Monday, January 31, 2011

Reading, 'Riting and Ripping 'Em Off

I read a discussion of online piracy a while back that noted that merely saying to someone that DRM (digital rights management) doesn't stop piracy isn't actually a persuasive argument.

Why? Because the people trying to stop online piracy would like to know what will work. Until you've got a better suggestion than DRM, they're not going to dismantle what little protection they've got.

Then, while I was still thinking about what can be done to stop piracy, I read the following eye-popping article by Tobias Buckell:

His take on fighting piracy is definitely the approach most likely to maintain your sanity. He essentially says just don't worry about it.

The article is really worth reading, but here's a summary of Mr. Buckell's main points:
  1. It isn't fair to say a pirated book is a lost sale because the people who pirate your book never intended to buy it. They were never going to be your customer, therefore you haven't lost any money.

    If you made it impossible for them to steal your book, they would not choose to purchase it instead. For whatever reason, they don't believe your book is worth the money.

  2. Yes, you're angry that someone read your book and refused to pay for it. However, when it comes to business decisions, it's better to get your emotions out of the equation and consider whether you are actually being done financial harm.

  3. The best data on whether piracy harms authors currently implies that piracy neither hurts nor helps sales.

    Thus, the people claiming their sale numbers are being gutted by piracy are wrong, and the people claiming that giving away work for free is the key to boosting one's sales are also wrong.

    Book piracy plays a role similar to second-hand book sales. The author gets another reader, but no extra money. If you can stomach the existence of second-hand book stores, you should be able to stomach piracy.
The central point here is that the vast majority of people who want your book are willing buy it legally. Thus, wisdom dictates you worry about the things you can actually control.

You cannot control piracy.

You can, however, write such great books that you turn a few pirates into fans and thereby convince them they should maybe shell out for your next novel.

In other words: don't worry, be happy.


What do you think of both Mr. Buckell's article and this mindset? Of course theft is wrong--but is it worth worrying about when you're not being financially harmed?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

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