So recently, The Guardian came out with an article about book thieves. (Note: I’m calling them book thieves and not “pirates” because “pirates” sounds way too cool for these thieving losers. They don’t deserve the title, frankly.) The things these thieves said were so utterly ridiculous that I’m going to need to take a minute to address them comment by comment, I’m afraid. Sorry.
So, with that in mind, The Guardian’s text will be in black, and mine will be in "Romance Rehab red."
Here we go…(takes a deep breath)...
“Abena, who is 18, recently read Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, and thought it was wonderful. She does feel a bit bad about downloading it illegally, she says, but her mother is a single parent who can’t afford to feed her voracious love of books.”
She knows it’s wrong, or else she wouldn’t feel bad about it. That means she’s willfully stealing. And also, the whole “I’m poor” excuse doesn’t work when there are literally thousands of ways you can get free ebooks these days that DON’T involve stealing from authors. We listed our favorite 9 some time ago. (link to post) But all that notwithstanding...hey, Abena: if you’re 18, that means you’re old enough to work, sweetheart. How about you get a job to pay for your own books instead of mooching off your poor single mom? Also, in many cities, they have these large buildings with books called libraries where people can borrow books for free. That’s what those of us who AREN’T thieves do. Consider that a free life lesson, hon. You’re welcome.
Oh, honey. You’re not exactly first in your class, are you? As it turns out, a REAL person created that book you stole. They worked on it for months, maybe even years, and paid to have it covered, edited, formatted, and marketed. It’s a REAL product. Taking that book without paying the person who made it is no different than stealing from your local grocery or department store. The fact that the book is “on the internet” doesn’t make it any less real. It’s the same reason apps and music aren’t free either. See how that works, pumpkin?
“Abena (not her real name)...”
Clue number one that these people are actually nothing more than common thieves: they aren’t willing to share their names. People who aren’t doing anything wrong and want to speak out on a topic don’t usually demand anonymity.
“...is one of millions of people who use book-piracy websites to illegally download work by authors they love. The UK government’s Intellectual Property Office estimates that 17% of ebooks are consumed illegally. Generally, pirates tend to be from better-off socioeconomic groups, and aged between 30 and 60.”
“From better-off socioeconomic groups” is a fancy way of saying “entitled, clueless punks who have the money to spend on books but would rather steal them.”
“Many use social media to ask for tips when their regular piracy website is shut down;...”
How can I take anyone who is dumb enough to go on social media and ask for tips on how to steal seriously? Y’all know you’re not invisible when you’re online, right? People can find out who you are without putting too much effort forth.
“...when I contacted some, those who responded always justified it by claiming they were too poor to buy books—then tell me they read them on their e-readers, smartphones or computer screens—or that their areas lacked libraries, or they found it hard to locate books in the countries where they lived.”
Again, the “too poor” thing doesn’t fly when there are thousands of places you can find free LEGAL books. And if you have enough money to afford a phone, an e-reader, and a computer, you can fork over up to $7.99 for a book. I’m guessing these jerks spend more than that on their daily specialty coffee at Starbucks.
“Some felt embarrassed.”
Good. They should. They’re dirty thieves. Nothing more.
“Others blamed greedy authors for trying to stop them.”
Yeah, authors are SO greedy. I mean, how dare they expect to be paid a couple of dollars for something they worked on for months or years and birthed out of their imaginations? It’s not like writing is hard or anything. Pfffttt.
“When we asked Guardian readers to tell us about their experiences with piracy, we had more than 130 responses from readers aged between 20 and 70. Most regularly downloaded books illegally and while some felt guilty—more than one said they only pirated “big names” and when “the author isn’t on the breadline, think Lee Child” – the majority saw nothing wrong in the practice.”
So, because Mr. Child is really good at what he does and is fortunate enough to make what I can only assume is a decent living at it, he’s somehow less deserving of getting paid for his work? You think it’s OK to steal from people that you assume have plenty of money? Um...no. Stealing is stealing. And honestly, how do YOU know how much an author actually makes? Answer: YOU DON’T.
“Reading an author’s work is a greater compliment than ignoring it,” said one, while others claimed it was part of a greater ethos of equality, that “culture should be free to all”.
Authors should take it as a compliment that you choose to steal from them? Sure...that makes sense. (You can’t see me, but I’m rolling my eyes) And if “culture” should be free...that means you think all art, movies, music and books should be free? Do we expect the people that create this “culture” to survive off your “compliments”? Sorry, guys, but no one can survive on a steady diet of nothing but compliments. If artists and creators aren’t getting paid, they might be forced to stop creating and go out and get work as accountants or teachers or plumbers. Then what kind of “culture” are we going to be left with when we run all of our artists out of business?
“One reader said he’d pirated around 100,000 books in a few hours: 'I doubt I’ll get through even a fifth of them'”
That’s called hoarding. It’s a disorder. Seek help.
Many reported starting to pirate books during university, when faced with bills for expensive textbooks – “I want to spend my limited funds on going out, honestly,” said one 21-year-old University of Warwick student—while others on limited incomes said their disabilities and mental health made library visits a challenge.
Too bad there aren’t places you can download legal books for free online. Oh, wait a minute! There ARE places you can download legal books for free online!!
And I won’t even address the theft of textbooks because students would rather “go out” than pay for them. Life is going to smack that kid around pretty hard when he gets out of school and is faced with the real world. I mean, I’d rather go out than pay my electric bill, too, but that’s not how it works for grown-ups. So, good luck in the real world, kiddo! It’s gonna kick your ass pretty solidly. (I’ll try not to laugh too much at your expense when that happens. But...I probably will laugh anyway. #SorryNotSorry)
“One disabled and unemployed reader who asked to remain anonymous said: ‘I don’t think it’s morally wrong to pirate a book if you genuinely can’t afford it. I only get £80 a week. I usually can’t afford to spend £10+ on a new book, but I love reading … It’s not much different from buying from a secondhand bookstore, right? Either way, the writer gets no money.’”
I won’t mention the whole thing about “too poor isn’t a valid excuse anymore” because I think I’ve made that clear. I’m guessing this person also thinks it’s OK to steal food from the grocery store, but only if you’re too poor to afford it otherwise. (Again: Stealing is stealing, guys. End of story.) But as far as the second hand store thing goes: At least the author got paid for that initial sale of the book. So, they DID get money from that secondhand store purchase. They don’t get jack when you steal from them.
“But overwhelmingly, most respondents owned up to pirating books not because of cost, but ease. Doctors, accountants and professionals described themselves as well-off, but said they pirated books to ‘pre-read’ them, because they often felt dissatisfied with a book after purchase. ‘I have paid for some truly terrible books and regretted it—thanks to piracy, I can read first. I’ll buy if it was good enough that I kept reading it,’ said one.”
Too bad there’s not some system in place that lets you read a sample of the book to see if you’ll like it, then return the book if it turns out you don’t. Oh, wait a minute! There IS a system that allows you to do that! It’s called Amazon. Look into it, all you well-off thieves. And, by the way, no one believes that you actually go buy the book after stealing a copy, so don’t bother lying about it. You’re just embarrassing yourselves, frankly.
And just for the record, I’ve had plenty of truly terrible experiences with doctors and accountants in my life. I’m guessing that if I used their services and refused to pay, telling them that I’d “pre-tested” them and found them lacking, that wouldn’t go over well.
“Another said he’d pirated around 100,000 books in “a few hours” and donated all his physical books to charity shops: ‘Obviously, I will never read most of those pirated ebooks. Over a lifetime, I doubt I’ll get through even a fifth of my current collection.’”
1.) Hoarding. See above. 2.) Donating to charity doesn’t “erase” theft. You don’t get a “good deed” pass on that one. Nice try, though.
“One operator of a piracy website contacted The Guardian to detail how they did it. ‘I upload anything from science fiction to ridiculously priced university textbooks. I can get any novel that I want in about 30 seconds. If I can’t, I know people in my dark little corner of the internet that can find ANYTHING that is asked for. It’s incredible really.’”
It is incredible. Incredibly sad that someone would be proud of how much they’ve stolen and how easy it is to find others who are willing to steal.
That said, we're so impressed by your incredible skills, we'd like to send you a reward. Just send us your name, address and contact info. Or if you like, you can pick it up at your local police station. Just explain why you're there and they'll make sure you get what's coming to you.
“Very few reported being negatively affected by it. (Though three readers reported attempting to pirate Harry Potter books, only to end up with erotic fanfiction.)”
Ha! That’s what these thieves deserve. That and a good case of computer VD, of course. But the more I think about it, I think authors should create fake versions of their books and bomb these sites with copies. Maybe if more thieves got copies of erotic Harry Potter fanfic, they’d actually go buy copies of what they wanted to read.
“A 42-year-old IT worker in Glasgow complained, ‘I have a wealthy retired relative who prides himself on pirating books which makes me want to vomit. I don’t think he reads half of them, just hoards them. He can absolutely afford to buy books. I don’t understand people who can spend hours and hours engaging with writing knowing they have ripped the writer off.’”
Agreed on all counts. Thieves make me want to vomit, too.
“And authors are being ripped off. This week, with the resurgence of a particular piracy site (the Guardian is choosing not to name any of them), novelist Joanne Harris asked publishers to be more ‘muscular’, to take pirates to court and shut down entire sites instead of arguing over individual titles. But though the problem is costing publishers ‘billions of dollars annually’ according to the International Publishers Association, there is no simple fix.
It is also hard to quantify how bad the problem is, when so few publishers are willing to talk openly about it. One piracy expert at a UK publisher kindly provided some background information for this article off the record; the rest refused to speak to me—though Penguin Random House and JK Rowling’s publisher Pottermore offered statements to say that they take piracy very seriously. The legal and tech aspects of book piracy prevention are complex and fast-evolving, but those in the know describe it very simply: it’s whack-a-mole.”
Class action. That is all. Someone needs to step up and get all the big boys to come together with a show of force against these assholes. That’s what it’s going to take. Worked for the music industry back in the day. It’d work for book stealing as well. It’s just that no one has been willing to step up and lead the charge and unite the clans (so to speak) so far.
“One of the most persistent ebook pirate sites has been taken down multiple times, only to pop back up again under a .com, a .net and a .org domain name. At least 120,000 take-down notices have been issued against it already, involving web crawlers, lawyers, its domain host and the Metropolitan police. But that website is back regardless, complete with some intimidating legal language of its own, addressed to anyone who plans to complain. Asked for a comment, an administrator for the website replied: ‘Hilarious. We don’t have time to do something bullshit, but let me give you a list of websites where books are available to be downloaded for free bigger than our site thousands time [sic].’”
Yeah, we all have a good idea who said this. Anyone involved at all with the book world knows this person. He’s a small-minded, greasy little weasel who lacks the creativity and determination to create anything on his own, so he steals from those he resents out of petty jealousy of their abilities. (And my personal guess is that his mind isn’t the only thing that’s small about him.) He has no morals and operates under the misguided notion that he’s some kind of social justice warrior. No, dude. Sorry, but you’re just a common, ordinary thief. And again, if you’re doing nothing wrong, why not proudly claim your quote?
“And the list of sites they sent was indeed extensive, all offering books by well-loved children’s authors, YA and adult bestsellers, as well as some writers who are just starting out.”
Yep. The world is a sad place sometimes. No one ever thought the greasy little weasel was all alone. There are plenty of book thieves out there. That doesn’t make it right.
“One of these is the Waterstones children’s books prize winner Michelle Harrison, who has drawn attention to the issue on Twitter. ‘I feel pretty despondent about it all,’ she says now, having been called ‘elitist’ and ‘not worthy of being an author’ by angry pirates when she pointed out that they were stealing her work. ‘It’s all very well publishers sending take-down notices, but we all knew it was only a matter of time before the site sprang up again under a different guise. It’s fighting something we can’t win. ‘I’m a single working parent trying to stay afloat, so I can’t afford the time and expense it would take to continue to pursue this and make my deadlines … I can’t understand the mindset of a person who thinks it’s acceptable to harass an author for wanting to protect their rights.’
So, Abena, people like you are stealing from people like your mom. Still feel justified now? Would you be OK with people stealing from your mom?
And again, to all you keyboard tough guys out there attacking this poor woman for daring to expect to get paid for her work: How about we come to where YOU work and demand free stuff? Then, when you don’t give it to us, we’ll berate you and call you elitist. Sound fair?
“There are organisations fighting hard to make the law catch up with technology. The Publishers Association has a portal that can help deal with infringements, but its CEO Stephen Lotinga admits it is a Sisyphean task. The PA believes governments, search engines and ISPs should be doing a lot more. The Society of Authors, meanwhile, believes domain providers should be made to police piracy on any sites they host, and is urging its members to write to their MEPs to support the provisions of the Copyright Directive, which would make platforms accountable for anything illegal they host. The Intellectual Property Office, meanwhile, says that it is working on it, and claims that the UK has one of the best IP enforcement regimes in the world, and that “if deficiencies in the current legal provision are identified, proposals will be developed to address them”.
Again: class action. Show of force. Shock and awe. That is all. (If anyone needs advice on how to do this, ask Metallica. They figured it out.)
“Series authors are vulnerable: when book one does well, but book two is heavily pirated, book three could end up dead in the water”
So authors get punished for doing well, and we lose out on future books in great series due to dirty thieves who can’t be bothered to pay a few bucks for their books. Awesome. Did any of you geniuses stop to consider that you may be killing any incentive authors have to continue writing books you all clearly enjoy so much?
“Even private companies are getting involved. Che Pinkerton is the CEO of DMCA.com, named for the Digital Millennial Copyright Act, a 20-year-old US law that is still followed in many jurisdictions. DMCA.com works with lawyers and law enforcement, but it is primarily a tech company, and the way it tracks down infringers is its ‘secret sauce’.
“Pinkerton puts the rise in piracy down to the growth of “user-generated content”—such as blogs and personal websites—and he sees every day how the law is playing catch-up with the technology. To issue a take-down notice, he often has to deal with several parties in different jurisdictions, and can only tackle infringements one at a time. Often, the domain provider will be deluged with take-down notices, and will remove the entire site, just to get the stream of correspondence to stop. But this approach doesn’t stop sites popping up again under a new name, with a new provider. No wonder it is hard to manage.”
If all you thieves put the time and energy you spend on figuring out how to keep stealing into solving ACTUAL problems, the world might be a much better place.
“All this is exhausting for authors, but it could be devastating for readers, too. Harris, a representative of the SoA who speaks passionately on behalf of authors, knows several who have lost contracts because piracy drove down their sales to an unsustainable level. The most vulnerable authors are those who write series: when book one does well, but book two is heavily pirated, book three could end up dead in the water. Midlist authors, and those who barely scrape a living are also at risk. ‘These people mistakenly think they’re sticking it to the man,’ Harris says. ‘They’re not; they’re sticking it to the little people, the people who are struggling … and they don’t care.’
Hear that, thieves? You’re ultimately hurting yourselves. When your favorite authors have to quit writing because they can’t make a living at it, what will you steal to read then?
“Education, not regulation, is key, she told the Guardian: ‘If there is a solution to this, rather than keep trying to shut down these sites, it is to get the reading public to understand why using them is dishonest, wrong and is killing publishing and killing diversity in publishing. When you realise that [authors] are not really unlike you at all, you see that what it boils down to is you’re stealing the product of someone else’s work.’”
Not entirely sure I agree with that one since I learned not to steal when I was in elementary school. These thieves shouldn’t really need a refresher course. But still, I suppose education wouldn’t hurt. I’d prefer to see everyone who steals from my favorite authors in jail, but...bygones, I guess.
“On that note, Abena has recently had a revelation. She makes a little money by selling art online, and has started to think about what would happen if art lovers began downloading that for free, just because they really wanted it. ‘It would hurt and I’d be super-angry’, she says, after we exchange messages for a few days. ‘The fact that they don’t have much money doesn’t make it OK and it doesn’t make what I do OK either. I guess I do have to stop.’”
You “guess”? Yes, honey, you do have to stop. You know why? Because Karma NEVER loses. And if you keep stealing, you can rest assured that your art will be getting stolen, too.
“One down – just a few million to go.”
I’ll say it again, book thieves: KARMA NEVER LOSES. Don't say we didn't warn you. Because it's not a matter of "if" she comes knocking but "when". Good luck. You're gonna need it.