I'm not sure if i'm allowed to share this - but it made me gasp

#1

Piracy for a while was an internal conflict to me. The idea of sharing things like music, whilst wrong, was just so much as social norm, it didn't feel wrong. That all changed for me when I started at SitePoint and saw things from the producers perspective. Then I co-wrote my own book at it became much much more real for me. I've never tried to hide the fact that our books are scattered all over file sharing networks, nor was I ever happy about the DRM entanglements we had on our electronic products (long gone now), but I was a little shocked when I got this.

We've be trialling PiracyGuards, to monitor our products on common piracy networks. We got our first report today and nearly 500 take down notices had been issued. I knew that our books were out there, but this shook me up a little.

I'm interested to hear you're own thoughts on piracy, doesn't matter if it's from a consumer or a producers perspective.

The reality is that more people pirate our books than buy them, I don't know to what ratio -- I probably don't want to know. And many many people have always claimed, the more that's pirated the more that sells, but I'm still not sure how to take that. Love to hear your input.

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#2

When people take copies of something that you spent time producing as your job rather than paying you for it then you either starve or go find some other less interesting work and hope you get paid for doing that.

From the other side, if something you want is not available through a legitimate source at a reasonable price but is available from a pirate then you have a choice between obtaining it from the pirate or not getting it at all.

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#3

It really is a simple moral issue: either you are accepting theft as your right or you are rejecting it. It is astounding to me how many people take things without any thought of the source or the right of the owner to get paid for what he has created/produced.

Technical inventions have made theft much easier today, so a strong moral character is required to resist the temptation to just take. Compounding the problem of taking is that the underpinnings of what is taught is that it is alright to force people to "share", as if it is an obligation of the person who has something to give it to the person who does not.

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#4

Well, this is the type of topic where Datura and I always disagree :lol:

I understand both parts and it is not always easy, although it may look like it.

First, it is the creator/editor or whoever who has the right to sell the book/album/art or whatever at the price they choose and to whoever they choose. People getting illegal copies may hurt the system by lowering the profits of the writer/company etc and that's wrong. I said may. Not everybody that downloads illegal copies would become a customer anyway. As a matter of fact, many of them will not.

Having said that, I would say that there are many reasons to get an illegal copy and that's why I not consider it as a theft all the time.

  • It is not the same if the company or person still has big profits with that product. Madonna, as an example, is as rich as she can get. Careful, it is still wrong, but it is not the same to take it from someone that really and desparately needs it that from someone that doesn't.

  • Some people simply can't afford it (no matter how cheap) but still need it. Else, he may not be able to learn a skill and improve in his/her job and therefore get a better salary.

  • You may afford to buy one or two, but not all that you need... how many books about SQL you read till you find a really good book?

  • The product may be overpriced... A playstation game cost around 60 € here... the game may be worth it (the sad thing is that sometimes the game is not that good) but... at 60 € per game... how many do you think that you can afford?

  • There's simply no way to get it (or sometimes there's no other way to get it on time) no matter how hard you try. This happened to me with some songs. They are so old that you can't find them on the stores anymore. It also happened to me with some software, so I was forced to download an illegal copy till I waited for the legal to come.

  • It is availabe, and then you get it because it looks interesting and you may want to check it further... if it wasn't available, I would never buy it because you really don't care about it. In this case, there's no loss because I wouldn't have bought it anyway. This happens more times than people think.

The other thing to keep into account is that a particular person downloaded or got an illegal copy and then liked it so much that (s)he becomes a fan. Most of the time, that person will get a legal copy just to have the original thing or do something that will provide profit (such as downloading music, you like the group and then you buy the merchandise and/or go to the concert).

These indirect profits most of the time are not counted by the companies and how piracy affects them. But as a matter of fact, it also happens very often smile

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#5

Perhaps the best approach is to assume that your work is going to be pirated and figure out the best way to monitise that situation. Maybe use the books as a way to drive traffic to a paid subscription model, the more books you actually sell the better but see the whole thing as a marketing effort rather than a dedicated income stream. People actually consider your books worth pirating, that's quite something, there's a viral element here that could be an opportunity for someone with the right know how.

Maybe.... I've never had a massively selling product or had to monitise vast traffic numbers so I'm theorising off the top of my head here. Over to you!

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#6

I'm sure I'm not unique, but I just can't read electronic copies of books. More so for technical/programming books, I like to take some time away from a computer and be inspired.

With this said, I do downloaded illegal copies of books.

If I find a book I find interesting, I read the reviews on Amazon, decide whether or not the price is something I can afford. If so, download it (if available) from the usual places then after a brief skim and a chapter or two, if I find the book engaging, I purchase a hard-copy of it.

Personally, I find this acceptable and see it no different to movies trailers or flicking through the book at the bookstore.

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#7

Back in the day, soon after personal computing went "mainstream" (1990's), I remember going to computer fairs and seeing traders with 100's of CD's for sale - software, music, everything. One think that's always stayed with me was seeing a CD with the complete works of Pink Floyd on it. At the time many of us were still buying vinyl records so seeing that all in one CD was impressive - the fact that it was pirated never occurred to me and I could have owned every Pink Floyd song for just a few quid. After all, why spend 10x that when I can have it all for a fraction of the price?

Skip forward a few years and the internet becomes mainstream. Eventually some programmers create a file sharing system and bang, before you know it people are sharing all sorts of stuff - but this time, instead of pirating Pink Floyd songs and selling them, theyre just giving it away for free. As time progressed just about anything that could be digitalised could be found on the file sharing networks and beyond.

Half the problem is the fact that many people don't see any harm in partaking in sharing of copyrighted items. One girlfriend of mine, her daughter downloads movies like there's no tomorrow, her PC is always on downloading the latest movies and she has a massive archive of DVD's, none of which she's paid a penny for. I've often challenged her about it but her response is always the same "they make millions in profit, one download won't hurt". To make matters worse she's actually paid for access to this download site so in her eyes it's legitimate, despite all the content being pirated.

People who are growing up in this digital age of freely available content are blissfully unaware of copyright or just take the attitude of "why should I pay if I can get it for free". That's a tough nut to crack!

Then I have a musician friend who's produced a dozen albums and used to get by on the royalties. He's by no means rich so that income kept food on his table, but in recent years his roylaties have dwindled away to virtually nothing, all because people are pirating his lifes work. Is he annoyed - you bet! Heavy depression now rules his life. I've offered to help him get some of his songs on legitimate music sites but his attitude is still "why bother?".

There will never be a way to stop piracy, that's a fact of life, but I think that if you publish something that can be digitalised you've got to accept that it will be pirated at some point. I believe the ball is now in the court of the publishers who have to find a way of minimising piracy, or turning it to their advantage. I don't know what the answer is but there's a solution for every problem, all we need is "the one" to have a lightbulb moment that will level the playing field.

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#8

Theft is theft, as long as we live under the rule of law.

If you decide that Madonna has enough money, and want to institute a law that says that the government can decide who has enough money and redistribute the rest of their money accordingly, then you are getting into a political discussion about liberalism and wealth distribution. Regardless, as the laws stand now it's simply illegal to steal copyrighted material.

Molona: I hear these rationalizations all the time, but almost always when it comes to digital media that are 'easy' to steal. But, if your logic is sound then we should also be able to apply it to non-digital, tangible assets.

For example, if you are my neighbor and you are hungry and I have plenty of money, then you should be able to just take some food from me, without permission or even asking.

If I have 2 cars and your only car is broken but you need to take your kid to school, then you have the right to enter my garage and simply take my car and use it.

If I invent a cure for cancer and save the world, and make 10 million dollars doing it, you can decide that I 'have enough ' money and can distribute that money as you like or simply not pay for your cancer treatment.

Also, you used the tired old rationale that sometimes you have no choice but to steal software or music. Like in your example about the software wasn't available so you were 'forced to download an illegal copy till I waited for the legal to come.'. Were you really forced? Are you comparing yourself to a starving person who steals bread to feed their baby? Oh please smile

And your comment about overpricing also doesn't really make sense. If something that wasn't so easy to steal, like a fancy BMW cost $300,000 would you feel it was overpriced? Would you decide that you are morally correct in simply just taking it?

I find that when something is just so easy to steal like music, movies, anything that can go around torrent, then suddenly everyone brings all of these convoluted rationalizations so that they dont' feel like they are 'stealing'.

But, when it's something that's harder to steal or more plainly wrong, then suddenly they are moral again. If I am incredibly rich, will you steal my wallet? I have much more money!

If you lost your car at a parking lot, will you steal mine cause you 'are forced to'?

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#9

Exactly my thoughts on this subject. You can't fight them - make them useful.

Is advertising used on you to make you want to buy the product not a force? The psychological tricks widely used in advertising often border with questionable ethics and leaving a person in a mental torment by then not allowing them to buy is a mental force.

That doesn't mean that you should respond to force with force unless it's absolutely vital, but that's a natural human reaction.

I'm not trying to justify it, and I personally think it is wrong, but there is that side of the coin.

The issue is more complicated than it might seem. In US, UK, some other countries most of these digital goods are as available legally as they are pirated (especially music). But the rest of the world is stuck with music stores and their limited availability overpriced stock. However, the advertising reaches the entire world over the Internet, traditional media and the same music and movies. You expect too much from humanity if you think they will resist that psychological pressure and not respond back with force.

The only way to "fight it" is to make it as available as possible to everyone around the world. And make the rest work for you.

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#10

I'll take this one example although from the ones you mentioned since anyone will do. You're confusing things.

1) If I download a book/song/movie/software... I am not invading your house or any place that belongs to you. That would be illegal.

2) Are you telling me that, even if I did enter in your house and stole food, it would be the same if I did it because I'm hungry and I couldn't buy food that if I did it because simply I was in the mood of stealing?

3) If I steal your food, take your car or whatever, you get no profit. But if I download you book, you may gain indirect profit. Don't compare the two things, please.

4) Although they want to make it illegal, in Spain as per today it is legal so therefore I am not breaking any laws. Furthermore, I pay a tax on every mobile phone, hard drive, pen-drive or anything that may storage even the tiniest picture... and I pay for it it doesn't matter if I download it or if I don't

5) We had this discusion in GC before although was more dedicated to the music industry and it was proved with numbers that while the industry lost money on one side, it earned much more on the other (such as concerts and merchandising)

What I have said that not all the situations are the same. And now I say that not everybody is a thief but you put everyone on the same boat. Things are not that simple, I'm afraid.

Well, yes, and with good reason! You're judging me here and I will not tolerate that. You don't know the details and I am not going to tell you. You will have to trust me when I tell you that I don't use words lightly. By all means, feel free to disagree with my opinion and say that what I did was wrong if you think that's the case. But don't judge me. I didn't feel 'forced', I felt forced. No quotes.

Have I said anything about morality at this point? Don't twist my words! There are also other differences:

1) We're not talking about luxury products only made for a few selected people but products that are supposed to be bought by every John and Jane. Again, your example can't be applied.
2)I've listed the reasons why people downloaded using P2P networks...

I think that you need to read my post twice and more slowly, especially the beggining.

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#11

Would you call her a thief? or brainless and selfish?

Your friend has decided to do nothing but he could take advantage of the situations and promote himself and get new jobs... maybe a web where he could take requests to create little personalised songs for birthdays and special occassions... maybe he could play at the local bar as the famous guy in town and get a percetage of the sales... Other musicians have adapted and they do quite well and now they don't want to change back. He may want to diversify. True, it is not easy but it can be done and it is better than stay and cry for what has been lost.

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#12

Hmmm, probably selfish, but technically a thief as well. She knows what she does is morally wrong but she doesn't care!

Good ideas, but it's a bit more complex than that. His band tours mainly around North/South America and Europe and they do already play regularly in his local town. However, income from gigs is relatively small when you take the costs away and their main "profit" comes from sales of CD/DVD's which of course are the very things that are being pirated!

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#13

I can definitely see how that is a big problem. Who wants to buy music CD/DVDs nowadays anyway? Only die hard fans. The technology allows us to buy music online and people want to get it online. So they will find a way. And unless there's an easy way to do it legally, they will do it illegally.

The only option for your friend to fight it is to make their music available to buy online, and make that the main profit stream. And try to use the pirated music to their advantage, heck maybe even release those that are already pirated for free and get even more fans that way. There's a whole possible line of other products that fans would buy - t-shirts, collectibles, premium CD/DVD, etc. There are, indeed, musicians who already do it very successfully.

Just speculating here, and that is of course easier said than done, but the only other option is to keep relying on CD sales and eventually go out of business, I'm afraid frowning

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#14

That's where I don't agree... She's young and careless as most people with that age (I'm assuming that she's a teenager or that she's in her early 20's). Hopefully, she will mature but I wouldn't say that she's a thief for that.
In the same way, I wouldn't say it is her fault that the industry doesn't want things to change and evolve... but things do change and evolve, and the classic copyright scheme will most probably change. As computers run faster and storage is cheaper and there are new ways of distribution, the actual copyright scheme will be obsolete and worthless. And that's due to happen with people downloading or without people downloading.

Everything is complex, and most of of the time it isn't black or white. But if he does nothing and tries to keep the old ways, he may find himself in trouble. Although I hope that he reacts before that happens... after all, he's your friend smile
He only has two choices: diversify or provide added value. He could take advantage of the new technologies too. smiley

Just a silly idea: setting up his own site and form his own fan club... and charge a monthly fee to those who want to have a little bit extra (it could be that they will have the copy of their songs before anyone, a master class through videoconference from time to time, some free tickets for the next concert near his living place).

He really needs to sit and brainstorm ideas that may work to keep his income level. Technology will not wait for him and the longer he takes, the worst. There are other groups and singers that are doing this kind of stuff (at least in Spain) and do quite well... but the market may become saturated.

Completely agree... Make it easy and they will buy smile Just a little correction... In Spain it is legal as long as I do it for personal use. wink

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#15

Believe me I've offered many times to help him go digital but he still won't bite. Part of the problem is that much of the material is technically controlled by record labels and we all know how backwards they are still.

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#16

We'll disagree on tht then smile

As posted above, I've offered my help many times. "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink" smile

Still, JT (you know who) has just got her first album on iTunes!

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#17

:lol:

I know that you've been a good friend and, of course, you can't help someone that doesn't want to be helped smile
Good for her! I need to check the site out but I won't say a word till certain things happen... I'll keep all names and details in secret hehehe smile

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#18

Not saying a word till certain things happen eh? I wonder what that could be cool

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#19

Molona I carefully read your posts and responses.

It just seems to me like you are working very hard to rationalize theft. Without getting into any of the arguments, I just don't buy them and I think that theft is theft unless there are some extraordinary circumstances such as truly being forced or a desperate need.

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#20

@sagewing: Fair enough. I still think that you haven't read my first post properly because the very first thing I said was that an writer/artist/creator had the right to do whatever (s)he pleases with his work.

But I insist that I simply listed the reasons why people downloaded copyrighted material.

What I think it is obvious that the old system is getting obsolete and a new system will have to be created so artists can benefit from their work. It happened before and this is merely an evolution of the business model. But, of course, with the current business model, the big labels and the right management companies did benefit and they don't want to let go. Something that I can fully understand. It will only delay things but it will not change the fact that it will change and that they will not have such a big control over the artists.

With books it may be slightly different because for a writer to be independent he doesn't only need to be a good writer but to know how to use the appropriate software to make it look good and be distributed in the appropriate formats. No many writers have that technical knowledge.

I simply can't consider it theft in all the cases... I can't consider it a theft when you can benefit from it.

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