>Sometimes life is so black and white for me. I know there are shades of gray, and I know that my past is riddled with moments I’m not proud of. Moments like downloading music files without paying for them. I justified it by saying I couldn’t find them to buy, and that was true, but it still didn’t make it right. I’ve wised up since then. In fact, I wised up BEFORE being published, but it doesn’t alleviate the guilt I still feel about it (of course, my Mom was an Italian Catholic…guilt I know! LOL) However, I’ve come to realize no amount of justification makes stealing right.
Last week the DH and I were having a conversation with my 17-year-old. We were trying to make her understand that taping a TV show and then putting it up on YouTube is a violation of someone’s copyright. Our conversation evolved into a heated argument as I tried to make her understand that when her friends (she doesn’t have the technology or skills to do it) tape a Heroes scene and layer over the video with latest Nickleback song then post it to YouTube, they’re violating a lot of copyrights. Just because someone CAN DO something doesn’t make it right. I can buy a gun and rob a bank. Of course, her response was, “that’s different.” GRRRRR I then tried to bring it home in terms of money for her college education (ok so I was stretching my royalty amounts there! *grin*) I told her about the people exchanging my latest eBook Mirage on forums as opposed to buying the damn book, and how they were stealing her college money. She still said that was different. (GOOD GOD! Whose child is this!! I taught her better!)
Communicating Right and Wrong
I wanted to choke her as I explained how I’d politely posted a rather lengthy explanation as to why these readers are hurting authors. Authors they enjoy reading. But I didn’t rail at these readers. I simply pointed out that I spent double in advertising what I earned in royalties last year. I stated that I work hard for every sale, and that sharing my book with others was wrong. Wrong because the technology makes a book far to easy to share and distributed among not just a few hundreds of people at a library, but hundreds of thousands of people on the Inet. I didn’t point out the out that it was illegal to exchange eBooks under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf until the very last line of my post. There were a couple of snide responses, asking if all authors complained when their books showed up in the library. My internal response to that ill-informed opinion isn’t even printable here. However, my initial words were WTF is this @#$)# thinking. I’m sorry, but stealing is stealing. There is NO JUSTIFICATION for it, and yet people seem to think it’s perfectly all right to take electronic data and share it with others.
Some readers told me they’d never heard of me, but would now go look for me. If they read a book by me and liked me, they’d buy my print books. BUT, they were gonna read a free book first. *Monica bashing head against the wall* They think this is somehow a valuable marketing tool for me. It probably would be if I was making $50K a year, but I’m not even making enough to sustain me if I quit the day job. And it still doesn’t change the fact that stealing is stealing.
Justification – There Is None
Since when in this country (US – although I know that the Inet is global) did we suddenly become so disrespectful of the rights or property of others? I know damn well if I visited any of these readers, broke into their house and “borrowed” one of the books off their bookshelf, they’d be calling the cops. (Sometimes I wish Morgan Freeman really was God and he’d visit me. I’d do some might strong teaching examples!!! And on myself as well…one can never learn too much.)
I understand readers are leery of trying someone they don’t know. I really do, because I’m a reader too. But does being leery mean we don’t try new things? I’m never sure I’ll like a new author I test out, even when people are raving about the book. It still doesn’t stop me from trying it. If I don’t like it, I remember that and don’t buy that author again. My dollars are just as hard earned as the dollars these readers say they don’t have, which is their justification for stealing from eBook authors. Oh, and because they’re entitled to do so.
Even when I explained that eBook authors don’t always go to print, these readers still think they’re entitled somehow to read a book for free. Well they’re not. This isn’t about the money for me, because there aren’t that many people exchanging my books (I’ve no idea if that’s a good or bad thing). It’s the principle—the ethics of the issue.
Principles – One Needs Them
For me there are no gray areas with this particular topic. A coworker played a new Josh Groban CD for me at work the other day. I said I really liked it, and I’d have to buy the CD. The coworker waved their hand and told me they’d make me a copy of the CD. I immediately shook my head, thanked them and stated that ethically I couldn’t accept and explained why. The response to my decline came across as defensive to me, and it was the same response I got from the readers exchanging eBooks. Well, it’s not really hurting anyone. I tried to explain that it does, but that more importantly it was wrong. Most people think artists, authors, musicians, etc. are making money hand-over-fist. That might be true of some of the really big stars, but most artists in all mediums are hard-working Joes who feel the impact of someone taking a few dollars out of their pockets when their work is copied and passed along on digital media.
Where The Hell Is Morgan Freeman!
Eventually it’s going to wind up being like the music industry. Files are going to be encrypted and cause a hassle for those of us who do legally BUY the files and simply want a copy for their personal use in the car or to make a straight backup in the case of a hard drive failure. I don’t want to see it come to that, but when NY publishers start to worry about losing profits to free eBook exchange, I’m convinced there will be limits put into place. Then it’s going to tick me off even more because someone’s illicit behavior will be the cause of inconveniencing me. Where the hell is Morgan Freeman when I need him!