December 4th, 2009


Let Us Talk About Piracy

Sadly, I am not talking about movie pirates of the Errol-Flynn-Johnny-Depp-you-can-buckle-my-swash-any-day-if-you-know-what-I'm-saying variety, or historical pirates of the Grainne the Irish queen of the seas type, otherwise known for bonding with Queen Elizabeth and delivering the immortal break-up line: 'Honey, back from the war already? So many things have happened since you were away! Like, I divorced you. And, this is my castle now!' Nor am I talking about mermaids who take to a life of crime, swimming the high seas delivering the ultimatum 'Your money or your lives!'

Today Ally Carter the Wise was on twitter talking about internet piracy, and it reminded me of Ally's Post About Internet Piracy, which is one of the best posts she or anyone else has ever made. It explains what book piracy is, and why it is a Terrible Idea. And it offers the fact there is an obvious alternative - Merpirates of the World, go to your merlibrary!

There are other alternatives: there are perfectly legal ebooks one can buy. When travelling, I have got into ebooks myself, though I still love the paper kind best. And there's borrowing books from friends. Libraries will take note of books taken out, and buy the next one. Ebooks mean sales for the author just like real books. Borrowing books from friends is awesome, because it gives you a chance to talk about books with your friends, which makes everyone like books better, and because the friend's reaction will be to buy the author's other books. I love loaning people books: I have been known to force them on people. I matchmake people with books. I only have space on my shelves for all my books because I keep them in circulation. I loaned my flatmate the Durham Lass some Kelley Armstrong books, and now she buys every Kelley Armstrong book the day it comes out. I loaned Cassandra Clare's City of Bones to a friend this week and the next day she called me in the bookshop asking for the title of the sequel.

With illegal downloads, zillions of people can do it, not just the few people even I can loan books to. And if someone reads an illegal download, instead of thinking 'Gosh. Sarah will want this back. I will buy a copy. Or, I will buy the sequel, because I want it right now!' They think, 'Gosh. I sure will illegally download the next one.' Meanwhile the author starves to death. Readers are sad and puzzled that there is never a next one.

I like stuff being on the internet for free. I think fanfiction is generally awesome. I love the side stories to Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers series she writes in chloe_saunders. I write free companion stories to my books myself here. What is the difference between those things and illegal copies of one's book on the internet?

It is the difference between giving someone a present and having someone break your window and steal your TV.

It is absolutely horrible for anyone's book to get stolen. No matter whether they are J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer: one still shouldn't do it. The fact that half of Stephenie Meyer's fifth book got stolen and put on the internet unedited gives me horrors and chills, and nobody in the whole world could blame her for not being able to write the rest.

For a debut writer, the whole thing is very traumatic because a) it is one's very first time and it is a terrible shock, b) you are in a fragile state of mental health anyway and c) with a first book your career is in its most shaky state possible since you are a total unknown and bad sales can kill said career dead in the water, like a innocent murdered mermaid.

And so a personal tale. Before my book was ever published, someone got hold of an Advance Reader's Copy and made it available for download on the internet. That sucked. I got it taken down.

It kept happening. Way more than was normal for a debut book, because I'd had a blog on the internet for years, and some people had decided they didn't like me, or wanted me punished for something or other, or just knew who I was and decided they would like to read the book - for free, please. There was a group of people who kept putting it up, with the avowed intention of ruining my career.

This not liking me/wishing to punish me for, uh, no crimes that I can remember committing was also the cause for my email getting hacked into and all my emails deleted, and my blog getting deleted, a few days before my book was published.

This is obviously terrible behaviour. Not liking me is quite fair. I am not the World's Most Perfect Person. But when you do not like someone because they, say, ran over your puppy by accident, the proper thing to do is sue them for irresponsible driving. It is not to punch them in the face and steal their purse.

Book piracy in a widespread sense is like that. Doesn't matter if you don't like the author: it is not okay to steal someone's purse because they're being a jerk. Doesn't matter if you'd really like to read the book: it is not okay to steal someone's purse even if it's a really nice purse.

Obviously people who download my book illegally in order to upset me are not going to be stopped by the news I am upset. In fact, they are more likely to look at their day's To-Do List, smile and write a big tick next to No. 1, Upset Sarah, and proceed on to No. 2, Do The Laundry.

This post is written for those who didn't think about it much, or thought it was okay, well, because... I've seen people write recommendations for books, and put up illegal download links. I've seen people saying they really wanted to read a book, and someone else saying 'Oh, it's great!' and passing along an illegal e-copy. Do think: think about the author crying enough tears to provide housing for a gang of merpirates (I did) and about, you know, the way illegal downloads is no way to get new books in the long run.

It is not okay. Not even for mermaids! Not ever.