Not the “Yo Ho! Yo Ho! A Pirate’s Life For Me!” pirates… media pirates.
Yeah, yeah, I know…it’s old hat. The Feds are cracking down on media pirates by upping laws and penalties for those caught. I KNOW. But that doesn’t stop anybody with free time and access to the internet from doing it. It’s fairly easy to find anything you want on the internet.
I know, I’ve looked.
I don’t have a lot of money. I’m your quintessential starving artist trying to make my way in the world. I need to be able to find things on the cheap or for free. I need to save my pennies to pay my mortgage and buy groceries to feed my family. And it’s just one book/movie/album. It’s not going to hurt anything. Me downloading that one thing isn’t going to break the entertainment industry. It’s only illegal if I get caught, right? And then I can just offer to pay for it and that’ll be that, right?
It’s illegal regardless of whether you get caught or not. If you aren’t paying for someone else’s intellectual property, you’re stealing it. You might be keeping money in your pocket, but by doing so, you’re taking it out of someone else’s pocket. And honestly, no, you aren’t really hurting the people who own the media. You want to know who you’re hurting? Take a look:
This is Alice. Isn’t she adorable? She’s a precocious toddler with an affinity for computer keyboards and Cheez-It crackers. She’s also the face of a piracy victim. My little girl and thousands of other little ones have no idea they’re being victimized. Don’t understand what I mean? Keep reading.
Let’s use my most recent release as an example: Lost in the Shadows. The eBook is $5.99. This is an 80,000+ word book, co-authored with one of my best friends in the world. We’ve poured our time and energy into this book – blood, sweat, and tears as they say. For the effort we’ve expended, $5,99 is a small price to pay.
Every copy sold yields about $4.00 in profit, split two ways. I make about $2.00 per copy.
IN A PERFECT WORLD: If 100 people buy a copy of Lost this month, that yields $200 in profit. That’s how much it costs for me to buy groceries for a month.
IN THE REAL WORLD: If 100 people acquire a copy of Lost this month, and only 40 of them pay for their copies, that only yields $100 in profit. That means I have to cut corners and buy either less food, or choose food that’s heavily processed and not good for my family.
Books downloaded illegally cost me money. I can’t feed my daughter properly when people are stealing my work.
Here’s the dirty little secret:
Most independent artists (authors, musicians, filmmakers), might be willing to share their work with you free of charge if you just contact them and ask. You know what sorts of things we accept in return? Reviews. Facebook likes. Twitter follows. Blogging about us and our work. Even though we aren’t receiving royalties for these things, we are receiving exposure. And we’re better able to control where our work goes.
Just this morning one of my friends stumbled upon a forum where someone was asking for one of her books by title and name for free along with a comment to the effect of “I’ve been looking everywhere for it!” Obviously this person didn’t look hard enough, because Amazon has the book for sale, and it’s cheap, too. She has worked very hard to gain her following and set herself up as a professional artist. So that person receiving a pirated copy of her work means that (1) someone else has it and shared it without permission, and (2) another person is receiving it, free of charge. What’s more, that first person (or whoever s/he got it from) took the time to hack and remove the DRM so as to share it easily. So instead of losing one set of royalties, she has now lost two sets. And if her royalties are anything like mine, she just lost the equivalent of two lunches for one of her children.
I’m doing my part to be an honest, upstanding citizen of this world. I’d like to think that I can have faith in others as well, to think that if they really want to take part in the gloriousness that is my work, that they’d be willing to buy my books, or at least ask me for copies. I promise I don’t bite. I’m really a nice person.
Except when you steal my stuff.
So my point… the next time you think about downloading something that you haven’t paid for, remember the sweet face in the picture up there. One day, if you decide to write a book or record an album, the face on the receiving end of the piracy may very well be one of yours.