Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Pirate's Dare

(Before we start I want to define "downloading a book for free." I'm talking about modern copyrighted material. There ARE books out there in the public domain that you can get for free. I'm not sure if I'm all that happy about that, but that is NOT the type of thing I'm talking about. I am talking about illegal downloads of copyrighted material. Also--this isn't a discussion about ebooks. I love ebooks. I am a complete geek and love the idea of technology that allows me to read on my little ereader. Yes. I own one. And yes. I buy ebooks the same as I buy paper books.  And for the record, no, I do not think all ebooks should cost a dollar. Regardless of format, authors work damn hard.)

This morning, thanks to some [sarcasm] really smart person [/sarcasm] on Twitter who tweeted a link to a free copy of my book, I found a site that had 8 illegal copies of my book which boasted about 800 downloads. If I do the math right, that's dinner for my kids for about 8-12 months. I'd estimate that over the last 18 months since some pirate made that horrible homemade copy of my book (by the way, dork, you skipped some pages and can't scan worth a crap) there have been at least three times that number of illegal downloads of my book. My first thoughts:  Thanks a million, cowardly thieving people. Seriously. Grow a pair. I dare you to steal it from a shelf in a store. Lily-livered poltroons.

Then, the idea of that dare grew on me. I knew kids (and adults) who shoplifted in my life. I could never do it. I just didn't have the guts. Plus, I never forgot that day when I was five and I stole a few pieces of that pick-your-own candy from the grocery store and my father saw me with it when we were loading the car and he took me back in and made me give it back to the manager and apologize. I was so ashamed. I cried the whole time.

See, as a five-year-old, my line of thinking was selfish and immature. And simple. It went like this: I WANT THAT CANDY. So I took it. That's how IMMATURE FIVE-YEAR-OLDS THINK.

As a forty-year-old (and as a twenty-year-old and the thirty-year-old, for that matter) I'm a little more mature. If I see something I want, say--an iPad, I think: I WANT THAT IPAD and then I look in my bank account and realize people like me can't afford iPads. And I'm okay with that. What I'm not okay with is the reason I can't afford that iPad (Or, more accurately, my daughters' college tuition, or maybe even dinner or rent in another month or two) is because a bunch of entitled spoiled little cowards have stolen my book rather than bought it. I guarantee you that the people who steal from me would be really pissed off if someone did the same thing to them. And they would also be Appalled! Outraged! Insulted! if someone degraded and shrugged off the hard work they do in a day. And they're probably complaining right now about how awful this economy is. Ah, irony.

Anyway. When I clicked the abuse button at the site where I found the file and reported these 8 illegal copies, this is the form letter I got back from the "file sharing" site. (Formerly known as a "safe house.")

Sorry for inconveniences you have encountered! 
We have deactivated the links to the illegal files mentioned in your e-mails.

Please note that we do not upload anything to our site.
All file uploading is performed by [deleted] registered users. 
In the interest of full disclosure, my reply to this was:
I thank you for your cooperation! I hope you removed all 8 files. I've linked them all below in case you need to double check.

I appreciate that you don't upload that material yourself.
However, your site exists so thieves can share the things they steal and then proudly tweet about it.
In law, people who safely house criminals are also prosecuted. Shame you can't see yourself in the same light and police OBVIOUSLY copyrighted material to prove that your heart is in the right place. As of today, sites like yours have encouraged that my daughter's first semester at college be stolen from her.

I don't call that an inconvenience. I call it illegal.
So here's my dare.
Pirate-lover to pirate-lover:

Anyone reading this who has ever downloaded a book for free, and is now making all those lame excuses I always hear:
  • "I can't get a copy in my local bookstore!" (Order it. Get it from a library. Buy the ebook version.)
  • "I'm too poor!" (Try being that poor and raising two kids--welcome to my life. Deal with it and don't want shit you can't afford. Duh.) 
  • Or my favorite, "I'm just like a library!" (Uh--no you're not. You're a five-year-old . Last time I checked, most librarians required an MLS and a modicum of integrity.)
You (#1) video yourself stealing my book from a bookstore and send me the video or link me to it if it's on a video sharing site, give me the (#2) name of the store and (#3) location of the store, and I'll send you a small, book-related prize for actually having guts. No prize if I don't get all three things. If you're finally going to grow up and have some mettle, I want full disclosure and real-live gonads here. (And I know what those look like because if I didn't own a pair myself, my books wouldn't be out there for you to steal from me.)

This dare has no deadline or cutoff date. I will happily accept entries until the end of time.

A Special Note to Parents: If your children are planning on taking me up on this dare, don't blame me for their stupidity. You should have taken them to the manager of the grocery store like my father did to me. And if you're too late for that, and this is your first realization that those free books and movies and songs they download are no different than them stuffing DVD cases down their pants in the local Target, then why not use this as an opportunity to teach them? There may be no physical manager to make them apologize to, but you can always erase the illegal files off their drives (in my house, I'd take the computer, wipe it clean and donate it) and make them apologize to every author they stole from. We all have accessible email addresses. Hell, if you want, just have them send the apologies to me and I'll make sure they get to the authors who need to see them.

And parents: if you're shrugging thinking, "it's no big deal." then look at thisAnd look at this.  Or this. And if you're really that happy to be that dumb about this stuff, then here's a basic education about how if your under-18 kid has illegal files on his/her computer, it could be YOUR ASS and YOUR WALLET that pays.

Have some freaking respect people. For my kids. For my hard work. And for yourself.

*climbs off soapbox* *bows to appreciative audience*

If you are actually considering this dare, PLEASE See FOLLOW-UP Post HERE.

Adding MONTHS later: If you want to see the positive impact posts like this can make, go here.

*thanks Lesley Livingston for making me look, even though I didn't want to look.*
(We really shouldn't have to spend every Saturday morning doing this, Lesley. You're dead right about that)



Kate E. said...

Well said Amy!

Ellz said...

GReat post. The digital advances in books and music have many advantages, unfortunately, this is one of the downfalls.

Amy Sue Nathan said...

I had no clue this was such an issue. I'm on the bandwagon now.

Lenore Appelhans said...

I wish I could buy 800 copies of your book to counteract the damage done by those thieves...

Sara J. Henry said...

I haven't bought 800, but I've probably bought eight!

Perhaps a better solution for parents: Make your kids buy, with their own money, a copy of every book or song or movie illegally downloaded. If they don't have the cash, I'm sure you can come up with a long list of chores to earn the money.

Unknown said...

Well, that's just f'n dismal. I like to imagine that reading people have accumulated a speck of integrity.

Lesley Livingston said...

You're welcome. Even though I wish with all my heart that there would have been nothing there for you to find.

It is a scary epidemic. Not to mention damn annoying.

Jess Tudor said...

Sara, I love your idea.

This makes my heart sick. :(

Aaron's Books in Lititz said...

and we'll up the ante here... Amy you give us the name of any indie bookstore that is stolen from in a video and we'll replace the stolen copy for them, autographed by you of course. No author or indie should suffer fools like that!

Monica Corwin said...

I am so sorry hon. As I said to Ms. Livingston last night. I wish there was more that us (the people who don't steal your books) could do to help.

Here is an anit-piracy button I have on my blog...take it and put it on yours:

came from:

(This last bit is for everyone)

Anonymous said...

Wow! I completely agree with you and it's really quite sad how many people get away with this. I'm pissed off just reading it. I'm so sorry for these jerks that are doing this to you.

Swati said...

I LOVE this!!! I want to replicate your dare, but am too afraid I'd be stealing your idea :-) Thank you, thank you, thank you.

A.S. King said...

Appreciate the support, guys, but let's put this in perspective. I'm small potatoes. The numbers for me are a semester of college at a small state school in PA. Those big-name authors? They get robbed SO BADLY it's appalling. All of us have this going on. And often we hear these thieves say, "But we're dedicated readers who love you!!" Dude. If you love me, you don't steal from me. I think the thing that got me today was the visual of some spoiled kid in his dorm room stealing from me and taking my kids' college money from them. Just so classically self-centered and cowardly, it's hard to face.
But this is a problem for ALL authors.

Someone should be out there fighting for federal copyright laws, but it just takes SO MUCH TIME. *shrug* So I appeal to parents.

A.S. King said...



And thanks!

Swati said...

It is small potatoes for me, too, in terms of dollars. But it affects sales, whether I get another contract and how much my publisher thinks my books are worth.

Swati said...

OMG, OMG, OMG! Thank you. Means so much coming from an author I respect.

A.S. King said...

You make a great point.

If I estimate 1000-1500 books stolen by these dastardly lazy crooks, then anyone in the book business knows that's a lot of books that don't show up in the "numbers."

And maybe because we are small potatoes this piracy might mean we don't sell our next books.

I wasn't in the US during the large news stories about copyright and piracy regarding the music industry, so I feel a little out of the loop, but I sure wish something could be done about this. There *are* laws. But I'm not sure who's supposed to enforce them.

(I do have a nice party trick for school assemblies I welcome all authors to share: Tell the student body that when the assembly is over, the police will search their computers and if there's even one illegal download on there, they will be arrested. It's always good for a laugh, anyway.)

Jacqueline Carney said...

Wouldn't you think that, with all the internet and computer geeks out there, there'd be one who could find a way to make pirating books and music a lot more difficult? Or is it the legislators that need to be prodded since it seems to be the mindset of the world these days that life is free-for-all. Hmmm, corporate America, have we heard that one before?

AnnMaria said...

Just for those people saying "Everyone is doing it" -
I buy probably a dozen books a month between books for my ereader, kindle. iPad and at book stores. I pay for all of them. I get paid for my work and I think authors should also. If I want to read a book but maybe not enough to pay for it or I already bought so many books this week it feels decadent to buy an more, I have library cards for the Santa Monica and Los Angeles Public libraries who (guess what) bought the books for me. How nice!

Unknown said...

Alas, this happened to my partner too!

A.S. King said...

Gershen--yeah. It happens to all of us. Scribd is just another safe house.
Thanks for the link!

EJ said...

You Rock, Lady.

Naseem Rakha said...

Bravo, Amy. You said what needs to be said in exactly the way it should be said. People who download "free" books are thieves. They may not consider themselves so, but they are. It is very plain and very, very simple. Buy what you want to read, or borrow it from a friend or library. End of story.

Cate Gardner said...

Go you.

A.S. King said...

Ack David!
There must be a glitch with Blogger because not only has your comment not posted yet, but the long reply I just wrote disappeared.
So I'll go shorter this time.

Dilute it all you want. I do not disagree with any of your points. In fact, I agree with most of them. Sorry if you were looking for an argument. :(

I didn't overlook the points you make. I just tend to want to talk straight when I talk. I don't like to wander in the land of bullshit and devil's advocate for all that long. It's tedious. I have kids to feed. Work to do. Life to live.

This blog is a dare.
It compared stealing to stealing.
I hear it did it rather good job of that.

And I doubt highly that the security guy at Walmart will be okay with any of these excuses:
"But sir! I was just stealing it to sample it! I swear...I'm going to come back and buy another copy if I like it!"
"But sir! I plan on buying her next book if I like this one!"
"But sir! I was stealing it to help the author so I can tell my friends how much her book rocks!"

See, it is black and white when we take it away from this diluted internet argument and go back to the intended point. Stealing is stealing. In the old days, it took balls. And if you got caught, none of the usual excuses, including yours, will work on a real-live judge.

That was my point.

As for my math, you overlooked that 800 was just from that one site I found yesterday. (You also overlook that I have, in my past life, fed my family on less than that in an entire year, so in my case, it all depends on what's for dinner.) I say there have been over three times that many copies downloaded. And again--I agree with the fact that maybe none of those readers--not one!--might have ever bought my book or read it.

I'd be fine with that.
I've lived and written for nearly 20 years in obscurity. I'm not here to be a huge name. I'm here to write good books and lead a good life and raise my children well.

Sorry, but until your version makes more logical sense, I will teach my kids the black and white version of stealing. Stealing is bad. There are no good reasons to do it. If you do it, you can get caught and might get in really big trouble.

I dig where you're coming from and I've heard variations of the "stealing can be great for you" argument before. I just don't buy it.

Are you David A. Redding, by any chance?

Orlando said...

I'm with you 100%, I know the pain and feeling of being violated by a thoughtless individual who thinks its okay to steal from you. Someone needs to come up with a way to stop this kind of abuse.

The funny thing about it is if someone took away their computers they would be furious but its okay to take away your books?

It shouldn't be that difficult. If someone can come up with a way to protect your credit online, they should be able to come up with a way to protect your valuables online, such as books, movies and music. Just a thought.

Sarah Duncan said...

Well said. I am fed up with the pathetic arguments put forward by people who want to read my books for free. Especially as in my personal experience they are usually earning more than me or being supported by my taxes.

The other one I've heard is that it's up to me (oh and the rest of publishing) to develop a new business model. I don't think many business models include persistent theft as part of their sales drive.

If I want to develop my readership then I might choose to give away some of my material as a free download - I've written stories for magazines and anthologies for no pay in exchange for publicity - but that's MY choice to give away my hard work. I don't need someone else to decide that it's a good idea.

And as you point out, not wanting people to steal your work is not the same as being against the internet or legitimate downloads such as e-books.

So hooray for a great post, and may you sell shedloads of books.

Geoff said...

Simple solution: create a few hundred e-copies of your book, and after the first few pages scramble all the text. Learn a little bit of perl and you can automate it too. Then upload the few hundred copies to the torrent sites. Bingo, the odds of somebody being able to download the "real" copy are now one in a few hundred. In fact, an automated script to do this sounds like a good little project, I'll drop you a line if I get anything cobbled together. (For bonus points we need to make the md5 hash match the original, which is do-able if time consuming...)

La Coccinelle said...

Awesome post. I do wonder if anyone will have the guts to take you up on the dare, though...

Cat Connor said...

I have had conversations with people about copyright until I'm blue in the face - and yep, I too have heard every freaking excuse there is.

Recently I heard someone say, "We wouldn't download NZ movies or books."
I replied, "Steal, you steal them."
"No they're free, the sites say they are free."
"Who owns the copyright?"
"Someone's filmed the movies in a theater, there is none."
After attempting to explain the stupidity of the person who thought that meant it was FREE...I lost the plot ended up swearing like a sailor and leaving.

Fucktards the lot of them!

You rock Amy!

BJ said...

Although I'm not published yet, this really bothers me.

What bothers me more is the direction some people are taking this: that all information/writing etc. should be FREE, that no one should have to pay for it anymore. There are those trying to get that made into law in various countries in the world.

If that happens, I have to wonder just how many people will continue putting quality stuff out there. We're supposed to do it for the love? If that's so, then why do I bother sharing it? I can do it for the love and just keep it in a desk drawer to read when I want to.

Sorry. This whole idea just twigs a nerve.

And it's not only digitized versions being stolen. As you mentioned, they scan actual books and post those. Hard to put something like DRM on a real-life book.

Thanks for this post. I'm going to retweet it. People who think that piracy is okay need to be slapped in jail. Or slapped out of jail. But slapped, anyway, and not just on the wrist.

Geoff said...

"And it's not only digitized versions being stolen. As you mentioned, they scan actual books and post those. Hard to put something like DRM on a real-life book."

Which is why DRM is a bad idea. It stops you using a book you've legitimately bought in a perfectly legal manner. So if you want to use it on, say, a linux system, a pirate copy works better than a legit one. I'm not condoning it, just saying DRM is self-defeating.

Amusing aside: when an encryption tool called PGP was originally released it was banned from export from the US because it was "military strength" and classed as a weapon. So the author produced a good old fashioned book that was designed to be scanned - loose pages and an easily recognisable font for a computer. Books can't be banned from export under US free speech laws, so people could buy it, scan the source code and build the program.

Anonymous said...

people are such selfish little pigs. this modern day and age nobody wants to own up to what they do. "but... but..." is their excuse as a child, and nobody ever tells them different, so they 'grow up' (ha..) and say the same thing as an adult.

i wish i could personally slap every single person who ever stole! it makes me physically angry and my blood boil. they have no right to just rip opportunities away from you and your family!

A.S. King said...

Thank for all these comments!

It's a little weird that we're communicating but your posts aren't actually showing up here. I can only hope that they'll show up at some point if you mean for them to. (And if you want, I can always post them for you so others can join into this conversation. I have both posts in email.)

But your "copying isn't stealing" argument is an old one. *shrug* We'll never agree on that. When I loan my books, I expect my friends to give them back to me. I have good friends. They usually do! And no--I don't loan my books to strangers.

And you're right--I'm most annoyed (and I think that's pretty clear from my post) that file sharing sites like these exist, because we all know they are used mostly for this sharing of stolen goods.

Comparing stealing a digital book to a real book is not all that "out there" when you look at who makes the money off the book. It's my "job" and I think I deserve pay for my job. And when someone steals a book from me, I get no royalty.

I'm not sure how much you know about publishing. I was originally a photographer, so I totally understand your example of a photograph for personal use vs. a photograph for commercial use. I get that. But photography isn't usually paid on a royalty rate, is it? From what I remember, even stock images were a paid-for-use setup, yes? At least the ones I sold were.

But I agree 100% with this: "This is just one of the pitfalls of being a creator working in a medium that can be digitized."

I agree. And I'm not fighting anyone. I just wrote one little blog because I was thinking about it yesterday morning--funnily enough on Labor Day weekend.

The rest we'll just have to agree to disagree. Obviously I wrote this post to make a very clear and simple comparison between stealing digital material and stealing real material. See, to me, as the person who made that material I should make a royalty off that product no matter what the medium. It is the only way I make money doing what I do. So when you steal a book, no matter the medium, I lose money.
I don't care if you don't read it.
I don't care if you are calling it a "sample."
I don't care if you think that copying isn't stealing.
I certainly don't even get what I call 'the glutton argument' about people who download it not because they want it, but because they want to download it out of some weird need to download things they don't want. (i.e. you can't say you're losing money because who knows if they would have bought it?) That's "out there."
My wallet feels all that thievery, no matter how much you want to dilute the argument...which certainly is a convenient argument to enable more stealing.


Whoa! That is crazy!

People can request books from the library for them to buy, join book swap groups, etc. My sisters book club is made up of housewives who all don't have a lot of money. They share the books they buy.

It costs me 50p to request a book from the library and then I'm 1st on the list to enjoy it. My library has bought every single book I've ever requested. I then in turn donate books every 2 months (about 20+) that I receive free for review, or books I bought to the library to help cover the costs they spent in buying the book I wanted. It is a win win for the community.

Beth F said...

Clap, clap, clap .... theft is theft no matter the medium.

Liz B said...

"but I want it so I should have it! and writers just want people to read their books, right! I'm a HUGE fan and you should be so happy and thankful that I like your books! I cannot believe you're in it for the money."

sigh. excellent post, but I doubt the "I'm entitled, so what" mentality will easily go away.

Mrs. Q: Book Addict said...

I didn't realize this was such an issue, but I completely support the authors. It's appalling to be stealing someone's work. I agree, Theft is Theft!

C. K. Kelly Martin said...

Over the past year or so I've become increasingly frustrated and angry about this issue. Such a culture of entitlement has developed around digital works that so many people think nothing of downloading movies, books and music for free. Eventually, if this isn't thwarted, there'll be many less movies, books and music created. Most people, no matter how much they love the art they work at, can't afford to do it for free.

Thanks for shining a spotlight on the problem Amy.

A.S. King said...

Liz--are you quoting that from somewhere (did I miss that comment?) or is that your version of the mentality we're up against? :)

Seriously. My annual income is so low I probably qualify for government programs. And anyone who knows my publication story knows I'm not in it for the money. So far, any argument I hear is simply another person trying to reason themselves into more stealing. :)

But to make this clearer for those who:
Didn't really get this post and think I am actually daring people to steal books.
Don't really get how this affects writers' wallets because they don't know much about publishing...

Here's an analogy I just thought up to a "normal" job:
Let's say your weekly gross pay is $300. All those payroll taxes come out of that. You say, "Cool. I know where that money is going." It hurts to look at it at first (my teenage friend has recently seen a chunk of her summer paychecks get eaten by taxes--remember that feeling?) Then maybe you've got a job that offers benefits (lucky you!) and you have to pay into them. So there's some more money subtracted. You say, "Cool. I know where that money is going."

Now--imagine that in a year, anywhere from $2000 to $20,000 just disappeared from your paycheck. And the only explanation for it was: Someone took this because they wanted it.

How would that feel?

Imagine they bragged about this on Facebook. "Hey! I got some of this person's paycheck! Look!" Imagine they publicly posted the method with which they stole that money on the internet and each person who used it after them posted "Thanks! That was easy!" underneath those instructions. And you couldn't do a damn thing about it even though this is obviously wrong. And imagine people who promoted this sort of theft came out of the woodwork saying, "Oh come on! This was money you were never going to see anyway, so why even count on it as being earned money?" and other bizarro nonsensical arguments like that.

Oh. And imagine the future of your job rested on how much other people used those online instructions, no matter how hard you'd been working.

Does that help?

April (BooksandWine) said...

I do agree that pirating books is terrible, however I have downloaded books in public domain, such as Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. Books which are perfectly legal to download. I see a world of different between pirating books in which copyrights are still held and legally downloading books where the copyright has run out from a site like Project Gutenberg. So, I am sort of wondering why you don't like public domain, as mentioned in the first paragraph? I mean, I do agree with this entire rant and purchase upwards of $1000 worth of books per year (probs spent 500 alone on books over the summer) and have never pirated a book. So please don't think I am asking from a pirate perspective, I am merely asking from the perspective of someone who supports public domain for the classics.

A.S. King said...

I'll tell you why I said "I'm not all that happy about" public domain, April. It's because it makes me very aware that I don't know how long my own rights to my own work will last.

If you know anything about authors like me, you know we don't make a ton of dough. So, when I serve my kids soup for dinner now and then, I daydream of a day that my royalties might help them (or their kids) serve their kids more than soup for dinner...long after I'm dead.

I know--a strange daydream. But it's true, no matter how crazy it may make me seem. I do this for my kids.
So, when it comes to public domain, it's one of those things I haven't really made my mind up about. Which is why I worded it the way I did. ("not all that happy about" vs. "I dislike" or "I'm against") I think the reason it makes me uncomfortable is that I occasionally see articles about long-dead authors' families fighting to get their royalty rights back. I guess I can't figure out why they ever lost those rights. I do not want my descendants to lose their rights, either.

Does that make sense?

A.S. King said...

Oh. April. I just saw your tweets and see you really got riled up about that thinking I was "complaining" about public domain.

I really wasn't. I know to word my posts carefully and I tend to read carefully, too. I see that you think public domain is a huge plus for our cultural heritage.

I need to understand that better. I mean, I just bought three classics at a bookstore. They cost me money and I will FINALLY read Wuthering Heights. (I know. I know. I should have read it a long time ago!) So, I am aware that I could have downloaded that book for free.

What I can't understand is how my purchase isn't preserving cultural heritage and the free download is?

Or am I looking at it all wrong?

April (BooksandWine) said...

I think that your purchase does help to preserve cultural heritage. Although, I think with classics the difference between what is in the store and Project Gutenberg is the foreward, and also translation. Like, I would totally buy a good Dumas translation.
However, I do think PD is advantageous. I mean, without PD would we have the wonderful musical Wicked? Would we have that new Jane Eyre retelling, Jane by April Lindner? I think PD is great because of these new, creative takes.

I won't lie, I am a terrible, terrible debater. I think this website says it better than me:

I do realize that authors do not make a lot of money, hence why I purchase new as much as I financially can. I mean, I want authors to keep creating. However, when they can inspire a great new take on an old tale because of PD, I consider that a great thing. I mean, I like that Robin McKinley can retell the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty in Spindle's End because of PD. I like that the retellings in the Once Upon A Time series exist. I like that there is a place for tales such as Wide Sargasso Sea.

As said, I really suck at this whole debate thing. However, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question.

A.S. King said...


Believe me. I'm sitting here with a toddler crawling up one leg and a list of things to do a mile long! I do not like debates and I didn't want to get into one.
I was kinda surprised at how harsh your tweets were about that comment I made because I watched my wording and your version didn't quite match, but hey, I guess I hit some sort of nerve and that's fine with me.

I totally get now where you are coming from. Having heard Gregory McGuire speak last year, and being a good friend of more than one author who has reanimated characters from the PD, I totally get you now.

This is why I asked! I'm not a finger pointer by nature. Rather, I'd like to know where the other side is coming from. That's all.

Thanks for answering!

A.S. King said...


Believe me. I'm sitting here with a toddler crawling up one leg and a list of things to do a mile long! I do not like debates and I didn't want to get into one.
I was kinda surprised at how harsh your tweets were about that comment I made because I watched my wording and your version didn't quite match, but hey, I guess I hit some sort of nerve and that's fine with me.

I totally get now where you are coming from. Having heard Gregory Maguire speak last year, and being a good friend of more than one author who has reanimated characters from the PD, I totally get you now.

This is why I asked! I'm not a finger pointer by nature. Rather, I'd like to know where the other side is coming from. That's all.

Thanks for answering!

Sarah Duncan said...

Material is either in public domain or it isn't - the download aspect is irrelevant. Wicked wasn't written because of the availability of downloads.

Writers have always used characters from other novels, eg Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, written long before computers were even thought of.

Amy is talking about illegal downloading of work still in copyright. AKA theft.

A.S. King said...


Thanks for clearing that up. I knew that PD existed before illegal downloading did, but I'd be lying if I said I understood that part of law. We can't all know everything can we? Which is why I focused this post on what I do know. Thank you for bringing it back on subject.
Stealing is stealing.

But STOP!!! You're Rodney's girlfriend from Only Fools and Horses! Mr. King is going to freak out when I tell him that. He loved that show. When he's being especially cheap or scheming, I call him Del Boy.

Sarah Duncan said...

A-ha! You have discovered my little secret! Of course Del Boy would be out shamelessly downloading everything he could, if only he could work the computer...

No need to apologise for not knowing the full ramifications of copyright, there are plenty of lawyers out there in full time work dealing with the small print. You just need to know we all - writers and readers alike - need to defend it, which you're doing really well - many thanks.

Anonymous said...

I've got a question!

how do you make money if gotten from the library. Yes, you make for that ONE book brought by the library but when tons of people borrow it after wards you don't so then what? How does that help pay for your expenses? It doesn't. Please make me understand.

A.S. King said...


I love libraries. I do a lot of free events for them and I serve on the board of my local one as a trustee.

I'm confused by your question. Are you asking if illegal downloading is like a library? It is not. Libraries buy copies and circulate them and they are legally allowed to do this, and in some cases, libraries stock additional contracted books set out in the publisher's contract. In the UK, each library loan earns the author a royalty, too. Isn't that cool?
I'm not really sure you're actually asking me something here. But if you're trying to say that illegal piracy, which brings high fines if prosecuted and an established library system, which is not in any way illegal are the same thing, you're incorrect.

As for how it pays my expenses--I'm lost. What does that have to do with anything? I love when readers find my books at libraries. I donate many books *to* libraries so my readers can read them. Do you think this is all about money?

Katie Alender said...

Late to the party... this issue makes me physically ill. I've seen download numbers for my book in the 10s of thousands. I like to tell myself this is because people think they're downloading a tv show with a similar name.

The biggest problem is that to address piracy is to spotlight it and educate a whole new generation of pirates that there is such a thing out there.

It really, really, hurts my soul if I think about it too hard.

S. A. Soule, Creativity Coach said...

The same thing happened to me, so I feel your pain! UGH!

I'd double-check every few months that it hasn't been re-downloaded.

Anonymous said...

First let me say that I get all of my books either from Amazon or the library, so I'm not at all trying to defend pirates. I'm just curious because I was wondering the same thing that Anonymous was, and your answer didn't really explain it - From a financial standpoint, how are you better off if someone checks it out from the library versus getting it off the Internet?

I didn't know that you still got royalties in the UK when people checked out your books. That's awesome. But is it like that in the US, too? If so, that's great, and that answers my question. I've always assumed, though, that you only got paid for the books that the library bought to use. If that's the case, then you wouldn't get any more money from a library rental than you would a pirated copy. So...I don't really understand.

Again, please don't think that I'm trying to encourage people to download books illegally. I'm not. If I get a book from the library and love it, I'll usually end up buying a copy for myself to keep, because I love books and authors and hope to be one some day.

I just really don't understand the library thing, and I really want to.

A.S. King said...


The answer to this is pretty simple.
When library buys a book, an author gets paid.
It is a legal transaction.

When someone downloads a book for free from a pirate site, they are stealing. It is not a legal transaction. And obviously, the author doesn't get paid.

From a financial standpoint, authors benefit from the legal borrowing of our books from libraries. How? Increased circulation in an area will require more books for the collection. Libraries support actual authors with: library events, book clubs, workshops, skype visits. This isn't really about money. It's about community and doing the right thing.

I haven't seen this blog or this comment thread in years, so I'm not sure where the idea bubbled up that authors get paid "more" for library support. I don't think getting paid "more" is the issue, though.

If you're asking why a pirate site isn't equal to a library, I'm not sure why this is a question. The two are entirely different things. As a library patron and trustee, I am very aware of what libraries do for communities and how they serve a community. Comparing them to a site where poorly scanned copies of stolen copyrighted material exist to be stolen by other people is kinda foreign to me.

I'm glad you don't encourage pirating books. I'm REALLY glad you use your local library. That makes me really happy.

I support libraries. I don't support people who steal. I'm sorry, but that's just how I roll.

Hope this answered your question.