Monday, January 17, 2011

Avast, Mateys. Aarrggh

What I'm reading: The Bad Kitty Lounge, by Michael Wiley

First: If you didn't check out my guest post at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen yet, please do. There are excerpts and a recipe. What more could you ask for?

I got a Google Alert for one of my short stories the other day. I followed the link, which led me to a website that offers free downloads of books, music, art and the like. Trouble is, that story of mine isn't free. I own the copyright, and unless I give you a copy, downloading it from that site is just plain stealing.

I don't make a penny if someone downloads from that site. The rationale is usually, "I bought a copy, so why can't I share it with my friends? I can give them a print book, right?"

Yes, you can give a friend a print book. Because there's only ONE, and only one person can read that copy at a time. But what about an e-book? I write the book, I publish the book. I expect to make my royalties when people buy the book. But with an e-book, if you "lend" the book by emailing it to a friend, you still have the original on your hard drive. What if you e-mail that book to fifty of your friends. At the same time? Or what if you upload it to a sharing (pirate) website, where anyone can download it for free? Is that fair to the author? Every time someone downloads a copy, the author is losing the royalty they're rightfully owed.



Some of the e-readers, including my NOOKcolor, have a 'lend me' feature. My sister-in-law is waiting for biopsy results, and she wanted something to read. She also has the NOOKcolor, so I used their feature to send her my book. BUT – while she has it, it's no longer on my reader. She can have it for two weeks, and then it'll come back to me. Kindle, I believe, followed suit and also has a lend feature. I know they have a 'gift' feature, so you can buy an e-book for someone else to read on their Kindle, even if you don't have one.

Side note: Have you ever read that bit inside a book about not paying for a book that has no cover? That's not quite the same, but bottom line, the author isn't making a penny off those books. Bookstores work on the consignment model; they have the right to return unsold books for full refunds. But rather than ship the entire book back, they strip the covers off and mail those. The rest of the books are destined to landfill, or maybe into the hands of people who have no right to be selling them.

If you write for a larger publisher, odd are, they have a legal department that deals with demanding takedowns of these pirated books. But if your books are independently published, like several of mine, then the burden falls on you. One of my publishers fights piracy for its authors. Another, with a much smaller staff, says it's up to the author.

How much time and energy should you spend dealing with writing these takedown demands? Even the marketing director at one of my publishers, who is also an author, says she's given up. And so many of these pirate sites are outside the US, so it's even more difficult to track them down and expect them to honor your takedown request. If they were honorable, they wouldn't be posting these sites, right?

Yet there are those who say pirating actually helps sales because it gets your name out there. Frankly, I'm not sure I agree. I give stories away at Smashwords, and have "sold" several thousand downloads. I don't see a whole lot of carryover to my "pay to read" books.

For a long time, I'd hear authors complaining about being pirated, but I'd never found my own books on the sites they'd mentioned. I figured I wasn't well known enough, or marketable enough, for anyone to care. So, maybe I should be flattered that I've joined the ranks of victims of piracy. However, flattered or resentful, the bottom line is that it's not legal. It's copyright infringement. Period.

Another side note, speaking of Smashwords. The 2/3 off discount coupon will be expiring this week. Don't miss your chance to get What's in a Name? for 99 cents. Just remember, that's your personal copy.

And to bring things full circle, tomorrow my guest is Gretchen Craig, who's sharing a recipe as well.

30 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I got into a discussion over this very topic on Facebook this weekend. To me, it's the *intent* behind pirating and the *volume* of sharing that's most disturbing. A pirate site is just like a guy selling ripped-off DVDs on the street corner...it's an illegal activity. Friends sharing between friends is VERY different--I'm delighted if someone shares my book, recommending it to a friend. That *may* get me a new reader. I don't think pirated fiction will...or it's not worth it to me, if it does. Luckily, yes, my publisher will chase them down. But it's still frustrating.

Carol Kilgore said...

This is a huge problem. Thanks for speaking up. I think some people neither know nor care about copyright infringement. Sad.

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth - it's synchronicity again. My Facebook page had a long discourse on pirating as well.

Carol - I agree, some people figure they have the 'right' to share e-books. And I hope you'll help spread the word.

Melissa Murphy said...

Unfortunately, this effects everything on the net. You hear about people stealing--and yes, it is stealing IMO--music and movies too. Until the government takes more forceful action, I feel it may only get worse.

Melissa

Terry Odell said...

Melissa - I totally agree. Thanks for coming by

Beth Trissel said...

I am in utter agreement with you and very upset about this problem. I noted one of mine on a piracy site too.

Joanne said...

I think it'll be a long time before this all gets ironed out, and it won't be an easy journey. I talked to a teen recently who admitted to illegally downloading lots of music. When I questioned him about it, his justification was that he could never afford to buy it all. I fear that's a prevalent attitude, and he saw nothing wrong in his decision. It's there, and he's entitled to it :/

Terry Odell said...

Beth - it seems to be part of the game. Unfair, IMHO, but it's like using a thimble to bail out the ocean.

Joanne - agreed. I think RWA is taking a stand against piracy. Maybe with larger guns behind us, we'll see some progress.

Linda said...

It amazes me how people who frequent these sites don't view it as stealing. This past weekend, I had a talk with the teenager who mows my grass. He showed me some music and books he'd downloaded at pirate sites. I asked him, if he pay for gas when they fill up their car, pay for a meal, pay their doctors, or I didn't pay him for mowing my lawn, why do he think a writer or muscians work should free? He looked abashed and said he'd never thought of it like that. That's the problem.

We fight this from coming at it claiming copyright infringement, which it is. But it's also stealing. Most people don't even realize that until told. Copyright infringement? What's that? Stealing, they understand.

Terry Odell said...

Linda - yes, it's astonishing how many people don't see what's wrong. They see something that's free, and don't wonder about how it got there.

Katie Reus said...

All my EC stuff is pirated and it's so frustrating when I get Google alerts from pirate sites on my release day. Thankfully there's a department that handles sending out take down notices but often it really doesn't seem to make a difference. They'll just pop up a day, a week, or a month later. I spend some time sending out legal notices myself but there are some sites that just don't care and since they're not under US laws, it doesn't do much good anyway. I pay for my music, movies and books and think it's insane that so many people think they don't need to.

Terry Odell said...

Katie, I wonder how many people see these sites advertising free downloads and never stop to wonder where they came from. I'm not defending them, of course, but I'll bet a lot are totally oblivious to the fact that they're breaking the law.

RowenaBCherry said...

There are enterprises...googlesites, yahoogroups, auctions on auction sites... that make a point of using words like "complimentary" and "freely available" and "not hosted by us" to deceive people into thinking that what they are giving away is legal, and that they are simply providing a public service by pointing people to where the "free e-books" are.

Then, people infer (wrongly) that these e-books are in the public domain, and they start burning the e-books onto CDs and selling collections of them on auction sites and claiming that they own the copyright.

It's a domino effect, and we need to encourage our Congressmen to support COICA, Senate Bill 3804, because right now, the law gives precious little help, and copyright infringers know that individual authors are unlikely to personally sue them.

Hart Johnson said...

I'm curious if you had to sign up for something to get that Google notice. I had my BLOGROLL filched for a while--I figure it just gave me more readers, so all I did was add text at the bottom where it was from and who I was (and they seem to have stopped doing it) but I only found out because I have a friend I linked to who does 'pingback'? (I think that's what she called it)--I am just curious if you know any tools for tracking down some of these pirates...

(I think it DOES mean you have made it to be pirated... frustrating as it is)

Terry Odell said...

Rowena - so true, and thanks for providing the urge for us to let our congress representatives know we want them to support the bill.

Hart -- I have set Google Alerts via my Google Account, so I will get notified when things appear on the web or in blogs matching my key words.

Phoebe Conn said...

Thanks, Terry, for tackling this persistent problem. Our true fans understand writing is how we earn our living and won't visit the pirate sites.

Marsha A. Moore said...

This is a complex problem, not so much unlike music piracy, which after some struggle did improve once safeguards were established. I just hope our industry finds some similar means of protection.

Jude Mason said...

Hi Terry,

This is one of those topics that, as an author, is of great concern to me. The first time I saw one of my books on a pirate site, I felt so violated, I was sick to my stomach. I couldn't understand why someone would actually steal my book. I mean it wasn't like it cost a lot to buy. I believe it was under $4. I've often told fans that if they can't afford to buy a book of mine, go to my website, there are quite a few free reads. Join my mailing list, I give copies away. Not hundreds, but enough.

I don't know how much time I should spend ferreting them out. I do know that whenever I find them out there, and I do find a lot of them being offered for nothing, that same sick feeling strikes. I've even found ebooks that are meant to help support charities being sold on some pirate sites. How sick is that?

There has to be some way we can get people to understand how hard we work to create these books. And, how much we depend on those royalties. Last year, my husband lost his job. My royalties paid bills and put food on the table. If I don't get paid, like so many other authors, I'll have to stop writing and find a paying job.

I could rant on, but I do have work to do. A great topic, and I fervently hope it makes a difference.

Hugs

Terry Odell said...

Phoebe - it's sad there are so many people who do visit these sites, regardless of whether they realize it or not. If nobody used the sites, they'd disappear.


Marsha - I hope so too

Jude - Yeah, I don't know what the big deal is about my 99 cent stories that people think they can't afford them.

Susan Oleksiw said...

Terry, This is a very important topic and I salute you for addressing it. It's part of the larger picture of Google seeking the right to copy everything ever published without getting permission from any of the writers. This lawsuit has been going on for years because writers called it stealing, and a judge, for some reason, decided to examine the question. The Google settlement is still a long way off, but in the end copyright may be something that changes into a new form that has no teeth. Congress needs to step in and address this, and piracy is part of it because the Internet and the high-tech world are almost beyond governance.

Thanks for focusing attention on this.

Terry Odell said...

Susan - the post above this gives some things we can do to let our senators know how we feel.

Jemi Fraser said...

I didn't realize this was going on - but I shouldn't be surprised. People are always looking for the sneaky ways out.

On the flip side I finished 'When Danger Calls' and LOVED it!! :)

Terry Odell said...

Jemi - well, the more people who are aware, the better. And so glad you loved When Danger Calls. Word of mouth is the best advertising.

Jason Odell said...

You should see how many bit-torrent sites have been unlawfully distributing my eBooks. I try to shut down as many as I can (you can usually lodge a DMCA complaint), but it's like cutting the head off a hydra.

Terry Odell said...

Jason - I don't think there's any escaping it. Write your senator about the bill mentioned in the post above this one.

Kathy said...

Terry does this include like Half Price Books? DO they rip authors off? I had mentioned I wanted to get copies of the books I had read to send to my aunt and someone suggested I got to Half Price Books.com. I hadn't thought of it just figured Amazon or somewhere like that.

Kathy said...

Currently I'm not reading anything yet. I just finished LOVE ME TO DEATH by Allison Brennan. I was thrilled to see my name in her acknowledgements. I am looking forward to her next one and the next JD Robb and Nora Roberts books as well.

Terry Odell said...

Kathy - I don't know about half price books. If they're print books, it's less likely they're pirated (as long as they have covers). I've got Allison's book on my NOOKcolor (from Barnes & Noble--NOT a pirate site!). I've been waiting for Lucy's story. I'll look for your name!

RowenaBCherry said...

For any authors who want to join others and learn more about where the piracy is at its worst and how to deal with it, there's a yahoogroup AuthorsAgainstEBookTheft

For authors and readers who want to join a permanent discussion, and share links to new blogs and articles on the subject, there's an open group on GoodReads.com called Authors Without A Yacht.

(A tongue in cheek reference to one argument by pirates that all authors are fabulously rich and greedy, and really would not miss a third yacht).

Terry Odell said...

Rowena - thanks so much for these resources.