Imagine this…

Imagine that you’ve just moved to a new town and you fall ill. You start looking for the local doctor’s surgery – and can’t find one. Not one anywhere. So you ask a local where you can find one. And she tells you: ‘Well, there used to be several. But then most of the locals who used them wouldn’t pay their bills. So after a while, one of them left. Still, the people wouldn’t pay. So the second one left too. Neither of them could make enough money to live here, and now no doctor will come because they know they can’t make a living.’

You look around, surprised. ‘But most people here seem reasonable well off. Why wouldn’t they pay their bills?’

‘Oh, some thought the doctors charged too much. They couldn’t see why patients had to pay so much, when really they were paying for the years of training the doctors received before they came here. Some said it was because the doctors wouldn’t make housecalls. Others didn’t see why they should pay if the doctor wouldn’t give them medicine, or if they didn’t get better immediately. Some said it was their right to have free medical care. All sorts of different reasons. Anyway, we don’t have a doctor now.’

Ridiculous? Read this.

Stealing has consequences.

On with the story: You return home, still thinking about this, and disturb a thief in your house. He’s walking out the door carrying your brand new plasma TV. Naturally you are very indignant.

‘But,’ protests the thief, ‘it’s not as if I would buy one for myself if I didn’t steal it. This is the only one I’ll get! And I didn’t steal anything else from you! Oh, and you’ve probably got insurance anyway…’

Ridiculous? Of course. Totally illogical reasoning. Well, I’m sick of pirate sites having the gall to tell me that THEY don’t steal from me. It’s the guys who make use of their site and put up the freebies. “They are the thieves, not me! Anyway, all you have to do is fill in this form which will only take a few minutes of your time and we’ll take down the twenty free versions we are inadvertently hosting. Oh, and you will probably have to do it again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that…because these turkeys are a bit persistent… But it’s not me, you understand. I just put us this nice free site for them to use. Why on earth should I check to make sure no one is using it to steal? That’s not MY problem!”

A great many writers shrug off the stealing. They say, ‘Well, these people wouldn’t buy my books anyway.’ Perhaps they are right, although what criteria they use to make that assertion, I’m not sure. I think they are probably wrong.

And definitely, I can’t see why it’s ok to let them get away with it because “they wouldn’t buy it anyway.”

What troubles me most of all is that the morality of people has slipped so badly over the past twenty years, that people who would never consider, say, shoplifting, think that internet stealing is harmless and has no consequences.

Alas, it does.


Imagine this… — 7 Comments

  1. I must admit, I always felt guilty because I read library books, but now I don't. The amount of books I read, I could never afford, but nor would I want to steal from you authors – heck I sent to Oz for your last book!!! I think those are terrible statistics – 800 books a week downloaded illegally. I do so agree that the sites which provide a home for these illegal copies should be stopped. These illegal readers don't seem to realise that if they stop authors getting a return on their hard work eventually they will all give up and stop writing, God forbid.

    I have free medical, but I gladly pay for it in my taxes.

  2. I think the difference between libraries and this is not just the legal aspect. A library buys, let's say 5 copies of a popular book. The author gets their cut of the price. And each of those books can reach only one reader at a time.

    And in countries like Australia, we authors get paid for each book borrowed as well. No writer would ever speak out against the value of a library.

    In addition many of us feel that people shouldn't have to buy an ebook if you'd already bought a physical copy. I would happily allow a buyer to have a free ebook once they've made the initial purchase.

  3. The music and film industries are starting to make inroads into piracy. Let's hope the publishing industry is incensed enough to do the same with book piracy.
    After all, they are losing their cut of pie as well as the author and are responsible for digitisation and security of the e-reader versions.

  4. No, libraries don't charge. They are govt aided as a community service. Each state has an interconnected library service, all libraries thus able to borrow each other's books without cost.

  5. Internet piracy will never be stopped as long as people want to read, watch, or listen. Its a part of the culture of the 2000s.

    And neither of your analogies are even remotely similar to internet file-sharing. The analogies are more like:
    1.) a patient sharing medicine with another patient.
    2.) a guy who owns a flat screen TV inviting his friends over to watch with him.
    That's internet piracy. Its not stealing, its sharing – something that is taught to kindergarten kids (well, used to be). Can you imagine a kid telling friend that "no, you cannot play with my toy, go buy your own at premium prices".

  6. So Terrence, I should share my work for free. How do I eat? Any suggestions?

    I am out of contract now as publishing goes down the tubes. I have a writer friend say his car has been repossessed and his home might go likewise, because his writing is no longer bringing in the income. True, neither of those things for us are wholly because of piracy, but it plays its part.

    Don't you dare tell me I should work for nothing. Don't you dare tell me that if someone takes my work and doesn't pay me it's not stealing. Don't you dare tell me that because it happens — because it's the "culture" — it's ok.

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