is. It’s stealing. I don’t mean that sarcastically. I mean, I made this, it’s a product you normally have to buy, and you just just ganked that shit. In terms of small companies, it’s easy to see how that theft can do certain harm to the company’s bottom line. Every sale counts, which means every theft counts, too. In terms of larger companies, while the company’s bottom line doesn’t necessarily take a hit on each theft, accumulated thefts could appear to do aggregate harm (think coastline erosion), and further, individual creators might see their own margins sliced thinner and thinner either through legitimate concerns over piracy or a company excusing the marginalization due to ephemeral piracy fears.

In simple, Hulk-esque terms:

Piracy bad!

Theft smash!

Nyaaaar!

It just isn’t that simple, though, is it?

Oh, we treat it like it’s that simple. “You stole this. That is wrong.”

What that fails to do, though, is account for the myriad shades of gray. It’s the same as saying, “Drugs are bad. Using drugs is wrong.” Well, sure. Except, different drugs have different criminal penalties. And some drugs are decriminalized. Some drugs are medicinal, legal, necessary. Every approach in the past to destroy the drug trade with One Big Hammer has, well, failed. Are we in danger of doing the same with piracy?

Let’s be honest. The Internet is awesome. But the Internet fucked a whole lot of shit up, too. The raw potential of the thing is profound. Data is no longer precious; it’s infinite. Diamonds for all! Pearls for everybody! Which, of course, is equal parts fantastic and worthless. Diamonds are pretty no matter how you value them, but if everybody has a fistful of diamonds, their value goes down, down, way down. Information on the Internet is like that. Pearls before swine, and we’re the swine. The Internet makes sure that everything is information — word definitions, recipes, rants like this one, tutorials, catalogs, everything. That also means books are information. Music is information. My fiction is information.

And information wants to be free, right?

Bzzt. Wrongo, friendo. Information doesn’t want anything.

We want information to be free.

That’s where the many shades of gray come in, because the Internet has changed the nature of theft.

I steal your car, you don’t have a car.

I steal your music, well, you still have it. In fact, everybody can have it. Huzzah! Woo! Equal access to awesome music!

It’s hard for the pirate to see the direct harm. They don’t see the pushing of a button as the same thing as walking into a store and stealing a book off the shelf. They see what they’re doing as no different than, say, burning a CD for a buddy, or lending friends a book, or getting a magazine from the library. Of course, this fails to recognize that one’s “circle of friends” has gone from those four slacker lackwits in the corner and has now become a circle of, say, 100, or 1000, or a million. Letting your friends listen to the same music is okay when it’s five guys burning CDs for one another, but now it’s a million dudes deep.

The other issue is, it’s hard to prove direct harm. Again, I steal your car, that has a very real, very physical consequence. An obvious one. Where’s your car now? Oh. I have it. You don’t. And I’m driving it around. And I’m picking up hookers. And driving over old ladies. And when I’m done with it, I’ll drive it into a ravine where it will become the home to a gaggle of happy muskrats. And you still don’t have the car.

But stealing a non-physical item creates no direct chain of consequence.

Consider this article, which states that in 2009, music sales are down again.

And, the easy response is, “Piracy.”

Of course, how do you prove that? You’re in danger of the post hoc fallacy there, the fallacy of the single cause. Piracy may be a contributor, but is it the only one? What about the RIAA and how it has treated customers? What about how the quality of music (personal opinion forthcoming) has taken a slow swirl around a rust-encrusted drain? Further, can you then prove that: a) people downloading those songs illegally wouldn’t have gone on to download them legally? And b) people downloading those songs would’ve bought the tracks had they not had the availability for a one-click-and-done theft?

See, here’s the thing.

I used to steal music. All the time. LimeWire, Napster, whatever.

And this is what I’d do: I’d grab tracks, I’d listen, and if I liked it, I went somewhere and bought it if I could. If I didn’t like it, well, I never listened to it again.

My music spending went way up with the advent of piracy. Because suddenly I had new routes to discovery and was no longer reliant upon, say, radio or MTV. Now, once the Internet caught up and made it easier for me to listen to music free online (free album previews, Lala-dot-com, Myspace, Pandora, whatever), that became less off an issue, but that also creates more of an issue. By upping the free discovery factor, it reinforces the notion that music is information and information is free.

See how fucked up that gets? Free can net you sales, but free also reinforces that single value point of zero dollars, zero cents.

In terms of books, the same “cuts both ways” factor can be an issue, I figure. On the one hand, I don’t want to just buy a book unbidden. I want to see it. I want to read some parts of it before I commit. Of course, the more of that book — or of other books — we offer for free, it’s possible that once again we’re reinforcing the notion that free is the proper price point. (Hell, not just “free,” but “convenient,” too.) We’re committing to the value. (This goes back to some of my earlier arguments where writers should claim value for their work, because free material runs the risk of devaluing paid material.)

What the book has going in its favor for now is that for many the “hard copy” is still dominant. The e-book revolution isn’t quite catching fire yet, to my mind, and the reason for that is very simple: we interact with physical books in a way nobody ever interacted with DVDs or CDs. I don’t pick up a DVD and feel its heft. I don’t use a marker or a turned corner to mark a song on a CD. I don’t underline song lyrics or DVD chapters. Even though movies and music were married to physical devices, we had no real connection with those devices. The shift from physical copy to digital hasn’t changed much.

But a book, that’s a big change. A digital book has no context, has no interaction. A physical book is a thing, a fetishistic item with texture I feel on the cover, with pages I can turn and words I can underline. I can write notes in margins, I can put it on a shelf for display, I can smell the pages.

I’m digressing, of course, but for now, that’s what books have as a guard against piracy, I think.

Those days are dwindling.

You’ll note I have no conclusions yet. How could I? This subject is a sticky wicket. It’s like trying to wrestle a lubed-up breeding ball of garter snakes. Anytime you get your arms around it, the little bastards keep on slipping through your arms, your fingers, and down into your pants.

My only real conclusions so far are these:

First, piracy of media is not the same thing as stealing someone’s physical stuff. Maybe it’s better. Maybe it’s worse. But any time you treat it the same, you’re going to fail in any solution.

Second, the Internet has changed everything (a-durrr). It has not just democritized information; it has socialized it. I’m not assigning a quality to that, but I think it’s basically a fact. With piracy, you can’t put the bees back in the hive on this one. Trying to stop piracy with a big hammer will cause just as many repercussions as the advent of the Internet, and I’m comfortable saying that those repercussions will not be good ones. Getting mad at piracy now is what I like to call, “Yelling at the tides.” You’re angry at something that has become a force of nature. You’re allowed to be mad at it, just as you can be mad at the tides rolling in and out. But yelling at them won’t stop them.

Third, the way to defeat piracy is probably not a legal issue, but more one where you make piracy less attractive. In terms of novels, making a novel more of an experience — something that cannot easily be replicated by downloading a single ePub file or PDF — will create value-adds. Yes, people might still steal the PDF, but they might then go on to pay for the book because they want the app that allows them to listen to the author’s comments or click on hypertext links that gives them, say, fantasy maps or word definitions. Books thankfully have axes of awesomeness that music cannot offer. The sooner we as creators start to think about these potential “value-adds,” the better off we are.

Fourth, good luck ever proving that Piracy = Loss of Revenue. I’m not saying it’s not true. I’m just saying it’s too complex a thing to prove. We act like it’s someone reaching into a pocket and taking a twenty dollar bill, but that’s a very clear action and consequence. This is not that.

This is a unique animal, and I don’t think the overall response recognizes that, yet.

72 comments

  • I should add that, I think that the best way a creator can approach piracy is by how the work and the media can serve to make it less attractive. Let the companies big and small think about the legality and the ramifications — the creator is in a unique position to travel down avenues that piracy cannot yet touch.

    Maybe.

    I think.

    I dunno.

    My head hurts. Oatmeal time!

    — c.

  • I used to snag pirated shit all the time when I was younger. At some point I started publishing stuff and my circle of friends started to include writers, artists, and folks involved in publishing material. My view started changing. I try and buy stuff my friends work on so I can support them. I certainly don’t want to take a buck out of their wallet or the burger off their table. I guess I was was young and didn’t even think about it outside of my own desires.I gave it up years ago and I feel good about it. That’s an entirely personal touchy-feely thing and has no bearing on what everyone else feels or even should feel. It’s just me.

    I don’t think folks that torrent material are criminals per se, but in some way they are contributing, at least a little to lost revenues for me and my friends. I think that piracy is selfish and short-sighted. “Evil”? No, I don’t think so. Wrong? It’s in the grey area.

    Yes, some “previewing” does help sales. Ok, so you take five bucks and give three back. I don’t think we can prove that piracy is taking a direct $20 off every record sale, but look at the recording industry and Tape and later DVD sales and the closure of video stores everywhere. Same is happening with bookstores now. It’s not a 1:1 ratio but it has an effect and if people were more considerate they’d hesitate before snagging that game book versus ponying up for it.

    I don’t know how to fix it. The only way I can see to do it is to lock digital material in a manner so it has to be paid for, at least in a iTunes kind of way of $.99 a song locked in a proprietary format or something. It has to be juicy for people to think it’s worth the cost vs just snagging it. I think the driving up of prices of books etc isn’t helping. $60 for Dark Heresy and/ or Rogue Trader? Goddam! I dunno. It’s not an imaginative solution, but it’s a start. I expect smarter people will come up with a more elegant fix.

    Ultimately I don’t think it is a black and white situation but a part of me wishes it was.

    • @Jeff:

      Oh, but see, so so so many complexities there.

      Consider:

      The dwindling DVD sales and closure of DVD stores can’t just be because of piracy. What about Netflix? What about Redbox? I don’t download movies illegally, but I also haven’t bought a new DVD in a year, probably, and I used to buy new discs every week. My *mindset* has changed, and that has nothing to do with piracy.

      Locking digital content is DRM — and the industry has to move away from DRM because it seems to cause resentment and potentially even a rise in piracy. I now buy my music from Amazon and not iTunes because the formatting is non-proprietary (and, more to the point, cheaper).

      Also, in regards to lost revenue, look at the major pirate leak of a movie like Wolverine — everybody thought it would kill that film, and it came out and did gangbuster business, better than the previous X-Men movies. Piracy didn’t *seem* to reduce its revenue. Some have argued that it *increase* the film’s revenue.

      I’m not defending piracy. I don’t want anybody stealing my stuff. Point is, though, it’s rare that discussions of piracy truly acknowledge the totally weirdo gray area that exists in regards to this topic is all.

      — c.

  • “That’s where the many shades of gray come in, because the Internet has changed the nature of theft.”

    No. It encouraged copyright violation, but not theft.

    Theft deprives someone of an item of property. If the victim still has the property, but it’s value has decreased (a theoretical example, I have no studies and those I have point to a small value-decrease due to copyright infringement), it’s not theft.

    A lot of what the draconian copyright-control groups want is copyright infringement thought of as theft, so it can be treat as theft and they can sue kids and grandmas for billions of dollars. So by using the same term to equate the two, you’re doing their work for them.

    I don’t think copyright infringement is entirely bad. I think it’s a lot more complex than that, because proper studies quickly become politicised or dropped entirely. I think things like the Indelicates’ latest freeride project (the “pay what you want, including nothing” approach) are interesting reactions to a world where the proper research isn’t conducted because it doesn’t suit the attitudes of the status quo.

  • “…a million dudes deep.”
     
    That sounds like some porn star’s E! True Hollywood story title. A Million Dudes Deep: The Tits Magee Story.

    • Heh. My wife is funny.

      Anyway.

      @Stew — I don’t disagree that semantics here have value, but I don’t know that I’m doing their work for them on this one. I’m using the terms of the debate, and many do view this as a kind of theft — if not theft of work, then theft of money. Not that I want to dumb this thing down any, but “copyright violation” is a wiggly term and most (correctly or incorrectly) conflate it with piracy, which is (correctly or incorrectly) conflated with theft.

      So, you make a good point, but in terms of what I’m talking about above, I don’t know how much it really changes the discussion.

      — c.

  • Yeah, it’s totally not simple. DRM is as far as my uneducated mind goes, but I know there have to be better ways.

    Re: wolverine there’s a difference between strategic “leaks” and torrenting pirated material. One is marketing driven and done on purpose as a tease, the other isn’t. Regardless there’s tons of films and DVDs that aren’t being bought and rented anymore because of Netflix etc. but w/ Netflix you don’t OWN the movie…it’ a rental. Same with playlist.com, pandora, last.fm etc…you get the use of the material, but can’t keep it as your own. A good work-around I think. If something like that could be worked out for books etc. it would be awesome.

    It’s a crying shame more folks can’t talk about this sort of thing without getting on a soapbox of Right vs Wrong. Discuss the grey like we’re all growed up.

    • @Jeff:

      DRM is actually not a bad word either, it’s just that most existing forms of DRM suck ass.

      And I don’t believe Wolverine was a strategic leak. The studio was ready to shit its pants on that one, from what I understand. Shit, the FBI was involved.

      — c.

  • I’m dodgy on theft. I don’t think it’s fair to say that it’s just the technical copyright violation that’s on the table, but at the same time I think the morality of it is more akin to sneaking into a movie than stealing the film. I’m ripping somebody off, but not in the same way.

    So that said, I’m adamant that creators, and even distributors and middlemen when appropriate, need to get paid. I’m no vegan or localvore, but for arts I love I will go out of my way to spend my money in such a way to try to get as much of it into the creators hands as I can. From that perspective, I will absolutely stand against piracy that keeps those dollars form going in those pockets. That gets muddled, certainly, by things like what is reasonable sharing. I am not paralyzed with guilt when a friend shares a track with me – it might make a sale, it might end up in the bin, whatever – but I try to be reasonable about such things.

    But.

    I also have no real desire to get jerked around. Paying for things twice? Price Fixing by monopolists? Electronic products that are so restricted as to be outright broken? Market shenanigans? A lot of that is bullshit, and a lot of reasonable reactions to it end up under the purview of privacy. Consider:

    * When apple removed DRM from its songs, existing customers who wanted to take advantage of this could only do so buy paying a a fee per song (about 29 cents, I think) to get a new non-DRM’d version. For a customer who had actually bought these tracks rather than pirated them and might have a collection of hundreds of songs was faced with the prospect of paying a substantial fee. Or they could download a $10 program to crack the DRM (or burn and re-rip the songs for free in all but time). Doing so is piracy, but is it wrong? I certainly don’t think so.

    * I pre-ordered Jim Butcher’s CHANGES from Amazon for my kindle and at the last minute the bickering between them and the publisher resulted in it being yoinked. Amazon did the best they could, selling me the hardcover at the price I’d paid for the ebook ($10, quite a loss for Amazon but one that bought them some goodwill). That’s great, but I do my reading on the kindle, and what I really want is the ebook, and if I decided that I’ve been jerked around and grab a pirated copy of the ebook to read instead, am I crossing a line? I mean, if I resell the hardcover and keep the ebook, yes, obviously, but what if I just intend to keep both? I’ve bought the book, and the publisher would argue I’m buying the format as part of that, but that is merely an argument that serves his interest. I might argue that this use is closer to shifting (copying media you own for your own use) which is expressly legal. Who’s right? (If I could get away with it, I’d just pirate it and send Jim a Check for $20, but Jim’s my friend and I don’t wan to muddy his waters, so I haven’t).

    * What about if it’s a result of policy? WOTC no longer sells PDFs of their books, but Pirated PDFs are easily available. When someone buys the books legitimately but downloads the pirated PDF so they can work out of their laptop, that’s piracy, but is it immoral?

    * This is less of a problem these days, but it’s one with some history. I love video game soundtracks, and the bulk of them come from Japan and have, historically, been impossible to get in America. If there’s something which I cannot get in any other way, something which I would happily pay for but cannot, is the moral obligation to forgo it? That seems a dodgy argument at best.

    * If the DRM on a piece of software makes it so onerous to use and I crack it so it stops crashing my machine, am I in the wrong?

    Some of these are standard bullshit. DRM is just a thing, not a moral imperative, but it’s gotten too deeply mixed into this issue to ignore. Some of it is just a result of us being in a time of transition – wherever ebooks are now, they’re on an upswing, and we need to start deciding if we’re buying content or if we’re buying a thing. In some number of years, the idea that these things might be unavailable will no longer have much weight at all, but until then, we’re stuck with a muddle.

    -Rob D.

  • That “information wants to be free” maxim is misquoted so often that we forget that it’s only part of Stewart Brand’s quote:

    “On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.”

    My view of the DRM/piracy thing comes down to this: Most people don’t grasp the idea that the information itself is valuable, despite the fact that they go out of their way to consume it, create cottage industries of merchandise around properties or bands that they love… It doesn’t have a easy-to-see intrinsic cost to produce it. When you see a car, obviously that car cost something to make. When you hear music, it’s just there in the air, it’s bits and bytes and waves and what’s one guy downloading the album instead of buying it going to hurt anyway? It’s not like my money would go to the artist. Those damn record labels…

    Except it isn’t even that simple. If you make it easier to buy something than to pirate it, people tend to buy it. If, on the other hand, you treat the people who bought your product like thieving bastards and make it more onerous to use their rightfully purchased stuff than to simply download shackle-free pirated versions… Guess what’s going to happen?

    There are people who download episodes off of TVTorrents before the DVD is available and still go out and buy the DVD when it’s released (I admit it, that’s me.) And of course, there are people who will never buy your book, movie, album, whatever. If they download it, and fall in love with it, they might buy your next release. They might not, the pirating bastards, but either way, it’s disingenuous to call every pirated download a lost sale. There’s some justification to consider piracy a marketing expense, but even that’s a little wonky.

    • @Chris and @Rob:

      Some tricky shit, isn’t it? (Chris — good eye on that whole quote.)

      Few even think of TV torrents as any kind of stealing, since TV shows are “free” anyway.

      With music, some say, “I want to give my money right to the artists,” which is fine, but it often fails to account for how The Band isn’t the only thing responsible for that music (sound engineers, marketing, etc.).

      Piracy might not be theft — of course, those to whom it happens, it sure feels like theft. Or intellectual rape. Or some similar violation.

      So tricky. So many gray areas. I buy a book, am I entitled to getting a free PDF of that book? If I find it through pirate channels and take it, am I still a bad guy? If I buy a CD and lose it, am I free to pirate that CD’s music? Rob cites a whole host of sticky wicket areas.

      More later, when I’ve the time — right now, got word count to molest.

      — c.

  • Just a quick thought/question:

    Is the growing trend towards transmedia something for lovers of the hard-cover book to take solace in? Sure, the hot new idea/franchise might be most popular in a game/movie/animated puppet show series format, but for some, their point of entry might still be the good old-fashioned leather-bound acid-free-paper oh-wow-I-love-that-new-story-smell book.

    • @Josh — I kind of suspect that transmedia will largely remove the hard copy book from the equation, though I hope it doesn’t. Lots of cool things to do with the physical artifact, I think. Imagine something like HOUSE OF LEAVES as an entry point to a transmedia novelization experience. I dunno.

      — c.

  • My day job is as a web designer at a screen printing company. We do a lot of informational products and supplies, but we also do custom shirts.

    And people simply don’t grasp what goes into making a shirt happen. They see a certain amount of value in the actual apparel, but they just don’t get that we also have to pay for marketing, rent, electricity, water, ink, emulsion, emulsion remover, ink degradant, presses, dryers, squeegees, screens, computers, printers, software, the salary of the guys who prep the art, output it, burn it to a screen, set up each color and make sure they all line up, and print the things. That stuff is just out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

    To put it another way, I had a strange moment a few months back where, on the way to work one day, I suddenly became aware that EVERYTHING I SAW was shaped by human hands. The buildings and streets, obviously, but even the trees and bushes were cultivated and pruned by humans. So much work goes into making the world into what it is and we just take it for granted. It just doesn’t occur to us.

  • Kat took a class as part of her BFA exit requirements called “Real World.”

    The first day, the teacher came in and drew three things on the board: a 1, a bell curve, and a mosquito.

    The 1 represented a the percentage of art majors actually working in the art field 10 years after college.

    The bell curve represented the average, which most of his students were. “But that’s ok, because genius and talent don’t get you anywhere if you don’t bust your ass and work.”

    The mosquito represented the business majors across campus. The people who consume movies, buy nicely designed watches and cars and iPods, but look down on the art and design majors who make those things possible.

  • Here’s an even more fun consideration about creation.

    When I buy a book, I am effectively buying water (the content) and a bucket (the actual book, with all it entails). I am taught that most of the value is in the bucket, because that’s what pricing is keyed off of. Hard vs. Softcover establishes the price, not the quality of the content, nor even things I might take as indicators of quality, like the author. So right off the bat, the bucket industry has trained me that the price of water is low, maybe even free. They don’t care though, because they make their money on buckets.

    To muddle things further, I have been taught by living in a civilized society that it is entirely reasonable for me to drink the water for free as long as I don’t steal the bucket. That is, once I own a book, i can resell it or give it away and if I don’t own the book I can read it for free by borrowing it from a friend or from the library, or even just by having it read to me. Once again, I’m taught that the value is in the bucket.

    Now, the bucket makers aren’t necessarily happy with this arrangement, but they’re kind of obliged to deal with it. Part of that is social pressure – this freedom is part of the culture of books, and fighting it makes you the bad guy – but another part of it is more cynical. See, every other non-consumable good in society is tied to these rules as well – you can gift and loan tools, jewelry, cars or anything else you can think of. To buck this trend, the bucket makers would have to say “Well, wait a minute, we’re different than these other goods. We have this great water which has value of a different kind” and that’s a problem, because so far the whole model is based on putting value on the buckets, not the water, so they don’t want to upset that cart.

    This has worked great for a very long time, and people really love their buckets, but some crazy guy has invented plumbing. Suddenly I can get my water from the source, and that really fucks things up. The ways in which it fucks things up are a whole other conversation, but here’s the bit that interests me.

    What happens when, if I want to make a gift of a book, I don’t need to buy a new bucket?

    See, I will never feel bad about libraries or gifting read books, at least under the current model, but I also feel it probably hurts creators more than anyone else. The idea of “gifting” an electronic file really means “giving a duplicate” unless you want to do something particularly cumbersome with it, and I can see a universe where, in the absence of buckets, the cost of that is small enough to pay casually, and goes directly to the creator.

    Sure, this upends a lot of assumption. If money goes to the creator directly, he then becomes the person who has to _hire_ all the people who make a book possible rather than them hiring him. That’s drastic, so much so that it may seem impossible. But in my gut, I’m wondering if it’s the only possible outcome.

    -Rob D.

    PS – So it’s clear, this is not a “Death to Publishers!” position, merely a “The roles of everyone involved in the book chain are potentially subject to drastic change over the next decade or three”

    • @Rob continues the tradition of “saying things in the comments that are much better than the things I say in my blog post.”

      :)

      Well-said, sir.

      I do think it will start to veer toward creator-controlled, but then I wonder, will it cycle back? I loose imagining has this scenario:

      Writer Prime decides, fuck the publishers, this is a new world, puts his book together himself and distributes it, too. He learns about layout and editing and marketing and management and negotiation and all that good stuff. It’s stuff that other writers won’t or can’t do — some writers are good at turning out great stories, but their skill-sets end there. Or, alternately, he hires people to do this stuff for him. Which makes Writer Prime a more powerful bear. He can do what he did for his own book for other writers. He can handle all that wonky shit: all the marketing and layout and blah blah blah. Or, he uses his current “people” to do it. He can’t do it for everybody and wouldn’t want to, of course, so he’s gotta take submissions and soon he can’t do it all himself so he has to hire more people. And before too long, Writer Prime is a publisher, not a writer.

      — c.

  • I’m sure it wouldn’t work universally, but piracy holds no fear for me, as concerns the stuff here.

    http://www.gregstolze.com/fiction_library/index.html

    Pirate those stories all you want, though I’d appreciate the courtesy of pointing your fellow pirates at the source so they can continue spreading the disease… the disease of Stolze fiction!

    Rather than get bogged down in right and wrong, I really focus more on the practicalities. Practically, people are way more likely to pay for something they DON’T HAVE and CAN’T GET than pay ex post facto for something they like. (Though lots of people do — I just paid for “New Killer Star” after listening to it free on YouTube a couple times.) I find people are far more likely to pay forward for the Next Cool Thing they haven’t seen. Consider this link.

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gregstolze/two-things-she-does-with-her-body-a-short-stor

    ONE GUY paid over $200 for that short story. Even *I* don’t like the story THAT much and I wrote it. But he’s not really paying only for the story he’s getting, but for all the other stuff he’s gotten in the past — he pretty much told me as much.

    I’m not going to say there aren’t hassles and issues with this system, but I’ve gotten better results with far, FAR less effort than I have from pursuing traditional methods. And hey, the pirates are actually helping me out, so I’m not in the awkward position of going to war against the people who like my work.

    -G.

  • You have, in your own scatalogical way, define this argument as well as anyone. My natural inclination is to view piracy as criminal, and therefore not to be done; you’re taking something that doesn’t belong to you without paying for it. Whether that constitutes theft in this context can be debated (dictionary.com defines theft as “the act of stealing; the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods or property of another; larceny”), but you’re taking something that doesn’t belong to you; whether you’re also leaving it behind is somewhat moot, as you have still denied the rightful his proceeds for that unique instance of it.

    On the other hand, trying to stop illegal downloads because they’re wrong is like trying to stop fornication because the Bible says it’s bad. It’s been tried, and it doesn’t work. people are gonna do it. An accommodation is going to have to be reached.

    That doesn’t mean I condone illegal downloads; it just means I’m living in the world as it exists, not the world as I’d like it to exist.

  • My secret suspicion is that the biggest change will actually come to the *agents*. As you note, there’s no guarantee an author will be any good at the non-writing stuff, and that includes being business-saavy enough to be able to hire someone. That suggests that there’d be a market for people who _can_ handle all that stuff for a reasonable fee, and the person in the best position to do that currently sits in the agent seat. Now, this may make a rough transition – the things that let an agent provide value add nowadays do not automatically translate, but whether the agents are willing to change or not, the need is going to be there for *someone* to take advantage of.

    If you want to see it on a small scale right now, look at e-book conversion. Turning an existing book into a ebook for sale on Amazon is not *hard*, but it definitely requires some knowledge. Some authors are figuring out how to do it themselves. Some are paying services to do it. But some agents, companies or folks in the trade are starting to offer the service as a value add, often not even charging for it (or just charging a small amount to create a barrier and sense of value in the same way a co-pay does). This is smart on their part because the relationship with the author is more valuable than the few bucks a conversion fee would net them, especially as their authors gat in a better position to make some money off this.

    It’s just the tip of the iceberg. And in fairness, publishers could also step into this role, but I don’t think they will (or at least I don’t think the current ones will). There’s too much investment in the current power dynamic. In 10 or 20 years, “publisher” may mean “The company that does all this stuff for the author” but, again, that’ll only happen after the flow of money changes.

    -Rob D.

    • @Russell:

      I wonder if price is some weird factor.

      Like, “It’s so cheap, what does it matter if I buy it?” versus, “It’s so expensive, I can’t afford it, so I’ll just take it.”

      It’s all bullshit justification to nab something you didn’t pay for, but it does call to attention whether or not there are certain sweet spots for different types of products.

      When iTunes or Amazon charges $11.99 for a CD, I won’t buy it. Not ever.

      $9.99, I’m comfy with that. I don’t have a problem with cheaper, but if it goes too cheap, I start to wonder — why? Is it a piece of shit? (Luckily, this is where free listening on a place like Lala really helps me out.)

      Something in there about floating value and the moving goal posts of that number.

      — c.

      — c.

  • @Rob Donoghue

    “My secret suspicion is that the biggest change will actually come to the *agents*. As you note, there’s no guarantee an author will be any good at the non-writing stuff, and that includes being business-saavy enough to be able to hire someone. That suggests that there’d be a market for people who _can_ handle all that stuff for a reasonable fee, and the person in the best position to do that currently sits in the agent seat. ”

    You know, that sounds an awful lot like a line developer.

  • @Dana King

    “That doesn’t mean I condone illegal downloads; it just means I’m living in the world as it exists, not the world as I’d like it to exist.”

    Most of us have to both live in the real world and get paid. And that, as Chuck suggests, creates a puzzle. We have certain skills — mine is lying about vampires. And we have to turn those into cash.

    Or we have to go crawling back to IT and explain why our last job involved something called “blood dolls.” Certainly, we always have a choice. It isn’t, however, a trigger I’m keen to pull just yet. I suspect there are ways to make money in spite of piracy.

    In fact, I’m about to try one soon. I’ll let you know how it works out.

  • I sort of agree that publishers will have to provide something other than just the text of a book to prevent piracy, but I don’t think it’s a jazzed up e-version that’s going to do it. I think it’s going to be fancy special editions of good old-fashioned hardcover books. When you think about music piracy, the greatest mass doing the pirating is young people. BUT, over the last three years vinyl record sales have increased at 30%+ every year and a survey by AOL shows that young people are the ones buying the most vinyl. For every day consumption people will get the cheap (or free) e-dition. But the real money will be made on those who want an experience, be it the cool sound of vinyl records or the great artwork, or the physical joy of reading a book and displaying it on the shelf.

    • @Bryon:

      I think it’s both. I think it has to be both, actually. If it’s only hardcovers, then publishing will become an even greater niche industry (we’ll just use the made-up word “nichier!”), and if it’s only transmedia books then the book as we know it will fail to exist anyway.

      — c.

  • A couple weeks ago, I wanted to watch a movie that I had bought years ago.

    I grabbed the DVD off my shelf and realized that it was still shrinkwrapped. I had bought it in 2003, after pirating it and deciding that I liked it enough to watch it again. That “again” didn’t come up for seven years, but when it did, I was ready to go. ;-)

  • I was one of the people who posted that link about music and that it was, indeed, piracy. However, I am not pulling that out of thin air. I work for a music company and indeed, on the industry side of things they are proving every day that yes, it correlates to a huge loss of revenue. While I can’t disclose any official numbers on that for business reasons, that is NOT a myth. Piracy is a real threat to creators.

    • @Monica:

      I saw you retweet that link (I nabbed it from Digital Book World) — thanks!

      I don’t believe that piracy is some kind of made up problem — I just don’t know how anyone can provably say, “Piracy = Sole Cause Of Huge Revenue Loss.”

      @Adam calls attention to some of the issues why the music industry might (rightfully) be losing dollars and cents (and sense):

      We consume media in a whole different way.

      I mean, let’s look at the music industry.

      a) The fetishistic item of “The Album” has been on the decline for years, and the Internet helped make it even more meaningless.

      b) We now watch TV and watch movies and consume online content (games, videos, whatever) at an alarming rate, leaving less room for music consumption.

      c) The music video is all but gone, and this puzzles me — seems the Internet is a great place for ‘em. Especially since they’re basically really elaborate commercials for the band and album.

      d) The Internet has fractured listening audiences — good for micro-audiences, bad for macro-audiences. Once upon a time, we all knew Madonna’s music. Age 8 to 80, we all heard her music and could identify it. Now? I don’t know that we have the same uniform music tastes. Good for more diversity, bad for centralized business.

      e) People used to listen to music in the cars — radio, tapes, CDs, sat radio. Now, a lot of cars have DVD players. Or, they allow for MP3 players, which allows for…

      f) Podcasts. Not sure if this is super-huge, but every little nibble counts. More people listening to podcasts means reduced need to buy music.

      g) Lots of free music online, too. Legitimate free music. So, I don’t have to pull up iTunes every time I want to listen to something.

      h) Music sucks more now. One man’s opinion, perhaps, but polls (like from Rolling Stone) suggest others believe the same.

      i) The RIAA also hasn’t put a great face on this whole thing. They seem to hate their customers, hate their clients, and love money. That may not be true, but it’s what appears true. Thus, people don’t feel so good about supporting the RIAA.

      I realize my experiences are not necessarily exemplary, and further, they’re anecdotal, but my music habits have changed. I don’t listen to as much music, and I don’t buy as much. Contrast this with, ironically, when I was pirating music — when I downloaded music illegally, I also bought a lot more music and *listened to* a lot more music.

      So, that’s why I’m not immediately comfortable with saying, “Hey, look at this big, slow leak in revenues — clearly, it’s all piracy.”

      — c.

  • I wonder if digital music sales in the USA have slowed down for one simple reason: more digital sales competition in the form of movies, TV shows, and books (fuck the confusing and inaccurate phrase “ebook”), which are typically slower to make their way to other countries (compare the movie/TV selection of the Canadian iTunes store vs the US iTunes store …)

    • Oh, and @Adam —

      Actually, more and more we might need to move away from any use of the word “book.”

      Book is a physical thing, right? Maybe we just go with “story,” or something. Or “word parade.”

      “I just read this awesome word parade story time by Stephen King? I hope they turn it into a movie, or an episodic transmedia ice cream experience.”

      I dunno. It’s been a long morning. :)

      — c.

  • I don’t agree with it, but when a big corporation makes less money one year than they did the previous year, or less money than they expected to make, they call that a loss. Maybe they shouldn’t have gone and told their shareholders that they were going to make more money every year (don’t get me started on that), but the point is that value that is not obtained for a product that exists is deemed a loss.

    Unless that product is copied, in which case, it seems, fuck the guy who created it. He still has his copy, he didn’t suffer any loss.

    I think “theft” is a perfectly valid rhetorical term when discussing piracy. I also think it’s too simple, as people pirate for very different reasons than they would steal, but when I see debaters decrying my right to use the word “theft” in the discussion, it just makes me think that the word is effective at its job: making some people uncomfortable with copying files that are not theirs to copy.

    The product that was lost was the copy that you made and took away. That copy, when you made it from my file, should have mine. (Mine to sell, mine to give away, whichever.) The copy that you took with you, though very nearly free to duplicate, was taken. That’s what I lost. That’s why I feel comfortable conflating piracy and theft.

    Though, yes, I consider it conflation, since piracy and theft are two separate, but overlapping, things. But I choose to conflate them because guilt and appreciation (not mutually exclusive, those) are two of the prime motivating factors that make sure people pay for the stuff they download copies of. For a creator of niche product, that makes guilt and appreciation both into revenue streams — if either dries up, there may be trouble. The word theft helps keep one of those revenue streams alive in the short term. (For whatever good that’s worth — there’s a whole generation coming up that won’t feel guilty for consuming media for free; they’ve never known the genie to be bottled.)

    Put it another way: As someone whose work has been pirated — that is, copied against my will — it does little soothing to be told that it is cool, for it is not thievery. Watching a copy of my hard-made book go off in someone else’s arms, never to be paid for, can sure feel like theft. Enough so that, hey, I have this word here, and I’m going to use it.

    So, yes, it is complicated.

    I fully acknowledge that not all piracy is malicious, and that plenty of pirates go on to toss money at creators they admire. If you have enough money that you can survive one product’s worth of piracy to build an audience, that’s great. If not, and you were hoping to get a return on that first product, it may not matter that all the pirates loved it. By the time they long for the second album, or the second movie, or the second book, for which they would happily pay, you the creator have already gone out of business. I can’t trade fan emails with my grocer for food.

    Painting about piracy requires many brushes, fat and fine.

  • @Chuck – No, piracy is not “the” answer here, but rather one consequence of what happens when you have advances in technology that occur so rapidly that businesses either don’t know how (or can’t afford) to keep up with. In my opinion, advances in technology are allowing the demands of an impatient market to survive with or without a “legal” product. As a result, much of what you hear are the thoughts from people who are scared and confused.

    IMHO, I think it’s going to take years for the market to sort itself out online. We’ll see a few crack downs, and I think a big one is on the horizon, but this will be a slow process. After all, the internet is its own market and certainly not the only one.

    • @Monica:

      No doubt, it’s definitely part of the equation.

      The Internet was one of those things that, for all the good it brought, it also offered a wealth of uncertainty. (Anyone ever buy encyclopedias anymore? Or do they just go to the entirely free Wikipedia? I’m sure somewhere out there, a guy is lamenting his job with WorldBook — and rightfully so. I’m sad for that dude.)

      We will probably see a few crackdowns, but sadly, I think each crackdown hurts and doesn’t help. The crackdowns on the music industry (and there have been several now) don’t show any rise in music sales. Digital, yes, overall, no.

      That said, while the Internet is not the only market, it’s… pretty much the big one, now.

      That’s my point with piracy, and it’s like Dana said: it’s not a good thing, but it is *a* thing. It’s almost as much a natural disaster as it is an agglomeration of malcontents stealing stuff. It’s a force of nature. Industries are going to float to the top if they find a way to accommodate or at least work around that force of nature — and those that constantly stand against on on principle and profit margins will, I suspect, continue to sink downward.

      Just a guess, and certainly only one man’s opinion.

      — c.

  • @Will – “Unless that product is copied, in which case, it seems, fuck the guy who created it. He still has his copy, he didn’t suffer any loss.”

    I beg to differ on that front. There are several contractual models which offer payment per product to a creator both in the book publishing and the music publishing industries. Every time that product is copied the creator does suffer a loss. Say one download, for example, costs a creator twenty-five cents. Now multiply that by a thousand.

  • @Monica — My sarcasm in that sentence must not have come across, though I didn’t think an emoticon would have made it any clearer. My point is exactly that: Each copy made and taken is a loss.

  • Monica’s point is a good one because it reflects on a lot of stuff that’s going on. The disruptive impact of the technologies becomes _more_ disruptive when models don’t adapt. This is the big semi heading for Book Publishers.

    The reason they’ve been fighting Amazon and the $10 ebook so hard is that at that price, they can’t stay in business (or so they say, more on that in a second). If the expectation is that the price will be there, there’s no way for them to build a model that lets them profit off ebooks. I think there’s some disingenuousness in some of the numbers they use, but even so they’re sort of right.

    See, the problem isn’t the _price_, it’s the popularity. The problem is not that the margins on ebooks are too small, but rather that as ebooks become a bigger portion of the market, print books become a smaller part. That means smaller print runs, which in turns means more expensive print runs and no longer being able to rely on shotgun distribution and prayer (to say nothing of the vulnerability that many have to book returns).

    So you’ve got two lines on the graph, one going up and one coming down. and at some point after they meet, there will be an upheaval, a restructuring of markets to reflect the new reality. My bet is that Ebooks will get cheaper and actual books will get more expensive as publishers start investing more heavily in making the book-as-object more worth owning, though whether that means book as art, book as transmedia touchpoint or book a melee weapon, I have no idea. Whatever. The final form is anyone’s guess.

    But in the meantime, as those two lines get closer, there will be increased tension. Book smellers will resent the disruption that technology is introducing on their beloved method of doing things. Ebook nerds will be more and more angry when content is not available electronically. Skies will darken, thunder will roll, and static will fill the air. As part of this, Piracy will abound.

    Some people will point to piracy as the problem, because some people always do, but others will recognize them as a *symptom* of the ongoing change. These Pirates are a mix of bad actors and legitimate customers with frustrated desires, and in time the evolution of the market will (hopefully) allow them to separate naturally.

    Unless, of course, we go after them as pirates, at which point what we’re really doing is saying “Evolution of markets is for chumps!”

    Or so it looks to me.

    -Rob D.

    • @Rob:

      I adore this. I want to know more about the culture of book smellers.

      I love the way books smell. :)

      I do!

      I really do.

      The eBook will only really survive when my iPad emits a mist that smells of book dust.

      :)

      Great comment, though, as usual. Your last two paragraphs in general resonate. I think I want to put together another post that talks up possible ways around the piracy problem now — at least, for writers, as I can’t speak reliably for anybody else.

      — c.

  • @Will: I suffer the same fate. Sarcasm never translates well online.

    @Chuck: “That said, while the Internet is not the only market, it’s… pretty much the big one, now.”

    It really, really depends upon what market you’re talking about and what industry. Yes, that can be proven through volumes of data via web analytics and conversion figures. After all, several of the most popular websites online don’t make any money. Twitter and Facebook are still surviving off of venture capital. YouTube! is completely in the hole. Don’t even get me started on Wikipedia.

    To your point, I don’t believe Wikipedia put encyclopedias out of business. This is another example where the accessibility of the internet has affected a brick-and-mortar business. Simply, data and information is changing too rapidly for that sector to keep up. Certainly, I remember that that started before the internet when cell phone technology began affecting how data was relayed. (And yes, I’m that old.)

    To sum up: There is no easy answer to be sure, but regardless of what “we” think or say about piracy it is a problem. Crackdowns and multiple changes due to new laws are coming and I believe that they will bring the internet from the wild, wild west days into a new era.

    • Monica:

      I didn’t mean to say that Wikipedia put encyclopedias out of business, but as Wikipedia is representative of the “free mentality” and of the democritization-slash-socialization of the Internet, it’s certainly a good example.

      As for the Internet market, if I wasn’t clear, I’m talking about The Consumption Of Media. The fact that websites don’t make money isn’t really a useful piece of data; a lot of big brick-and-mortar companies (before and after the advent of the Internet) don’t make money, either. It doesn’t change the fact the Internet is a big — and growing — avenue of distribution for people, and those people are a not insignificant market.

      I think piracy is a problem, yes — but, I also think piracy perhaps represents opportunity that companies and creators are not necessarily acknowledging. I’m just seeing Shawn’s comment, but that’s definitely an example of where someone saw the advantage piracy offers and exploited it. Again, I’m not saying piracy is *right* — but it is a reality.

      The crackdown you say is coming may very well be. I, for one, don’t look forward to that day. For all its ugly marks, the Internet-as-Wild-West is far preferable to me than the Internet-as-Comcast-Distribution-Hub.

      If this “new era” is one of tightening corporate control and legal smackdowns, then that’s a scary world.

      — c.

  • Seriously, I can’t read a post about the kindle without someone talking about how much they love the smell of books. I mean, I dig it – nothing smells like a library or a big old tome, but it comes up SO OFTEN that I’m now stuck with the image of people going into their libraries, opening up books, and sniffing up the spine like there was a line of coke hidden there.

    Me, I love my kindle. I still buy actual books, but many fewer of them, and only for specific reasons. It’s something I need to write up sometime because the fact that I no long need to buy books to get my books has given me much more thoughtful about what a book does or does not provide me.

    It bugs me that there’s a sense of a divide between the nerds and the smellers because, frankly, we’re *all* people so nuts about books that other differences are trivial by comparison. But I recognize that as long as ebooks are destabilizing old markets, that kind of divide is inevitable.

    -Rob D.

  • Late to the party, I was making a comic all morning.

    I think for those of us who Make Cool Stuff, the big point is to accept that people are going to pirate your stuff, and to give them a reason to buy it anyway. My absolute favorite example of the right way to do this is the Trent Reznor Case Study:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Njuo1puB1lg

    Here’s a man that has absolutely adapted in ways that larger companies and industries absolutely have not (and can’t, not fast enough really.) For a much smaller application of these same ideas, just look at the success so far of Machine Zeit and it’s quickstarter campaign.

    • @Rob:

      Word to that.

      Personally, iTunes for me led to less piracy. It gave me a way to instantaneously jam music into my earholes without worrying about the ethical ramifications of stealing the music. The nail in the coffin of my musical piracy came with things like Pandora, Last.FM, Lala, anywhere I can listen to the music for free at least once so I know what I’m buying.

      It isn’t perfect, but it lets me buy music in a reasonable way — and, plus, a not-so-expensive way.

      I’ve since left iTunes, though, and now buy music through Amazon only.

      Of course, Amazon is another Hated Corporate Beast, so who the fuck knows?

      — c.

  • Rob wrote:

    “Some people will point to piracy as the problem, because some people always do, but others will recognize them as a *symptom* of the ongoing change. These Pirates are a mix of bad actors and legitimate customers with frustrated desires, and in time the evolution of the market will (hopefully) allow them to separate naturally.”

    Word to that, Rob. The problem right now is that the actions of the frustrated customers and the actions of the bad actors are often identical. It’s difficult to separate them when they behave the same way but for different reasons.

    I agree that the market *should* separate them, and I think guilt and legitimate appreciation (in both directions) are the forces that do that now. Can those forces be systematized into a next-gen market? I hope so, but my hope doesn’t do the discourse much good.

    The market is evolving, but not all at the same pace, and I find it hard to fault creators (and their associated cohorts) in danger of extinction for struggling against the change. That said, I don’t think making things harder for honest customers helps the cause of encouraging people to pay for things. I try to thread the needle by being against piracy and DRM in general, but in specific cases I often have to be a hypocrite, because the instances versus the philosophy are too complex for generalities.

    For example, Eclipse Phase, which demonstrates that free (piratical?) distribution does not necessarily hurt the bottom line… when you have customers who are appreciative and interested already. That book seems to have done quite well embracing a market that downloads before it buys, but I’m not sure if it’s typical.

    Does the new market favor creators that seem to need support instead of those who are doing well? Because I think fewer people would have “stolen” (that is, pirated without intention of paying) D&D PDFs if they thought Wizards needed their money to succeed, for example. An individual musician sells records, in the new market, because fans want them to be supported and busy producing the next album, while a big staple band might go unsupported by piratical fans because it’s easier (or more comfortable) to figure that, hey, U2 or Metallica “doesn’t need my nine bucks.”

    That’s tricky, though, because I think it’s easy for customers to simply say, “the new movie sucked” or “the new album sucked” when what they mean is, “I’d have paid $5 for it, but not $10.” And instead they pay nothing.

    I’m rambling now.

    • @Will:

      You’re not rambling at all — you and @Rob are speaking to one of the big things here, one of the things that often gets ignored in the Right Or Wrong discussion:

      Psychology. The psychology of the consumer might very well be the rope in the hands of this great game of Tug-o-War. Which tells me that, for big companies and small creators this is very much a public relations war more than it is a war about who owns what.

      Then again, I think I’m rambling, too.

      Of course, I ramble all the damn time.

      — c.

  • Will actually speaks to one of the other big goblins of media: What is content worth in cash money?

    I still remember when CDs came out and much talk was made about how they’d drive down prices, and I’m still bitter about what a giant lie that was. For most of the century we’ve been locked into one very specific pricing model that was not very sophisticated, but that was ok because our distribution model wasn’t very sophisticated.

    The problem is that our distribution model has gotten a lot better of late, and with the addition of electronic media, it’s now crazily sophisticated. But our pricing model hasn’t kept up. In retrospect, this problem was presaged by thing like Wal*mart’s super logistics kung-fu, Amazon’s book discounting, and itunes’ dollar tracks. These were relatively minor changes (except perhaps Wal*Mart, but even that was uncomplicated in its expression) but they were disruptive. But more, I think they were only baby steps.

    Now, this is not to say I have any idea what sophisticated pricing looks like. Micropayments. Pay-What-You-Want. Subscriptions. Ransom. There are all sorts of really interesting models floating around now and we’re all sort of feeling our way in the dark to try to hit on the one that works for our situation. You can make more money by charging less, but you can also make more money by charging more.

    This is confusing. And Scary. And if your livelihood depends on it, there’s no reason in the world to like it. Our monkey brains will happily take certainty and less reward over a gamble. But that’s the real sucker’s bet because things _will_ change, pricing _will_ get more sophisticated, and the question is really what to do about it.

    -Rob D.

  • Chuck said: It seems, Chris, that creators (and in fact, all of creation) needs a really good PR campaign.

    Reading through the comments here, there seems to be a common theme: “I thought nothing of pirating what other people created until I started creating my own stuff.” Certainly that was the case for me, until I started trying to earn a living writing software, pirating software seemed … maybe not OK, but at least a viable option. The easy lesson there is that people don’t care about something until it affects them, but I don’t think that’s accurate.

    Rather, it seems to me that the most effective PR campaign is never going to be as effective as just encouraging people to create for themselves. I’ve seen statistics that fewer kids than ever before learn to play instruments these days: it looks easy, right? No wonder they think music ought to be free, if they don’t know how much hard work goes into it. Ditto writing: I think most people would be shocked at the blood, sweat, and tears that go into their favorite books. People don’t create, so they don’t understand the costs of creation.

  • If you got into the creative business to make a lot of money, you don’t deserve to be in it. If you’re in the creative business to be creative and you’re willing to starve, die, kill and be imprisoned for your work, then you’re an actual artist, and praise be to you.

    Art wants to be free. Shlock never does.

    • @Max: Yeah, but No.

      @Paul: An interesting point. That’s where some of the gray area gets really gray — we know piracy can be a problem, but we also know (or a least suspect) that it can be an opportunity, too.

      @Bart: Great links! I have to wonder how much a novice author has to worry about stuff like this.

      — c.

  • Piracy leads to controversy. Controversy leads to awareness of a product. Awareness leads to higher sales to go along with the piracy.

    I didn’t want to play Assassin’s Creed 2. I didn’t know much about it. Damned if I didn’t end up playing though after reading all of the articles about their shitty DRM and the pirates that cracked it. If it wasn’t for the piracy…I would never have purchased the fucking thing.

    How many more albums do you think Metallica sold during the whole Napster ordeal? I’m willing to bet good money that they sold quite a few. There were people that didn’t even know that Metallica was still around at that point. They got gigs, interviews, and a whole shit load of free publicity out of that. Piracy was a good thing for that band.

    In all honesty, I’ve pirated both movies and music. I’ve also bought the entire CD after pirating one song.

    I think piracy in the entertainment industry is a 2 way street.

  • I didn’t see this particular article posted so far, but here you go:
    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/04/piracy-problems-music-industry-grew-in-13-markets-in-2009.ars

    Also here:
    http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10423.pdf
    This is a study by the GAO on the effects of piracy. Nutshell, its not nearly as detrimental as folks think.
    All that being said, as a novice writer that has yet to be paid for any piece I have actually done, I am worried about seeing my work handed out for free on Demonoid or any of the other sites.
    Anyway, enjoy the links,

  • For a slightly different tack…

    Is there a difference between a bunch of people downloading a torrent of your work, and some guy in China burning a pirated copy of your stuff to 1000 DVDs and selling them for $2 a pop on the street corner? Because I know that that second kind of piracy is really what Microsoft worries about. I know it’s also a problem for the movie industry, though not so much for the music industry.

    For the type of creators posting here, that’s probably not an issue. I’d be shocked if even D&D has the kind of name recognition to warrant that kind of cut-rate resale. But, it is a much nastier form of piracy for the big corporations, and through them back to the artists. There is no “information wants to be free” justification there. It’s piracy in its purest form.

    Is there any way to allow college students to take a taste of your stuff, knowing that there might be intangible benefits, but stop actual crooks from making money off your stuff?

  • Another point about this “music sales are down again” thing. In the meantime, people spent more and more money on video-games and cell-phones. This is rarely mentioned by medias.

  • While I am sympathetic to the troubles of those who currently support themselves via their art (such as full-time musicians and writers), I don’t have a problem with a world in which a) all information is free, and b) most artists cannot be full-time. I foresee neither a shortage of music, nor a shortage of fiction, for me as a consumer, if those few artists who produce art full-time instead produce half as much in their spare time. Those who were in it just for the money will be no great loss, and as for non-fiction, most of the good stuff is produced by academics who a) get little monetary reward, and b) will continue to produce for the sake of their academic careers. Seems like a fine world to me.

  • Oh, right, I forgot the upside: as technology pushes down the price of computers and e-readers, literally billions of poor people will have access to textbooks, non-fiction, and fiction that they would otherwise never be able to afford. The better education of hundreds of millions of children (and adults) is worth quite a lot of disruption.

    • JD:

      You sound like someone who wants to forever consume, and never create.

      Part-time art is more difficult than one thinks. Not that full-time art is easy, mind, but at least the creator has the time and — ideally, in a good world — the money to put towards it.

      — c.

  • But then we’d just pirate the app that allows them to listen to the author’s comments or click on hypertext links that gives them, say, fantasy maps or word definitions.
    regards,
    the internets

  • The thing is, piracy seems horrible to people because they call it “stealing”, when it’s NOT stealing. Stealing has a specific definition. What you’re talking about is “copyright infringement”. Here’s another way of seeing it:

    I design a chair and build a few. Some people buy it from me. Somebody decides to copy, they spend their money in wood (part of the cost, right?) and they make identical chairs. Maybe they’re “taking” sales from you. Is that stealing? Is it competition? Is it unfair? (maybe you think it is unfair. are all unfair things stealing?).

    Now, someone takes a chair without paying. Would you say they’re stealing from you? But wait. I didn’t say they took it from your shop. Maybe they took it from someone’s house (a legitimate buyer). Yes, that’s stealing. But they didn’t steal from you, did they? They stole from whoever bought the chair.

    But with content, you assume that every copy and copy of a copy is yours. If someone bought it from you, it’s still yours, right? Because part of your imagination or whatever went into it. Like the chair.

    Do you own the chair that I bought from you? Can I loan it to someone else?

    Can I loan a book? A music CD?

    The same people that call copying/infringement “stealing” also call Public Libraries “stealing”, because they don’t get paid for each person that reads a book. You know what is also “stealing” now? Radio. It used to be that big record companies bribed radio stations to showcase their music. Now they want to get a fee for every time they play it. Yes, that’s right: radio are the new pirates now.

    You’ll say it’s semantics. It’s also semantics that if I kill someone, I won’t be charged for “grand theft life” because I took a life illegally. Because to me, that’s theft. What about stealing a kiss? Is it theft?

    You know what else causes “lost of sales”? Fair competition. If you have a sandwich shop, and I open a pizza place in front of you, you’re getting less sales. Would you call me one of “those darn customer stealers”? Will you call the police and accuse me of theft? After all, those were sales that I “took” from you.

    This doesn’t mean that it’s lawful or not, correct or not. But you have to call something what it is. If you punch someone in the nose, and they say it’s “rape”, and you say assault is not rape, don’t complain when they claim that’s “just semantics”.

    Now, for a nice musical interlude:
    Copying Is Not Theft

  • I think you might find this of interest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Qkyt1wXNlI

    Now, I don’t think that piracy is a blanket good thing. I understand perfectly well that, especially with music and movies, that piracy hurts everyone. However, it seems with literature is a beast of a different color.

    Now, this might be because of the love for real books. I am one of those who is disgruntled by e-books and prefer to have the real thing in my hand. The weight, the smell, the crick in my neck from not moving for hours… Okay, maybe not the crick in my neck, but still, you know what I mean. I want the book in my hand. My boyfriend thinks I’m just being ridiculous, but every book I’ve liked that I’ve seen online, I’ve bought. I want to own it.

    Perhaps, when everyone loves e-books and no one buys real books anymore, this will become a much more serious problem. But for now, I at least, want the book in my hand. And thus, pirating books has no real appeal to me beyond a preview of what I’m going to be putting on the shelf.

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