'Scuse me while I fuss

I’m not usually a complainer, but I received a phooey message shortly after I woke this morning. My friend Rowena Cherry sent me an email letting me know that once again Sins of the Highlander is being offered as a free download on a pirate site.

This is not unusual, but I always feel violated by it. When I was a kid, the big brother of one of my friends stole my very first purse, took the few coins in it, and left the sad little pink thing all ripped and soiled in the ditch. It was my first brush with someone who took from me because he could and it made me feel sick. I feel the same way now.

The thing that makes me really shake my head is that I suspect people who’d never consider shoplifting will download a pirated copy of my work and not suffer a smidge of guilt. They may not even realize what they’ve done. I wonder what would happen if they opened their pay envelope at the end of the week and discovered there was nothing there because someone had downloaded their salary.

I’m also more than a little offended that the uploaders at these sites are called “pirates.” That’s far too romantic, too heroic, too Disney a name for them. They are thieves. We should let them wear that label.

In order to have the pirate copies taken down, I used to have to send a detailed email, explaining that I held the copyright to the work and had not authorized the free distribution. I had to PROVE I had standing in order to protect my work. Now both my publishers help with tracking down and removing the illegal files, but one site logged over 2500 downloads before my publisher was able to shut them down.

That many downloads can mean the difference between hitting a list or not, earning out an advance, or even whether or not an author is offered another contract.

Don’t mistake me. I have no problem with readers sharing my books with their friends. I consider it a great compliment and hope you do. I have no beef with second-hand bookstores, even though authors don’t make a dime on the second sale of a book. The hope is that readers will enjoy my work enough that they’ll watch for the next release and buy it new. I’m tickled to pieces when a library buys my books and lends them out.

But I’m always sad when someone throws my stories up on a pirate site.  The internet is still the Wild Cyber West and has resisted efforts to have order imposed on it. I’m not sure what the solution is, but I hope someone will come up with a viable way to protect intellectual property.

Thanks for letting me rant. Has anyone ever stolen from you?

6 thoughts on “‘Scuse me while I fuss

  1. Jane L says:

    I am so with you on this stealing thing! I just had my credit and medical cards taken from my wallet, in my vehicle. While we were having ice cream!
    Now I know , never leave your car unlocked, but really, leave my stuff alone!!
    I am sorry you had to go through this, it is very unfair, not only to you, other writers but also readers.

  2. Marcy W says:

    Not a fuss or a rant, but a true case of righteous indignation! I think you’re right that many people wouldn’t see this as theft, and isn’t that an upsetting view of the state of ethics and morality in our society … and, to me, another example of technology outrunning our ability to keep up with it in all the ways it affects us. I’m sad and mad about the thousands of illegal downloads, and can only hope that those readers will come back for more, and pay for it this time.

    1. Nynke says:

      I do think readers will come back for more after a free download – and legal copies are online quicker and easier to use, I think.

      I’ve been told (and I believe it’s true) that people who use free downloads of music and movies often still buy what they like for their collections, but I’m not sure that’s how it works for books as well.

      Either way, 2500 downloads is a lot to lose! And books deserve to be paid for…

    2. Mia Marlowe says:

      I guess I should cancel my Google alerts because I ran into one site where readers can request that others upload pirated copies of my work. Is there any other place where people can ask for delivery of stolen goods? It does sap my creative energy to be upset, so I ought to try to ignore it. Hard to not feel those hands in my pocket though…

  3. Betty Hamilton says:

    Yes, and it has been people that I have welcomed into my home for one reason or another. Family jewlery was stolen, so replacement was never an option. One heirloom had the inscription “From Papa 1899”. The very sad part is that I know most of the jewlery stolen was melted down so that it couldn’t be traced. I know what it is like to be victomized and I really do feel for the authors that have their work stolen. I also fear that if it continues it will no longer be profitable to be a full time author and we as readers will suffer the loss.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Heirlooms are irreplaceable. I can always write more stories.

      But you’re right that some authors are unable to continue to write fulltime as a result of pirate activities. And in the end, readers lose, too.

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