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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Author JA Konrath defends copyright piracy

If you haven't been following this topic, please read my first post:
http://cherylktardif.blogspot.com/2010/05/authors-are-your-books-being-illegally.html

After notifying fellow author JA Konrath that his books were being illegally downloaded on 4shared.com, I was surprised that he boasted about his cavalier attitude regarding copyright infringement on his blog. But I can see where it stems from. He's reportedly making quite a bit of money from his books, one of few authors I know that is making a living off their work. So why should he worry?

In his post, Konrath suggests that authors have "freaked-out" over this issue and that we're a bunch of idiots who are uneducated. "If you really fear piracy, educate yourself...If you have an ounce of brains in your head, you will quickly realize that piracy is always going to be here."

Most of his post validate pirates and their theft of copyright protected works. To say I'm disappointed in his attitude is an understatement. But hey, he has a right to believe what he wants. And so do I and the other authors I've spoken to this week who are not impressed to find their copyrights infringed.

This was my response to his post:
Joe, as one of the four authors who took time to alert you to the piracy of your books, I'm offended by your cavalier attitude and your comments that people who fear piracy are basically stupid and uneducated. I am neither. I am smart enough and educated enough to make a decision on whether piracy hurts me as an author, and I believe it does.

Of course you disagree. As you told me in your email reply, you're still raking in the sales at $230 a day, so a little piracy isn't hurting your sales. Let me assure you that the majority of authors are NOT making money like this. Most authors I know are lucky to make that amount a month.

So yes, theft of our works strikes a protective chord for most of us. We simply cannot afford to have other people illegally offering up our works to others for free. It is up to the author or publisher to give away free books, and I do that often, on my own terms and when I can afford to do so.
Maybe if I was making $200+ a day on book sales, I'd have the same attitude about piracy, but I hope not. I hope that I always remain humble enough to remember the struggle to get there and to remember how I started, with one book and one sale.
Show me a music artist who has NOT been hurt by sites that offer free downloads. I have a lot of friends in the music industry. They're all struggling. A few hundred (or thousand) dollars a month they could have made from the illegal downloads would certainly help them out. The music industry has been fighting this same battle for years. I expect authors will too. That still doesn't make it right.

I am not alone in this. Besides other authors, agents and publishers, one of the major writers organizations in the US--Authors Guild--has already begun an investigation into sites like 4shared.com. The 5-10% writers who are actually making a decent living from their writing may never see the loss of money that piracy results in, but the other 90-95% of authors will.

I'll always stand up for the rights of authors and content creators.

UPDATE:
I spent most of the day participating in an interesting debate on this topic with JA Konrath and visitors to his blog. You might want to check it out and leave a comment. One thing I most enjoyed was that visitors to the discussion were quite respectful. I encourage you to be the same here and on Joe's blog. It's not easy to take a stand (on either side), but I hope the discussion will give you food for thought.

Support Authors, Buy a Book!

Cheryl Kaye Tardif
award-winning Canadian author
http://www.cherylktardif.com/

5 comments:

a girl said...

I really don't know the degree to which authors are or are not hurt by piracy. I'm also not sure the percentage of people pirating who would have bought the book if they couldn't download it for free.

However, no matter what the truth of the situation, I think in effect supporting piracy of one's work is short-sighted. Because it contributes to an overall attitude.

Cultural attitudes change over time. They are not set in stone. Many people steal stuff because they truly do not "get" how it hurts the artist. They think they are somehow just hurting a "large corporation." Or they think all authors and musicians are "rich" so they can afford it.

Due to people being loud about piracy on the internet, some people now try NOT to download things for free because they understand now how taking, when you would have bought otherwise, hurts the artist.

But I think it's never in our best interest as authors to say piracy doesn't matter because it basically endorses it and says "Steal my stuff, I don't care."

I never EVER want to insinuate or give the impression that a single reader's financial support isn't wanted by me. I want readers to support me and PAY for my work. Because if enough of them do it, I can create MORE of that work.

If enough of them do not do it, and my financial circumstances changed, I would have to do other work and NOT write or NOT write as much.

So fans have to be willing to compensate the artist for the work they love. We do not live in a hippie culture where everything is free.

The day when electricity and cable and Internet and food and water and medical treatment and etc. is free, is the day we can be okay with artists not being paid for their work.

As far as I'm concerned it doesn't matter that there are limitless ebooks and you aren't taking a physical product that is no longer there anymore.

Piracy supports a culture of entitlement. And that culture is furthered when authors come out and say they are okay with it.

When readers all think "authors don't care if they make money," it's all downhill from there.

Zoe Winters
http://zoewinters.wordpress.com

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Thank you, Zoe, for your thoughtful and insightful comments on this topic. I think you've hit the nail on the head with the "entitlement" issue. Too many people think something should be had for nothing.

While I don't have statistics on how piracy is hurting book authors, I think it's wise to view the music industry as the test subject. The failing music industry.

According to a research report by Jupiter Research and Forrester Research, music piracy affects not only sales for artists but investment potential.

You can read the report here.

You can also read the report based on Jupiter's reseach that is on IFPI, an organization that supports the music industry worldwide.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts, Zoe. I appreciate it.

Support Authors, Buy a Book!

Cheryl

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Sorry, the first link should be:
IFPI Digital Music Report 2010.

CKT

Gareth-Michael Skarka said...

Trying to prove that unauthorized file sharing is detrimental by posting reports bankrolled by record-industry stakeholders shows nothing more than the fact that you're irony-challenged.

It's a bit like "proving" that policies are unpopular by showing polls run by a opposition political party.

Konrath showed his numbers (with screen shots). I told a similar story (again -- sales growing, despite file sharing). You can choose to believe actual data, or you can wrap yourself in the intellectual comfort- blanket of polls created by a desperate industry, to reinforce your emotional knee-jerk response.

Your choice.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif said...

Respectfully, Gareth-Michael, the fact that JA Konrath posts his sales does nothing to prove his argument that piracy isn't hurting him financially. If his book is being pirated, he's losing sales. How much better could he have done with, say, 50 more downloads a month.

As for your links and any that Joe provided, I also provided links to research conducted not by the music industry but by outside researchers. And I could have given more links if I'd had more time to research.

I'm not saying I believe every word, number, statistic, theory or interpretation of such. I'm merely saying that for every report you or someone else can find that says piracy isn't hurting music, film or book industries, I can find one that says it is.

It's in the best interest of every author to do their own research, not just read one side and believe it. Who is to say that the reports defending piracy aren't written by closet pirates themselves--who of course would want to defend their right to continue stealing.

This is a controvercy and problem that will never be solved. I've known that since the beginning. I'm not trying to solve the issue; I just won't accept it with my works.

Theft is theft. Condone it and it will only grow. Hinder it and it'll evolve, not necessarily with ease. If that's all I can do, then so be it. But at least I'm willing to stand up for what I believe in.

You either stand up for something or sit down for everything.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif