A Contrarian Voice

On Monday, Diana put up a great post about piracy with link to a site for commenting on Senate Bill 3804, The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act. Here is a link to the text of the bill.

Although I agree there are good reasons behind the bill, I don’t necessarily agree with THIS bill or even with the intent behind it. I also don’t think the bill, should it pass, will be effective.

The effects of book piracy are NOT well understood. The only rigorous study on the subject to date concluded that piracy INCREASES book sales except for the very best selling authors– which is not most of us.

EDITED TO ADD: I know that one of the commenters to Diana’s post referred obliquely to this claim so let me clarify. The study was done by Brian O’Leary of Magellan Research. When I found out his study was $99.00 I emailed him and told him I was sorry I couldn’t afford his study but suggested he contact RWA to talk about getting even better data. He told me he was already in contact with them. Mr. O’Leary was kind enough to send me his study, which I have personally read. The study was based on actual sales numbers as opposed to the made up estimates typically bandied about. Within the parameters of his study, the numbers showed that, indeed, piracy helps the midlist author.

I’ve posted at length at my blog about this (you can go here to read it, but I warn you, it’s a long post. Right now, my position is that authors should demand good solid studies before they spend even five minutes chasing down pirates on their own. Setting aside the ethics of piracy, to date, the good data (by which I mean not the inflated trumped up numbers and conclusions pulled from the ether by companies selling their anti-piracy solution) does not support the conclusion that piracy hurts books sales.

In the very near future I hope to have my opinion changed and informed by rigorous studies by third parties with no financial interest in the results and conclusions.

Book piracy, by the way, goes way back. Publishers have been complaining about this since the 1700’s. That’s why it’s call piracy. Because that was the model they had way back when. If it was new, we’d probably call it something else. The book pirates back then, by the way, were other publishers and Britain itself was a leading pirate of books. Just ask Germany.

About carolyn

Carolyn Jewel was born on a moonless night. That darkness was seared into her soul and she became an award winning and USA Today bestselling author of historical and paranormal romance. She has a very dusty car and a Master’s degree in English that proves useful at the oddest times. An avid fan of fine chocolate, finer heroines, Bollywood films, and heroism in all forms, she has two cats and a dog. Also a son. One of the cats is his.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

9 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jeanne Miro
Jeanne Miro
11 years ago

What about the fact that it’s morally and ethically wrong to commit theft? Just because something may not be able to be upheld does not make it legal or correct.

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

I don’t know if THIS bill is the right one, either, Carolyn.

I can see how piracy could help sales of midlist authors, much like a free sample of a product gives a person a chance to try it out before investing any money in it. But neither I nor my publisher get to decide how and when these free copies are disseminated.

I like having an alternative view on this subject expressed! Hey, not all Riskies think the same, nor do we have to!

Pat
Pat
11 years ago

I’m not an author, so piracy obviously doesn’t take money out of my pocket, but that doesn’t mean I’m indifferent to the issue.

What really bothers me is that there are so many people out there who aren’t bothered by the fact that they are stealing. Theft is theft, even when you use a computer.

Kat
Kat
11 years ago

I love my job but I do not work for free. It should be up to the author to choose whether they release their work for free or not. I also think it is clear that morally, the act of book piracy is, in fact, the equivalent of stealing.

Carolyn
11 years ago

Janet Miro, Kat and Pat: This post was most definitely NOT about the ethics of piracy. I completely agree that it’s not ethical.

This post is about:
1) a bill I don’t think is the best solution to the problem and

2) pointing out that authors who claim that piracy is killing their careers do not have good evidence on their side.

I’m also not saying that the current evidence is necessarily correct. We need more studies.

Let’s not forget that the conversation here is already conflating two issues

1) People who upload illegal content whether to share for free or sell it and

2) People who download that illegal content.

Technically, only the first are pirates.

Diane: Discourse on difficult subjects is always good. It helps define and refine the problem and bring people toward a solution.

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

I learned a great deal from this blog and the one on your website, Carolyn! Thanks for posting it.

Elena Greene
11 years ago

Interesting, Carolyn. Do you have links on the studies so far? It doesn’t seem intuitive that this doesn’t hurt sales.

I agree about the conflating of issues. I also think a lot of people downloading stuff free or cheap aren’t aware that they are getting illegal copies. Some (maybe all) download sites claim to have the copyright. It would be interesting to know who might have gone to a legitimate site or bookstore had they known.

I can’t discount the moral/ethical issues. Even if it only hurts Nora Roberts, she doesn’t deserve to be ripped off any more than any of us. It does, in some way, make me feel a little better because writing time is so precious. It’s hard to think about giving up some of it to chase this stuff if/when I have another book out.

Carolyn
11 years ago

Elena:

I’m not arguing that someone like Nora should just suck it up. I’m just saying that the evidence is that is worth Nora’s time to go after pirates in a way that it is NOT for the rest of us.

There’s only one rigorous study that I know about and that’s Brian O’Leary’s study for Magellan Research. It’s $99.00. I emailed him about it and he sent it to me gratis. All the other “studies” about the effect of piracy come from a company that sells anti-piracy solutions and it looks like most of the anti-piracy numbers come from this company.

Elena Greene
11 years ago

Thanks, Carolyn. Interesting stuff.