If the Internet has made writers of untold thousands, it has also made an equal number into thieves and pirates, people who see opportunity in all those easily accessible publications. Every one of us who publishes a book, with a traditional publisher or on our own, will at some point encounter a website selling our work. Piracy is so common now as to go almost unremarked upon.
Almost every day I get a Google Alert about one of my books for sale, usually at a site ending in dot ru. The first time I found one of my books on an unknown site, I took all the recommended, correct steps. I notified Google, sent a letter to the site, and more. I got the standard boilerplate reply from Google and nothing from the site in question. Frustrated, I started to pay closer attention to the sites that hosted these pirated mss.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, piracy was originally defined as:
“the practice of using the internet to illegally copy software and pass it on to other people.” The example given is this: “The record company has found things tough in recent years, hit by falling record sales and internet piracy.” The cost to the recording and movie industries has been well established. For more on this, go to http://piracy.web.unc.edu/factsfigures/
According to another site, the definition has been expanded to “the unlawful reproduction and/or distribution of any copyrighted digital file that can change hands over the Internet. This can be done with music files, videos and movies, e-books, software, and other materials.” http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-internet-piracy.htm
But in the end, at least one sight offers the advice to stop trying to halt piracy for the simple reason that telling people to stop doesn’t work. This is the sage advice from https://www.engadget.com/2017/01/28/internet-providers-stop-copyright-alerts/
Long before I found Engadget I’d reached the same conclusion, the first of several relevant to this topic. No matter how many letters or emails or times I hammer at their door or Google’s or any other site, the pirate isn’t going to stop. Some are bold enough to buy the ebook, copy, and then return it (and get their money back). But I also concluded after wasted time and energy that the people who download pirated ebooks or PDFs aren’t going to buy my book if it’s only available after payment. They don’t buy books. If they can’t get mine for free, they’ll steal someone else’s.
In addition, many of these sites that say they’re offering a free download are really just Trojan Horses for malware. If you’re trying to get something for free and you get malware instead or along with it, you deserve it. (This is perhaps the only way a writer gets back at the thieves.) You are, after all, taking our livelihood.
But the final conclusion is the most concerning. I think the way the Internet operates and how hard it is to police is an indication that sometime in the future copyright will be meaningless, and even the courts will see it as pointless. They might continue to acknowledge it in some enforcement issues, but overall the end of an effective copyright is on the horizon. To maintain a fair and enforceable copyright law is not something any part of government wants to undertake or even knows how without changes to the Internet practices. Is it possible to push the law and its enforcement in another direction, I don’t know.
Not long ago I spoke at a library and watched a member of the audience pick up and walk off with one of my books. She didn’t pay and didn’t seem to think she should even though several others were in line to do so. She isn’t alone in her behavior. At the time it surprised and angered me. I never thought I’d long for the good old days when I could run after a thief and say, “Would you like me to sign that while you pay for it?” Can’t do that on the Internet.
If you want the pleasure of paying for my books, go here