There it is, bold-faced, italicized, underlined, with multiple exclamation points and question marks.
Because I’m being ripped off left and right. I know because Google Alert informs me almost daily of the torrent downloads of my fiction available all over the Net – from as far away as Vietnam.
Chasing them is like playing Whack-A-Mole – slug one and two more pop up. Some writers consider it the cost of doing business in the digital age, and I guess that’s the mindset that will preserve your sanity. Some sites charge per download, some charge by time (e.g., $x for 36 hours of unlimited downloads) and some don’t charge at all.
Any way they operate, they’re thieves. They’ve taken my work – something that would not exist without my effort – digitized it, then published it without my permission. I already have a publisher. My agent argues over clauses and even placement of commas before I sign. I lease my work to them in exchange for royalties with which I pay my mortgage and buy food and gas and all that good stuff.
These guys are stealing my sales, which is robbery. And robbery is committed by thieves.
But what gets me is the way these thieves justify it.
A recent site I visited – a freebie – has hundreds, maybe thousands of books available for download (I didn’t count) but only two of mine. I say “only” because a lot of them have the entire run of my Repairman Jack novels (13 so far) for download in a single zip file. (All of those titles are available as ebooks on Amazon and other sites, so each of those downloads is costing me a pile of royalties.)
I decided to drop him an email: “Well, at least you aren’t charging for them, but you are stealing from me. You are duplicating my intellectual property — from which I make my living — and giving it away for free. I’m not going to threaten you because I have neither the time, will, nor resources to back that up, so I’ll simply ask you to remove my work from your list. It’s the right thing to do.”
Simple, direct, non-threatening, appealing to his better instincts, right? And he replies…with URLs on his site that require me to jump through a series of identity hoops to prove who I am before he’ll remove my property from his site.
Here’s the thing with this particular thief and others like him: they think they’re providing a service to the Internet community by making “literature” (his term) available. Well, if they want to do that, fine, but stick to public domain titles – a zillion classics are PD – and leave the work of living, working writers alone.
They use the library model: libraries buy one copy and give it to many readers. They’re just doing the same.
Uh-uh. Libraries get the book back after each reading. And libraries pay for every copy on their shelves. Not so the torrent thieves. They download a slew of titles from one site and set up their own. Then someone downloads their copies and sets up another site. I know because I’ve downloaded one of my titles from a number of sites and they all had identical formatting errors. They’re out there cloning copies. And there’s no guilt, no regard for the writer’s property.
But the topper, the push that sent me to the keyboard today, came on last night’s Colbert show. This bonehead, David Shields, “wants writers to ignore the laws regarding appropriation and create new forms for the 21st century.” The video clip runs less than five minutes. You’ve got to see it to believe it. Watch it here and then come back.
The gall of this clown. But Colbert was the perfect guy to interview him. One of his comments was a thing of beauty:
Could I create new forms for the 21st century by ignoring property rights and obliterating my neighbor’s front door? Because you know what would look good in my house? Your things.
That pretty much sums it up.
Is it okay to go into a sculptor’s studio, make casts of his creations, then sell them in your gallery? Of course not. But somehow it’s okay to go into an author’s head and steal his work and duplicate it ad infinitum.
Are you following this?
Good. Because I’m not. Moral contortions like this confuse the hell out of me, leaving me muttering, WTF?!?!?