kyrias: (Default)
[personal profile] kyrias
 Things have been floating in my mind off and on since I read Shiloh Walker's post on piracy and now that some people from a comm I subscribe to have posted their views on the subject, I figure it's about time to finally hash out what exactly I think on the matter. 

I'm not going to read anyone's full post before I post this, just to see how much privilege I have hanging out. 

So. Pirating. 

I believe that it is the right of any creator to be paid for their work. I've caught flak for this in the past, but I also believe that if fan-fic authors wish to be paid for their work, then they should be. 

For the point of books and other media for entertainment, I do not believe that anyone is entitled to free entertainment. If people desire free entertainment, then there's myriad possibilities on the internet without going into illegal territory. If you're downloading for the point of pre-viewing something before buying it, then that's one thing, but if you've downloaded something and it's something that you would have bought if you were forced to it, then you should. If it's something that you didn't enjoy and that you wouldn't have bought if you read it in a bookstore, then I don't believe that you're necessarily under moral obligation to purchase it.

I believe, if there a way of acquiring it legally, then you are under moral obligation to do so. 

EXCEPTIONS to my rule:

Textbooks. Non-fiction. Information in general. Information should be free for all and should be disseminated freely. 

If there is no feasible way to procure the item in question, then by all means. 

Now, I'm going to go off and read other posts and see how my privilege is holding up. 

Date: 2011-01-23 05:16 pm (UTC)
elf: Rainbow sparkly fairy (Default)
From: [personal profile] elf
Here from mumble-mumble searching or something.

Textbooks. Non-fiction. Information in general. Information should be free for all and should be disseminated freely.

But textbooks & accurate nonfic are among the most time-consuming and skill-demanding books to write. Fact-checking and making a decent bibliography are technical skills not related to writing quality; creating or assembling pictures & charts to illustrate a point is another skillset.

Textbooks are more expensive because they take more skills, time & money (depending on research required) than novels. The *info* is freely available--facts can't be copyrighted--but the assembly & synthesis of raw data into useful information takes at least as much skill and effort as writing fiction, and often more.

I do not believe that anyone is entitled to free entertainment.

Nor do I, but I think authors are shooting themselves in the collective foot by saying "if you won't pay for my works, you shouldn't read them at all." Yes, there's lots of free entertainment online. And there'll be more in the future. And after I've adjusted my tastes to get used to that, I won't be inclined to switch back to mainstream-published novels.

Date: 2011-01-24 03:07 am (UTC)
elf: Rainbow sparkly fairy (Default)
From: [personal profile] elf
if you enjoy it, then you should definitely thank the creator by supporting them

Except that's not how a lot of entertainment works. That's not how a lot of book entertainment works; none of us who love books got that way by purchasing them new full price all the time. Nor by only reading publisher-offered freebies.

The logic that "physical books borrowed from friends are okay, but downloading one is not," is missing something. Yes, the download is an extra copy--but the issue of "entertainment without pay" is the same in both cases.

I think publishers (and therefore authors) have had *no idea* how many readers were not buyers. Now, the legal status of "non-buying reader" has changed, and it's bringing up a lot of tensions, because the rhetoric being used works the same against used book stores, book-sharing clubs, and sites like And authors insist they don't object to that, just to the digital copies... but if the core issue is "entertainment without purchase," what makes those others okay?

Date: 2011-01-24 05:54 pm (UTC)
elf: Rainbow sparkly fairy (Default)
From: [personal profile] elf
Someone buying one book and then providing that same book to thousands of people or more? That's a matter of scale.

Only if they read it. If only 30 of those thousand downloaders ever read the book, and only one of those would've bought it new, it's harder to claim real damage.

you're stealing, and you're wrong, and you're a horrible excuse of a human being.

And the reaction downloaders are going to have to that is, "well, then obviously you don't want my business. *I* think what I'm doing is justified, and if you think my reasons make me scum, I'm not giving you my hard-earned cash." Even if they stop downloading (whether because of moral qualms or technological barriers), they're not going to be favorably inclined towards that author.

Impasse. Which doesn't result in authors getting enough money to live on, whether or not the downloaders continue. If they manage to guilt or DMCA their ebooks into not-being-copied, they still haven't won any new paying readers.

I've seen a number of posts where authors say "dammit, these icky thieves keep saying I need to 'understand' them and I don't need to understand theft." And, um, yeah ... but they do, if they want those "thieves" to become "customers." If they *don't* care if those "thieves" become customers, then the "thefts" aren't causing any actual harm, because publishers don't care if you don't have sales because your book is being bounced all over the internet, or because nobody wants to read it.

If the goal is "convert downloaders to buyers," a lot of authors need a different approach. If the goal is "punish the thieves," that may be a fine and noble intention, but it won't win them any book contracts.

(And thank you for putting up with my rambling, because that finally clicked as the point I've been dancing around for *months.*)

Date: 2011-01-24 06:25 pm (UTC)
elf: Rainbow sparkly fairy (Default)
From: [personal profile] elf
I'm aware I'm pulling bits out of context as spinoff points; I'm not ignoring the rest.

For those of them who can actually afford to buy the book and decide not to just because they can get it free? Yes, I think they're horrible excuses of a human being.

There's multiple issues here:
1) Who decides if they "can afford" it? Is *all* entertainment considered a luxury that should be foregone if it's not in the budget?

2) If I can't afford the ebook (or it's only available with DRM), I can generally buy the used version at Amazon, often for $.50 + shipping. Then I destroy the book to scan it, and make my own personal ebook. Author gets no royalties. I'm morally clear here, but I really cannot figure out why authors are *happier* with this approach.

3) Before I got an ebook reader, I read thousands of used paperbacks. I didn't "support the artists" then; what makes me morally obligated to do so now?

4) A lot of the "they should be able to afford it" claims come across as over-privileged accusations about other people's circumstances. On the one hand, I'm pretty solidly in the camp that says "if you make $80k/year, you don't get to bitch about being poor." On the other, I don't assume everyone who has Starbuck's for breakfast could easily re-adjust their lifestyle to bring coffee from home & buy a book every three days instead. (Also. "Price" isn't the only reason for the downloads. DRM and attempted store lock-in are real parts of the debate.)

5) I don't think "illegal" equates to "immoral." I think a lot of laws are based on "in many circumstances, this is harmful, so it's not allowed," but that doesn't mean I think all lawbreaking is immoral.

Example: we have a speed limit. Driving over it is illegal. Driving over it in order to get a pregnant woman to the hospital (classic cliche) is not immoral.

Example: Downloading an ebook of Harry Potter books, not available legitimately, is (most likely) illegal. Doing so in order to use a search function to do research on sexism in popular literature (how many times "girls" vs "boys" is used, or whatever) is not immoral.

I'm obliquely interested in, but not directly swayed by, the morality arguments. I care about whether authors get enough support to keep writing; I don't care whether they're "being treated right." (Except that it may connect to them being able to keep writing.)

You seem - and I could have this wrong - to be more interested in the "denounce and punish the people doing wrong" aspects, than the "get more support for authors" aspects of the problem. (Problems. More than one.)

Date: 2011-01-24 09:39 pm (UTC)
elf: Rainbow sparkly fairy (Default)
From: [personal profile] elf
Sorry; hadn't meant to strawman. Was more intending, "you seem to be approaching the problem from a different perspective from mine," or with focus on a different part of the problem, or something like that.

to enjoy and partake of something that you have not paid for that is not necessary for life is wrong in my book.

But that's what people who borrow books do.

Yes, somewhere up the line, it was paid for. So was the torrented ebook: somewhere up the line, there was a paid copy of that book. In both cases, the reader hasn't paid for it, but is getting the benefit of the author's work.

Also, I believe that there's a difference between "I truly, truly cannot get this any other way" and "I'm only interested in my own convenience and fulfilling my own desires". I can understand one but not the other.

I can agree with that. (I've seen too many of these debates devolve into who can, or cannot, reasonably afford books. I can go with "we can agree there's a difference without having to draw solid lines about where that difference is.")

I believe that if everyone who wanted a non-DRM book went out, bought a second-hand book, or even a new book for cheap and ripped it themselves, that would be preferable and possibly more helpful to authors than if everyone who wanted a non-DRMed copy went out and downloaded a free copy off the internet.

How would it be helpful to authors? Serious question, here; I'm not disputing this, just wondering how it works.

I read less when I'm spending time scanning books. I don't encourage friends to read them, because I can't legitimately hand off my copy.

As far as I can tell, the author-logic here is something like, "if you're not going to pay me full price for my book, you should have to *work* for it. At least you'll be spending *effort* on it, even if I don't get the fruits of that labor." Which I can sort-of follow, in a philosophical, "you don't deserve pleasure unless you've worked for it" sense, but I can't agree that that's better, in a moral sense, nor that it's better in an economic sense for the author.

It doesn't make me appreciate those authors more; it makes me look for free, legit content by other authors, who are happy to provide it.

I'm not seeing any solutions for the authors from the pirates

The Konrath Solution is:
1) Offer books cheaply, without DRM, in multiple formats, in multiple stores;
2) Get good cover art that looks good at postage-stamp size and retitle books to fit current trends;
3) Don't fret the sales you didn't make, whether those are pirates or lack of popularity; instead, focus on how to get more people to buy your books.

This has not been universally successful, but it's worked much better for a lot of authors than the "spend 10 hours/week writing DMCA takedowns" method. It also doesn't involve an end to piracy, which seems to be what a lot of authors want; pointing out that "end piracy" does not equate to "make sales" doesn't help the discussions any.

Date: 2011-01-24 11:07 pm (UTC)
elf: Rainbow sparkly fairy (Default)
From: [personal profile] elf
some cretins would still rather get their stuff illegally rather than pay for it, which STILL hasn't been explained appropriately.

The Baen answer: "Online piracy — while it is definitely illegal and immoral — is, as a practical problem, nothing more than (at most) a nuisance. We're talking brats stealing chewing gum, here, not the Barbary Pirates."

You personally will look elsewhere for free, legit book -- so my real question is why can't everyone else who has issues with DRM and so forth do the same thing?

I'm google-savvy (my google-fu was terrific when they allowed only 10 words in a search) and aware of free ebook sources and how to search for more; a lot of people aren't. I read *constantly*, so I keep up with new sources for reading material; people who read maybe one book a month have no idea where to look. It's a big internet; finding the ebooks (and knowing which sites are legit and which aren't; plenty of people think all sites that claim to be "free ebook sites" are legit & authorized) isn't automatic.

Also, I'm a weirdo with strange taste in reading material, and no interest in keeping up with whatever's popular today.

One of the problems is that the more-or-less legit reasons for downloading without paying (not available in your country, not available as legit ebook at all, want to read 1/3 the book and will buy the pback if you like it, etc.) are tangled with the just-plain-lazy reasons of "I don' wanna pay." You can't block the lazy uses without blocking the others ... and there's no reason to, except for a desire to punish people for being greedy.

I'm not saying people should be rewarded for being greedy, just that effort shouldn't be wasted on trying to stop them, instead of trying to make more money where it is possible.

Oddly, one of the ways to discourage piracy is probably to lower the penalties for it. If distributing copies without personal profit were a misdemeanor with a penalty of $200-2000 per title (song, book, game, whatever), people might think twice about doing it; with a penalty of up to $150,000 per "copyright violation," the numbers are just so surreal they make no sense. It's like saying, "if we catch you shoplifting, we will take away your job and your house and your next ten years' earnings." So there's a sense of, "well, if I get caught, I'm going bankrupt BIG TIME, so I might as well be doing something *worth* going bankrupt over."

Once a person has decided to "fudge" a bit -- download the ebook for school, because the legit version is more than they had budgeted for school books this semester -- there's no disincentive to download & upload lots lots more. If the penalty for shoplifting is "chop off your hand," you might as well go after diamonds as a pack of chewing gum.

Date: 2011-01-25 12:39 am (UTC)
elf: Rainbow sparkly fairy (Default)
From: [personal profile] elf
We probably don't even disagree on whether it's immoral (I can certainly agree that "but I wanted it and there it was, for free" does not make it moral to take), just on how immoral it is, and possibly on where the grey spots are. (You don't think it's immoral to download textbooks; I don't see that people have any more moral right to data than to entertainment.)

FWIW, I've enjoyed the discussion, and hope you haven't felt like you've been bashing your head against a wall. You have given me new things to think about.


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