A few days ago I found my first novel up on a free torrenting site. Initially I was…surprised. Part of me felt violated but another part felt a little proud that someone would actually want to steal it. Eventually the violated part (mostly my ego) won out and I sent the website administrator an email asking him to remove the book. I haven’t heard back yet but at this point I’ve sort of come to the realization that my email was probably sent in vain. Pirating has been around forever and now that everything’s gone digital there’s really no hope in trying to stop it now.
I’m going to be honest, when I was in middle school I used to download music off of a site called limewire. I’m not making excuses for my behavior but, at that time, I don’t think I really understood that it was stealing. I understood that I was getting something for free but not that I was getting it at someone else’s expense. Maybe because it felt too easy or too anonymous…I’m not really sure. Not to mention, all of the music I was downloading were top 40 pop hits by artists so rich I couldn’t imagine them possibly missing a dollar or two. In fact, why should they get any richer? They already had way more than they needed and I was sure they weren’t doing anything particularly productive with it like feeding the hungry or saving the world. I was the one who needed a break. Not them.
And so on…you get the point. Teenage me was a little self-righteous. Most teenager’s are. But the truth is, this is a toxic attitude to live by and it’s one that’s watered down the moral repercussions of piracy and made it the most socially acceptable crime of the 21st century. See, that’s the real problem. It’s accepted; even encouraged. Because in an economy where everyone is struggling, everyone thinks they deserve a break. From their responsibilities, from the law. And what’s easier to steal than something that already feels invisible?
No, you can’t hang a digital copy of a song or book above your mantle, you can’t even hold it in your hands, but just because it doesn’t exist in the physical world doesn’t mean that it has no value. It’s still art. It’s still the product of someone’s hard work and imagination. And it’s still a product that should be paid for by consumers.
This is my opinion when it comes to piracy–I don’t agree with it–but I’m not going to start some kind of crusade to try and wipe it from the face of the earth. Why? Because these days the moral issue of e-book piracy is not a writer’s issue, it’s a reader’s issue.
Even if every writer joined forces to try and end pirating, the impossibility of that task is so…impossible, that we’d never have time to do the one thing that actually matters–making art. But readers, they’re the ones who can really make a difference. Because all they have to do is say no. To stealing. To degrading art. And the good news is that most of them do. Someone who truly loves reading and appreciates authors believes in paying for books. They don’t need to be convinced that writing is our livelihood. They don’t need to be convinced that books matter. That writers matter. So as long as there are still book lovers out there, there will still be writer’s earning enough money to continue doing what they love, which is writing great books for the readers who support them.