Posts Tagged ‘Piracy’

Librarians: Pirates of the Public Sector

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Scott Turow is WRONG Again

Turow is the president of the Author’s Guild and, well. I’m not renewing my membership this year. For the last couple of years, Turow has not espoused one single policy or opinion in his role as president of the AG that is in any way beneficial to my writing career. In fact, if I were to adhere to his vision of a writing career, I would still be making nothing from my backlist and very little from my frontlist. I would not own a house, either. I’d have accepted a print contract with numbers that don’t come close to maximizing my writing income.

His latest is The Slow Death of the American Author that’s a marvel of self-serving misstatements of fact. In re the Wiley decision that established the right of a consumer to resell foreign-purchased books in the US: “Not only does this ruling open the gates to a surge in cheap imports, but since they will be sold in a secondary market, authors won’t get royalties.” Turow conveniently forgets to mention that in that situation the author has already been paid … for the foreign sale.

Librarians: Pirates of the Public Sector

Turow goes on to say “It seems almost every player — publishers, search engines, libraries, pirates and even some scholars — is vying for position at authors’ expense.”

Turow is actually placing libraries in the same bucket with pirates. More on pirates in a minute. OMG! Libraries are stealing from the mouths of starving authors!

Too bad it’s been amply demonstrated that libraries drive sales of books. But please, don’t let facts get in the way!

Digital Book World, my favorite publisher shill (tip o’ the hat to Courtney Milan for use of the word shill in a similar context), just today interviewed Mike Serbinis, CEO of Kobo Books, who had this to say about piracy:

Our publishers have the option to make any and all of their books DRM-free, but most of them don’t. Most of them choose to apply DRM. We have a global purview on where that matters and where that doesn’t. The way DRM exists today, it doesn’t get in my way. But, regardless, the behavior around ebooks, I’ve found with respect to DRM and piracy, has largely to do with price and convenience. Where ebooks are very expensive and through a combination of factors it’s inconvenient, piracy is crazy. Where it is convenient and prices are low, there’s almost no piracy.

Turow’s evidence is . . . um …. he Googled and found Bit Torrent sites.

Serbinis, who runs a world-wide eBook company that, in many markets has a bigger share than Amazon, says when you overprice eBooks and make them hard to get you can …. (wait for it) Google and find Bit Torrent sites. Notice the part where he ties business data to observable effects. “We have a global purview on where that matters and where that doesn’t.”

Notice where Turow does the same thing….oh wait. He doesn’t.

FFS.

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My Two Vows – A Post About Piracy and some Other Stuff

Friday, August 10th, 2012

I’ve been working on revisions to my historical romance novella Wordless and I’m almost done. I think we’ll see the fork here pretty soon. This means I’ve been madly revising, which is hard work.

The day job is …. interesting, challenging work, that’s all I’ll say.

On the heels of the StopTheGRBullies debacle we now have the LendInk debacle. I watched a part of it play out in a certain arena. Since I had, in that arena, made known my opinions on the subject of piracy, I stayed out of the hysteria. (See below, as I feel a restatement is in order.)

But gee. This is kind of depressing. There were people, a couple of whom are lawyers, who posted very clear statements that LendInk was not a pirate site. I’d like to think that some people’s minds were changed and they stayed out of the matter.

What I have to say about Piracy

If you are an author, you do not currently have proof that piracy harms your sales. No. Proof. There are NO VALID statistics to support a claim that you have lost money through the piracy of your books. Every single “study” that attaches a dollar amount of losses to piracy has been soundly debunked or worse, shown to be based on made up numbers. I used quotes around study because when you make up your facts, they’re not facts and your study is not really a study in the rigorous sense that the word deserves.

I am not saying that there won’t be valid statistics one day. But there are none now.

There is a growing amount of anecdotal evidence that goes like this: I gave my book away for free (either outright or via a pirate site) and I sold more books.

I have never heard any anecdote like this: I send DCMA notices to every pirate site I encounter and I sell more books.

Naturally, anecdotal evidence should be confirmed with a valid, statistically rigorous study to prove the validity of the perception. For example, in the case of statement one, maybe the people who get a book out there for free and then sell FEWER books than before don’t announce that fact. Perhaps we only see the “piracy sells books!” because the people who experience the opposite don’t talk about it. (But then, of course, the few valid statistics strongly suggest statement one is accurate.)

My Vow

Until I have evidence that I should be spending time and money fighting piracy, I will happily continue privately smirking at people who do. Yes. I will smirk. Because while you are organizing your band of anti-pirates and paying companies to send notices, I am writing my next book and investing my money in good editing.

Advantage: Carolyn.

Please carry on!

My other Vow

Publishers are currently taking so many actions that make readers hate them that I’m not going to do one darn thing to support those anti-reader policies:

DRM
No Lending
No text-to-voice
Geographical restrictions
Horrible formatting
over priced products

Not one.

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Thoughts on Piracy

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

In re Senate Bill 3804, The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act. Here is a link to the text of the bill.

Carolyn Is NOT a Lawyer

Ducks in A Row First

This bill purports to provide a remedy against internet domain names whose main apparent purpose is to host or disseminate copyrighted goods without the permission of the copyright owner.

Prosecution, enforcement and identification of these sites falls to the Attorney General. The public is in no way involved by the terms of this bill. Presumably, there would be some way for individuals to make a complaint about such a site, but that doesn’t appear in the language of the bill.

Upon receipt of such order, the domain name registrar or domain name registry shall suspend operation of, and lock, the domain name.

So, not copyright protection but a remedy against alleged infringement.

Also, please don’t mistake a domain registration for a website or a webhost. They are not the same animal. A domain registration is required in order to get a website (pages) on the internet for people to look at. A domain registrar may also host web content, but there are solid reasons why you should NOT host your website through the same company that provides your domain registration. (That’s a whole other post.)

Problems I see

Nowhere in the bill that I can see is due process given to the owner of the domain. The Attorney General can put a domain name on their list (which the bill requires them to maintain) and that’s it. There’s no provision for giving the accused domain owner the chance to argue there was a mistake. The domain registrar gets notified and is required to see that the domain no longer resolves.

I can see why people say this is censorship. What else do you call it when the government has the ability to take down your website with no notice and you have no opportunity to present a defense?

But the first thing that jumped out at me is the assumption that domain names are static creatures, as if taking down a domain solves the problem. (Dusting off hands) Spammers and malware writers have bots that go out and register domains on the fly, thousands and thousands of them. I promise you there will be sites that come down only to IMMEDIATELY (if not already) pop up at another domain. I laughed a little at the naivte.

What happens to the allegedly infringing material? Well, any geek (such as myself) will tell you that the files will remain on the server. The bill only prevents the domain name from resolving. This is good, because if the AG gets it wrong and the domain owner gets the opportunity to present their rebuttal, the site could be back up fairly quickly.

The downside, however, is that the files are still there. I would expect any reasonably competent pirate sort will get to the files whether the domain resolves or not. All you need is server access (legitimate or not). And if you own the server, well. There you have it. Right now this minute you could turn your desktop computer into a webserver serving up http content. With a few bucks, you buy a real server and do the same thing.

Anyway, a site that is maliciously hosting pirated material will simply mirror their server and be up and running at a new site within seconds. Heck, probably concurrently. Haven’t you ever noticed how similar the content is at these different sites? This is why. It IS the exact same content.

Again. Naivte.

I’m not saying don’t even try to do something, I’m saying most people who aren’t tech geeks, just don’t understand what they’re talking about, and if you don’t understand what you’re talking about how on earth can you write legislation that will actually achieve the desired goal. (Which is….?)

The bill is naive.

Effective? Maybe

Suppose this goes into effect and suppose that the due process issues are addressed — because remember in the USA we’re not supposed to presume guilt without giving the accused a chance to argue his or her case in the courts — this might be marginally effective. But probably not to the extent some people hope. The internet doesn’t work that way.

(And God knows, the law never makes a mistake, and there are never malicious or mistaken accusations . . . We all know that huge media companies NEVER make bogus claims of copyright infringement and force the takedown of YouTube videos that aren’t actually their content. This WILL be abused. I guarantee it. Companies WILL attempt to silence opinion they don’t like or damage competitors.)

Personally, I get a bit peeved when I see my books pirated and the host site is either selling the books (which is stealing) or serving up ads (which is profiting from goods they have stolen from my publisher if the book has not reverted to me.) So really, it’s not like I don’t see the issues. I do.

Let’s make a fine distinction that’s Being Lost

Traditionally, in the 20th-21st century, pirates did not operate for profit. They were ripping CDs or scanning books or what have you and providing them FOR FREE via Bit Torrent or some other Peer-to-Peer file sharing system.

But now we’re seeing that same content showing up on sites where the site operator is selling the content. This person illegally obtains the file and SELLS them to others and then keeps the money. None goes to the rights holder — which by the way is usually the publisher who has licensed the rights from the copyright owner. And no money goes to the author either.

I see these as two mostly different situations. The reseller of illegal files is, in much more likely to be taking away a paying customer from the person with the legal right to sell the content.

But wait! What if the illegal sale is DRM free and free of geo-restrictions? Might a reader decide to purchase the illegal copy because the legal one is so fundamentally broken from the reader’s point of view? Might a reader decide to purchase the illegal copy because the legal copy is on a website that is heinously hard to use (looking at you Sony store and eHarlequin.) That’s why Amazon is kicking your ass, by the way, even with the DRM.

I’d say the reader might be silly to pay for the illegal copy when they can get it for free, but that’s assuming they recognize that the illegal seller is, in fact, a crook.

Should Authors be Up In Arms about Piracy?

No. I don’t think so. Not yet.

Because the ONLY rigorous study done on this issue demonstrated that piracy increased sales of print books for all but the top selling authors.

If you are an author, there are better ways to spend your time than chasing down pirates. Maybe later there will be even better and even bigger studies that give us more insight and point us to actions that make sense. But right now, authors, if your books are pirated, maybe you should be glad.

What About Publishers?

My backlist is suddenly of value to me. There’s no sane reason for me to allow such titles to sit with a publisher who is doing NOTHING with them when I can now get my rights back and either sell my backlist myself or get it out there for free to seed my front list sales. Or maybe even both those things.

Publishers have done a very very poor job of identifying which small backlist titles are worth doing something with. By small I mean, not To Kill A Mockingbird but, say, out of print Romance titles that show up on Best Of lists or are constantly mentioned in reader discussions. Until recently, authors had no recourse even though they knew they had out of print titles readers are desperate to read. (Case in Point: Lord Ruin. Published 2002, OOP shortly there after, yet every month since the release of that book, I get emails from readers on that book and the lack of sequels to it. Every single month for going on 9 years. And those are just the people who trouble to email me.) It’s the long-tail and right now, authors can monetize/publicize it for themselves because Publishers are not even though they have the rights.

What About Readers?

In my opinion, right now readers are getting the short end of the stick. Publishers don’t have a handle on the impact of piracy and have no idea what to do to combat it. Or maybe they do. Maybe the reason they seem so ineffective at combating piracy is that they’ve secretly compiled the data and concluded that it’s not killing book sales. But I doubt that. They’re busy stressing over prints sales vs digital sales and cutting off their noses to spite their faces (I’m looking at you, Agency Model) and forgetting that they have a whole new avenue of sales in which people actually buy MORE of their product. Alas, the evidence suggests that publishers don’t yet get it.

My suggestion is that publishers make it so easy and painless to read books in any format and on any device that readers don’t need to go find an illegal copy. Publishers should never leave a reader muttering about how they can’t even read content they legally bought just because their old Kindle died and now they have Device X which is sexier. You’re failing if it’s trivial to find readers talking about how to crack your DRM so they can read and categorize their eBooks the way they want. And guess what? It is trivial.

Publishers, please, please please learn what metadata is and why you need to care. Listen to what READERS want.

Authors, stop spending your time going after pirates. Wait until there’s proof you’re being damaged. Right now, the existing proof is that you are not being damaged.

Readers, keep the faith. This will get figured out.

Last thoughts

This is a one-draft post. I’m sure I’ve missed things or possibly not been as clear as I should be. I’ll clarify if I can.

Comment away if you like.

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Pirates — ooh arghh! Oh wait. Not Those Kind.

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

This is pretty much the text of my comment on the Piracy threat over at Dear Author. The post is worth reading. So do that.

If you’re an author, please read this post. Alternatively, you could continue to be both Chicken Little and an ostrich. But do you want to be? Really?

I think I’m kind of pissed off.

Whatever. Here’s my comment:

Until about yesterday (seriously) I was undecided on the issue of piracy. Today, I am closer to forming my opinion, which I will get to in a bit.

There is hysteria and dogmatic opinion on both sides of the issue. And both those extremist positions tend to give me a headache.

Until yesterday, I had never seen any evidence to support either side. I haven’t yet seen any author or publisher come forward with numbers that prove piracy hurts their bottom line. But I’ve also been at the torrent sites and come away feeling like the file uploaders know perfectly well that they’ve done something unethical and illegal. The downloaders know it, too.

[ETA: I am NOT saying pirating isn't illegal or unethical. It's both.]

As a midlist author, I feel my chest go tight when I see my brand-new just released book on a torrent site. If those downloads represent lost sales, at my level, that’s my career going down the toilet. But I also understand I can’t prove it.

It is not, at this point, possible for anyone to know whether piracy hurts or helps or does something in between. There is not sufficient evidence to be sure one way or the other.

By way of background, at this point, just about all of my books are on torrent sites unauthorized by me or my publishers. I know that on October 4, someone was at a file sharing site asking that my October 6th release be uploaded. Which would mean illegally obtained. So it’s not that I’m not affected by piracy. I am a midlist author and I’m as worried as any writer today about whether I’m going to stay published.

The question is, HOW am I affected by piracy?

To my knowledge, only one person has undertaken a reasonably rigorous study of the effects of free and of piracy on books sales. That person is Brian O’Leary, who wrote "Impact of P2P and Free Distribution on Book Sales" for Tools of Change For Publishing (O’Reilly). It is available for download for $99. Yikes!

I emailed Mr. O’Leary earlier this week and told him I thought he should contact RWA because the organization would be a rich source of the data he’s looking to acquire. (He’s revising his report.) Apparently, RWA thought so too (before I so brilliantly suggested it!) My understanding is that they are discussing matters.

Mr. O’Leary was kind enough to send me a copy of his report. I’m almost done reading it. It’s taking me a while as I want to be sure I understand his methodology and his conclusions and what I think about the rigor of his work. I have a few questions, but I do think it’s fairly solid. On the other hand, I am not a statistician.

Fiction WAS included in his data set.

The EARLY evidence points to these results, which I am paraphrasing.

If you are a debut or midlist author, piracy *increases* your sales by 18-42%.

If you are an established, best-selling author, piracy looks like it hurts.

These conclusions may not, of course, hold up when there is more data, better data or if circumstances change (number of piraters and downloaders, for example) or when others have had a chance to take a look at his methods and data.

So, what do I think?

I’m not all that surprised by the results. The anecdotal evidence of an increase in sales has been pretty persistent for at least a decade in gaming and software.

I think authors who are up in arms over the issue need to take a deep breath. Really.

I think publishers need to rethink their strategies about digital formats and to help researchers like O’Leary gather the data that will help them make a reasoned response to piracy and, frankly, understand consumers a little better.

So. There you have it. I fully recognize that nothing is resolved yet and that the issues are complex. I urge authors to come out of the extreme position and press for the data and analysis that will give us a fair shot at understanding what’s going on and what the consequences are.

I urge readers to, well, please keep reading.

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Something that makes me Mad – Reasonably or Not

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

So, I was checking my Google Alerts, which, it turns out, is a way to perform Stupid Web Tricks while at the same time achieving plausible deniability. It’s a total win for authors, in a passive-aggressive way that completely appeals to me. There are also some unintentional chuckles.

Historical readers may know that two of my books are Lord Ruin and The Spare. Google Alerts on these first of those two titles are quite often links to role playing boards where Lord Ruin is a favorite character name. Who knew? Or else really strange religious poems. A fair number of people seem to pray for the Lord to ruin them or something. Alerts for The Spare often end up at pages talking about spare change or the spare room or something equally silly and uninteresting to me.

Today, however, I got a Google Alert that led to a pirate-torrent site where someone wrote, more or less:

This is my first request to this board. If someone could please upload My Wicked Enemy by Carolyn Jewel I would be grateful

This post completely exploded one of my main reasons for not objecting to pirate copies of my books. Don’t worry (or do, depending) I have reasons for objecting, too. That reason is that some of my books are not available in digital versions and/or are impossible to find at reasonable prices used.

My Wicked Enemy, however, IS available in multiple digital formats and, in fact was not so long ago offered as an Ebook for $1.99. This book is also easily and cheaply obtainable in paper (but they kill you on the shipping if you buy on line.)

What am I to conclude except that this person wants something for nothing? At my expense. And I’m not talking about some amorphous lost sale of a new book.

To be brutally honest, my first thought was Lady, if you like my books, for the love of all that you hold dear, go buy my book, because I need every damned sale I can get if you want there to be more books by me.

Really. My ability to stay published is dependent on two things: 1) Writing a really good book and 2) Sales.

It doesn’t matter how good my book is, if sales are poor, my publisher, rightly, will be saying to itself, this is not an author we should publish again. And they would be right. They’re in this to make money. Trust me, at this point in my career, future books are NOT assured. At my level, every single book sold counts. It really does.

That was my knee-jerk reaction.

What I wish is that some independent 3rd party would do the study that determines whether pirating helps or hurts an industry. There are arguments made both ways and I find some of each to be persuasive in varying degrees. To be honest, the helps side seems to point to the same tired examples of the same exceptional cases and adding in that pirates won’t buy your stupid book/album/software anyway so why bother. The exceptional case, of course, with books, is Cory Doctorow, an author who 1) does NOT write romance (his market is completely and utterly different from mine) and 2) is already at the top of the author heap.

You can be pretty damn sure that Cory Doctorow must have a sweet deal with his print publisher such that he can make digital versions of his books available for free. There aren’t many authors who are going to get that kind of deal, and if they tried to insist, there wouldn’t be any deal.

It’s not like publishers don’t get that giving away books stimulates sales. Hachette gave out loads of free copies of My Forbidden Desire prior to and immediately around the release date. They don’t, however, have a constant and unending supply of free books for people.

I don’t have any answers because I recognize that I do not have sufficient facts to reach a conclusion.

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Fridayyyy!!

Friday, August 31st, 2007

I think I’d be more excited if the DC didn’t have a soccer tournament this weekend. It’s been really hot, lately, triple digits and I don’t do well in the heat. We’re heading to a city that’s 10 degrees hotter than Petaluma. At least I don’t have to run around in it like the boys will. Still, nothing on Monday.

And, I can now start the count down to Vishous and Lover Unbound.

There’s a good hoo-ha going on now about SFWA and its boneheaded actions with an improper (from what I’ve heard) DCMA take-down notice to Scribd. Read about that in Cory Doctorow’s BoingBoing post. I laughed when I heard what they’d done. (I’ll come back later and stick in some links. Too late right now, I’m only holding out for the laundry). Only, really, it isn’t very funny. This whole DCMA thing is so completely stupid, and every bad thing smart people predicted would result from the DCMA has come to pass and worse. What a stupid-ass piece of Corporate-purchased legislation that was.

But here’s the thing: I don’t know where I stand on the whole file-sharing business. The entire issue is so unbelievably polarized between a Copyright is Evil faction (See, for example, Tech Dirt, a site that has an especial hatred for copyright) and the Protect our Corporate Profits faction (RIAA andMPAA) and I really just feel like people (writes and musicians etc) who create the stuff that gets copyrighted are stuck in the middle.

Copyright is not evil. It’s been around for hundreds of years because before there was copyright, authors, playwrights and musicians were ripped off. The creative folk are the Golden Goose, and copyright keeps corporations from killing us off. Copyright was the answer to an evil, so how can it be good to do away with it again?

I’m too tired to formulate an entire argument right now. But here’s my dilemma: I don’t know if it’s true that file sharing actually helps the holder of the copyrighted material that gets shared. I hear people say it. I’ve never seen proof.

I don’t make money writing unless people buy my books new. If readers have no incentive to buy new books, then I make no money and readers don’t get to read new stories. But I also think that punishing fans with stupid lawsuits seems like a bad thing. Some of my books are out of print, and so far I’m not too worked up about finding out someone scanned my books (I hope they did a good job!!) and posted them for downloading. I can see how that can bring me readers interested in my books that are in print. But does it? Or do the file-sharers wait for someone to hit the copy machine? Christine Feehan’s books are all in print (to my knowledge) Are the illegal copies on the net bringing her new fans who’ll shell out money for her books? Seems the obvious answer is no, cuz all the books of hers I’ve seen file-shared are still in print.

The Internet, so far, doesn’t touch the reach of print distribution. So does that mean it’s not a big deal? I’ve never heard what an Ellora’s Cave equivalent of a print run is. I know they’ve sold thousands of some titles, but I don’t believe they’ve ever sold hundreds of thousands of a title, let alone millions. Of course, 90% of writers would be happy with the thousands…

How does a writer make money writing if all her work is available for free? I’ve never seen ANYONE answer that question. I wish someone would explain to me whether and/or how a pool of free copies is good. Is the point that that pool of free copies will never exist to the exclusion of paid and that the consumers of free will never erode the pool of consumers who pay? Please, I wish someone would just calmly sit down and explain that without the political hysterics. Do file sharers ever convert to pay buyers?

That’s what I wanna know.

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